To give or not to give – how do we consider that question?

by Kelly Zwink

Money is not only a taboo subject among friends and family, but also in the church. When it is discussed, it is usually behind one’s back. Why? Could it be pride? Embarrassment? Privacy? Shame? There could be many reasons as to why money might be an uncomfortable subject; however I don’t believe it should be that way.

I worked as a missionary of sorts in college ministry for two different organizations. Both times I was responsible for fundraising my entire budget! I learned a lot during these times. I thought about my responsibility with money in a whole new way. Before my college ministry days, I never realized that so many missionaries had to raise their own support. They typically have to raise their entire budget, comprised of their salary as well as insurance and and various work and travel expenses. Also, the idea of regularly giving over and above church offerings was foreign to me.

I have come to believe that we as Christians should be intentional givers. If we truly desire to share Christ’s love and serve others, intentionally investing our money is one way we must do so. I like to use the word invest because, when we give, that is truly what we are doing. We are not only investing in things such as education, health, food, and shelter, depending on where you choose to give, but by giving out of love we are investing in the Kingdom of God.

Many times the problem is that we see the dollar amount first, but the need and opportunity to love and serve second. For example, in my area last week there was a vote for school budgets. My local school district’s budget, for the first time in a while and to the devastation of many students, did not pass. It wasn’t even close. It was mainly because the budget included a 10% tax increase.

That day the local news shared interviews of voters; I was quite shocked by the interviews of some who voted against the budget. I understand that this would have been quite a tax hike, and admit that I personally do not know all the ins and outs of how everything works within the budget. What shocked me was not that people voted no because of the tax hike. Rather, one woman said that she voted no because her kids were all in college now and no longer in the school district. Do the children currently in the district not deserve the same opportunity that her children had? Is community education education no longer her problem? What if her college aged children wanted to major in education and come back in the area to teach? Having several friends who went to school for education, I know that it is already close to impossible to find a teaching job in the area.

Another woman said she felt there were other ways to cut costs (which there could be, though I heard many of the budget issues were at a state, not local, level) and also stated “…maybe the district didn’t need as many administrators.” It shocked me that this woman so easily dismissed the value of others’ jobs. If these two women had said that they cared about the children and the school programs but felt the budget wasn’t fiscally responsible, I would have respected their decision to vote no. However, there was not a sense in either of these interviews that there was a desire for the children’s  best interests. It was all about the money. To me, this is an example where the dollar amount was seen first and the need second – if at all.

As Christians I believe we must look at the need and opportunity to serve and love first, and the dollar amount second. Does this mean we should give recklessly? Certainly not! While giving requires sacrifice, I do not mean to imply that we do not have other financial responsibilities, such as caring for our own families. Becoming an intentional and generous giver requires us to think carefully about how we spend our money. The best way to do this is by keeping a budget. I once heard one of my former supervisors say, “I feel more free in my spending because I have a budget.” After setting up my own budget about a year and a half ago, I completely agree.

Having a budget allows me to keep track of how much I have coming in and going out, whether for savings or regular expenses. I then know exactly how much I have left to spend. In my budget, I’ve incorporated regular giving to church and other organizations as well; I don’t have to worry about giving money I don’t have. Finally, after accounting for all of these things, I have an allotted spending amount for both needs and spontaneous giving. Keeping a budget can eliminate much of the stress and worry that giving and normal living expenses can bring if your financial situation is a bit ambiguous.

Setting up this budget was easy; I am the type of person who organizes for fun. I keep track of my budget in an excel spreadsheet with formulas. I fully understand that for many others that is not really an enjoyable task and even the idea of setting up a budget may be daunting. However, if we are truly to be good stewards and give generously, I believe it is necessary. If you feel that setting up a budget might be a struggle, then I would advise asking a friend or someone in your church for help.

As Americans we often carry a stigma against asking for help and think we should be able to figure out and do everything on our own. These things, plus money being a traditionally taboo topic, can hold us back from getting organized so that we are able to give when God calls us to do so. Besides, utter independence is just simply not how God created us. He created us to be in community with him and with others, with different strengths and talents to complement each other. Therefore, there should be no shame in asking others to help in this matter.

If you are not a currently an intentional giver, I challenge you to become one. God asks us to give all of ourselves for his work and his purposes, including our finances. I encourage you to begin by choosing a couple areas you are passionate about to invest in while being open to new opportunities to give that come your way. This may mean being more conscious of where our money goes, setting up a budget, and cutting back in some areas. If we truly desire to serve and love others and invest in the Kingdom of God, the time, effort, and money required in becoming an intentional giver is a worthwhile sacrifice.

*Kelly Zwink graduated from Dickinson College with a Bachelor of Arts, where she double majored in Italian Studies and Political Science, spending her junior year studying in Bologna, Italy. After working in college ministry for two years, abroad and in the US, she moved back home to Buffalo to begin a career in business and is currently pursuing her MBA. Kelly is a loyal Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan, and enjoys spending time with family and friends, food, singing, reading, exercising, cycling, and other outdoor activities.

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