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Acceptable Gifts Versus Effective Gifts

Christian Leadership Alliance: Acceptable Gifts

By Jeff Anderson

Did you know there are two kinds of financial gifts?

Recently I presented to non-profit leaders in Colorado Springs about two kinds of gifts:

(1) acceptable gifts – these are gifts that please God

(2) effective gifts – these are gifts that get the job done (get food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, the gospel to the lost, etc.)

Some effective gifts are acceptable gifts, too.  But not all of them are.

The property given by Ananias and Saphirra would have “effectively” met great needs. But the gift did not please God.  The Pharisees gave effective tithes; but Jesus was not impressed.

Of course, not all acceptable gifts are effective gifts either.  Consider the perfume Mary used to worship the feet of Jesus.  This was not effective use of assets; but the gift was very pleasing to Him.  What about the money given to Judas?  Scriptures say he stole from the purse.   Still, couldn’t those resources provided have been pleasing gifts to God first?

Gift-giving began 6,000 years ago.  Cain and Abel gave gifts and we suspect Adam and Eve did, too.  Interestingly, there were no needs during this time. No poor, no orphans, no sick or diseased.  No need for evangelism either. From the early beginnings, gifts to God were for a single purpose – to please Him.  God desired gifts from His children.  There was no need for “effective gifts.”

300 Billion Dollars

Today the US has a $300 billion-a-year gift industry.  About a third of that amount goes to religious organizations.  A large chunk of that would be Christian giving.

As a result, there is great attention given to effective giving.  More books are surfacing to address how to solve poverty; how to reverse the number of orphans; how to build an effective church; how to administer micro-loans. Effective giving is big business today.

For pastors and ministry leaders who collect and raise gifts, I wonder how much of Christian fund raising is simply “effective meeting of needs.”

Don’t donors need fresh perspective on how God sees their gifts, too?

Are you teaching and ministering to  these donors? Or just using best-practices to extract dollars?

Are your constituents simply funding a project when they give to your organization? Or do they have a true, biblical sense of God’s attention (and pleasure) in their gift?

Are your staff as well-versed in the theology of giving, as they are in the industry of giving?

Effective gifts are good!  We should continue to aim for these.  But meeting needs is secondary.

We must not forget the primary reason for gifts – to please God.


Jeff Anderson speaks and writes about walking with God, with an approach to discipleship that combines scripture and story. He’s the author of two books, Plastic Donuts and Divine Applause (January 2015). He began his career working as a CPA for a Big Six accounting firm, then became a day trader in the stock market. Following that, he joined Crown Financial Ministries as vice-president for North America Generosity Initiatives.

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Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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