At our house we make a lot of lists, especially in December…the grocery list, the Christmas card list, the gift list, the guest list, the holiday event list, and the end-of-year giving list. During this week between Christmas and the beginning of the New Year, all of the items on those lists have been checked off and completed except for the final list. Today we are working on our end-of-year giving list.
Throughout the year, our tithe, the first tenth of our earnings, goes to the ministries of our church. For us, this is first and foremost an act of obedience to what we believe the Bible teaches about Christian stewardship. But through the years we have also observed that the cumulative ministry projects of a local church make the most significant impact in meeting physical and spiritual human needs, locally and globally. So in addition to the work of our local church, every December we give a gift to our Christmas Missions Offering, which supports the work of missionaries around the globe.
Amanda and I are blessed to be able to contribute to a few other ministries and organizations that we are passionate about. While there are many agencies that do extremely good work, we tend to support missional entities who aim to equip, inform, or complement the work of the local church because we believe “the local church is where the action is.”
In recent years the process has become much easier due to the advent of electronic giving. Most ministries and charitable organizations, including our church, now have an “online giving” link that enables us to transfer our gifts directly from our account to the designated recipient. Of course you can still mail a check or personally deliver a contribution, but we have discovered electronic giving to be safe and immediate, and electronic receipts are provided for good record keeping.
In contrast to high pressured, guilt-riddled solicitations for contributions, the Bible encourages discernment and good cheer in giving: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
As you determine and designate your end-of-year gifts, be cheerful, generous and wise. And remember, as you prepare to submit end-of-year gifts, the IRS requires that all contributions for this fiscal year be received, electronically transferred, or postmarked by December 31.
So today, we are making our list, checking it twice, and then hitting “send.”
(Barry Howard serves as Senior Minister at the First Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida.)