Serving at the WMU Foundation was the pinnacle of my professional career but more importantly it was a way to use my God-given skills and experiences to play a role in advancing God’s kingdom on earth. In the beginning of my tenure, I tended to focus on how to put God’s mission in one’s will or estate plan. Those methods — whether a trust, a charitable gift annuity, or a simple bequest in a will — are important. However, they tend to be determined by someone’s specific financial and family situation. Those situations must be addressed, but why we do this is far more important for everyone who loves the Lord.
So, why do we do this? I believe there are at least three basic reasons that apply to each of us.
1. We are commanded by God to give and that includes planned future gifts.
Rather than quote a specific verse, let me point you to the Bible in its entirety. It is about giving from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible reveals that God planned His gift to us before He gave it by sending His Son to save us. In the same way, we should plan. Remember we only have one last will and testament, and we should use it to plan how to honor God with our estate at the end of our lives.
It is much like what God allowed me to do through my service at the WMU Foundation. I was able to use my life experiences to serve Him and, in a small way, give back some of what He gave me! That really is all we are doing with a planned gift from our resources. Does it belong to us? Or did the Master entrust those resources to us during our lifetimes?
A great example is my friend who grew up in a family of ministers, missionaries, and Christ followers. He served as a military chaplain and at his first assignment he was able to buy a house for his family. When that assignment ended, he was able to rent this house to future military personnel assigned to that base and receive an income throughout his career. After retiring he realized that this house was a gift from God and he wanted to find a way to give back to Him.
He used the house to set up a charitable remainder trust that paid him an annual trust distribution for several years and then, when liquidated, it put a large sum of money into an endowment that provides scholarships in his missions-minded family’s name! Praise God!
2. We make planned gifts because it honors God.
You get to decide what happens with your money after you leave earth. You can care for your family, and you should! You can give to your alma mater or other causes that you supported during your life. You can also support the worldwide gospel advance that God has placed on your heart.
The former leader of a missions organization traveled the world promoting missions and being obedient to God’s call on the lives of His people. As she traveled, she was welcomed, loved and honored by Christians all over the world. One way they honored her was to give her jewelry from their part of the world.
Before she died, she donated all the jewelry to missions with no restrictions on how to use it. She gave it to turn it into money for God’s mission. The impact was enormous, not because of the amount of money but the impact on others. So what we do with our lives impacts the lives of others. Can you imagine the impact this decision had on those who knew and served with this godly woman? I know the impact it had on me!
3. We make planned gifts to teach our family.
You may think that your children and other family members know exactly what is important to you because they watched you all your life. That is likely true, but nothing will speak stronger to your family than where you put your treasure at the end of your life. Remember the Scripture: “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
What better lesson can you teach your children than the fact that you do not give them all your money? You acknowledge that it all belongs to God by giving some percentage, perhaps a tithe, to God’s Kingdom first. Then divide the rest among family and other charitable concerns.
My favorite example is a mother who inserted the Gospel message into her estate plan. At the reading of her will, her last remaining child heard her mother’s words that God was the basis of all her hope and the source of her financial blessings. And she encouraged her child to follow her example by giving her life to Christ.
We would do well to follow her example and make sure that our last testament points people to our God and Savior.
The real reasons for planned giving are simple: We have been commanded by God to give; it honors God; and it will speak to our children, family, and even the world if we are willing to be open about our plans.
Yes, we have been taught to give our donations without receiving praise. And that is correct. However, if we simply tell others that we have made a provision in our estate plans to advance God’s kingdom and that we are doing it because it is all His to begin with, how does that bring glory to us. We are just being faithful, and we are giving an example for other Christians to follow. That is no different than how we should be living our lives.
Recall the verse in Hebrews 13:7: ”Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”
As you consider planned giving in your own life, I hope you’ll reflect extensively on the why. After God has impressed on your heart that He wants you to support the very mission and ministries that you have been passionate about all your life, contact a trusted ministry partner to help you with the how.