Updated: Nov 11, 2020
As we think about year-end giving, I found this blog by a respected friend, David Wills, helpful. (I’ve added a paragraph near the end regarding giving to secular colleges.)
We tend to give in areas of personal passion, or to places we care about. But is it possible we have this a bit backward? Isn’t it important to put God at the center of the equation and see what he thinks?
God cares about each of us. He allows us to steward financial resources for his glory and our good. He knows that as we glorify him out of gratitude for his gifts to us, we experience true life. And he desires that we reflect his generosity through our giving.
If we make obedience to God and reflecting his love to the world our supreme motivation, then giving comes into view as an excellent context to glorify God. So, what are the things we can support from the resources he has entrusted to our care to glorify him?
So, what are the things we can support from the resources he has entrusted to our care to glorify him?
God’s Word is not silent on this topic. I see three geographic areas for us to target, and two things to support in six, specific areas. Acts 1:8 gives us a glimpse of three areas where we will be witnesses for Christ. Picture this as concentric circles: Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and the ends of the earth. This is instructive when thinking about our giving. Are you strategic enough in your giving to think where you are giving locally, nationally, and internationally? God has a heart for all three.
Are you strategic enough in your giving to think where you are giving locally, nationally, and internationally?
Next, there are two things that God’s Word tells us will last forever. We can safely assume that God cares deeply about both of them. Those two things are God’s Word and people.
Regarding God’s Word, consider giving toward the translation, distribution, teaching, and preaching of the Scriptures. Regarding people, consider giving toward workers spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to those who have not yet heard it (3 John 5-8). Such giving undoubtedly glorifies God.
While the Bible does not spell everything out in as much detail as we might like, when it comes to people, it does give us a few clear instructions on where (or to whom) we should give. In the Bible, six groups of people surface repeatedly as recipients of giving. God seems to have these groups on his heart; perhaps we should, too!
Care for the poor and oppressed God has a special concern for the poor “in need,” especially those within the Christian community (1 John 3:16-17 and many other texts). Specifically, Scripture identifies orphans and widows (Deuteronomy 10:18-19; James 1:27), the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, prisoners (Matthew 25:34-40), and also victims of calamity (Luke 10:30-37; Acts 11:27-30).
Christian workers We give to provide financially for pastors and teachers (Galatians 6:6; 1 Corinthians 9:7-14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18) and to support missionary work (Philippians 4:15-19).
Family members We must care for our immediate family (1 Timothy 5:4, 8, 16) and remember our larger Christian family (1 Timothy 6:6-8).
Government officials We should give what we owe to the government, even if we think our taxes are unfair. God has put civil “authorities” in place, and we financially empower them to do their job (Romans 13:6-7).
Our enemies This type of giving sets Christian generosity apart. Jesus gave to us when we were his enemies. He calls us, in turn, to love our enemies and “do good” to them (Luke 6:27-36). This includes those who may be opposed to us (Romans 12:20).
Those who advance God’s kingdom This brings us full circle to any other giving that reflects the love of Jesus. For example, the Jerusalem collection showed Christian care to the ancient world (1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9).
Clare’s edits: David Will didn’t address donations to non-Christian organizations. Some, like a local hospital or museum may be “morally neutral.” However, I cannot imagine God wanting his resources ever given to secular colleges for example, whose stated purpose is teaching a worldview completely antithetical to a Christian worldview!
I have had wonderful Christians respond to that idea, shocked! “But I attended that college! They gave me a great education. I feel loyalty to them.” My answer? “But God didn’t attend that college and it’s his money you’re thinking of donating.” Ironically, these same people will often support campus ministries like Intervarsity and CRU (Campus Crusade) on the campus of their old alma mater. Those ministries are working hard to undo the false worldviews being taught by the very schools receiving donations from Christians!
Conclusion These categories don’t exhaust the things to which Christians may give. They point us to support what God cares about locally, nationally, and internationally, while giving us room for creative freedom. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). So, my best advice is to focus on laying up treasure in such a way that it aligns our heart with the heart of God. I’m not sure there is anything that could lead to greater joy.
So, my best advice is to focus on laying up treasure in such a way that it aligns our heart with the heart of God.
This text was originally part of Purposeful Living: Financial Wisdom for All of Life, compiled by Gary G. Hoag and Tim Macready.
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