The past few Christmases I’ve noticed the beginnings of a shift away from shopping-shopping-shopping and toward giving-giving-giving. Have you noticed it, too? Christmastime is increasingly becoming a time for generosity and care for the poor, especially the poor in other countries. How awesome.
I love the way Christmas seems to bring out awareness of the poor. But soon it will be January again.
What if the stuff that happens at Christmastime…happens all the time? (tweet this)
It seems that opportunities and encouragements toward generosity generally happen more in November and December than, say, the middle of summer break. Have you noticed it, too?
With orphanages to supply, wells to drill, schools to build, and countless other opportunities, I thought I’d bounce some ideas off you—some suggestions on making generosity a year-round lifestyle (in addition to the Christmastime emphasis). Because generosity works well not only when it is passionate and heartfelt, but sacrificial and systematic.
Want to grow the “Christmas spirit” into an all-the-time lifestyle? (tweet this)
Here are some practical ideas:
- Focus on a small number of charities/projects.
- Attach and strengthen heart-ties to those charities/projects.
- Get the kids involved.
- If your salary increases, keep expenses constant.
- Consider expenses in terms of annual amounts.
- Reconsider what items (and lifestyle) are culturally normal or deserved.
- Pray every time you write a check.
- Rejoice in the privilege!
- When you’re the needy one, receive.
1. Focus on a few.
The world is not short on needs. Giving opportunities are many and pop up everywhere (including your mailbox and inbox), and they can overwhelm. How about asking God to direct your giving to zoom in on a small number of charities or projects? Or “specialize” in a particular area, issue, or geographic location? This could help with decision-making and focus (both monetary focus and heart focus).
2. Strengthen heart-ties to those charities/projects.
The more you focus on a few recipients of your giving, the stronger those heart-ties become. Then you can develop those connections even further by reading their updates/newsletters/prayer requests more carefully and prayerfully. (If I engage with, say, four or five newsletters, I’m more likely to pray for all of them. If I try to keep up with a dozen, I’m more likely to pray for none.)
3. Get the kids involved.
If you’re a parent, include your children in the generosity journey. Not only will this lead to an extended (generation after generation!) posture of generosity, but their youthful energy and excitement will fuel yours.
4. If your salary increases, keep expenses constant.
Funny how simple math can increase your giving percentage almost without effort! If you’re giving a certain percentage and then get a raise, add the raise to your giving instead of to your spending. Because you simply maintain the lifestyle you already had, you’ll increase your giving percentage without even noticing!
5. Consider expenses in terms of annual amounts.
Funny, too, how math in a different time frame makes a powerful internal impact. “It’s just five bucks a week” turns into “Wow, that’ll be $250 at the end of the year!” How much more, at the end of the year, can you give if you reconsider a personal expense that’s “only” twenty or forty dollars a month?
6. Reconsider what is culturally “normal” or “deserved.”
Before spending, think: Is this purchase actually a luxury that my culture has redefined into a “need”? For example, during my first pregnancy I automatically thought I had to have a baby monitor and changing table simply because my elder sisters had those. But my husband redirected my thinking (“So, why exactly do we need that?”). And it turned out, parenting was actually simpler and easier without certain items. Perhaps you can come up with “necessities” that you can actually do better without.
7. Pray every time you write a check.
This is actually a subset of #2 above.
8. Rejoice in the privilege!
Regularly thank God for the joy and honor of being a colaborer in His kingdom and according to His purposes! Get excited about giving. It is truly awesome.
9. When you’re the needy one, receive.
Because I like to be in the position of “strength,” pride has kept me from receiving others’ help when I needed it. But Jesus said if I won’t receive from Him and those He uses to show grace to me, I can’t be part of what He’s doing (see John 13:8). Maybe you (like me) feel more comfortable being on the giving end. But in times when you’re the needy one, go ahead and receive. It will help you to be a better giver.
Those are nine ideas. Do you have more? Share your ideas in the comment box!