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Ask Dave

Giving beyond your means

Ben and his wife were asked to make a large donation to a charity they already support. They were told they could make the donation in monthly payments if they didn't have the entire amount at the present time. Ben doesn't like the feeling of this, and neither does Dave.

QUESTION: Ben and his wife are on Baby Steps 4 and 5. They’ve been asked to commit to giving a large donation to a charity they already support. They don’t have the full cash amount, but they have been told they could give it in monthly installments. They are hesitant because it feels a little like debt, and they ask Dave his thoughts.

ANSWER: Well, it’s not debt. If you couldn’t give it, there would be no repercussions other than guilt. So, it’s not debt. However, I typically do not engage in that kind of stuff in my giving.

We do our giving, other than our tithe through our local church, through our family foundation. Sometimes we will do the giving in a couple of installments, but that’s our choice — not because we don’t already have the money. It’s because we’re walking with the ministry or the charity through the year and observing and looking at the need. Sometimes we increase our giving through the year, and sometimes we decrease it.

I’m hesitant to do a gift where I don’t have the money. Most of the time, that’s a case of you being asked to do something you’re not ready to do. Most of the time, it falls close to or under the heading of manipulation. You’ve been pushed beyond your means is what it amounts to. Most giving of that type, biblically speaking, would be from surplus — and you don’t have the surplus.

I’m pretty uncomfortable with this, Ben. I’m not going to slap my hand on the table and tell you, “Don’t do it because it’s debt.” It’s not debt, so if you feel you’re supposed to do it, that’s fine. But I think you’re being manipulated, or something pretty close to it, by this organization. I don’t engage in making gift promises beyond what I have.

It’s just a personal thing. I don’t like the feeling around it. It’s not debt, but it kind of starts to feel like it, and it’s not so much living beyond your means as it is giving beyond your means. That’s just another reason it doesn’t strike the right chord with me.