By Kip Kolson, Special for The Daily Blaze
In my earlier article I discussed Toxic Gift Giving and the problems it creates in families. I offered a quote from Jesus familiar to everyone, “It is more blessed to give, than to receive” and followed it with the question, “Is that always true?” The answer is in the intent. I am sure Jesus was saying it is better to put others’ needs above our own wants—that when we help others help themselves, we also help ourselves. What does beneficial giving look like?
The following ten questions should be asked before giving a gift of any size, especially financial gifts. You should also ask them of an objective third party; which is why having a coach can help you avoid potential problems, especially about the reactions and expectations of other family members not involved in the gift (see number 9).
- What is the worst thing that can happen (laziness, irresponsibility, dependency, entitlement, instant gratification, disincentive, etc.)?
- How serious would it be?
- How likely is it to occur?
- What is the best thing that could happen?
- How good would it be?
- How likely is it to occur?
- What will it teach the recipient? Stewardship or irresponsibility, the value of earning it yourself, dignity, I’m owed, or dependence?
- Who else needs to be part of the decision?
- Who besides the recipient will be affected?
- What would Jesus do, and will it please God?
I realize number 10 may not be a concern for some readers, but I ask that you not automatically dismiss it. Whatever your personal beliefs are, the answer to this question is still important. The question is asking how someone who has perfect knowledge of right and wrong, knows the results of doing each before it happens, knows intimately the persons involved and how they will react emotionally and relationally, and always makes the right choices would advise you before making the gift?
Number 9 is an important question, especially in families. Giving gifts always sends a message to the recipient and to people around the recipient. The message to the recipient should be I am giving you this because I love you and want you to use this gift to become a responsible, self-sufficient person. See question #7. However, siblings may see that gift as favoring one child over another, even if that is not true. Humans compare themselves to others. They compare how they are treated to how others are treated. Everyone who has raised two or more children has experienced fights over toys and clothes even when the cost of each gift is the same. One got the toy car, the other the toy airplane. One daughter got the red sweater with little kitten decals and the other the blue with puppies. Soon it is “Why did she get the puppies instead of me?” or “I wanted an airplane, not a car.” Silly? Yes, but wait until the toys become real cars, houses, stocks and bonds, or jobs in the family business or who gets to run the family business? If the ten questions are not answered satisfactorily, great damage can be done to family relationships.
If the answers to these questions confirm a gift is in order, the next question is how much, assuming it would be some form of financial gift. This question should be answered after the ten questions have been answered. You may have an amount in mind prior to going through this drill, but that could change after doing so. It could be more or less than originally expected, or it could be zero if the answers indicate there could be more harm than benefit to all involved, especially the beneficiary of the potential gift. King Solomon gives wisdom in this area, “Wealth inherited quickly in the beginning will do you no good in the end.”
Here is a real-life example from a Saddleback Church bulletin:
“When you first meet 11-year-old Blake you’d think he is just an average kid. He loves dogs, baseball, and books. But when you talk with him, you hear him speak with a real passion for God. His faith is so strong that, while some kids are busy collecting toys, Blake is busy giving them away, so he can give generously to others and to the church.”
“. . . During the Daring Faith program, Blake felt God challenge him to give in a bigger way than ever before. Blake had given money toward two of his friends’ mission trips in the past, but this was something new. Even though he is just 11 years old, Blake wanted to stretch his faith.”
“But how could a boy his age, with no allowance, give anything? Blake’s father suggested a lemonade stand, so he set up a stand at a local busy intersection and people came from every direction to buy his drinks. His customers not only liked the taste of his lemonade but also the vision behind it. Blake earned many times more than he had hoped for from his generous neighbors. He was so excited; he did not want to give up selling lemonade that day. His dad had to drag him away to have lunch.”
“He was still feeling very happy about the successful lemonade stand when the next opportunity came along. Kids Small Groups (KSG) had a garage sale to finance a mission trip for the youth and Blake wanted to take an even bigger step of faith. “If I give just my Legos to the sale, then I still would not make much money,” he said, “so I decided to donate my bike to the garage sale as well. It gives me more pleasure to give and change people’s lives than to spend money on myself for things I don’t need!”
“Blake collected the money from the garage sale––more money than he’d ever had before in his young life––and brought it to Saddleback during a weekend service. When the time came for Blake to place all the money into the offering basket, there was a short moment when he thought, Wow, that is a lot of money! But he did not question his decision and gladly gave the money to God. “It felt really good,” he recalls.”
“In the future Blake wants to keep raising the bar and give more and more. He is also hoping to be a leader at KSG one day and to go on his first PEACE trip next year. He has already started recycling bottles to raise money for the trip. This will be one of his biggest steps of faith yet, but he has decided to trust God instead of letting fearful thoughts distract him from his goal.”
Blake’s father could have given him the money to donate, but he gave him something much better, the opportunity to succeed on his own and multiply the gift. In my “Toxic Gift Giving” article we were exposed to a 15-year old girl who wanted Dr. Phil to tell her mother she could not reduce her monthly allowance from $2500 to $1000 because she would have to settle for a C-Class Mercedes instead of the E-Class when she turns 16 and was abhorred by the suggestion she get a job. We have an 11-year old boy who embraces “It is more blessed to give, than to receive.” Who would you want your child to emulate?
Kip Kolson is the president of Family Wealth Leadership, a multi-family office and family coaching firm, and author of You Can Have It All; Wealth, Wisdom, and Purpose—Strategies for Creating a Lasting Legacy and Strong Family. You can order your copy at Amazon, the FWL website below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org