Giving When We’re Broke

Pete and I enjoy giving financially. This doesn’t make us super spiritual, and I’m not trying to brag or impress anyone—it’s just that we both find giving to be lots of fun. I am quite sure our attitude is a direct result of God working in us, rather than anything we achieved for ourselves. It’s a gift from the Holy Spirit.

However, as I wrote a few months ago, we’re currently “treading water” financially. We haven’t received a paycheck since October. Since there’s no income, we have nothing to tithe on, and we’ve cut our discretionary spending to zero. It’s frustrating.

Well, frustration can be the impetus to start thinking more creatively. Sunday afternoon, Pete and I sat down together and said, OK, we can’t afford to write checks. How else can we give? Sometimes our culture is so focused on money, we miss other things we can spend. A bit of soul-searching was all it took to come up with a few ideas:

We can give away things we already own.

January is a great time to clean out the closets, and that is exactly what we’re doing. Most of us have no qualms about getting rid of movies we’re tired of watching, clothes we no longer wear, or toys the kids have outgrown. A number of worthy nonprofits collect and resell “thrift store” items.

Lately, we find we’re being challenged to go a step further. Just like tithing sometimes means giving away money we could really use, we’re realizing that God sometimes asks us to give away something we still want. Should that homeless woman have my warm gloves? Would that new believer benefit from my favorite Christian book? It is hard to hand over something I would rather keep. God is reminding me that He is my provider, and all I have is His.

We can give our time.

Sure, we’re all busy, and giving away time is a personal sacrifice. Sometimes it’s much easier to write a check than to personally get involved. Personal involvement can be messy. It can also be tremendously rewarding.

Ways to volunteer abound, and are as varied as we are. Church is a great place to start. It seems there is always a need for more helpers in the children’s program, or for ushers, greeters, choir members… the list is endless.

Most churches have outreach programs of some sort. From soup kitchens and food banks to serving the disadvantaged or elderly, willing bodies are always appreciated. If our church isn’t already doing this sort of thing, we can always volunteer on our own.

Sometimes giving time just means slowing down long enough for the Holy Spirit to get our attention. At church last weekend, a couple shared their story about the simple act of stopping to meet to a new neighbor. As it turned out, he was going through a major life crisis. Their willingness to minister to his needs sparked a desire for God in him, and they ended up bringing him to church. As a result, he turned his life over to Jesus, and is a radiant new believer.

Lots of non-Christian organizations also use volunteers. Consider the many community service clubs (such as Kiwanis or the Lions Club), or the library, or the health-related opportunities that blood banks and hospitals offer. Working with a secular group not only aids in their mission of helping others, it also provides an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love to those who may not know Him.

I volunteer extensively as both a Colorado Master Gardener and as a board member and newsletter editor for our local Audubon Association chapter. Both of these roles put me in contact with people I’d never meet at church… and it’s a lot of fun, besides.

When it comes to giving, a lack of income doesn’t let us off the hook. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:12—“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.” We’ve all heard that it’s more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). I, for one, don’t want to miss out on a blessing just because we’re broke.

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