The calendar has now turned into December and that means our thoughts are shifting focus towards Christmas. There will be so many activities to attend, so many destinations to travel to, and so much delicious food to consume.
And there will be so much giving that takes place.
December is the month specifically devoted to giving. We regularly give in many ways throughout the year, but it all seems to come focused together during the December holiday season. Schools have students bring in clothing items for distribution to children from low-income families. Pastors preach sermons and urge their congregation to fill local food pantries. The Salvation Army kettles show up outside department stores. And of course, families celebrate the season by gathering around the tree on Christmas morning.
These are all good things designed to meet needs and bless people at a special time of the year.
However, if we are not careful, we can get hooked into giving for inappropriate reasons. This can have a negative impact on our budget, not to mention our emotional and psychological makeup. That’s why it’s important to analyze to whom we are giving and why.
Giving For the Wrong Reasons
Many people fall into a trap when they give, in that they do so for the wrong reasons. Have you run across any of these givers before?
The Guilt Giver
Reason for giving: to relieve their conscience, which is eating at them over some personal failure or perhaps a wrongdoing; often done out of remorse and regret over a past action or to appease someone who is giving them a “guilt trip”
It’s dangerous because: there is no end to the amount of guilt the mind – or other people – can place on an individual, thus no end to the amount of giving that must take place to lessen the guilt
The Emotional Giver
Reason for giving: in response to the feeling of the moment; most often occurs when a person hears an impassioned plea that stirs overwhelming excitement or sadness
It’s dangerous because: the giver doesn’t think rationally – they just react to what they are feeling
The It’s My Duty Giver
Reason for giving: to strictly adhere to a personal, perhaps religious conviction to fulfill a directive; will typically find this one in church among members who believe in following the Biblical teaching of giving known as the tithe (giving 10% of ones income to the church)
It’s dangerous because: giving becomes an obligation only, much like paying any other bill; it’s the law
The Hoping For a Kickback Giver
Reason for giving: to receive something in return; it’s the classic “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine”
It’s dangerous because: this type of giving easily leads to anger and bitterness if the gift is not reciprocated like the person expects
The Pressure’s On Giver
Reason for giving: to meet the perceived or stated expectation of the group; everyone in the office is giving $10 in the envelop for the bosses birthday so you must as well
It’s dangerous because: this person has not built the appropriate boundaries and will never be able to say “No” when put in these pressure situations
The “OK…If I Have To” Whiny Giver
Reason for giving: an extension of “It’s My Duty Giver” and “The Pressure’s On Giver,” this person gives reluctantly and resentfully; they unwillingly and grudgingly hand over their money, never doing so cheerfully or lovingly
It’s dangerous because: this person will never experience the feeling of joy that comes from willingly meeting a need
The To Get Noticed Giver
Reason for giving: to be seen by others; this person goes out of their way to make sure people know they have given; their goal is to receive verbal praise and pats on the back from others
It’s dangerous because: the goal of giving becomes about receiving personal glory, not about meeting the needs of others
The Ebenezer Scrooge Giver
Reason for giving: they give but only sparingly, most likely to appease feelings of guilt or obligation; will never give liberally out of their abundance
It’s dangerous because: the need may go unmet without the generosity of donors who have abundant resources to give
The Leftovers Giver
Reason for giving: to clear out their wallet or change cup; these people have no giving plan and no line item in their budget dedicated to regular giving; they only give what’s left at the end of the month after all their other financial obligations have been met
It’s dangerous because: much like the “To Get Noticed Giver,” the focus becomes solely on personal needs and giving to others is only an afterthought
See yourself in any of those pictures?
What’s the Solution?
I can say that at one time or another in my life, I’ve given for each of these reasons. I’ve learned through the years however, they are all shallow reasons to give and do not produce long-term positive effects in my life.
About five years ago, my wife and I were exposed to some ideas about giving that changed our mindset about it. We realized we had much to give but were confused sometimes about how and where to do so. So we decided to develop a giving plan.
That might sound strange but we wanted to stop giving haphazardly here and there and become more intentional with the giving process. Developing a plan for giving is not that much different than what one might do for budgeting or for investing. Just like those personal financial steps it takes a lot of communication and discipline and must be evaluated on a continual basis.
As we put our plan into place we were amazed at how it helped us deal with these giving issues. No longer did we give out of guilt or because our emotions got the best of us. We no longer felt pressure to give and were excited to see how giving became a blessing rather than feeling like an obligation.
On Wednesday, I’ll share how we developed our plan and what we are currently doing.
Have you ever caught yourself giving for any of the above reasons? Did giving in that particular way negatively impact your life? Can you think of any other wrong reasons to give?
Next Post: Be Intentional: How to Develop a Giving Plan