Giving as a Discipline of Unlearning

The more I engage with the spiritual disciplines of my faith tradition, the more I am shown their pedagogy. Rather than teaching me things, the disciplines guide me to unlearn what I thought I knew.

For example, the discipline of giving financially to the work of God. I tend to be one who feels there will not be enough money in my life to meet my needs. So I am prone to withhold my giving because what if I need something and don’t have the money for it? Or what about saving for retirement? Shouldn’t I give as little as I can to ensure that I have enough saved for my golden years? Also, I am a better decider of how my money should be spent and so why should I trust another who will frivolously spend it?

Notice how much I think I “know” about how the world works in these basic assumptions.


The discipline and practice of giving shows me I need to unlearn what I know. It is impossible to learn a new way until I unlearn the old way. As such the discipline of giving is not something that will teach me anything but will help me unlearn the old assumptions. This is why we say through giving God transforms us. It is not the giving that changes us, it is God that changes us as we go through the practice of giving. The discipline is not the destination, it is the bridge that can help us get to a different place.

As of late, many in my denomination are choosing to not give to the denomination because of how the church upholds or violates rules. I get it. Who would want to give to an organization that perpetuates what you feel is sin? What the practice of giving to the church has shown me is that I do not withhold my money to other organizations that perpetuate sin. Tech companies still gets my money, despite knowing work conditions are not good. I bought a “Trump brand” tie, knowing that there are ethical matters related to the president using the office for personal financial gain. I pay my taxes knowing that wars are waged with those monies. I shop on Amazon knowing that the discount I get comes at the cost of selling my data. I scroll through facebook knowing that they care less about connection then about the bottom line.

The discipline of giving has shown me that I am in great need to unlearn the false story I tell myself: I only give to organizations that I fully support.

The Church has her faults and I am a part of the organization. I confess and repent of my failings in the organization. However, it is revealed to me that if I am going to give my money to organizations that exploit and do damage in the world, then I can also give money to those organizations that are trying, but are not immune to fault, to repair the world. For all her faults, the Church is trying to repair the world. The Church educates and builds hospitals. When the private sector cannot see a profit in a problem the church steps in and tries to fill the need (it is churches that are housing people on the boarder, not businesses). The Church is involved in prisons and psychiatric wards. The Church is there when you are born to remind you that you are loved and there when you die to bless you as important.

I have so much to unlearn about what I “know” to be true. I give thanks for the spiritual disciplines that are a means to unlearn the false so that I might learn the Truth of God.

When good news is bad news

When it comes to fundraising, there are many approaches to the non-profit world. Over my time in ministry I have seen a number of them on display in the different people. These approaches all seem to boil down to two different philosophies.

The first philosophy I call "good news is bad news" and it is built on the worldview of scarcity. It assumes there are limited resources and the best "sales pitch" for those resources will win the prize. And because your organization wants those resources to go to your organization and not another, you need to constantly reminded to give to your organization. You talk about how your organization needs are very large and broad. You show images and graphs that convey how short the organization is to the goal or how many "needs" there are. This philosophy would hesitate to refuse a gift of any type out of fear that the donor would be upset and give future gifts elsewhere. It also hesitates to spend much time celebrating reaching a goal because that time and energy would be taken away from the time and energy that could be used to secure future funding. In this sense, the good news of reaching a goal would be a sort of bad news because then you have to generate a new set of needs. 

The other philosophy is what I call "bad news is good news" and it is built on the worldview of enough. It assumes there are enough resources in this world and regardless of the resources, creativity can multiply those resources in ways previously unimagined. It believes that the "bad news" of not meeting the financial goal can be a source of good news for creativity and imagination. It views other organizations not as competition but as partners and future collaborators. This philosophy shows images and graphs that convey how close the organization is to meeting the goal or opportunity. It does not fear refusing gifts that do not fit into the mission of the organization but in fact will refer the donor to an organization that may benefit more fully from their donation (another reason to build relationships with other organizations). It takes time to celebrate reaching a goal because it assumes that donors desire to achieve goals and that no one wants to give to a sinking ship of needs. It also subscribes to the idea that life attracts life and with each celebration there will be another and another. Even if the goal is not reached (bad news) the organization affirms what was given and then uses creativity and imagination and trust to bridge the gap to the goal (good news).