Money

When Giving Causes Shame and How to Conquer It

Liz Hartwell
Joni McCall holding plastic donuts

 

It was the first time I felt ashamed of my giving.

I was sitting at church. The lights were dim. A worship song played. I clutched exactly 10 percent of my babysitting earnings, anticipating the offering plate being passed to me. It came to my younger sister first, and she put in her entire allowance. As I saw her generosity out of the corner of my eye, envy and guilt filled me.

Hello, giving-shame. Goodbye, cheerful-giver heart.

From that moment on, whenever I gave to church or missions, I felt it wasn't enough. Others were always doing more.

Then, one day, I met David, a man who changed my outlook on giving.

Wearing a crisp suit, David welcomed me into his office for a financial advisory appointment. He explained his passion for seeing people's hearts honor God as they give to the eternal kingdom. David shared wisdom and practical tips.

“You can give and not be generous, but you cannot be generous and not give — it’s a matter of the heart,” he told me.

He explained how God invites us to be generous and how eternal investments yield the best dividends. David had me take a questionnaire about my finances and then create goals. My goals encompassed my dreams such as “pay off student loans so I can become a missionary” and “save so I can give generous gifts.” Though these goals seemed far off, David encouraged me to take steps in that direction.

David gave me a small, pink book called “Plastic Donuts.” He’d given the book to many other clients.

In “Plastic Donuts,” a dad plays make-believe with his young daughter. She smiles and hands her father a plastic doughnut. He is delighted by his daughter's gift. Similarly, we, as God's children, bring delight to the Father as we give joyfully and generously back to Him.

Giving is a crucial part of our relationship with God, our Heavenly Father. It reflects God’s character within us. Although He doesn't need our gifts, because everything belongs to Him, He is delighted by our giving as it reflects our faith, gratitude and wholehearted love for Him.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1, New International Version).

Focusing on my relationship with my Heavenly Father freed me from getting stuck comparing myself with others, including my generous sister. I can smile, knowing that God is receiving both of our gifts. Just as my sister and I don't have to compete for our earthly dad's approval, we don't have to compete for our heavenly Father's approval. Whether the gift is large or small by our standards, God sees that our heartfelt desire is to please Him. He smiles at my plastic doughnuts and hers.

I’ve reached many of the goals I’d made in David’s office, thanks to God's generous provision. But sometimes I feel giving-shame creep back in. When that happens, I remind myself to turn back to my Father. I ask Him, the ultimate generous giver, to help me better understand giving and to help me live for eternity rather than my own comfort.

Now when the offering plate comes to me, I give unashamedly, knowing that all I have belongs to God, and yet, He is still delighted when I cheerfully give to Him.

  • Have you ever felt giving-shame or compared your what you give others?
  • David has been a great role model for me in giving. Who are your role models of generosity?
  • How do you think God sees you when you give?
  • What ways can you champion what God cares about through your giving?

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