It’s that time of year when it seems everyone and their mother is asking for donations.

After reading this blog post about giving, I started examining my own household’s giving practices. I had to admit we don’t always give our first and best—and we don’t always give with the right motives, either.

The Bible makes it clear that it’s not just what, but how we give that matters. With that in mind, here are four giving guidelines I’m trying to put into practice. Hopefully they’ll give you something to think about, too.

Give your best, not your leftovers

(See Proverbs 3:9) I’m sad to say I’ve been guilty of donating food and clothing that I would not have wanted to use in my own home. Have you ever noticed the abundance of cheap, less-than-delicious-or-nutritious foods filling the shelves at food banks? I want to be intentional about donating healthy food that’s enjoyable to eat. Food I would put on my own table. The same goes for clothing. No more tossing stained shirts or smelly old shoes into the Donate box. We can do better. If you don’t have much to give, that’s OK. If you’re holding back out of greed, laziness or a false sense of superiority, it’s time to take a look at your heart.

Give quietly

(See Matthew 6:1-4) We’re called to give because it’s the right thing to do, not because we want to be recognized. Some people make a show out of giving in order to look like a big deal and feel good about themselves. Others just want to fit in or make sure people know they’re doing their part. Either way, we’ve got to keep our motives in check. Giving should be about God, not about our Facebook friends, family members or fellow churchgoers. That doesn’t mean we can’t tell our friends about fundraising efforts or cool opportunities to give. But we should be sharing for right right reasons.

Pray for the recipients

(See 1 Timothy 2:1). I love auto pay. I love it for utility bills, I love it for tithing, and I love it for monthly gifts like Compassion sponsorships. But the main benefit of auto pay and its potential pitfall is one and the same: you don’t have to think about it. That’s great for never missing a payment. Not so great for remembering to pray for the people who are handling, distributing and receiving your gift. Just imagine what could happen if every believer not only gave generously but also spent just one minute praying about every gift they gave? I think it would rock this world in the best way possible.

Make the Christmas spirit last all year.

(See Proverbs 3:27) There’s a reason those Salvation Army kettles come out at Christmastime and not in the middle of March. Studies have shown we’re more generous around the holidays. Plus, we’ve got our minds on potential tax write-offs. For those reasons and more, some nonprofits rely exclusively on end-of-year donations to keep their organizations up and running. The thing is, people don’t just need help from Black Friday to New Year’s Eve. The need for food, clothing, shelter, clean water and most of all, the hope of Christ, exists 365 days a year. So keep on packing that Operation Christmas Child shoebox or selecting a name from the angel tree. Just be sure to give generously during the rest of the year, too.

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About Kristy Etheridge

Kristy Etheridge is a regular contributor to the FaithWorks Financial blog. Having racked up a large amount of debt before using a biblical approach to attack it, Kristy is passionate about financial freedom. She and her husband live in Charlotte, N.C., where Kristy works as a writer for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.