I pray that you all have had a very Merry Christmas with lots of joy and good cheer. Perhaps a part of your Christmas celebration involved the exchanging of gifts. Giving and receiving gifts is a tricky matter. We can work long and hard to find just the right gift for a friend or family member and then discover that it is not the right size, color, or they are not as excited about the gift when they receive it as you were when you picked it out. This has led to the booming business of gift cards. A gift card seems to be the perfect gift because the giver shows their love for the one they give the gift card to in wanting the recipient to be able to pick out a gift they want. Of course the downside of gift cards is that they can be seen as not very personal, and they often limit the receiver to shopping at a given retailer or exchanging the gift card for a specific product line. Gift cards may represent the desire of the giver to give, but may not be what the gift receiver needs.
For example, you usually cannot use a gift card to pay for basic living expenses. I have never seen a gift card that would cover a utility bill or a car payment. They might sometimes be usable to purchase groceries or even gasoline, but what about a mortgage or insurance payment? And while we may not think of the gifts we give a friend or loved one as intended to cover such basic necessities, what about the gifts we give to the church?
The church has a budget that includes: payroll, utilities, missions, debt service, programming, insurance, etc. With this in mind, when we limit or primarily give to the church to specified funds or special projects, without first making sure we help fund the general budget, we may be giving the church “gift cards.” And these gift cards can only be used for set pre-determined funds or programs. But all the while the church still has items in the budget that have to be paid as priorities for services or goods, and if the congregation is not adequately funding the budget, any shortfall of funds in the general budget are made up by cuts to the missions and programming.
Are we giving to support the church and all the missions and ministries the church carries out? Or are we giving gift cards, gifts that can only be used for certain purposes? It seems we need not only consider the spirit in which we give, but also the actual intent expectations we have for how what we give will be used.
“Gifts for the Giving”
by Dr. David Russell