What Does Jesus Think About Year-end Giving?

As a pastor, some of the best (and most challenging) questions I get from people don’t have chapter-and-verse Bible answers. No one ever asks me, What are the names of the 12 disciples?, or Can you help me finish this statement? “In the beginning, God created …” now, what was it, again? No, usually people want to know how to apply the wisdom of Scripture in their context. And Scripture has plenty to offer. But it’s not always as linear as we’d like. 

Take giving, for instance. I often teach on giving, generosity, and stewardship—if for no other reason than that Jesus talked about money a lot. As in, more than he talked about heaven and hell. As in, more than he talked about prayer or faith. It’s not that Jesus thought money was more important than prayer or faith or heaven. Quite the opposite: Jesus knew that for most of us, money would be the main competitor to true surrender to him. You and I can say whatever we want with our lips. But our bank accounts are a lot more honest about our hearts’ priorities. 

Here’s the principle I try to draw out every time I teach on money: God wants an offering of our first and our best. Not what’s left over. Not what is easy or comfortable. First and best. 

But then again, “first and best” giving may not be remarkable to others. Most single moms, for instance, won’t be making donations that would turn heads. But if they are giving their first and their best—that is, giving generously as a response to God’s grace—then their gift may be more faithful than that of a rich person who could easily (and without sacrifice) write a six-figure check. God isn’t after dollar amounts. He’s after our hearts. 

But what does all of that mean, then, for the practice of year-end giving? 


I’ll freely acknowledge that Jesus never answered this question, in these terms. (That’s what I’m here for—to tell you the real tough theological truths, like, “Jesus never interacted with the IRS” and “The early church didn’t practice tax-deductible giving.”) But as I’ve followed Jesus over the years, I’ve come to recognize this season as an important moment to prioritize God’s mission. 

Christmas is a time of gift-giving. And rather than disparage that practice, my family has decided to join in that practice in a distinct way. For years, we’ve said that we want our biggest gift at Christmas to go to Jesus. So, in laying out our Christmas budget, we make a gift to the kingdom of God a priority. We literally put the number down on the spreadsheet—because until it’s written down, it’s mostly just aspirational. And then we do what we would with any other gift: We literally put it under the Christmas tree. Our Christmas gift to Jesus lives in an envelope, in among the other Christmas gifts. And it’s the first present we open (after the stockings!) on Christmas morning. 

We give the majority of this extra gift to The Summit Church, since I believe the local church is God’s main vehicle for working in the world. Plus, I really believe in what our church is doing. But we also give to other people and organizations, including a couple of missions and evangelism groups, as well as a couple of poverty relief projects. 

Some might consider this showy or just plain weird. What Veronica and I are trying to instill, however, is a simple truth: Just as Christmas was God giving extravagantly to us when we were most needy, we respond by giving extravagantly to the needy around us—giving to meet both their physical needs and their need to hear the gospel. Giving is already in the air at Christmas. We are simply riding the wave. 

Another part of “the wave” is the practice of year-end bonuses. This isn’t universal, but for a variety of employment situations, bonuses are more common at the end of the year. When I’ve experienced this, I’ve tried to receive it not as liberty to spend more, but to give more. If you get a year-end bonus (and again, I know not everyone is in this category), remind yourself of what you know to be true about the other money you earn: It belongs to God before it belongs to you. For us, that means when we get unexpected income, we give above our normal rate, not below it. 

I realize that my situation can’t be the model for everyone. But I believe it’s possible for far more people than they realize. 

As the year draws to a close, it’s a natural time to pause and reflect: What has this past year meant to me? What will next year hold? What I would encourage you to do is to add another question to that list of year-end reflections: What does my bank account say about the priority of Jesus in my life? 

Am I giving Jesus my first and my best? If so, Christmas is a great time to double down on that priority. If not, I can’t think of a more fitting time to start.