Christian Living

Three mechanics of monetary giving

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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.

1 Timothy 6.10, 17-19, ESV

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.

Give cheerfully.

Give abundantly.

Give purposefully.

 

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21 thoughts on “Three mechanics of monetary giving

  1. Thank you for this article. I am in charge of stewardship at my church and this is the same message I preach over and over. God will help those who give cheerfully. Since I started giving 10%, I have never wanted for anything. Somehow God always provides what I need. What I might add is to do the 10/10/80 rule for budgeting: 10% off the top (first fruits) to God, 10% for your future (retirement savings) and 80% to live on. Sacrifices need to be made, but we are all blessed with much. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience! I have heard that from many people—they give a dedicated amount and never go hungry. 😀 I like your 10/10/80 rule too!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Good post Elihu !! I personally look at your statement…”Fulfill the promises you have made. Once you’ve done that, giving is line item #2.”, and have my own thoughts…

    While I believe we must be wise stewards of our finances…I look at scripture like this…

    Matthew 6:31-33… “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (NKJV)

    And this…Proverbs 3:9… Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:

    And especially this scripture, in…Malachi 3:10… Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that [there shall] not [be room] enough [to receive it].

    I tithe, even when it is at times a strain on my finances… But I find that the Lord has been faithful to provide for all of my needs… I don’t know one brother or sister in Christ who has ever said that obediently tithing was ever a problem…

    The Lord wants us to have faith that He will provide for all of our basic necessities…

    Just my thoughts…

    Blessings in Christ, bruce

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, as I said above, tithing isn’t a subject I wish to debate in this post, but I will discuss it a little here.

      My study of the scriptures as a whole has shown me a few things:

      1) Tithing was done by the Israelites under the old law—the law to which we are no longer bound

      2) Examples of New Testament giving range from selling everything (in other words, giving 100%) to “giving as we’ve been prospered” (leaving it open to the giver to determine an amount).

      3) Neglecting obligations in order to “give to the Lord” was a practice the Pharisees engaged in and was roundly condemned by Christ:

      “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

      ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
      And honor Me with their lips,
      But their heart is far from Me.
      And in vain they worship Me,
      Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men

      – Matt 15.3-9

      Furthermore, in the parable of the unjust steward, Jesus concluded with this:

      He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?

      Luke 16.10-12

      We are expected to give liberally, but we are also to be an example to unbelievers as trustworthy. If we cannot manage our finances and instead make ourselves a burden to others, how is that being an example?

      Lastly, consider this passage:

      But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.

      For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.

      2 Thessalonians 3.6-12

      The law of Christ demands that we do heart-checking instead of list-checking.

      And, as to examples of faithful giving not causing harm: I have personally watched a company talk about all the great things it does for it’s employees—helping with medical expenses, paying for personal education, sending them to a marriage retreat etcetera—and then consistently failing to make payroll in a timely fashion. Their employees’ paychecks bounce. How is that good? Their employees eventually get paid, but in the mean time, they go without pay for sometimes two weeks because of poor money management. They are unable to make their own commitments because their employer has this “generous hand.” That is not a kindness. I’ve seen it done multiple times by individuals and companies. One may call it generosity, but they are essentially “robbing Peter to pay Paul”—hurting one person to help another.

      I agree with you, giving ought to be top of the list, but we also need to be faithful managers of what God has provided.

      Thank you for your thought-provoking comment. Be blessed.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Giving is something near and dear to my heart. And someday I will be able to give something more than my thoughts on a screen. I am in a unique situation. I would like to pass this along to my son who could use giving advice. He gave himself into a financial pickle (and mom can’t bail him out…ugh)!

    You write wise words and I thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks MariJo! Giving is my weak point. Most of the things I write about are areas I am trying to improve in my own life, and this is no exception! I hope you share this with your son, and I would encourage you to check out daveramsey.com. He has great financial advice that I wish I had heard at 17—it would have made a huge difference in my life!

      Thank you for your encouraging comments!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is so helpful, because when I think of giving to the church, I think of tithing (10%) of our gross income BEFORE taking out money for expenses. I’ve always felt so guilty because when you’ve got 12 people living off of one income, you know that will never work! Our church is holding a Dave Ramsey seminar in September, and I’m really hoping we can go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! 12 people! That’s a stretch even on a dual income! We’ve only got 5 on a single income and it’s hard for us!

      Just remember the widows mites—Jesus said she gave more than all those who were wealthy because she gave all she had. There was no amount mentioned. I think it’s important to aim high and adjust only as needed. Giving is a highly personal matter between you and God. The most important thing is to give as you determine in your heart and cheerfully.

