What are the mistakes that people make when they first become wealthy and start giving larger gifts? How can I avoid these?
The release of “Joy Giving” has invited deep and thoughtful questions from givers. Two givers have recently come into large amounts of wealth and emailed to ask the question above.
What does Scripture say about this?
1. Move deliberately.
Ephesians 1:15-16 reminds us to “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (NIV).
2. But don’t rush.
Paradoxically, even while we move deliberately (“making the most of your time”), we take the time to understand God’s will.
Proverbs 13:11 warns, “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it” (NIV).
When wealth comes on us quickly, we do well to slow the pace.
Four threats new givers face, and how to avoid them.
So how do we live out this paradox? I was with Russ Hall of Legacy Ventures last week in New York. He offered these four insights:
Threat 1: Solutionism.
New givers can be intoxicated by the amounts at their disposal. We all tend to oversimplify others’ problems. Russ encourages new givers to take the time to think deeply about the problem they’re trying to solve and how it really works.
Threat 2: The Cash-ectomy.
When you become wealthy, word seems to get out fast. Schools you attended and causes you love are quick to descend on you, looking for a portion of your newfound wealth. Slow down. Take the time to pray. What is God passionate about, and where do your passions fit into his?
Threat 3: Starting My Own Thing.
In their early days, some givers spot a problem and ask, “Why hasn’t someone solved this yet?” Then, rather than taking the time to see what solutions others have tried, or what the best practices are, new givers launch their own enterprise. They claim, “No one has a charity that solves the problem I’m trying to solve.” In most cases, that’s just not true. Don’t underestimate others’ intelligence or intentions. Find the best existing ideas and see how you can learn from them. If possible, launch your solution from within an existing organization. Resist the temptation to go it alone.
Threat 4: Philanthropic Attention-deficit Disorder (ADD).
Some new givers treat causes like entertainment. This year, you may be binge watching “The Crown.” Last year, it was “Stranger Things.” Next year, it will be something else.
But when this attention-deficit disorder comes into giving away significant wealth, it does violence to charities. They cannot plan or prepare. They may hire based on a cash influx in one year and have to fire people the next year when the major donor goes away.
Charities need givers who will commit to “a long faithfulness in the same direction.”
To mitigate this issue, try starting with a variety of smaller gifts. Learn what it feels like to give to a cause, then gradually increase your giving. Or, at the very least, be clear that you’re giving a one-time gift and that the organization shouldn’t count on receiving the same amount in the future.
God has entrusted you with a great gift, and you get to entrust that gift to others. As a first step, don’t get busy giving; get busy learning. As you do, God will give you the wisdom and direction that leads you to the right Kingdom investments.
To bring more joy to your giving, each post at joygiving.org takes a giver’s question (Situation), offers biblical guidance (Scripture), and, based on our thousands of interactions with Christian givers around the world, offers action items (Steps).