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Why Don’t We Give?

I would have never chosen a profession in fundraising. In fact, I hardly chose it. I became a "grant writer" really just because I was graduating, didn’t know what to do with my life, and my new alma mater was in need of a cheap writer who they could train to convince people to send lots of money to the university.

So I ended up in the world of fundraising. This basically means I’ve learned a million different really sweet ways to convince people to give us large sums of money. Example: instead of saying, "please give us a big grant so we can get new carpet to replace the orange shag in the library," I have learned to say, "We request that you join us in securing the future for the students of ____ University by providing a grant of _____. Your gift will allow generations of students to experience a renewed place of study, providing them the highest in educational opportunities," or something like that. You get the picture.

Although grant writing is not my dream job (I’ll only be here for two more months), it’s taught me valuable lessons, opening my eyes to the fact there are some incredibly selfless people out there who pour their lives and their money into places that need their help. Last year, as a student, I was always annoyed with my small Christian university. My friends and I talked about other schools as "real universities" as opposed to our pseudo school which never quite met our expectations, never quite gave us the comfort level we thought we deserved. This year, I’ve watched my university run from the other side of things: where budgets are only so big, where faithful donors can only give so much, where people work their butts off everyday trying to find more money for scholarships for students. I realized something important soon after beginning this job: I am selfish.

I’ve met so many people who feel a real calling to give to education, to provide scholarships, to help renovate buildings, to endow programs. For those four years I received scholarships, I never once considered the money came from real-living people (most of them non-rich), who were giving it up — for me. I’ve learned most of us have the same perspective as I did. We just don’t know about the people who give money for us. So we graduate and we still don’t know.

We’ve lived our lives believing the church offering plate is important. Maybe we just never considered it’s our job to fill it
A book called Single Adults by George Barna, released in 2003, examines various types of singles (Christian and non-Christian) and their beliefs and their actions based on statistical information. What was his interesting find among the young-never-been-marrieds? Those who answered the Christian faith was important to them perceived worship to be the most significant spiritual undertaking, while among the least important spiritual tasks was — you guessed it — material stewardship.

Of course, you know how easy it would be for someone to go off on our generation — how it’s full of selfish, lazy, spoiled kids who don’t care about any other people but themselves. But we know we care. We’re smart people. We know if we have something to give, we should. We know children are really starving in Africa, just like our moms said every time we didn’t want to eat broccoli. We know it’s better to give than to receive. We know our Christianity is only going to change the world when we live out our faith in a way that is true and not just about talk. So why don’t we give?

I asked Cheryl at my office what she thinks. She’s in charge of the Annual Scholarship Fund. In order to reach her yearly goal, she travels around visiting donors, asking for money. I asked her if the most recent grads are the ones who give least. Of course, she said yes. I asked, does that mean we’re all just lazy, spoiled kids? She said we don’t give because we probably just don’t think our gifts will make much of a difference, not because we, as a whole, are less caring than our parents or grandparents. She said, "Whether you’re 20 or 80, some people are selfish and some aren’t."

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So what are my excuses for not giving? I forget to do it. I don’t like messing with money, so I like to pretend it isn’t important. I’d rather spend it on new clothes or on a new CD. And I consider myself just a single girl who will make more of a difference when she’s older and makes real money and has a husband and a family. I guess we have other reasons too: probably we would give if we weren’t all paying off student loans, if we didn’t have to get our fix on espresso every night, if we didn’t have that car payment, or maybe if we just didn’t choose to block the needs of others out of our minds. So my question for myself and for you is — how? How did we become a generation of Christians who study the Bible, who know lots of stuff about Jesus, but who consider the act of worship more significant than giving? How are those two things separate?

They weren’t separate to Christ. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Christ responded with the most profound statement in the Bible: Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). Loving God and loving people go hand in hand. So our act of worship is about how we live, how we treat people — not about our songs, our services and our talk. John tells us our calling is not to love with words or with tongue, but with actions and in truth (1 John 4:18). So the question has to be asked: When are we going to become more than people with a bunch of "love" words?

We are the light to our generation. We long for revolution. We want to see lives changed for the sake of Christ. We talk about it. We sing about it. We show up at church and hear the preacher speak about it. So when are we going to be brave enough to love in a way that is real? It starts with our willingness to recognize that what we have is not our own. It starts with our willingness to give.

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