Giving is an integral part of being a Christian. It's not just something that Jesus and The Father have commanded us to do. It's something we willingly want to do. Or if not, it should be. We should always look forward to giving and helping others. However, I think that one thing we do that causes us to fail at our giving is we get into a rhythm or a pattern and somewhat become lazy and predictable in our giving. Now, that's not to say that's a bad thing. However, if you'll allow me, I'll show you a better way that God has shown me that, to me at least, has proven to be a better way of giving.
And what way is that? Well, to start with, most giving by people in the church is done via the "Tithe" principle. IE, you give one tenth of your gross income to the church every week/two weeks/month or however you get paid. Just write a check, toss it in the offering, and then forget about it. In my experience, that's not the way God wants us to do it. He wants us to be hands on in our giving. Now that doesn't mean we need to be come Publicans and let the whole world know about what we're doing. Far from it. If anything, we need to keep to the "secret giving" principle as set forth by Jesus in the gospels.
However, we also have to realize that the principle of "Tithe" is an Old Testament principle. In the New Testament there is no limit or specification for how much to give. The only specification is 1) Give, 2) Do so cheerfully, and 3) Do so in a way that nobody knows you gave, or if they do, that what you do isn't broadcast for the world to see. (ie, do it in secret, so that God may reward you openly, as the bible says. Now, sure. Dropping that check in the offering plate each week is a good way to achieve that. But, is it the best? That depends. Who does God really want you to give to the most? The church organization, or the poor old lady in the front row who needs new tires for her car?
I bet you didn't think about that. Or if you did, you probably thought, "But she can ask of the church and they'll give to her what she needs." Really? Have you seen how much the churches actually give to help others? Keeping the staff paid and the lights on costs a lot of money. And because of that, the modern church has become a money sink. And I'm not saying that you shouldn't give to your church. I'm saying, be more circumspect in your giving. Don't just point at something and say, "I'm gonna give there," then throw some money at it and forget all about it. That's bad form, and it's neither cheerful giving, nor productive.
If anything, it's lazy giving, and that's just as bad as not giving at all, as most times the money you give lazily ends up being wasted, or used on things that it doesn't need to be, which ends up doing more harm than good in the end. So, with that said, what's the best way to give? Should you give a tithe (ie, tenth) like always, should you give to the church, should you give to an individual, etc, etc. Where should your money go, how much, when and how? Well, let me ask you this. Have you asked God? Yes, that probably made some of your cringe. "How dare you tell me to ask God where I should give!"
If you're a believer, and you are a true follower of Christ, we should be getting our marching orders from Him every hour of every day. Our lives are not our own, and because of that we should never live like they are. We should live with baited breath every moment of every day, waiting for God's decree for our lives. And, if none comes, then move forward in the way He's taught you to go until you do hear something. And this should go for your giving as well, which is where I'm going with all this. Namely, I am going to introduce to you the God guided giving system I've come up with, and let me tell you, I like this one WAY better than all the other ways that have been taught to me before.
First, you want to start off with a plan. I know, you're wanting to nod off as soon as you hear that. But, life is all about planning, isn't it? You plan the budget, you plan the groceries, the meals, how you will do your daily assignments at work, etc. Tithing or giving is the same way. You can't just randomly grab a wad of cash and throw it at the first thing that comes by. That again is neither cheerful, nor true giving. So what should you do? Well, that's up to you. What I will do though is show you how *I* do it, and then you can choose to either do the same, do something slightly different, do something completely unique, or you can completely ignore everything I say and go back to how you're already doing it. The choice is yours. I'm just offering advise to give you a better giving experience.
1. Figure out what your base rate of giving will be. I like to use the principle of Tithe (ie, 1/10th) as a baseline for my giving. Not the entirety of my giving. I set it as the baseline for the very minimum amount that I will give. That doesn't mean "this is all I'm gonna give". It means, "I will give whatever God asks of me, but it shall never be less than this." That's what it means. The nice part about this is, it encourages you to give, as you have what some might consider a "giving quota" you have to meet each pay period. For some though, that's going to feel almost mandatory, and in doing so you lose your cheerfulness in giving as you feel pressured to give.
Never feel pressured to give. Do it out of love for God and others. If anything, make this a goal for you to go by. IE, when you look at your giving for this day/week/month or whenever, ask ourself, "have I given at least this much?" If anything it'll keep you mindful to give and do so regularly. And you can still feel cheerful in giving if you do it this way. For example, if I look at my giving for any given period of time, if I haven't given enough, I'm immediately excited about the prospect of being able to give to someone in need, and excited that I have the challenge of finding a home for it.
