Why give?

February 2, 2011 | Viewpoints | Number 3
Dori Zerbe Cornelsen |

In early December, The Globe and Mail reported that the number of Canadians making charitable donations has dropped, the average age of donors has risen to 53, and the total amount donated to charity has fallen in the last two years. Shortly after this, it ran a series on the future of faith in Canada, concluding that Canada is quickly becoming a secular nation.

Are these two news items linked? Research from the Good Works Company, donor research consultants, shows that four out of five donors give as an extension of their spiritual beliefs. Perhaps for some, giving might be based on a sense of guilt or obligation, as if God requires a head tax from each of us. There are, though, infinitely more positive motivators to give for those of us who are Christians.

In the ministry of facilitating financial generosity, Mennonite Foundation of Canada uses four statements to inspire our work:

  • God owns, we manage. The Bible teaches that God created a wonderful world, but never gives up ownership (Psalm 24:1). What an incredible privilege we are given as stewards responsible to manage all aspects of God’s household. This means that God places incredible trust in us to use the resources provided for us with care. We give from what God entrusts to us in the first place.
  • God is generous. When Paul writes to Timothy about finances and the church, his words are that we are not to put our “hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (I Timothy 6:17). For those of us who think that God works within an austerity plan, we may need to remember God’s provision for our enjoyment. When we give, we act like God, who is generous.
  • God asks for our whole selves. Modern life is based on the idea that we should have separate compartments for the pieces of our lives: work, family, leisure, religion and so on. Because of this, we may assume that our financial lives and church don’t belong together. But it may just be that the way we spend our money is a mirror of our spiritual priorities. Perhaps Jesus’ response to the rich ruler (Matthew 19) was to get him to see that eternal life is something that starts with living and giving right now.
  • God invites us to share. There is constant expression of concern in the Bible that the people of God must care for one another, especially for those who are most vulnerable. It is often the most vulnerable whose stories of generosity jump out at us from the pages of the Bible. Paul says this was the case for the Macedonians, who, “out of their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity” (II Corinthians 8:2). As Paul goes on writing to the church at Corinth, he suggests that their acts of service and generosity prove that their confession of the gospel of Christ is true (II Corinthians 9:13). We, too, can give no matter what our circumstances are.

Why do you give?

Dori Zerbe Cornelsen is a stewardship consultant at the Winnipeg, Man., office of Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC). For stewardship education and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit Mennofoundation.ca.

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