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After the frantic for-profit deals of Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes the flurry of non-profit appeals on Giving Tuesday. Henri Nouwen offers reflective questions about the relationship between money and power, our feelings about giving, and connecting to why we give charitably.

Tomorrow, lots of organizations will ask you for money. After the frantic for-profit deals of Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes the flurry of non-profit appeals on Giving Tuesday.

This year, the Yale Center for Faith & Culture is sitting Giving Tuesday out.

“[Jesus] says that we cannot put our security in God and also in money. We have to make a choice.… We have to make a choice whether we want to belong to the world or to God. Our trust, our basic trust, Jesus teaches, has to be in God. As long as our real trust is in money, we cannot be true members of the kingdom.” (Henri Nouwen, A Spirituality of Fundraising, 32–33)

"Do we ever use money to control people or events?"

Don’t worry, we’ll get around to asking you for a gift. We still depend on donor support to develop and distribute resources that help people pursue flourishing life. (If you're so inclined, you can make a gift here.)

But as the United States turns the corner from the Thanksgiving season of gratitude to the season of (among other things) giving, we thought it might be helpful to offer you a few theological resources about giving.

There are plenty of questions here:

Why and how should we give? To whom? How much?

What place should giving take in our lives?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll send a few thoughts of our own, as well as resources from others that we’ve found helpful as we’ve sought to discern how to give faithfully in our own lives.

I’d like to start with a few probing questions from priest and theologian (and one-time Yale Divinity School professor) Henri Nouwen:

“Money and power go together. There is a real relationship between power and a sense of self-worth. Do we ever use money to control people or events? In other words, do we use our money to make things happen the way we want them to happen? Do we ever use money simply to give others the freedom todo what they want to do? How do we feel when people ask us for money?” (A Spirituality of Fundraising, 30)

In recent years, donors have become more focused than ever on giving effectively. We know that not all donations make a real difference in the world, and so we try to give where we can be confident in real results. At its best, concern for effectiveness is a way of loving our neighbors. But I wonder whether it can also be a way of grasping for control even as we give our money away. Might it all too often reinforce our tendency to put our security in money, rather than in God?

If you have a few minutes, I’d encourage you to reflect on each of Nouwen’s questions before the giving appeals start piling up in your inbox tomorrow. It might reshape your stance and further open you up to God’s leading in your generosity.

Do we ever use money to control people or events?

Do we use our money to make things happen the way we want them to happen?

Do we ever use money simply to give others the freedom todo what they want to do?

How do we feel when people ask us for money?

Blessings to you as you discern how and where to give tomorrow and in this whole season.

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