For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs…
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
Money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money certainly is!
Money tends to bring out the worst side of people, and Christians are not immune. Currency is necessary to spread the gospel and is not, in and of itself, evil. Trouble arises when people selfishly withhold their money, give to be praised by others, or give in order to grow their prominence and influence within the church.
How much one gives to the church or to anyone in need is not a matter of quantity, but the quality of the heart with which it was given. We must all carefully examine our own hearts and minds, knowing that God sees what nobody else can.
When I was a young adult, I didn’t how much I should give or how to work it in to my life effectively. I gave rather sporadically as my limited funds allowed and was rather ashamed of my inconsistent giving. My intention was always to give more, but then some unexpected expense would arise and I’d have to hold back. This is what I have learned in the intervening years: effective giving happens through intentional planning rather than good intentions.
So, how do we do this without being Ebenezer Scrooge or living in a commune?
#1: Make a budget
Do you have a roof over your head, more clothes than you can wear at one time, and food in your refrigerator? If you can answer yes to all 3 questions, you are wealthy—don’t argue. The first step to being a good manager of that abundance is making a budget.
Some of the best financial advice on the internet is from Dave Ramsey, and I highly recommend his Financial Peace University course. His concept of “name every dollar” has helped us control our family finances for the past several years. We have not executed this to perfection, but our spending is far more controlled than it ever was before we learned this method.
What in the world does a budget have to do with giving? Shouldn’t we give passionately, freely and unrestrainedly? That all sounds very noble and romantic, but let’s get real, ok?
Think of it this way: If you fail to meet your existing obligations because of your giving, you are potentially hurting someone else. When you sign a rent contract, you have made a promise to pay a certain amount per month. If you are giving to the point that you cannot pay what you promised, you are being irresponsible with your money and injuring your landlord, who may depend on that money to meet his obligations. Don’t sin against your neighbor in your effort to be righteous!
First: When you make your budget, make sure you’ve allowed for your mortgage or rent payment first, then plan your giving second. If you can’t keep a roof over your head, you’re going to have to ask for assistance from someone else. Fulfill the promises you have made. Once you’ve done that, giving is line item #2. Get your net income (what you get to keep after taxes) and multiply it by 0.10 (10%). Put that amount in line #2. This is a good amount to shoot for. You may have to adjust it based on your current utility bills etcetera, but aim for that 10%! Remember that the amount of money one gives is not nearly as important as the intent with which it is given. Give cheerfully what you can give.
Second (and this is my 2 cents—pun intended): As part of that amount you’ve determined for line item two, set aside a consistent amount to give to the church and a separate amount in cash or savings for giving to those in need. Let’s say line item 2 is $300. Set aside $200 to give to the church and $100 for “charitable needs” or you can do $150 for the church and $150 for charitable needs. How you divide it is up to you, but set some money aside for giving to those in need!
Some church leaders may object to this advice because it depletes the amount for the church, but I have often found myself wanting to help people (inside and outside the church) without having the means to do it. Having money set aside in advance gives you the freedom to offer assistance to someone in need at any given moment.
Of course, spontaneous sacrificial giving is the greater thing, but I have often found that if I don’t make plans for giving then I never have the means to do so. As Margaret Thatcher wisely pointed out:
No-one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well.
Make a regular, prepared sacrifice for those unplanned moments of need.
#2: Shoot for a sustainable amount
I’m not going to get into a debate about tithing—that’s for another time and a wiser expert. That 10% I mention above is not a biblical command. Jesus didn’t say to his apostles, come, give 10% and follow me. He didn’t tell the rich young ruler that amount either—he told him to sell it all!!! God wants us as Christians to give, not out of compulsion, but out of a generous and loving heart. That type of giving cannot be quantified.
So, here in step 2, let’s focus on the importance of setting an amount that you can consistently maintain.
Try your budget out with 10% and if you can’t manage it, adjust it down. Medical bills, a catastrophic vehicle fail, heavy debt, or another large expense may make 10% impossible. Remember, your goal is to give generously and wisely. Take a good hard look in the mirror and be honest with yourself: am I giving as much as I can? Shoot high and only adjust if you must. That amount might be greater than 10% or it might be far less than. Only you know your state of affairs.
Consequently, use this as a guide for buying a house, renting an apartment or financing a car. If you’re making a purchase demands so much of your money that you are unable to give, then it’s probably not a good decision!
Furthermore, churches rely on consistent giving so they can effectively budget for the expenses of the building in which they meet, the salary of the preacher, teaching supplies, evangelism materials, and supporting missionaries in foreign fields. Because of this, I encourage you to determine a sustainable, consistent minimum each month to give to the local congregation you attend. (If you can give more, then by all means do!) It will help the elders manage the money as best they can. If you are a good steward, it helps them to be good stewards.
#3: Be willing to make sacrifices.
A wise, God-fearing church does not look to line it’s pockets. They run on a lean budget, setting aside some emergency money while using the rest of the contribution to it’s full extent for the work of the church. There may be times when the emergency fund isn’t enough for a roof repair/replacement; maybe a missionary in South America has incurred unexpected medical expenses; a damaged water line may demand an expensive plumbing repair. The elders may ask the members of the church to give a little bit more. Imagine if you have a congregation of 30 families (approximately 120 people). If each family were to give as little as $5-10 more per month, that would equate to 150-300 additional dollars towards the need. Give up the overpriced latte for a few days. Eat a little more beans and a little less meat for a month. Forgo that new shirt. These are tiny sacrifices people! Christians in the early church gave up far more than that to spread the gospel.
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
~ 2 Corinthians 9.6-8, ESV
The value of one’s giving is not a matter of quantity, but the quality of the heart with which it was given. Determine what you want to give and do it!
If your possessions are holding you back from giving, it’s time to do some serious heart checking. Don’t let a checklist hold you back from giving more. Be a good steward of the whatever God has given you, whether it is little or whether it is much.