The end of the year is often a time when people donate time and money to various charities and other non-profits. Some include giving as part of their Christmas celebration. Every year we receive several catalogs allowing us to donate livestock, school and medical supplies, and Bible study materials to poor families, giving them a leg up in becoming self-sustaining.
All this giving is a good thing. God tells us to give throughout the Bible, and we should do so. The Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), and we should give with love and generosity. In return, we find joy in the mere act of making someone else’s life better. If you’ve ever watched your kids open their presents on Christmas morning, you realize the truth of Jesus’ statement, “It’s more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35).
Summer is a great time of year. Backyard barbecues, running through the sprinklers, feeling warm breezes on bare arms and legs—most people claim summer as their favorite time of year. But if you’re trying to run a ministry, or meet a church budget, summer is a time of scarcity. People on vacation aren’t home to make donations or mail checks, and we rarely put something in the offering when we’re just a visitor somewhere else. Ministries that run on donations know that summers make them tighten their belts, so they send out scads of donation appeals. My mailbox is full of them.
Being on a limited income, there’s no way we can send money to everyone who asks. (When Jesus told the disciples to do exactly that—see Matthew 5:42 and Luke 6:30—I often wonder if he had our era of mass communications in mind!) The problem is that they’re all worthwhile causes. How can I possibly choose between puppy-eyed orphans, rescued slaves, starving families, unborn children, our local homeless shelter or food bank, refugees, and entire people groups without any knowledge of Jesus? Indecision leaves me paralyzed.