Many of us too often get caught up in the ‘how much is 10% of my income?’ and ‘is it 10% before or after tax?’ These are important questions and help us discipline ourselves in regular giving. However it’s probably more important to first think around the principle behind giving and charity, which can then inform the practicalities of it.
The bottom line is, we are all members of the Kingdom of God and all called to share in each other’s joys and sufferings as we work towards the joining of heaven and earth. As we begin to see ourselves as apart of this kingdom community, i.e. the entire world, we should start to feel a sense of belonging to the needs around the world.
In giving financially or in volunteering we are acknowledging this connectedness. Because of this connection we shouldn’t feel burdened by giving but eventually, through prayerful habit it should become a joyful act that comes naturally. We see this in St Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Church were he says: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Coming to the practicalities of giving there are many ways a person can commit to this habit. For the unemployed (students or someone between jobs) this could well come in the form of volunteering, whether that be at your local hospital, hospice or at a local charity. For those that are earning and have the capacity (i.e. are not in debt themselves) to give, it is important to recognise that financial giving is an essential part of any charities ability to provide services to their beneficiaries. Therefore it becomes a question of where do I put my money.
If we draw from St Paul’s wisdom above, it is so important that we enter into giving prayerfully and gracefully, really seeking our hearts passions and where God might be pointing us within those passions. For some that will mean putting finances towards the church (in whatever capacity - youth, utensils, general), for others it may be a specific issue like Cancer Research or Children’s charities for example, and for yet others it will be a particular country or region. There are so many charities doing amazing work and you may well want to split your giving across various sectors but the key is to not give in a burdensome manner but with a joyful heart.
The world is in great need and with the rise of globalisation we are a) so much more aware of that need and b) much more responsible for the consequences of our lifestyles on people around the globe. The reality is that charities working in development work couldn’t survive or deliver without the generosity of its supporters. In giving prayerfully you not only entrust the money to the charity but also to God and that your investment in making peoples lives a bit better reaps great rewards for the reconciliation of the world.
There are many great Christian based charities that are working with local Christian communities to better the lives of those around them and a few big ones in the UK that you may want to browse are: www.tearfund.org, www.embraceme.org, http://www.worldvision.org.uk/, http://www.christianaid.org.uk/ amongst many others. Do ask people in the sector if there are specific needs you want to give towards, they will have a greater knowledge of who the best charities are in that sector.
So may we come to know the joy that comes from giving and partaking in the needs of our brothers and sisters in our own communities and across the globe.
N.B. Charities over the years have been accused, mainly by the media, of having too high admin costs and money not reaching the needy and therefore people shy away from giving to them. The biggest fallacy in that is that admin costs are necessary to have qualified people to deliver quality programs (a charity that has averaged 12% admin costs are usually amongst the highest performing and achieving the greatest impact). If you are unsure, speak to the charity or someone in the sector to get a better idea of what their financial figures mean.
By Mariam Tadros