The phrase “give back” has never resonated with me. In fact, it kinda makes me angry. Give back what? To whom? Did I take something? Especially that I shouldn’t have?
Mostly I don’t like being asked to “give back” or donate money to rich people. My high school, my university, some amorphous conglomerate of haves challenging me to give money to them to help the have-nots.* They do an incredibly poor job of telling the stories of the people who are being helped.
Lately SMU has been sending emails challenging me to donate so that we can get more donors than TCU. Really?? I’m supposed to give in order to boost my pride that we beat the other rich university who has a less inspiring mascot than our fierce ponies? Giving is about humility, serving. They have totally missed the point.
Entice me to give. Don’t guilt me into it.** Don’t appeal to my selfishness.***
God does it best. I have never regretted tithing or giving to the Church. God’s Word tells me to give, so my action is obedience to His command. There are a host of life-giving promises and rewards associated with godly obedience, and I gladly accept them. And, at least at NewSpring, we do a great job (and we’re getting better) of telling the stories of people who are helped by my giving.
Everyone, rich and poor, needs the Gospel. Every day. I have no problem giving to an institution, rather Body, that employs people who spread the Gospel to more and more places in the world. Here in the U.S. and abroad. Young and old. There is no one who changes lives for good like Jesus Christ. He educates, employs, gives hope, feeds, clothes, gives rest, encourages, and gives purpose to our every moment. He is not limited in any way. He is omni-present and omnicient. He knows all things for all time, and He forgives sin. There is no greater person or cause. He can have all my money. It’s His in the first place–I just steward it.
*The fact that I both went to a private high school & university and benefited from financial aid to both institutions qualifies me as a have AND have-not. Going into a significant amount of debt at the university makes me feel more the latter.
**Every day I realize more and more what a gift my high school was. I might actually give money to them at some point. God used my teachers, friends, and the culture of TCA in my life, and He still does.
***I’d be more likely to donate to specific teachers who impacted me than the whole of SMU.
One Response to “Charitable Giving”
Well and truly spoken.
I have a similar issue with what is now my university. When I first attended, it was a small (really, really small) community college. The tuition per semester was $125.00. I said it was small, really really small. It was a liberal arts college. There was one basic major—Liberal Arts. But there was so much more than that.
It was a place where student could learn how to be college students. We could figure out whether we had what it took to ‘make the grade,’ so to speak. And we could do that because there were teachers there who wanted the college to succeed. In order for IT to succeed, we had to succeed. So, they took time to insure that we did—if we wanted to do so. There was an intimacy there. I have said many times that we had every thing we needed and not much that we didn’t. It’s just that everything was on a smaller scale.
Now? Now, my university is quite impressed with itself. In many ways, I suppose, this is a good thing. After 50 years of growth in the community, it no longer costs $125.00 per semester to attend—it costs over $15,000—depending on major. And there are a ton of majors. And there are no longer just over 500 students—there are 5,000.
And there are not just four buildings on campus—we lost count. But the last one built when we were there last February cost in excess of $750,000,000. And that is just the newest of dozens of such buildings. That sum is staggering to me! And I get a request to support this extraordinary excess every single year. And I believe it is excess. The buildings are beautiful, truly beautiful. But they do not educate students. Bricks and mortar to not educate—people do. What price an excellent professor?
I have never “supported” my former college as a graduate. However, I paid tuition as an undergrad in order to obtain an associates degree. In 1965, when I first attended, that $125.00 per semester was like finding gold in a pile of rubble. My parents did not have much to spare. I did not manage to spend time wisely and had to return for a couple of classes in 1971 to finish the degree requirements. Those were on my dime and even harder to pay—therefore, I was much more appreciative and the outcome was much more satisfactory.
In 1983, I returned to the same college, which by then had become a four year institution. In 1985, I completed my BS and proudly accepted that diploma from the President who remarked, “I understand you’ve been around for awhile.” Yes, I had been around for a great many years, and as what is now referred to as a “First Decader,” I was inordinately proud of my college—and I “supported,” what I had gained there, which was much more than just ‘book learning.’
I pain my tuition in money. But I was handed my adulthood on stage that Sunday afternoon. And like Mandy says, I would be willing to make donations to those who helped get me from point A to point B during those years of growth, one of whom just passed away this last Friday at 84 (due to a blood clot after knee replacement!). But I do not think my current college needs my support now. It has grown too big, too rich, too impersonal—and tried too hard to forget us “First Decaders,” without whom it would not exist.
When thinking about whom to support with open handed giving, I think about this: What is the return on investment? Do they turn my money into life? Not many institutions can say they do that. But the church can. God can. Jesus can. When lives are changed, when people can one day walk from death to life, I’d say that’s a pretty good ROI. I’ve found no better.