We live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
If you have been to the DI or Goodwill recently, you likely found that they are stricter in what they will receive for donations. They will no longer accept items that are stained or worn. We may think it odd. After all we’re bringing in our donations thinking, “There’s still a lot of good left in it!” Never mind that the reason that we are making our donation is that it has no “good left in it” for us.
We recently faced this as we have made multiple runs to both the DI and a Goodwill in helping our son and daughter move. Furniture and other items weren’t accepted because they did not meet the the stores' standards. The irony is that while I sincerely desire to give to bless others, I can find myself offended when they don’t want my junk. Really? How silly is it for me to be hurt or offended when you don’t want something that I have no need of?
What does this thinking reveal about my heart? I want your thanks for giving you things that I do not want. Can you see how twisted such thinking is? I hope that you can! This desire to receive something in exchange for my donation shows how self-centered my giving is.
A while back, charities stopped listing the items donated or their value. Instead, you receive a blank receipt for you to list the items and declare their value. What value would you put on that dresser with the loose drawer or the DVD player you haven’t used in years or that bag of kids' clothing from the back of the closet? Fifty dollars for the dresser? Twenty-five for the DVD player and forty for the kids clothing? Greed can tempt us to seek credit for more than we are giving.
We can revel in giving away stuff that we don’t want as long as we get something back. In fact, sometimes our motivation to give is to receive praise in the form of a tax credit. Has getting a tax credit impacted how much you give to church or another nonprofit? It doesn’t mean that receiving the credit is bad, but giving for this reason alone isn’t good either.
Our desire to receive praises for giving away things we don’t want isn’t limited to our charitable giving. For example, have you ever “regifted” something? Why? You didn’t want it and you thought someone else might enjoy it. But, when you gave it, did you say, “Happy birthday! I’m so glad to give you something that I did not value and couldn’t use!” Of course not. It’s likely we want them to think that we had sacrificed time, thought and maybe even cash to purchase the gift. What does that say about us? We want others to believe we are giving sacrificially not just leftovers.
Innately we know the difference between a donation and a sacrifice. And yet, all too often in our giving we want others to think that our giving is sacrificial when it is not. Consider the Lord’s warning when His people did something similar. “When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.” (Malachi 1:8)
Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Why? Because God doesn’t delight in our leftovers, he wants our very best. Please don’t get me wrong, I fully support giving unwanted things to charities so that others may be blessed, but what concerns me is the longing for praise when we give things that have no value to us. Then, making matters worse, we can become indigent when we are told that our gift is unwanted.
We will do well to remember Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Giving grows out of the heart — otherwise, you’ve reluctantly grumbled 'yes' because you felt you had to or because you couldn’t say 'no,' but this isn’t the way God wants it. For we know that 'God loves a cheerful giver.'” When we give merely to get praise or credit we have given for the wrong reason.
Jesus’ told his followers that when they give, they were to do it in a manner that the “left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.” Does that describe our giving or are we like the Pharisees blowing the trumpets so that all can see? Please give generously, but to bless others rather than ourselves.
Eldon Peterson is pastor of the Cache Valley Bible Fellowship. His column appears on the Faith page. He can be reached at email@example.com.