This week I’ve been working on a letter I’m sending to friends and family about an upcoming ministry trip I’ll be making to the Middle East. In it, I wrote the following paragraph:
Many of you have supported me and my family members in other ministry activities, and I want you to know that we appreciate it. But it’s important to me that your gifts are given as acts of worship to God to support His work and not just out of obligation because of your relationship with me. I trust God to resource His work, but I don’t want to deny you the opportunity if choosing to be part of this ministry would bring you joy and bring God pleasure.
Now I’m sitting down to do some final year-end giving of my own, and my words are coming back to haunt me. Not surprisingly for the first year of starting a new business, 2014 is the first year (possibly in my entire life?) where we’ve lived on a net negative cash flow. We expected and planned for that, but we consider some measure of giving to still be a high priority. As someone who has taken (excessive) pride in having been audited by the IRS twice because of charitable giving, scaling that back is difficult. Hence the difficult question: Is it hard because my giving is an act of worship that I don’t want to decrease or because of my pride and how the previous recipients might perceive me if I don’t support them as I have in the past?
There’s truth in both sides of the question. But I’m forced to acknowledge that my giving has more to do with pride and perception than I want to admit.
I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bath water and not give because my motives aren’t 100% pure. But as I give I’m going to ask God to continue the purification process on my own heart so that the things that I do, say, and give might one day be pure, unblemished acts of worship.