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Gifts that Gift the Giver

By Stephanie Burke and Rev. Keith Pearson, ELCA Foundation 

One Christmas, years ago when I was a child, I tearfully told my grandmother how a close friend I’d given a gift to had gone the whole blessed holiday without giving me a thing.   She flicked her newspaper, turned one page, and said, “Just remember, the Bible says it’s better to give than to receive.” 

I had two immediate thoughts:  First, I needed to find a more empathetic grandmother ASAP and second, this particular one, a pastor’s wife, seemed to “quote” the Bible when it felt awfully convenient.  I had evidence, after all, having searched scripture after she declared “Jesus tells us Cleanliness is next to Godliness” when my room was particularly messy (Note – Jesus did NOT say this, I checked.)  But she had me this time:  A quick search showed that, while we may not hear it straight from Jesus’ lips, we do hear it from Paul, specifically in Acts 20:35. 35 In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Unreciprocated childhood gifts aside, how do we live out Paul’s two thousand-year-old admonition in the here and now?  We have to have a place to live, we have to provide for the needs of ourselves and our loved ones, not just now but also in the future, AND we have to plan for retirement!  Given how far every single dollar has to stretch, is it even possible to ensure we and our loved ones are taken care of while also helping our neighbor? 


It may be hard to believe, but there are several ways to give that allow the donor to give while still receiving a guaranteed income or other benefits for a period of years or even a lifetime. It may even be possible (and I am not making this up) to have that income continue to an heir for a second lifetime! 

Here are a few examples:

A Charitable Gift Annuity is a planned giving tool that provides fixed payments to the donor or beneficiary of their choosing for life. The remainder then benefits ministries and/or other charities.  

A Charitable Remainder Trust provides a stream of income for a specified period of years or even a lifetime with the remainder going to the church and/or other charities.  

A Life Estate Gift allows the donor to give away a home or other property but retain the use of it for the remainder of their life.  

These are just a few examples of how planned giving can enable you to give more generously than you may have ever imagined, and if you’d like to find out how any of these or other options could work for you personally, it would be my pleasure to talk with you.  It is possible to be blessed in your giving while still responsibly taking care of the needs of you and your loved ones.  After all, Jesus tells us, “I have come that you might have life, and have it to the fullest.” 

And he really said that.  I checked. 

Stephanie Burke is the ELCA Foundation’s Regional Gift Planner for the Carolinas. Her services are available at no charge to those interested in leaving legacy gifts to local congregations, other ministries of the ELCA and charitable causes important to them. She can be reached at 704-293-9436 or

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