Giving Generously Without Guilt
The most wonderful time of the year can easily slip into the most overwhelming, most guilt-ridden time of the year if we aren’t purposeful.
In attempts to make Christmas special for our kids, it’s easy to get caught up in buying more and more and more. And starting as early as October (maybe September!), we are inundated with opportunities to give to wonderful, worthy causes. But how do we choose where to give our money when it is all great stuff?
I’m no expert on this, but there are a few things I have learned along the way- mostly by messing up! If you have experienced guilt during the Christmas season, I pray that these words would be encouraging to you.
1. Family traditions will trump extravagant gifts in our kids’ memories. I have been amazed at how meaningful simple traditions have become for our children. Each year, they look forward to December 1st to start reading The Advent Book. Since we buy Christmas ornaments at each new place we visit during the year, decorating the tree has become a celebration of the significant moments in our lives. The oohs and aahs as we unwrap ornaments are just as exciting as the unwrapping of gifts on Christmas morning. Opening stockings on Christmas Eve and waiting at the top of the stairs until Daddy finishes making coffee in the morning results in exuberant laughter and sweet smiles.
These are the moments that bring joy, so start some new traditions or emphasize the ones you already have. If your kids are anything like mine, the gifts will be enjoyed, but they will be forgotten when the next gift comes along. But traditions? They last a lifetime.
2. What works for other families might not work for yours. Maybe you see other families who have some really great traditions and you wish that you could do what they do. But for some reason, it doesn’t seem to work for your family. Can I give you permission to let that go? You know what works for your family and what doesn’t. I promise that your kids will not be scarred for life if you don’t do Elf on the Shelf. That being said, if you are creative and love making magical moments, PLEASE keep doing that. Contrary to what some might think, there is no one way or right way to do traditions. Traditions should look as different as God made us all to be. So don’t try to fit your family into a perfect little box (Because there isn’t one- there are only a million perfectly different and extraordinary expressions of who God has made our families to be. Let’s celebrate THAT!)
3. If you are grieving, you can still be joyous without guilt. Let’s face it. The holidays can be one of the most difficult times of the year for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones. For some reason, it seems like tragedies often occur around the holidays and this compounds the grief. Allowing ourselves to experience joy when we are grieving can result in feelings of guilt. This should not be. While mourning the loss of those who have played a significant role in our lives or mourning with others who are grieving, I believe it is possible to honor those we love by having joy in the present. I know for a fact that my Daddy would want to know that we are still reading the Christmas story and we are treasuring his memory when we make the kids wait for the coffee to brew. We should not add guilt to our grief.
It is not disingenuous to have joy in the midst of our grieving. Rather it is a gift that God gives us, a reminder that while we grieve, we do not do so without hope.
4. Giving generously is so much more than monetary gifts. How do you figure out what causes to support or where to make donations? This question is a big one, because if we are not intentional about this we will probably do one of two things; either we will over extend ourselves trying to give to all the things or we will become miserly and not give at all. So how do you decide?
As in all things, our giving is meant to be an overflow of the heart. This means that we need to start with examining our own hearts by asking ourselves if we are giving out of that overflow of compassion and love or if we are giving out of obligation. If you ever feel like you have to give rather than you want to give, it is an opportunity to look at your heart and question your motivations.
Where you give and how much you give is between you and the Lord. But I believe that there is a direct relationship between our love for God and our giving. The more we love Him, the more we want to give, because loving Him means we understand that all that we have is from Him. Our giving should not look like anyone else, because God has made us all different. We should give out of the gifts and talents that God has given us. For some, that might mean singing. For others, it might mean leading meetings well. It could be cleaning toilets or holding someone’s hand in the hospital.
Where you choose to give money is completely up to you, but you should not feel guilty for not giving to causes even though they pull on your heart strings. If you are giving faithfully to where and what you believe God is calling you to give, then you do not need to give an explanation to others of why you are unable to give.
We should give generously, but not out of obligation.
I have found that the more generous I am with my time, my talents and my money, the more blessed I am in life. This is God’s economy and it is a beautiful one.
May your Christmas season be merry and bright as you give generously without guilt!