A few days I wrote about my lost £20. A few things have happened since then that I wanted to let you know about. On Sunday there was an envelope in the offering at Church addressed to me and inside was, yes you have guessed it, a £20 note. At first I was quite embarrassed about this. I worried that I had implied that we needed the money when in fact we are not short of money. Whilst the £20 was valuable enough to look for, we didn’t really feel its loss. Then I thought about it some more and I realized that sometimes people are just kind. We don’t buy gifts for people only at birthdays or Christmas if the recipients can’t afford those things. We hopefully give gifts because we are kind or generous.
I then had a phone call on Monday from the school where I had set up the bouncy castle last week. They wanted to let me know that the money had been found and that I could come and collect it. It makes me feel better about my fellow human beings knowing that some people are still kind enough to hand in rather than to pocket cash that they find.
I had lost £20 but now I have £40, so that’s good! We let all sorts of things determine how we feel, I was annoyed with myself for losing the money but I didn’t feel sad. I was disappointed with my loss but it didn’t ruin my life. I now have more money than I deserve but I’m not planning how to spend the extra, I would like to give it back if it is needed or to share it with someone else in need. It’s easy to hoard what we have and to believe that we need more money to make us happy rather than to share what we have to make the world a better place. So if you were kind enough to arrange for that money to be put in the offering bag and you are really in need of it, then let me know and you can have it back.
Do you remember the movie Pay it forward? Paying it forward involves doing something kind for three people and then those three people would do something generous for three other people and then the kindness continues to spread. I love this idea and I love the generosity but the problem is the limit of three. Is it generous enough to make us feel better but not so costly that it affects our life permanently?
One of the things that I think illustrates the best and worst in our society are sponsored events. It’s great that people want to help raise money for worthy causes but if we only consider giving if it is asked for in sponsorship then I find that sad. I believe that sponsored events are a way of keeping charities going in a consumer centred society. We can shrug our shoulders and say ‘well that’s just the way it works’ or we could do something counter cultural by pausing to consider if there is another way. Fundraising is okay but my hope and prayer is that we can rediscover what it is to be generous with what we have just because we can.
Giving is good for us. The Bible says that ‘the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil’. When we love money and desire more it can corrupt our lives but when we give it away we prove that it has no control over us and that we are not obsessed with it. I hate guilt trips and dislike it when people give to charity because they feel pressured or obliged to. Some sponsorship appeals I have encountered feel more like demanding money with menaces than they do an opportunity to help those in need. I have given begrudgingly to people’s sponsored events before (when you are a minister it is very hard to say to anyone in your Church that you won’t sponsor them) and I have hated that feeling. The Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver, he loves it when we give when we want to and not because we have to. God loves it when we are generous because we choose to and when we give because we feel compassion and not because we feel guilty. God is delighted when we give because we want to help and bless and not because we want a reward or for people to see how much we have given.
Whilst I am not saying that sponsored events are wrong I am hoping we can consider if and when they are appropriate. A few things I would suggest we need to consider are:
1. Will I raise more than I spend putting on the event/activity?
It’s brilliant to do fun things and bungee jumping or playing tiddlywinks may seem like a great thing to do to raise money but is it right to pay more to do these things than we might raise in sponsorship?
2. Am I using sponsorship as an excuse so I don’t have to give so much to charity?
Next time you consider the possibility of doing a sponsored event, ask yourselves first whether you would be willing to just give same amount of money that you might raise to the charity? Even if it’s not practical and you can’t afford it consider if you would give the money if you could.
3. We need to get better at supporting the charities that matter to us rather than sponsoring everyone who asks.
I am now sometimes saying no to sponsoring people. Sometimes I say I will give directly to the charity (but only if I will) and this can be more tax effective with gift aid. Other times I say that giving is important and I give to various charities on a regular basis rather than sponsoring people in events. An amount given each month helps a charity to plan more effectively and for this reason, regular giving is better for charities than one-off lump sums although all giving is appreciated I’m sure.
4. Is my motivation to look good or to support a charity?
Are you determined to personally raise more than everyone else through sponsorship or are you hoping that the event raises lots of money for the charity?
5. Will the event benefit the charity in the long run?
Raising the profile of the charity is really important. If people are motivated to find out about and support the charity regularly then an event is probably worthwhile. Is getting the highest amount of sponsorship more important than this though? I believe that putting on a generous event that people don’t feel like they have to give lots of money to support is more likely to win regular supporters.
How can we pay it forward today?
How can we be generous and kind to the people around us? We can only give what we have in terms of our money, time, skills and abilities but we can all give a smile and we can all appreciate one another.
My prayer is that we would become a generous society where we give generously and cheerfully where there are needs.