The inclination to give is an intriguing facet of psychology, and is helpful to our human flourishing as a social species.
Generosity makes sense when you consider that the glorious God who created us in his image is also social in nature. The trinity exists in relationship to each other. Humans exist in relationship to each other. And God invites us into a relationship with him, as individuals and as a community of believers. Love makes the whole thing go ‘round. Giving is a way to express love, and so it’s no surprise that the impulse to give is built into our nature.
A lot has been said about our mixed motivations for giving, and sometimes sin creeps in to distort the goodness of our giving. But on the whole, giving is good! It can range from being a simple pro-social activity to a demonstration of sacrificial love. Best of all, giving generously can be a deeply personal act of worship, trust, and faithfulness toward God.
Enter the internet. The internet is only a couple of decades old. Against the span of human history, that’s a tiny portion of our existence! In that sense, it is still a rudimentary tool, and we are collectively developing it, considering its potential, and deciding what it means to us.
Recently, there has been a monumental shift in the way we give. Online giving has largely replaced cheques and cash, and this trend will continue. It’s worthwhile for churches and other charities to think about the best ways to embrace and facilitate this change.
One way to think about the internet is as a symbol of, and an extension of, our earthly and spiritual connectedness. Our connectedness is a fundamental aspect of our humanity, and of our faith.
Give in Secret
“Be careful! When you do good things, don’t do them in front of people to be seen by them… Your giving should be done in secret. Your Father can see what is done in secret, and he will reward you.” Matthew 6
More than once in the gospels, Jesus teaches that there are special spiritual benefits to giving privately. Before online giving was an option, it was much harder to give gifts and tithes without being visible about it. Online giving platforms, and text-to-give make it much easier to give in secret.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
Everyone has different levels of online engagement, but most of us live some portion of our lives online now. Giving donations online can enhance different spiritual practices for people in different seasons of their faith.
For example, a person may be spiritually in a place where they’re trying to reduce self-congratulation, carefully avoiding “letting their right hand know what their left hand is doing.” For that person, automating their giving through setting up recurring donations can be a way to spend less time thinking about their own good deeds, and not get caught up in being a perfect Christian. For someone who has been giving faithfully for years, automated giving can simply be a time-saver.
On the other hand, someone whose heart is experiencing a need to slow down and practice faith intentionally may benefit from a methodical weekly or monthly giving practice. They might log into their accounts, look at what they have, thank God for what they’ve received, and prayerfully consider what they will give, before logging into their giving platforms to make their contributions manually. Someone new to faith may also find value in the same thoughtful set of actions.
In all of these scenarios, God is able to use online giving as a way to shape a person’s heart through their faith actions, in the same way that physically depositing cash from a hand into an offering plate can.
Different Kinds of Rich
In different encounters with different kinds of givers, Jesus had interesting things to say. He observed that a widow who gave only a few dollars out of her poverty actually gave much more than those who donated larger amounts from their wealth (Mark 12).
To a rich young man who outwardly seemed to be leading a good ethical life, Jesus gave instruction to give away everything he possessed to the poor (Mark 10) but the young man couldn’t muster the courage to let go of the comforts of wealth and the image of success.
In contrast, in a fascinating encounter with Zaccheus (who had gained his wealth through corrupt tax-collection practices, but was disrespected in the community for it) Jesus simply offered him grace and friendship instead of judgment and instruction. From the security of Jesus’ love, Zaccheus found it within himself not only to stop the corrupt inflow of wealth, but to pay back everyone he'd cheated with a generosity far beyond what he owed (Luke 19).
Points to Ponder for Churches
- Accepting a variety of payment types can provide convenience for people from different walks of life, and affirm the different giving styles that characterize different generations.
- Providing church management software for your bookkeeper can help streamline their work of receiving, organizing, and receipting donations, and generating accurate reports for leadership.
- Try setting up a giving kiosk in your building to support attendees who want to give spontaneously. Hardly anyone carries cash anymore.
- With the shift to online giving, some churches have stopped including offering time during the service. If that’s the case with your church, don’t be afraid to talk about giving regularly during the announcements and in other communications. People want to give, and appreciate being reminded of why, when, and how to do it at your church.
- If you are a church in Canada who needs a giving platform specifically built for the Canadian tax system and data-storage laws, inquire with our support team.
Points to Ponder for Individuals
- As a foundation for your giving practice, consider, like Zaccheus did, what Jesus has given you. That is a great starting place from which to approach giving.
- There are many ways to give online these days, but many churches and charities have limited resources when it comes to accepting a wide variety of payments. Exercise humility and flexibility by taking the extra steps to give in ways that are easiest and less costly for the church to accept.
- Consider setting up recurring giving. It helps churches predict and plan their budgets, especially when it comes to community outreach. Automated giving might also be more convenient for you, and can help you give more consistently.
- Finally, you might consider it a worthwhile practice to make an ATM withdrawal of cash on a regular basis so that you have something on hand to give to people in need that you might encounter through the course of your week.
The Bible reminds us that how we think about and use money is a direct reflection of what we believe. Giving generously is a spiritual practice that aligns with our call to approach life with attitudes of faith, hope, and love.
This blog post has already touched on how giving relates to love and faith, but how about hope? The news headlines tell us that finances feel tight in most Canadian households these days. At the same time, there is a huge need for financial aid, globally, and in our own neighbourhoods. Leaning into giving when you don’t feel you have a lot is an exercise in hope.
Giving hopes that someone else will get what they need to survive and thrive. Giving hopes that our collective contributions will make a positive impact. Giving hopes for a better world now, and actively contributes to the coming Kingdom we long for. God bless you as you give.