–Winter of 1999
Giving Away Your Money
Money has been a favorite topic of conversation for Christians since the earliest days of the Church. Scripture itself gives a significant portion of its content to the subject. Money ranks near the very top of subjects most often mentioned in the Bible; only idolatry is mentioned more.
Most of us have a fairly good understanding of why the Bible has so much to say and so many warnings to give about money. We have all seen what the power and influence of money can do. We have watched as those who craved it and clutched it became so twisted and bent that their chances of being a blessing and making it to heaven are indeed as probable as a camel getting through the eye of a needle. On the other hand, we have seen the example of those who have held it loosely and given it generously to the benefit and blessing of thousands.
“Why do some people and their money part so slowly, while others give with such freedom and ease?”
The Old Testament has numerous passages that refer to God’s people giving a tithe (tenth) of their money back to God. Upon close examination, one will find that the tithe doesn’t have its origin in the law. The first in the Bible was given by Abraham 430 years before the Mosaic Law was revealed. The reason Abraham tithed was to acknowledge God’s sovereignty (Heb.7:1-10). He tithed as a testimony that God owned everything in his life. This is a practice that Jacob took up as well. Since the minimum amount mentioned in the Bible is a tithe, it would seem that if we cannot return to God this small amount we are acknowledging that the whole has not been surrendered. The giving of the smallest requirement is an outside indication of an inside spiritual condition. It is our testimony that God owns everything in our lives.
So the bottom-reason people struggle over giving is the issue of sovereignty. Does God own it all or is it mine to do with as I please? When God told his people that they did not love Him, His proof or evidence was that they had withheld the tithe from Him. At the heart of giving is the heart. Giving indicated more than anything else who is really in control of our lives.
Are there biblical guidelines for the giving of our money?
A very simple study of God’s Word will produce a number of principles that should guide our giving. The first principle is that we should give “willingly”. II Cor. 9:7 teaches us that we should give to God with a willing spirit, not reluctantly or from a sense of pressure. Cheerful giving can only stem out of a love for God and a desire to advance His cause. Gifts given from a willing spirit bring untold blessing on the giver as well as the recipient.
Another principle in giving is that we are to give “liberally” (II Cor.9:6). Our giving should be marked by generosity. Our frame and reference should not be, “How little can I give and still give.” Giving should be as generous and liberal as our means will allow.
II Cor. 8:13-14 gives us a third principle. The principle of giving sensibly. Our giving should be guided by good sense. We are not to endanger the welfare of our own family and personal responsibilities by giving beyond our means. Paul admonished the Corinthians, “not to get yourselves into trouble in order to offer relief to others.” Rather share what is fair and appropriate so that none, including yourselves, will have any lack.
Paul gives a fourth principle in II Cor. 9:5-7. The principle of giving thoughtfully. Paul lays down some excellent advice on “planned giving.” Giving should not be spasmodic and emotional. It should be well thought through. We should plan ahead for special offerings and other gifts. Making provision in advance for giving is a sure way to make giving a greater blessing for all involved, as well as a way to insure that we do have something to give. There will always be times of “special direction” from the Spirit in our giving for which we may not be prepared and for which He will provide the extra funds in ways to increase our faith. Generally though, people who make plans to give not only accomplish their plans but give far more less strain than those who do not.
A fifth principle that we rarely ever hear about is the principle of proportionate giving (Lk.12:48). If I could change our church our manuals I would change the section on giving to read, “We covenant with Christ and one another to give proportionately beginning with the tithe of our income.” Our giving should not be regulated by the tithe. The tithe ought to be the base or minimum level of our giving. Jesus said, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.” Proportionate giving may well be the standard for New Testament believers. None of us has to be an accountant to know what ten percent of our income is, but each of us has to a person on his knees before God if we are to understand our obligation to give proportionately.
Proportionate to what you say? Proportionate to the accumulated wealth of our family? Proportionate to our income and the demands upon it? Proportionate to the keenness of our awareness of those who suffer and are needy? Proportionate to our understanding that our God owns all? The answer, of course, is in proportion to all of these things and any others God may enlighten us with. The widow’s mite teaches the clear lesson that giving is not measured by the amount we give but by what we have left over when we have given.
The last principle is the principle of giving sacrificially (Lk. 14:33). I remember taking an offering one time in the Philippines among rural farmers who were very poor. They had no money, but still wanted to give. So they gave their rice, eggs, chickens, goats, and pigs. Literally, taking the food from their mouths to give. God expects us to give at times until we feel it. In all reality, we have never really given, until we have felt the self-denial of a sacrificial gift.
Where do I give?
Most Christians receive an unbelievable number of financial appeals each week. They have become frustrated and confused and even angry about so many letters “asking for money.” Many requests are indeed counterfeit, but not all are promotional rubbish. Many represent fine Christian organizations with real legitimate needs.
How do you know which to support? Let me offer you four suggestions that may serve as guidelines in choosing where to send your money.
First, in all your giving make sure that you are faithful to support your local Church. Studies indicate that twenty percent of the people do eighty percent of the giving. If every member would be faithful in his giving, the local Church would have more than enough for its own ministries as well as the others it may support.
Secondly, understand that you can’t give to everything and ask God to carefully lead you in adopting a few ministries as your own. This will allow you to follow more closely the work that they do as well as get better acquainted with the workers. This gives you a feeling of being a “team member” in advancing God’s work through these particular ministries.
Third, use wisdom and discernment in choosing what you will support. Blind giving is like blind loyalty; it can be a mistake. Make sure you know what their doctrinal position is and what kind of people serve on their board and on their staff. Ask if it has as annual audit by an independent auditing firm. Request a copy of its most recent audit or financial report if you have reason to question how funds are used. If it is not worth forthcoming, then you may have real reason to suspect something is wrong. If it is a sending agent and collects money for others, ask how much stays in the home office for administrative purposes and how much goes to the field. Our giving must be done without a lot of strings attached. However, giving is a spiritual investment for which you have a right to know how it is being spent.
Fourth, pray over every gift given and continue to hold the ministry up in prayer. Stay in contact with them and follow the results of your giving. This can be a wonderful way to see how your giving is making a difference.
Jesus made it clear that we could not serve God and money. He also told us that where our heart is that is where our treasure would be. The wonderful thing about being changed by His grace is that we can be free from the power of money and become men and women who are only stewards of what comes into our hands. This is liberating as well as exciting. We can make a difference for His kingdom in so many ways and places as we follow His guidance in our spiritual investments.