As we head into the holiday season you may already be considering what you can do to help those who may not be able to help themselves. Requests are already piling up for shoeboxes for kids in foreign countries, angel tree presents, coat drives, food drives, holiday meals, more.
You want to give in a way that helps others, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the number all of the different causes.
Believe me, as the Executive Director of The Link of Cullman County, I understand the challenges it can present not only to the one being asked, but the one doing the asking. So I thought I might offer you some suggestions as you prepare to give this holiday season.
Over the past 6 weeks we have been talking about how we can love our neighbor as our self…even when that neighbor may be very different than we are. You can read through some of those post topics by clicking on the topic below:
So here is the sum of all of those: The only way we can fully love people who are different than us is with the right perspective, which means choosing to clean out our own hearts so we can see our neighbor as God sees them.
In the midst of that, we need to recognize that sometimes the things we do to show our love to try to help our neighbor can enable them rather than empower them. As I mentioned in this post on loving an addict, enabling them could send someone straight to their grave…and no we certainly do not do that with any intentionality, but our desire to help can ultimately do more harm than good.
If that is the case, what is one to do as we seek to make the greatest impact on those who can’t seem to help themselves this holiday season?
Let me offer you just a few suggestions.
First of all, I want to ask you to consider what it is you are MOST passionate about when it comes to helping others. Have you ever sat down and thought about what makes you angry, frustrated or just heart broken when it comes to the injustices in the world? What people group comes to mind? For example, do you get infuriated when you hear about the genocide happening in China and in your mind you see little Chinese babies that could have had a chance?
Are you heartbroken over the human beings all over the planet who are taken into sex-trafficking?
Or have you had your eyes opened to the poverty in your own backyard? You’ve realized there are broken people all around you and you feel compelled to help right where you are.
Whatever your passion may be I want you to write it down on paper, it makes it real. Put a name, a face, a location. Write down why it is important to you. What is it about that cause that makes you feel like you need to be a part of the answer?
Now that you have the cause in your mind, I want you to consider how you can be part of the solution. As I have mentioned before in this post, we can do harm in our desire to help, so in that solution, I’d like to offer you some thoughts. However, some of those ways may do more harm than good.
Let me use the example of aiding those in material poverty. When someone is in material poverty the root of the issue isn’t lack of money, it is brokenness. We all have brokenness and that can fall into four different categories.
- Brokenness with God. This means not having a relationship with God. When we have a broken relationship with God we are living in sin and have yet to realize our need for a Savior.
- Brokenness with ourselves. We may not understand ourselves or our true needs. We can be disillusioned by our emotional needs.
- Brokenness with others. This happens when we are lacking trusting and healthy relationships.
- Brokenness with creation. We do not know how to operate within the world around us.
More on this topic can be found in the book, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting The Poor or Yourself.
When we understand brokenness in these ways we can see there are different types of poverty, not just material. Then we can address the challenges/barriers to overcoming poverty differently. Within this model we all have brokenness and if we all have brokenness we no longer look at people in material poverty as “less than” but realize in our brokenness we have a sameness in need.
So why is this important? If I look at my neighbors in material poverty from only a place of “lack,” I address their needs in a way that is transactional. They don’t have food, so I give food. They don’t have clothes, so I give clothes. No shelter, I try to help get shelter. See where I am going with this?
Here is the deal though a one time transaction will never address the deep brokenness we experience with God, ourselves, others, or creation.
Let me try it this way. What if you were mourning the loss of your dog and were completely heartbroken, would it solve all of your problems if I just gave you another dog? No, of course not. You have emotional wounds that go much deeper than that. If I was a good friend, I would listen to you talk about your dog. I would pray with you and ask God to heal you. I would remind you of the good times you had with your dog. I would try to get you connected with other people who had lost their dogs and ask them to help you walk through your loss, especially if I was not familiar with your experience.
