Thursday, August 8, 2013

$ Giving $ Guidelines $

There's a needy world around us, and many widows are very needy too!
But there's also a wicked world around us, and we need to be "wise as serpents but gentle as doves."

So today I'd like to offer some gentle guidelines for wise giving. We are to be good stewards of the provisions God has given us---not only $$$, but also housing, clothes, food, etc. Even if we don't have $$$ to give, (I know this by experience) we can share food, clothes and shelter because there are always others in need. Sharing life's necessities is a good thing, but we need to guard against wicked greediness which goes straight for the bucks. Here's the nitty gritty on gentle but wise giving guidelines.

Don't make any loans. That's what banks are for. You are not a bank.
(this is from Do's & Don't for Widows which I'd posted last month)
  • Let's say someone you love wants to borrow money from you. Happens to widows all the time. But why can't this person go to the bank? If the bank doesn't trust them to re-pay, neither should you.
  • Do they want to let you in on an amazing investment opportunity? Why isn't anyone else in on it if it's that good? Tell them Mr. Policeman or the IRS would probably love to hear about it too.
  • Do they turn ugly and barrage you with abuse or threats like, "You'll never see the grandkids again!" if you don't loan them the money? Let them know that's called extortion. Besides revealing themselves as real slimeballs, extortion could land them in jail!
  • In the meantime, in any of these cases, call in reinforcements: your church, your widowed girlfriends, your financial advisor, your 'board of directors.' The next time you are approached, let them meet your reinforcements. (Board of directors idea is from Miriam Neff's book From One Widow to Another. The board is composed of the following: a person with financial wisdom, a practical friend, a godly widow, an encourager, a person with spiritual discernment & courage, and a relative whose priority is YOUR well-being)
What if someone asked outright for money and their need was really desperate and immediate? If someone asks, we're supposed to give, right?
  • No. In the New Testament, giving is done through the church. Especially the woman without a protector/accountability figure in her life should use the church to channel her giving. Even though I'm remarried, Tom and I still apply this principle.
  • Here's how it works. If someone---this could be anyone you meet on the street, in a support group, on Facebook, a blogger---anyone! When asked for money, call your church's (or their church's) benevolence ministry. The church will then evaluate the true need, and if you desire, you can donate to the benevolent fund. In most cases you cannot earmark the money--- "Here's $$$ for so and so," but you may designate it towards the proper fund and the church will use your donation for either the exact person or the next need. This brings the larger body of Christ to meet the need, and it safeguards you. 
  • We need our churches! If we're ashamed to show them who we're giving to or why, then that's a warning light, and I hope we see it as a stop light!
What if it's the pastor or church asking me for money?
  • Again, you are not a bank. In my opinion, they shouldn't be asking you. But sometimes this happens for special projects.
  • If you feel God wants you to give for a special church project, make sure you thoroughly discuss it with your financial advisor and/or board of directors and even your family members. Your children would need to know about this in case you fall ill or die unexpectedly.
  • If it's a personal loan to the pastor, just say no. And then find a new church. Things get weird if a pastor is financially indebted to members of the congregation. You, as a widow, don't need that mess right now.
  • Missionaries frequently need to raise support and you might be asked to donate a monthly amount. This is perfectly normal but if you're a US resident, be sure it goes through their mission board so you can receive a receipt for a tax deduction for charitable giving. If you're outside the US, follow the standards for your country.
What about other organizations and websites?
  • The only ones asking for money should be non-profits, with a 501(c)(3) tax status which will be clearly noted about them. Keep your receipts for tax time, but they should also send you a year-end statement of giving. Don't be shy about asking for it. If they don't have the tax exemption status, if they don't have a mailing address and physical location, working phone number, board members, referrals and other signals that they're legitimate---if they haven't bothered to address those issues, then they're probably not going to be around long enough to do anything but cash your check. Just say 'No!' 
  • Use Charity Navigator to look into organizations you're interested in supporting. This great website has done the research for you and shows how various organizations will use your gift. Will it pad the CEO's pocket or really reach that hungry orphan? Plus, it's loaded with all sorts of tips for giving and ways to protect yourself from scams.
Thanks for letting me raise this issue of giving today. And in closing, please know that if you ever get an email, Facebook message, blog post, etc from WC Place, Lifeboat groups or even me asking for money, it's a scam. It's not me! And please notify me immediately!
ferree
  

3 comments:

  1. Thank you Ferree, I value your wisdom in this issue.
    My perspective is a little different coming from the mission field in Mexico. The Mexican people taught me a lot about giving, a ton! When Gary died the poorest of our neighbors (tiny block houses with pigs and chickens wondering throughout) would come by and stick pesos in my hand. Dear old Indio women, who didn't have money for a tortilla would give my children and me pesos. It was a wonderful sense of love and community. And I in turn went into town and stuck pesos in Mexican women's hands.
    I think the difference is when people are outright asking for money as opposed to our seeing an obvious poor family and then being generous in the Spirit. Many churches do not see the plight of the widow and orphan. Many churches do not see the plight of the missionary or the needs on the field.
    My husband and I went to the mission field as a 501C3 ministry and with the blessing of our churches but without one cent of financial support from our churches. It was the people of God around us who supported what we were doing in Mexico and it was also the Mexican people who supported our ministry to them.
    Again, I think there is a big difference in someone coming up to you "begging" or sending a private FB message as opposed to seeing the valid needs around us and giving. I also think it is different when the "need" is more emotion based than reality based. Anyone can make up a sad story but a church will back a legitimate story even if they won't support the person or mission themselves. We had the complete blessing from our sending church as well as our mission's money going through them. They just didn't send us a check each month from their funds as designated mission's giving is down in the modern American church.
    In any case, the Mexican culture taught me a ton about giving freely and it was an incredible way to live. I found that you cannot out give a Mexican person, no matter how poor they are. They will always find some way to give. It was an amazing experience and it saddens me that our culture is so protective of our money when we have so very much. Just food for thought. I heartily agree with most of what you are saying, however, I do believe that Biblical generosity includes much more than simply giving to our churches and relying upon them to give to the widow and orphan. I don't see that in the New Testament. I see a call to give sacrificially but not solely to the local church but to those around us whom we KNOW to be in need. I think FB or internet giving can be so risky but lets all learn a little from the dear Mexican people and learn to give to the people around us. (I do not give to American beggars as the need is not nearly as obvious as in Mexico but I do generously give to the family's around me who I know to be in need.) The blessing of learning to give to the flesh and blood people around us is incredible! I never experienced anything as wonderful as giving freely and receiving freely in Mexico. Love you and thank you for your ministry to us!

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  2. Thank you Rachel, well said! And what loving examples. I hope I don't sound too mean-spirited, but my slant is to protect vulnerable widows from being preyed upon. I've had times in my life too of living without income and those were times of learning to live without fear. God meets our needs in amazing ways when his people obediently demonstrate love and generosity. I'll never forget the pictures you've painted in my mind of your friends in Mexico. Love to you too!

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  3. This is a great post. I had a family member ask for money and told them I was sorry but I need to be able to support myself now and could not help them. I especially like what you said about giving through the church, I always feel guilty if I don't give money to someone on the street, and wonder why, if they are really needy, that they don't approach a church or other organization that is there to help.

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