By Sarah Hamaker, Crosswalk.com
My first job after college paid peanuts, as do most first full-time positions. After paying for rent, my auto loan, food, and other living expenses, my bank account often hovered at dangerously low levels. Which meant I had little cash to give to charitable causes and my church, yet I still gave. When my husband had several months-long bouts with unemployment, we had to scale back our charitable monetary gifts for a time, but we still gave.
During those tough financial times, I often thought about the parable Jesus told in Luke 21:1-4 about the widow and her small offering: “Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on’” (ESV).
I don’t think this meant we were to give our last dollars to God, but I think it does mean we are to have a willing heart and a creative mind when it came to holding onto the things of this world, including what’s in our bank account. Before I give you some concrete ways to give when you’re going through a rough patch, let’s first talk about four reasons why giving is important for us to do as followers of Christ.
4 Reasons Why Giving Is Important
1. Giving pleases God.
As Paul puts it so beautifully in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (ESV).
2. Giving is good for our hearts.
God created us to give to others, and when we don’t on a regular basis, our hearts hurt. Numerous scientific studies back this up—that giving triggers a feeling of happiness, which lowers our blood pressure and makes us healthier. As Paul says in
1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (ESV). It’s that “in all circumstances” that resonates most with me, for it means in the good times and the bad times, we’re to give thanks. One tangible way we do that is by giving to God.
3. Giving also makes us grateful.
There’s something about giving that creates gratitude in our hearts. We have so much for which to be grateful, as 1 Chronicles 16:34 reminds us: “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” (ESV). This is essential to remember when we’re worried about if we’ll be able to pay the rent or mortgage and still feed our family—giving engineers gratitude.
4. Giving spreads the Gospel.
When we give, we’re showing Christ’s love for the church, fellow believers, and the world. Again, we turn to the Apostle Paul and his words in 2 Corinthians 2:14: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (ESV). Giving is one important way we can spread Christ’s fragrance throughout the world.
Now here are seven ways you can give even during tough times:
1. Give first, not last.
Sounds counterintuitive, but we should give to God before we give to others. Even when we have little in the way of finances, we should make our church offering a top priority. If we wait until the end of the month to see “what’s left,” it’s very likely the answer will be “nothing.”
2. Give generously but sensibly.
By this, I don’t mean writing a $500 check for missions when you only have $200 in the bank. I mean, don’t let fear make your giving decisions. If you commit to giving X amount each month, then give X amount each month. Also, review your giving amount at least every six months or so to see if your financial outlook has improved, and you can up your giving. My husband and I generally review our monthly church giving each December to see if we could increase it in the coming year. Other times to review your giving include when you change jobs or get a raise.
3. Give regularly.
There’s something about the rhythm of our giving, whether it’s monthly or weekly. If we only give once or twice a year, it’s harder to remember, and it’s easier to forget to give altogether. Having a regular time you give can keep you on track for giving.
4. Give out of your heart.
As Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “‘The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks’” (ESV). What is your giving saying about your heart's priorities?
5. Give more than money.
Sometimes, we do run out of money, but we can give in other ways. We can give our time to someone who needs a friend. We can run errands for a charity or answer the phones at church while the secretary’s out sick. There are numerous ways we can give and make an impact that doesn’t involve dollars.
6. Give of yourself.
This goes hand-in-hand with giving more than money. If you have talents, consider using them as your way of giving instead of cash. When I was on a tight budget during my early career years, I signed up to help with the church nursery and also became a leader in one of the church’s children’s ministries. While my offering amount was small, I gave more freely of what I did have—my time.
7. Give without expectation.
This means we’re not giving because we think God will reward us with checks in the mail or cash in our bank account. We give without an expectation of receiving. We give because of all we’ve been given. There’s no magical formula in which we give a certain amount, and God will bless us with more.
Giving is an important component of our Christian life, and even when our financial coffers are lean, we should keep giving to God. The actual amount isn’t as important as cultivating a heart of giving, even during tough times. The more we open our hearts to blessing others, the more God will use our willingness to strengthen our faith.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Evan Kirby
Sarah Hamaker is a national speaker and award-winning author who loves writing romantic suspense books “where the hero and heroine fall in love while running for their lives.” She’s also a wife, mother of four teenagers, a therapeutic foster mom, a UMFS Foster Parent Ambassador, and podcaster (The Romantic Side of Suspense podcast). She's a biblical parent coach and certified Leadership Parenting Coach™ with a heart for helping parents develop stronger relationships with their children. For more on her encouraging and commonsense approach to raising kids, visit her online at sarahhamaker.com.