If you had twenty bucks right now to give to a cause, where would you give it? Better yet, let me walk you through an average day of credible needs and see where that twenty dollars goes.
First there’s the homeless guy at the intersection on your way into the office. He has the requisite tattered cardboard sign that ends with “God Bless”, but does not have the gift, say, of a perfect radio voice to propel him out of his plight. Does he get the money—perhaps partly to assuage your sudden guilt for stopping on the way to get yourself a pastry and an overpriced coffee drink?
What about the coworker who’s selling candy bars, popcorn tins, ornaments, or cookies for just the sweetest little granddaughter you ever did see? Does the impulsive rumble in your stomach compel ol’ Andrew Jackson to jump out of your pocket?
Hey, look! Your favorite missionary to ReallyDangerousLand just emailed you her latest newsletter. Surely for that kind of sacrificial living she should get the money, right? Huh? Oh, that’s not the same one? This is “just” the “missionary” serving in the mission agency’s finance department here in the States? Does locale make her any less an active part of the Great Commission, any less deserving of a little extra support?
It must be time for the monthly mailings. At home in the mail you get letters from all the usual groups. There’s the agency with photos of sad children, the agency with the eye-poppingly gorgeous glossy inserts that must cost a fortune to produce, the agency that actually hand-writes “thank you” on their receipts, and the agency who only sends a simple black-and-white thank you letter and absolutely refuses to ask for money—who instead takes the George Mueller/Hudson Taylor approach of trusting God to know and meet their needs. Too much to decide? That’s OK, it’s time to head out to evening service anyway.
At church tonight there is a guest speaker from an organization that, frankly, you don’t have anything in common with, but they sound like they’re doing a lot of good. First Baptist YourTown has always been a generous church. It’s part of the reason you joined. In fact, in a few minutes there will be a ‘love offering’ taken for the speaker. It sounds like a great cause, and he definitely has an immediate need that the Lord has possibly equipped you to help meet. Do you give now?
Please understand, I am absolutely not lambasting any individual or organization, real or imagined. What I am doing, however, is presenting as many real-life examples of giving opportunities I can think of besides regular church offerings. None of them are perfect. Some may use evocative words or images in their materials that you may not personally agree with. Still, in this hypothetical situation, all are legitimate possibilities. Which to choose?
Personally, I find it difficult to decide which individuals and organizations to give to. I usually start by striking off the list all the “big names” and rooting for an underdog. Of the NonProfit Times’ 2009 list of the 50 Largest US Charities, I give cash or cash-equivalents to none of them. If there’s an equivalent Christian list, I probably only give to one or two in the top 10.
I also know I am very much an impulse giver, and particularly towards missions. A “real live” missionary has my heart and my twenty dollars over other organizations because I admire their sacrificial life choice, be they serving in America or anywhere around the word. But that’s just me.
What about you? Where would you have given the twenty dollars? What causes are close to your heart and wallet? What motivates you to give? Do you stick with the same organizations year after year, or trade some out for others?