      I hope that you get to go to the Dave Ramsey seminar. I don’t follow his advice to the letter, but I have followed it closely enough to benefit from his advice. It was reassuring to me, that (like us) he made financial errors early on and worked his way to financial stability by making good, hard choices with his spouse. I find more encouragement in his example than some kid out of college preaching what he’s learned in the classroom.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think you handled this topic very well. My husband and I have been faithful tithers for most of our lives and we have heard it all. Personally, I don’t believe it is right to teach tithing as a “provision formula” from God, a guilt trip or as a command from God. While tithing faithfully and cheerfully, we have seen miraculous provision many times. However, while doing the same during other seasons of our lives, we have also struggled to put food on the table and have had to take grocery money out of our line of credit to feed the family and pay the bills. During both seasons, we were walking in faith and obedience, and giving cheerfully. I don’t think there is a pat formula. I agree with your comments on this. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Debbie! You are such an encouragement to me. 🙂

      Being a child of God is a growth process and I am thankful that He extends so much grace to me. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in the area of giving and He has shown me mercy. My spouse and I are finding much more joy now that we are able to give freely because of better planning. I just wish we had known these concepts earlier—we could have done so much more!

      Like

      1. I hear you! We can say the same thing too. I wish I had done more studying on it when we were first married. It could have brought us to a much freer and happier place I believe. All the same, we live and learn as you said. Thankfully, God is very merciful and patient with us all, and I am extremely grateful for that as well. God bless you, Elihu. You put out excellent posts and I am sure the Lord is very pleased with your service to Him. I am also glad that I encourage you somehow. Take care. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Good job friend. This is such an important subject. God does expect us to give, but we certainly don’t want to be legalistic about it by setting amounts and so forth. You pointed out a couple of things that really caught my attention.

    One is that it is our heart and intention which matter, not any set number

    Two, we may have to make sacrifices. Truth, some of our toys are less important than giving.

    Three. Intentional. Yep, we don’t save for retirement randomly do we? Why would we conduct this part of our financial lives that way?

    Four. God doesn’t need our money, He has the cattle of a thousand hills and so forth. His work, however, does require funds to conduct. That is reality and we ought not to begrudge it.

    Five, those who have been blessed more ought to give more.

    Ok…I said a couple didn’t it? LOL. Perhaps I mean several, or a few, or some

    Great post Elihu

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As usual, worth spending time in your blog.

    The best point in the whole is Not to debate on this topic. Great. But sometimes addressing an issue is not an debate but a necessity.

    For me, paying 10 percent from the first fruits is a must and offering given with a cheerful heart builds a charecter.

    I have personally seen in my life, there are times when we couldn’t pay the tenth but did things for everything else. We think about orphans and poor but who will think about our own shepherds who put their heart and soul mentoring us. When we see them, naturally we bring out the money from pockets. It may be hard in the beginning but slowly we will love doing. Remember the poor widow who gave out of her lack not from her abundance. If she had calculated her expenses first and then put the money, then nothing must have left in her pocket.

    I think tithing and offering must be a sacrifice of love towards God not under compulsion. When it becomes a habit we don’t feel burdened.

    This topic is totally a heart related. As you said, money is not the root of evil but the love of money is the root of evil.:)

    These are my thoughts and life experience.hope I didn’t offend you.:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No offense taken at all, Mary. 😊 You made some excellent points. I try to maintain an environment here on the blog of amicable discussion. In my Christian life, I have learned the most from people who did not share the same viewpoint with me; either my deeper study solidified my position or it forced me to alter it in light of revealed truths. Please feel safe to comment here. I appreciate your respectful tone.

      I think that if you are convicted to give a minimum 10%, then you must absolutely do it, otherwise you would violate your conscience and it would be sin to you. God appreciates the sacrifice of the heart bent on serving Him. Please know that I am not critical of those who are convicted to give 10%. Just think how much more good could be done if more people felt convicted to maximize their giving!

      There are three reasons I do not advocate a compulsory percentage: 1) it isn’t commanded under the new law and 2) people often meet the minimum and go no further 3) people give to the church and then fail to meet other obligations thereby burdening others to bail them out. (The Pharisees were guilty of this and I’ve seen it in action quite recently! It’s appalling to me to use giving as an excuse to neglect paying employees.)

      I think we should all be shooting for a minimum 10%, but always seek to maximize our giving when the opportunity arises. A pay increase, for instance should be accompanied by an increase in giving.

      For someone just starting out, the first aim ought always to be consistent, maximum giving. One of the biggest financial problems plaguing churches is inconsistent giving. It’s hard for the church to meet its obligations when members toss in $20 one week, $5 the next week etcetera.

      I wish someone had taught me from an early age the imperative need of consistency in giving. My parents were both consistent and generous, but I never grasped the importance of it until nearly 8 years ago.

      Sorry my response is so rambling—this is such an important topic. As we both agree, it is a heart issue first and foremost. 😊

      Thank you for sharing your comments and please be assured that I am grateful for you and your conviction in discussing the issue. May you be blessed in your service to the Lord.

      Like

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