You know that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you give someone a gift, or donate money to charity? Apparently that’s your brain acting in a similar way to when you have sex or eat chocolate! It’s true, according to scientific research; activity in the brain shows a link between giving money to charity and experiencing pleasure.
Similar studies also show that people who spend a greater portion of their income on gifts to others and donations to charity are happier than those who spend more on themselves. Who’d have thought God has actually hard-wired us to be generous?
As a Christian, I know the Bible says that we should give to those in need and store our treasure in heaven, but what does that look like? What is generosity and how should we make the most of what God has given us?
To Tithe or not to Tithe?
Having not been brought up as a Christian, I remember when I was first faced with the alien concept of tithing. I was amazed at how conflicting the opinions were on this topic; is it relevant to today? Should it be exactly 10%? Is that before or after tax?
I decided to survey 60 female Christians to see what they thought. As I’d assumed, most people thought it was a good principle to practice today, and interestingly, those who didn’t still believed that giving was important. For example, one woman said, ‘Tithing is Old Testament; Jesus told us to give generously.’
As for how much to give, most agreed 10% was just a guide – I was also surprised that many even said they thought it should be a minimum. And some chose to give solely to church, whilst others liked to split it between church, ministries and charities.
As far as my research is concerned, there didn’t seem to be a consensus on the rules of tithing, so I believe it has to be a private decision that’s made between and you and God. As it says in 2 Corinthians 9:7; ‘Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’
However, my question now is what happens if we give and grumble? Is it better not to give at all?
Giving to others
It’s easy to give to people we know, but having chatted to friends, many feel wary of handing over cash to people on the street, concerned about whether it actually helps. It’s all too easy to pass someone by, and then feel guilty for not helping.
If you are one of these people, there are some great initiatives you could consider. For example, many cafés allow you to buy a ‘suspended coffee’ so that someone in need can come and get a free coffee later.
My church in Leeds has a scheme where you can buy vouchers to give to someone in exchange for a shower and a meal at the church’s centre for homeless people. It’s a great way to know that someone in need is not just getting immediate help but that they are in a place where they can meet trained professionals who’ll try to provide a longer-term solution.
So it’s worth looking into organisations and charities in your area that are helping these people, and how you might support them in what they are already doing.
Maximising your generosity
Lastly, when donating money, here are a few ways to ensure you maximise your giving:
➢ Gift aid it: If you pay tax then you can make your donations go even further through the government’s tax relief scheme. Gift aid allows charities to claim an extra 25p for every £1 you give and it won’t cost you any extra. E.g. a £100 donation will be worth £125, so it’s definitely worth completing a gift aid declaration when you give.
➢ Little and often: Giving a few pounds a month by Direct Debit order is simple and can be less disruptive to your budget. Also, having a steady stream of income is vital for charities as it allows them to plan for the future.
➢ Leave a Legacy: Legacies are a fantastic way to ensure your money does something worthwhile after you’re gone. It can also reduce an inheritance tax bill, which could otherwise claim a massive 40% of your estate above the threshold. See www.gov.uk/inheritance-tax for more information.
No matter what you decide to do with your money, or whom you give it to, the important thing to remember is where it came from in the first place. Let’s be generous because our God is generous to us first.
‘It’s not how much of my money I give to God, but how much of God’s money I keep for myself.’ – RG LeTourneau
CAP has also launched CAP Release Groups, which equip members to break free from life controlling habits
and dependencies – offering support for when you want to stop. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information about specific groups.
Kathy Freeman is passionate about tackling poverty and injustice. She has worked as the Public Relations Officer for Christians Against Poverty for three years. Her favourite part of her job is hearing from clients who have had their lives transformed by God, and sharing their stories to inspire and bring hope to others.
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