During the latest government shut-down our church participated in supporting our local Coast Guard. Until then, many did not realize that the Coast Guard is under Homeland Security and does not get paid during the shut-downs. We contributed to the Coast Guard Spouses Assoc. food bank. We were amazed to see the outpouring of our local community towards our service men and women. Their food bank was full before we could get our gifts to them. The gifts our church gave were very small in comparison to the outpouring from the community. Gifts were sent to other Coast Guard bases around the country and extra food is still being sent out to local food banks. This was one those times I was so proud to be a part of the community in Cape May County. It was a picture of how powerful generosity could be.
Currently in our church we are doing a series on generosity called “The Blessed Life” based on a book by Robert Morris. I am challenging myself and the congregation to be more generous in 2019. Generosity is powerful. It not only changes the lives of those we help, but it has a profound effect our lives. There are three common mistakes we make that stop us from being generous.
We Give Away our Power
When it comes to finances, often feel out of control. We feel like we are slaves to our income, living paycheck to paycheck. When we come to the conclusion that we are not able to give to others, we are putting our circumstances in charge of us. Making a financial plan with a plan to be generous gives us back our power.
In our family we make giving a part of our financial planning. No matter how little we make, it is important that giving be a part of our plan. It helps us to realize that we are making a difference and we can help in the greater good. For us, the start of giving is the concept of the tithe. The scriptures speak of the tithe or the “First Fruits” offering. It meant that the first ten percent of your harvest (or money in today’s currency) went to God. In ancient Israel it was the Temple, for Christians today it is the local church. We have found that putting the tithe last in our plan never works. We have to make it the first priority. After that, we look for other ways and places we can give. We find that putting giving first, helps us to realize we are making a difference.
Putting giving into your financial planning, no matter what percentage you choose, starts to give you control. It is good at the end of the month to know you helped someone other than yourself. It empowers you to make better financial decisions and gives a sense of control even in the direst of circumstances.
We Miss the Opportunity to Change
Giving is a heart issue. Jesus wisely taught that “where your treasure is, your heart will be also”. We care about things in which we invest our money. Deciding to generous, changes the direction of our thoughts and emotions. It also changes our character.
People often make the mistake of thinking that only people with wealth can be generous. This is not true. The reality is, this best time to learn to be generous is when money is tight. Why? Because it is easier to learn how to give ten dollars than it is to give a thousand. Giving is not an issue of your financial situation, it is a heart issue. Being generous changes our character, and people can smell it on us. I believe givers are more likely to get job offers, promotions, and customers. No one wants to hire or work with a stingy person. If it is hard for you to give away money when you have a little, it will be harder when you have a lot. This little act of giving, can change our character and change the path of our lives.
We Close Ourselves Off From Others
The final mistake we make is isolation. Human nature makes us prone to dwell mostly on our own problems, and to ignore the plight of others. Think about your thoughts during the day. What percentage of your time do you think is spent thinking about yourself and your problems? If you are like me, it’s probably about ninety percent, maybe ninety-nine. We are by nature selfish. Our selfishness hurts us in a deep way.
Think about the most memorable and meaningful times of your life. Are they when your were selfish and got exactly what you wanted, or were they times you spent spending time with others, giving to others, or helping someone else? Our best times in life are when we give to others in some way. Giving connects us with others. As stated above, Jesus taught us that our heart follows our treasure. We are connected to those we choose to bless, even in the smallest way.
The next time someone asks you to help a church, charity or an important cause, take it for what it is – a blessing! The act of giving develops a life-changing attitude of generosity. It will do much more for you, than it will ever do for them.