As a child, Christmas Day was the one time of year I would gladly wake up early. My brother and I would slide down the banister (against my mother’s persistent commands not to) and race toward the Christmas tree. While we waited for my parents to wake up, we marveled at all the gifts, and we'd nudge the boxes to see if we could guess what was inside. I just knew Addy, the American Girl Doll I wanted, was waiting for me.
If I’m honest, Christmas was exciting because we knew we would get a lot of toys. And if we’re all honest, this is probably where our hearts naturally lean. We’re prone to focus more on what we can get rather than what we can give. But when the Bible talks about giving, it almost always places a strong emphasis on the heart of the giver and the blessing it is to give.
Even the world recognizes this truth, in some respects. Giving Tuesday is known as a global day of giving that seeks to “connect diverse groups of individuals, communities, and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving."
It’s wisely situated the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and right in the mix of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It was started, in part, as a response to the consumeristic nature that marks the holiday season. Though Giving Tuesday wasn't started as an explicitly Christian movement, it gets at the heart of Jesus’ words that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
THE BIBLICAL PRINCIPLE BEHIND GIVING TUESDAY
If that principle is true, then both giving and receiving are good things. But if you had to choose one, Scripture says it’s better to give.
Do we really believe this, though? Our natural inclination is to hold on to what God has given us. We may wrongly assume that because God has given us wisdom, wealth, or influence, those are ours to use for our comfort on this side of glory.
While our natural inclination may be to withhold, God has given us our time, talents, and treasures to be a blessing to others. When God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations and that his descendants would be as vast as the stars in the sky, he ends his promise by saying “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through [him]” (Gen. 12:3).
God was not just blessing Abraham so that he would accrue wealth, status, and influence (although he did have those). God was blessing Abraham so that he would be a blessing to the world. God’s blessing Abraham was not an end in itself. It was the means by which God would bless others.
Giving Tuesday is beautiful in its attempt to fight against our natural inclination to get more during the holiday (and every) season. Instead of asking how we might get our children, spouse, or friends the latest and greatest gifts, maybe we should ask how we can give to those that can give nothing back to us? Perhaps we should be asking how we can serve, love, and care for those on the margins of our society? Giving Tuesday campaigns provide spaces to answer these questions and to turn our questions into actions in the context of community.
GIVING IN COMMUNITY
In the west, we often view giving as an individual act. In December, my husband and I write our end-of-the-year donations to the nonprofits we support, and we usually pray for their work during this time. This is good, appropriate, and necessary, but Giving Tuesday has challenged me in the communal effort and impact of giving.
Giving Tuesday emphasizes whole communities that are working together toward causes that impact their cities through their “community campaign." In Charlotte, NC, the SHARE Charlotte community campaign raised $7 million for 235 Charlotte nonprofits in 2017. There’s something beautiful about collaborative community efforts that seek to push back the effects of sin in small ways.
We see similar efforts in God’s Word. In 2 Cor. 8-9, Paul exhorts the churches in Corinth to continue to give their resources to the persecuted saints in Jerusalem. This petition was not an uncommon practice for Paul (see 1 Cor. 16:1–4; 2 Cor. 8:1–9:15; Rom. 15:25). Throughout his letters, we learn that Paul raised money among Gentile churches for Jewish believers. Paul's efforts were evidence of God’s grace to his people since they historically did not get along.
In the case of Paul’s letters, these were groups of people (local churches) that were giving together for the good of God’s people in other locations and the advancement of his Kingdom.
Furthermore, these examples show us there is more than one way to give. Some may provide financially, like the Corinthians church’s offering to the believers in Jerusalem. Others, like Paul, may give of their time by volunteering with an organization. And some may provide talents they have to offer.
Whether you are giving your time, talents, or treasures, what might it look like for our generosity to exceed writing individual checks at the end of the year to include tangibly working alongside others to help the weak?
WHERE GIVING TUESDAY FALLS SHORT
In the SHARE Charlotte Giving Tuesday campaign video, a woman said they wanted to give people an easy way to do good. Giving Tuesday is a good and noble cause, but it falls short where many good works that are done apart from Christ fall short.
God does not just care about what we do, he also cares about why we do it. It’s not enough to give our time, talents, and treasures. The motive behind our giving matters.
The motivation of the Christian’s giving should be different. We are generous stewards because Christ has been generous to us. The God of the universe, who was rich in every regard, generously made himself poor so that we might become rich. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9).
GIVING IS WHO WE ARE
If there ever was good work, this is it—Jesus Christ laying down your life for his people (John 15:13). So, when we give, it is not just out of a motivation to do good. When we are generous to others, it’s because the most magnificent and undeserved gift has been given to us—salvation in Jesus Christ. It is from this salvation that our generosity flows.
Because of what Christ has done for us, Christians give beyond Giving Tuesday. Giving is not just what we do; giving is who we are.
We give because of what, in Christ, has been given to us. We give because we know that it is better to give than to receive. We give because, he who did not spare his own Son will, in him, graciously give us all things (Rom 8:32).
SharDavia “Shar” Walker lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Paul. She serves on staff with Campus Outreach, an interdenominational college ministry, and enjoys sharing her faith and discipling college women to be Christian leaders. Shar is a writer and a speaker and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Christian Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.