Giving at the Cash Register

Coffee Shop Cash Register

The unexpected request reveals your true self: When you go to check out at a store or a restaurant and the clerk asks if you’d like to donate a dollar to some charity that the company is supporting, what do you do?

It’s easy to position ourselves well for a fundraising request when we see it coming. If you’re amenable to giving, you’ll likely attend fundraising events or other functions where people might ask for a donation. If you don’t intend to give, you might avoid those situations where people are likely to be raising money. But when a request intrudes unexpectedly into the patterns of your everyday life, you have little time to prepare for it. And the way that you react can reveal a truth about what’s going on inside your heart.

I must admit that, when it has happened to me, I’ve found my heart in a bad place too many times.

Rationalizing Selfishness

For many years, whenever a cashier solicited an unexpected donation from me, my default answer was “No.” I could make any number of rationalizations for it: “I don’t have the extra money,” (which is almost never true), “I don’t know anything about that charity,” etc. My favorite had overtones of manipulation and self-righteousness: “I carefully plan my giving to organizations that I care about. So I’m going to deny this impromptu request so that I can give more money to my favorite charities.”

Of course, these excuses were a thin veil over a much less pleasant reality: I am a tightwad by nature, and I don’t enjoy parting with my money. Selfishness was my reflex to this unexpected solicitations. I said “no” because I wasn’t a very generous person.

It wasn’t until I began to study God’s wisdom about finance that saw these tendencies in me for what they really were. Though I had always known that giving to the poor was a good thing, I didn’t really put that belief into practice consistently until I realized that it’s more than a good thing: It’s a command from God, and one of the fundamental components of His Master Plan for our money. And if we’re practicing it correctly, giving isn’t just something we do on an occasional basis. Rather, Christians are called to live a lifestyle of generosity.

Confronting Hypocrisy

So here I was, endeavoring to live a lifestyle of generosity, and even teaching other people to do the same. And yet, when I stood at the cash register to buy my lunch and the clerk asked if I wanted to donate a dollar to some good cause, I still said “no.” Until one day I heard that answer coming out of my mouth, and realized that the way I handled these small requests was at odds with they way that I believed we should handle larger giving in life.

I realized that, although I liked to think of myself as a generous person, these small moments of stinginess said more about my heart than my religious giving ever did. While I felt warm, fuzzy and self-righteous about giving to my church and to ministries that I care about, I felt irritated and angry if someone asked for a very small donation outside of that context. God showed me my hypocrisy, and I was ashamed.

I decided that day that, from then on, my answer to the question would always be “Yes.” And ever since then, it always has been.

Becoming Generous by Giving

Don’t misunderstand me — I haven’t changed overnight. I don’t always enjoy making these small gifts. But I force myself to do it, even when I don’t enjoy it, because I believe that the principle of generosity is more important than my own feelings about what is annoying or appropriate. I do it not because I am a generous person, but because I want to become a generous person. And with every small gift I give, my heart changes a little bit.

I don’t give because I’m generous. Rather, I’m becoming generous because I choose to give.

I’m not trying to tell you that you must make a donation to any given charity every time that the opportunity presents itself. That’s between you and God, and there’s no good rule that applies to everyone. But next time the opportunity arises, think about your natural reaction to the question, and consider what that says about your heart.

The road to generosity begins with a small step of giving.


Photo by Wonderlane. Used under Creative Commons License.

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