See what I mean? The challenges of poverty are much more layered than addressing the “crisis of the moment” but rather require a long-term relational commitment. And in that commitment empowering them to do for themselves.
Now that we have a clear view of the cause we are most passionate about and realize our own brokenness…what can we do to help and not cause harm?
PARTNER WITH ORGANIZATIONS DOING GOOD WORK
Find out who is already doing the work in the area you are passionate about and partner with them. For the sake of my example, there are many organizations already making an impact in the communities they serve. We are one of many across the nation, relationally loving our neighbors in our own communities. Seek out those organizations out and see how you can help.
If you have time, consider making a long-term commitment to volunteering. Why long-term? Because no one has ever had his or her life changed forever after a one-time interaction.
If you have finances, consider making a re-occurring monthly donation. Monthly donors are the hardest to come by for most organizations because these are usually the most passionate donors. It’s a lot easier to give a one-time donation and be on your way. If you can’t give your time, consider making a long-term commitment by giving monthly. Consider this, what would your monthly budget look like if you had no idea if your employer was going to pay you monthly? Could you make plans? Pay your bills? Take care of your family? Consider that the same way for the cause you are so passionate about.
If you have the platform to give voice to the cause, do that. And do it consistently. We need more advocates. You can see throughout scripture where God made it known to the people that they needed to take care of their neighbor.
We can all pray for the cause. You don’t have to go any further than Isaiah 61:1-3 to see what God wants to do on behalf of the poor. Pray those verses for your community, for your state, for our country, and the world.
GIVE TO TRANSFORMATION AND NOT JUST FOR PHILANTHROPY SAKE
We are stewards of our money. God owns it all and we get around 80%- 90% (depending on what you give away) to take care of your own needs. In the book the Giver and The Gift, philanthropist David Weekley, suggests as stewards we should consider giving to causes that will make a long-lasting impact. Meet with organization leadership to hear their vision, mission and goals for the year. What do they want to do? How can you partner with them in making a difference?
DON’T TRY TO BE THE SAVIOR
This one is a bit personal. A few years back a woman came into our Center because she was about to become homeless. She was an older woman and reminded me of my own mother. As we prayed and sought out resources, I found myself scrambling to find her the money she needed to save her home. As hard as I tried, I could not get a hold of anyone as I tried to contact one organization after another. At one point I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “Am I the Savior or are you?” Doh! If that was not a slap on the hand I don’t know what is. Later that day she came in and was job searching at one of our computers. I sat down and asked her, what her long-term goals were. She said, “I have always wanted to minister in a women’s shelter. In fact, I am looking for a job at one right now.” It was at that moment I realized, if I had kept her in her home I would have totally gotten in the way of what God intended for her. She ended up losing her home and living in a local shelter. God used her to minister to women there and she brought many of them into the Center to help them find jobs and get back on their feet.
I learned a powerful lesson that day. I have to get out of the way and let God be the Savior. His glory His so much more important than mine.
This is the most giving season of the year. You will have your heartstrings pulled and you will want to be generous with what God has blessed you with. All I am suggesting is to consider (1) what are you most passionate about and (2) pray about how you can help without hurting and then (3) follow-through.
Instead of making a commitment this year to help a family with Christmas gifts, why not consider making a commitment this year to walk with that family all year long so next year they can purchase the gifts they want their children to have on their own.
Instead of just offering your help through the crisis, consider how you can be part of God’s long-term plan for their life.
Instead of making a one-time commitment to an organization at the end of the year this year…consider how you can continue the gift the entire year through.
Why? Because you are called to steward your dollars well and these are the things you are passionate about. These are the desires God has put in your heart. These are part of your purpose here on earth to be a blessing to others, as God has blessed you.
Take a moment and consider what it is that you are most passionate about this year, and then share it below so we can pray with you about how God will use you this year in being a blessing.
PS. Thanks for your feedback on the survey this past week. I am working on the responses and will have more information on the results next week.