02 Apr Saving, Giving, and Donor Intent
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial” (John 12:7).
One of the most beautiful scenes in Scripture occurs during Holy Week when Mary anointed the feet of Jesus. Lazarus was reclining at the table and Martha was serving when Mary took a pint of expensive perfume and poured it on Jesus’ head and feet wiping his feet with her hair. Immediately, the whole house was filled with its fragrance. Judas Iscariot was indignant and judged her generosity, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor” (John 12:5)? Jesus defended her extravagance and proclaimed she was preparing his body for burial. We can glean at least four applications from this passage.
The perfume was worth about a year’s wages. Can you imagine giving a gift equal to your annual salary? Probably Lazarus, Mary, and Martha had all been saving for a special occasion. Thrifty people are not necessarily stingy people; they are just selective about when and what they support. A donor who had given $25 a month indicated a $500,000 gift for a capital campaign. When asked what prompted his generous response, he replied, “You didn’t need it until now.” Mary decided this was the perfect time to offer her sacrificial gift.
Mary gave her elaborate gift to a friend who had walked with her for years. She sat at Jesus’ feet attentively soaking in the Word of God and then witnessed the miraculous resurrection of her brother. Receiving Lazarus back from the dead was worth far more than a year’s wages. Mary’s sacrificial gift was motivated by love for the Lord and appreciation for what he had done in their lives. Have you walked with your major donors through their joys and sorrows? Has your ministry changed them for eternity? Donors give to the degree your ministry has directly touched their heart.
Some questioned Mary’s generosity claiming her gift could have been used for better purposes. Everyone has an opinion about how others should spend, invest, and give their resources. Donors leave specific instructions to guarantee their estate gifts will fund projects they support. Perhaps you remember the old saying, “Do your givin’ while you’re livin’, then you’re knowin’ where it’s goin’!” As a ministry, you must abide by your donor’s intentions for their gift. Know your donors so well that you can align your needs with their desires.
We remember Mary’s extravagant gift because she anointed Jesus’ body for burial. What compelling reason will prompt your donors to give extravagantly to your ministry? Asking for annual support just to maintain the status quo is a major demotivator and won’t move your donors to tap into their investment accounts. You must present unique giving opportunities which will make an eternal difference. Do you have a significant project worthy of your donors’ legacy?
Think About This: Someone will always be critical of a donor’s motive or their gift. To some, Mary’s perfume was wasted. To Jesus, it was a sweet smelling sacrifice. Don’t let others discourage your major donors from being generous.
Response: Father, I praise you for each sacrificial gift. Help me honor their generosity.
Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored three books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising, Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving, and Keep on Asking – Bold, Spirit-Led Fundraising. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.