So there's joy and cheerfulness in that right there, and not the burden of "Awe, I need to give, boo-hoo-hoo, I hate giving, this is such a burden." If anything you get excited about who and for what you'll next be giving.
2. Let God lead your giving. Yes, that sounds weird to some people, but I actually find it refreshing, as it takes the burden off me. It's a little weird in one respect because God might have me go weeks or months without giving a single thing, and then suddenly "whoosh!" and out goes the money, and it's the right amount at the right time to someone who is in need. And, had God not had me wait, I wouldn't have had enough money set aside for giving to meet their need, which is where step #3 will come into play. Also, letting God lead helps you both in your faith, and in your giving. It helps your faith because, to let Him lead, you have to be both able and willing to listen to Him and what He tells you.
So that right there is an incentive to get closer to God. Because, the closer we are, the better we hear him, and the better we hear him, the happier, and more cheerful we are as we do His will, exactly how He wants it done, we get a closer relationship with Him and we can then give cheerfully and not have to stress ourselves out with the who or the what details of it all. We just listen, and when He says go, we go. But, if you're not hearing from God right now, yet you want to be a better giver, wouldn't it behoove you to become closer to God so that He can lead you in your giving and also increase and improve your relationship with Him?
3. Keep a log. Yes, I said keep a log. There's a reason for that. The first reason will go along with item #2. If you let God guide you on where the giving should go, you won't always be giving every week, or every paycheck, or every day. So, you will need to know how much you've given, to who, when, etc. And this isn't for taxes. Forget all that. Giving shouldn't be about how much you get to deduct from your taxes. Get that out of your mind, because then you're giving for personal gain and you should NEVER do that. Do it because God has commanded you to, and in return God will bless you in ways that far exceed what you will gain by taking it off your taxes. Trust me, I've seen it happen and it's completely worth it.
One other thing to consider with this, which is also part of the reason for this step, is the things I stated in item #2. Sometimes, if you're waiting on God to tell you where your money should be given, you have to wait a while to find out. In fact, I've had God go months without telling me where to give my tithe, and then suddenly $350 goes out the door to one person, $400 to another, $200 to another and so on until I'm all caught up again. Then I go months and months without anything again, and the unused tithe, that's been set aside, piles up again. That's where the log/journal comes in handy as it gives you a written track record of what you've given, and what you have not.
It then helps you stay accountable, it helps you better know what you have and have not given, how much you have to give, etc. Now I've probably repeated that somewhere in my previous statements, but it's true. It also gives you something to pray over. How so? Well, for the money that hasn't gone out yet, you can pray and ask God where He wants it to go. For the stuff that has gone out, you can pray and thank God for the fact that you were able to give, and maybe even pray over the person to whom it went out to. For example, if you give to a little old lady who needed new tires, you can now pray for her, for her finances, for the car, for the new tires, etc. It gives you a platform for prayer, and that's beneficial to all parties.
4. Give more than your baseline. For me, my baseline is 10%, which is drawn from the biblical principle of giving. Yours can be 5% if that's all you can do. Or 15%, or 25%. It's whatever you can do that should be your baseline. And, while it's a good idea to set your baseline around what you make, it's also a better idea to ask God first what HE wants you to set as your baseline. That might terrify a few of you, but in the end it'll be to your benefit. Why? Well, it'll build trust in God, an important factor in everything. It'll also increase your blessings, and that alone is worth it, even if it hurts.
So, if God tells you to make your baseline 25%, do it, even if you have to take your lifestyle down to an ultra minimalistic manner. If you have a problem with "things" and being too attached to them, this will do a great job of breaking you of that habit as you won't have the money for it anymore. Plus, you get to take that money you're no longer wasting on yourself and use it to help others. And, in doing so, your reward will be great. So anyways, that's my guideline to better giving. Give it a try for a few months and see if it doesn't supercharge both your giving, and your relationship with Christ. I think you'll see a marked improvement by doing things this way. And, this isn't an endorsement saying you have to do it this way. Like I said before, mine method is only an example. Find what works best for you, and what God wants you to do, then run with it. But, in the end, give, do so chearfully, and do so generously, with no hesitation, and your reward for this will be great. :)