As a Millennial working in the nonprofit sphere, I hear a lot of questions about the giving habits of my generational peers and how to get more young people involved in the organization's mission. Many see our "selfie era" as an indicator of rampant narcissism, producing an overly self-involved generation that cares little about what lies beyond our social news feed. While there is some evidence to suggest otherwise, youngsters like myself have a tendency to seek answers pertaining to the why rather than simply the how. The issue is not merely the supply of worthy initiatives or reducing the number of clicks on a donation page, but rather answering a more basic question of why we should even care in the first place. As a result, here are five reasons why generosity is so important for those of us who cringe at the idea of a world before the internet.
"Time, Talent and Treasure" is how we talk about generosity at Texas Baptists. These three tools have powerful potential when used in tandem. However, many times giving is only referred to in terms of money (aka Treasure). The reality is you have more to offer than just your net worth (thank goodness, right?). Offering your time and talents outside of your normal daily schedule is not just a nice concept, it reflects Christ. Sometimes, we guard our time closer than we guard our finances, and all too often we leave natural abilities or interests underutilized or underdeveloped. Remember, Liam Neeson isn't the only one with a very particular set of skills. While giving financially is foundational, you are more than your bank account. And that's important.
If you have competed in sports at any level, you have no doubt heard the speech about being a part of something greater than yourself. Similarly, generous giving not only opens your eyes to important causes, but also holds an eternal impact. Every ministry at Texas Baptists is intentionally focused on this idea and provides ways for people to invest their time, talents and treasures in a variety of ways. Texas Baptist Men use their talent to help rebuild homes and communities for those affected by disasters; our Baptist Student Ministry groups send out hundreds of college students who volunteer their time to reach the world every year; and the Christ Life Commission's Hunger Offering uses donations to fight hunger and poverty in Texas and across the globe. Generosity starts with you, but it is not about you. It is about fulfilling Christ's Commandment and Commission to help our neighbors and share what he has done for us. And that's important.
For example, I have a habit of hoarding and protecting my money like the dwarves in The Hobbit defending the Lonely Mountain (that analogy eventually breaks down, but you get the picture). My wife, however, uses her money like a responsible adult, judiciously allocating her funds to fulfill certain needs while I cook ramen in a Captain America shirt I've had since high school. In light of this discrepancy, she has taught me a valuable lesson: when time, talent and treasure have no meaningful or intentional purpose, whether through frivolousness or neglect, they become essentially worthless. On the other hand, many of us have been blessed with the ability to use our abundant resources for worthy, eternal causes. And that's important.
How did you become addicted to coffee (or your preferred caffeinated beverage)? At some point, you tried it. Maybe you didn't like the taste right away, but the effects seemed to help you get through that ten-page paper, final exam all-nighter or 8 a.m. lecture. Eventually you got hooked, and now you don't even consider the possibility of existing in any parallel universe without your elixir of choice. In fact, the more you spend at Starbucks the closer you get to filling up your app credits for a free cup! So you would basically be losing money if you didn't get your daily fix (insert sarcasm here). Similarly, a spirit of giving is usually not an innate quality, it must be developed. Unlike the long-term effects of high sugar intake, however, acquiring a "taste" for generosity will better prepare you to think about your future when it comes to estate planning, planned giving, creating a will, etc.
One easy way to begin is to find a cause you are passionate about and start giving automatic, recurring monthly donations online. You won't have to think about contributing regularly, and your bank statement will serve as a reminder of your activity so you can continually pray for the cause and those involved. Conveniently, the Texas Baptist Missions Foundation can provide information on a variety of worthy projects and initiatives from overseas missions to planting churches right here in Texas. Exercising generosity now means you are preparing yourself to give even more when you have the greatest opportunity later in life. And that's important.
This may seem like a typical Sunday School answer, but there's a reason it's number one on the list. The prism through which generosity is viewed means very little if the light revealed is presumed as emanating from oneself. The time we have is allotted to us by the Creator of time. The talents we have are bestowed upon us by the Giver of all good things. The treasure we have is graciously awarded to us by the Sustainer of the universe. If we believe the first verse in Scripture and we claim Christ as Lord of our lives, we must acknowledge our possessions, our choices, our resources, our everything, ultimately belong to God. If we refuse to use them as such, we have failed in our role as stewards. God has blessed each of us with a variety of unique resources, through no work of our own, to expand His kingdom and proclaim His name. And that's the most important reason of all.
As one student said in an article from USA Today, "You shouldn't wait to start [giving] until it feels like it's comfortable, because it'll never feel comfortable, you just have to do it. You just have to start." Of course, the same rings true with time and talent as well. Generosity is sacrificial, it's not about what is comfortable. Yet the joy found in the fruition of a generous spirit is incomparable.