By Jeff Anderson
Last week, a development leader of a $100 million-a-year ministry shared with me that 60% of their annual budget would be received in the last three months of the year, and much of that in December!
Some say it’s a shame Christian giving is influenced by the year-end tax calendar. In my opinion, this is not all bad. Our lives orbit around dates on the calendar. But what if God is actually OK with it?
We push hard Monday through Friday, and then we get a weekend rest and earn occasional breaks (Memorial Day, July 4th). As we round out the year, we have more extended breaks…Thanksgiving, then Christmas.
The year-end Holidays are favorites. For many families they bring extra days to hang out, feast on an abundance of food, watch some football, and play corny board games with the kids.
And yes, people think about giving, too. Before it’s all over and we toast into the New Year, we make sure we give our gifts.
Some church and ministry leaders are mindful to make sure the office is open on December 31st. They know this is the day some givers might be driving around to get their last minute giving on the books.
One of the first things God did for the Israelites (while working out a jailbreak from Egypt) was to give them a calendar. He filled it with three special holidays, each with periods of feasting…and giving.
The Passover kicked off the beginning of the year with a nice seven-day vacation. It was early spring when all the new momma sheep had birthed their lambs. The Israelites were careful to set aside the firstborn for sacrifice, along with every tenth sheep for the tithes. And as daddy was thumbing through the files (or knife notches on the barn stalls) he would note any vows they committed during the winter… and set aside those gifts as well.
After gathering the gifts, the children strapped their portable video players to the camel-humps and the family set off for their pilgrimage to the temple to feast, celebrate, give thanks…and give gifts, too.
Seven weeks later Pentecost arrived. This was when the early crop began to show in the fields, their chance to gather a firstfruits offering and thank God for the coming fall harvest.
And in the fall landowners would bring in the full harvest, taking inventory along the way. After shutting down their fields for winter, they gathered their gifts and set off for the year’s final festival, the Feast of Tabernacles. This one lasted 21 days! (Enough time to capture each of the 35 bowl games on TV.
God staggered the Israelite calendar with gift seasons, each in sync with the livestock and harvest seasons. Folks worked hard during the year with periodic breaks to pause, assess God’s blessings, set aside gifts…and offer them to God.
Holidays Are For You
Just as Jesus reminded us the Sabbath was for us, and not the other way around, remember the holiday calendar is for you. It’s your opportunity to celebrate with family and friends, count your blessings from God…and give your gifts.
Year-end giving can be a beautiful part of our life rhythm. God enjoys giving us these breaks, celebrations, and seasons of gifts. As you approach the year-end holidays, take the time to:
- Assess your harvest. Look over your wage statements and other incomes sources. And while you’re at it, take note of your non-financial blessings as well.
- Thank God for your blessings. He enjoys knowing you recognize these things are from Him.
- Review your gifts throughout the year. Life gets busy. Sometimes we lose track.
- Pray about how God would have you finish out your gift year.
And if you find yourself driving across town on December 31st to drop off a check, or getting online just before midnight to process one final gift transaction — don’t feel bad.
Instead look up the Heavens, close your eyes, smile…and then click.###
Jeff Anderson has worked with churches for nearly two decades, as elder in his own church, and as Vice President, Generosity Initiatives with Crown Financial Ministries, and currently as leader of www.AcceptableGift.org. Jeff continues to consult and speak, and is the author of Plastic Donuts, A Fresh Perspective on Gifts.
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