I’ve been watching with interest the passage of the tax bill in Washington, D.C., and the subsequent conversation about possible impacts and changes that might result.
One of those possible impacts is on charitable giving. With the increase in standard deduction and the limitation on state and local taxes that are deductible, some think charitable giving will be negatively impacted. The headline to a recent op-ed piece in the LA Times suggested that “… tax reform will devastate charitable giving.”
If our hearts and motivations are in the right place, I think I disagree.
If tax benefits are the motivation for giving, then tax changes might impact giving. But do people really give primarily for the tax benefits, and will they stop giving if they don’t get the same benefits they did in the past?
I don’t think that’s the whole story, and honestly, I think that’s a little bit of a cynical viewpoint. In other countries, the tax laws don’t provide tax benefits for charitable giving—but people still give.
And for Christ followers, we are to follow God, who is generous by nature. John 3:16, a familiar verse to many, starts with “For God so loved the world that he gave ….” He gave—not just a small gift, but generously and extravagantly, in his son Jesus, who gave His life so that we could have a relationship with God.
We are called to imitate God’s character, including generosity, and the New Testament is full of stories and examples of generosity. The early church in Acts “sold their possessions and belongings, distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:45).
And the apostle Paul, describing churches in Macedonia, said that “in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:2).
I’m trained as an accountant, so I can’t say I won’t think about whether my taxes will be impacted by the new tax law changes. But much more than being an accountant, I am a Christ follower. And because of that, I will continue to give and strive to be even more generous, because that’s what God has called me to do.
And my hope and prayer is that other Christ followers will do the same.