“Would you like to donate a dollar to [charity name] along with your purchase?”
Nearly every time I go to the store, it seems, I’m asked this question. Whether I’m buying a book, a toy for one of the kids, or groceries, it seems every store has a charity they’re supporting—and they want you to help.
After all, it’s Christmastime.
One of the things I love about this time of year is seeing people become more generous, particularly in the charitable sector. World Vision has booths out at the mall; Compassion has a gift catalogue in the mail; the Salvation Army’s kettle campaign is in full swing…
Wherever you look, there’s an opportunity to be generous.
But, there’s also a subtle pressure, isn’t there?
When you’re standing in line at the store with a row of shoppers behind you, you feel—if only for a split-second—like you “should” say yes when the cashier asks you to add a dollar to your bill. When you’re walking out of the store, and the kettle attendants look at you hopefully (or possibly expectantly), you feel it. When you open your mail and see another request to give to a charity, you feel it again… and if you don’t, you feel kind of like a heel, don’t you?
So what do we do? Many of us make promises to alleviate the guilt. We may not have bothered to add the dollar to our grocery bill this time, but next time, we’ll add two, we tell ourselves. We’ll make sure we drop some change in the kettle, or make a last-minute donation to our charity of choice. And sometimes we even follow through.
But is that how giving should be, not just at Christmas, but any time of year?
Should we be okay with guilt-driven “generosity”? That is, the sort of thinking that says, “Giving is the rent we pay for a place on this earth”?1
While, this seems to be the general thinking of the world at large, this kind of thinking has no place in the Christian life.
Whenever we succumb to the idea that we give because we owe, what we’re really doing is saying we have to prove our goodness—we have to earn something, even if it’s something as meaningless as the approval of the store’s cashier.
Instead, Jesus took our need to earn the approval of others, and he took the guilt and shame that come from our failure or inability to meet all the needs around us, and took with Him to the cross.
Jesus replaced our guilt with gratitude—and it’s this gratitude that motivates all we do, including generosity.
This was what motivated the early church to share what they had so no need could be found among them (Acts 2:44-45). There was no command from on high, simply a desire to care for one another. And this was the motivation behind Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians when we told them their giving ought to be cheerful and done with thanksgiving, not under compulsion (2 Cor. 9:5-15).
“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,” wrote Paul (2 Cor 9:8). This is the heart of generosity—it’s God’s grace abounding within us; placed there by God Himself. We are freed from the guilt which turns giving into extraction, rather than joyful service by the grace of God. Because God has been so generous with us, not sparing His only Son—His most precious treasure—how can we, who have been made children of God not want to respond in kind?
Christian, you don’t need to feel guilty about giving during the Christmas season. There’s no rent to pay for your place on this earth; your life here is a gift, given to you by your Father in Heaven, bought for you with the blood of our elder brother, Jesus.
Jesus died to save you from guilt-driven “generosity.” Let His grace abound within you and in all your good work this Christmas.
- as our city’s former police chief did recently in the London Community News (November 29, 2012) ↩