First, a story. I shared at Cru that Jenny and I recently had the opportunity to give to a few things this past week. We felt led by the Lord to give hilariously to two specific families. We gave the funds around 5pm before Cru and this talk on Giving. During the talk, I shared Proverbs 3:9-10, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops, then your barns will be filled to overflowing and your vats will brim over with new wine.”
Now, before I share this, the caution is that this does not always play out for us financially. Sometimes when we give and honor God with our wealth, our hearts are filled to overflowing and there is not a financial return. This is not a promise to claim financially. But I will say from experience that I do believe as stewards of God’s resources, that when we honor him with what he entrusts to us, he entrusts more along the way.
The picture above is of a “random” check that arrived in the mail on Friday morning. $597.61. Apparently we purchased something years ago and someone filed a lawsuit against the company in 2011. After years of court battling, a settlement was reached and anyone who purchased this product (of which, I have no idea what I purchased!!!) was given a settlement check. The estimated check was $7-$200. However, the one that came to our house was for nearly $600! You’ve got to be kidding… This is hilarious. Upon seeing the check, I laughed and showed Jenny and said, “I wonder where we’re supposed to give this money.” Note – it’s not a get rich quick scheme – this is just a fun story and example of how it could work.
Maryland Cru, there were lots of questions from last week’s talk and there was not sufficient time to answer. However, the overwhelming amount of questions made me think that it would be worth typing up the questions and posting them here for your perusal. Here are a couple of disclaimers – anything that is typed automatically carries more weight – please shed the pounds here. The following is just as if you asked the question at Cru and I had to fire off a response and a mysterious stenographer was capturing the words for us. I’m not trying to put together a perfect thesis on the topic of Giving. Please read with caution, test everything (1 John 4) and feel free to follow up with me personally via email, text or in person. Also, keep in mind that the talk and the answers below are about Giving, not all the facets of finances or financial planning. I pray that you will experience joy as you take steps in giving! If you feel led to start the joyful process of giving to Maryland Cru, feel free to click here for more info.
Q: How do we balance who we give to? Church? Missions? The poor? Should we just give to what we are passionate about? Should it all go to the church? Is it okay to give it all to missionaries or organizations?
A: There are various schools of thought out there. Some would point to Malachi 3:10 and say that you are to give to the storehouse and their interpretation is that the storehouse = the church. I personally disagree with this school and think the interpretation is a stretch, at least. My personal advice is to point you to 2 Corinthians 9:7 – Give cheerfully. This is a vague answer, but I leave it to you to decide what would help you to meet this goal. As a bonus, Galatians 6:6, “one who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.” This could encourage giving to your local church but could include your Cru, staff, bible study leaders, mentors, etc. Last word is in regards to the question about giving to the poor – yes, them too as well as widows, orphans, sojourners, etc. You will find all sorts of support for giving to various people and places. Give cheerfully! Give and allow the cheer to follow.
Q: As college students, how can we give generously when we have debt hanging over our heads as soon as we graduate?
A: Great question. Be wise in how you manage the Lord’s finances. Be wise in the debt you take on. You are slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7) and your slavery can and will rob you of the joy of giving. “Some debt is positive debt”, school loans, house loan, etc. This is what they say, anyways. However, I think even an elementary school student would help us to see that a negative number is - always negative. Here’s a challenge – who is America has no debt? Be it credit card debt, school debt, car debt, house debt??? If everyone in America (one of the richest countries in the world), waited to give until they were debt free, we would never give. All churches, non-profits, etc. would shut down. Food for thought.
Now, a more practical answer – be careful to not excuse giving because of debt – I cannot judge your heart, only you can. However, if you make this statement, I’d challenge you to make sure that you have a plan in place to pay off this debt and your finances really are going towards this and not just loose spending. I would also challenge you to still look for ways to give. Even the widow who gave two coins was commended for giving in her poor state.
Q: What if we aren’t currently employed? Are we to give offerings anyway? (with our parent’s money? Haha) Second text asked similarly – can you tithe off loan money? Third similar text – what would you recommend to someone who doesn’t have much of his or her own money, in regards to giving?
A: Great questions that will resonate with many college students. Some of you might need to be pushed gently towards getting a job while in school. If you find that you have excess time on your hands – be honest – and you are escaping giving and living under that thought of “I have debt, only loans, only parents money…” – it might be helpful to put some numbers in the positive side of the ledger sheet. You will notice that I’m not necessarily answering questions here. I’m just nudging in different areas to get you (plural) to think.
Here’s an attempt at answers to the above question – we are to give offerings out of an overflow of what he has done for us and given to us. Honor your parents (see Exodus 20 – Ten commandments). I tithed off of my loan money as an undergrad. It was “income” for me at the time and I wanted to start training myself in how to honor God with the “income” that came my way.
More food for thought – the questions are about money coming from parents, loan institutions, etc. Where will your money come from in the future? God owns it all and everything we have is His. It all leads back to him.
Q: What do you mean by “becoming poor to make others rich.”? Could you go into more detail?
A: These are more words, not necessarily the word of God. Again, caution. I studied 2 Corinthians 8:9, “…though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich”. As a follower of Christ, I am to respond to his grace in my life and follow him. If he became poor so that I could become rich, then I respond to his grace by becoming poor for the sake of others. This leads me to denying materialism and the idols associated with this. I’m not perfect, by any stretch, but I think I’m called to live for another world. So, the solution to materialism in my life is to create a life of giving and doing so in way that is gospel driven and helps the world see Christ, thus making them rich.
Q: Some churches use donations to make themselves bigger and not actually help people, what would you say to people who actually want their money to make a difference but are worried it won’t be used that way?
A: Hmm… I have personally struggled with this. Take the following as my lesson, not as a rebuke from me to you. I was humbled in make a similar statement. In that statement, I’m saying, “I know better… I know how to help people more effectively… I know how to best impact the world…” Pride comes before fall. The word to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 9:5 was to ensure their gift was “willing and not as an exaction”. Exaction is not a term we use today, but it means that we give gifts without any expectation for something in return. Translation – we are to give to the Lord and let him determine the impact of the gift, the difference it can make, etc. We are called to give willingly and cheerfully, not to give and then control the outcome. If the giving to a certain place/people causes you to sin, be careful. If your sin causes you to prevent giving, be careful. Rule of thumb – Give. Give cheerfully. Give willingly, without exaction.
Q: What would you say to people who fear completely depleting their finances as a result of giving?
A: The Macedonians (2 Corinthians 8:3) gave according to their means. Follow suit. There are times however, when God might call you to give beyond your means (8:3). Follow suit. See the question & answer above about giving while having no funds or in debt… In short, I don’t personally advise giving in a way that is poor stewardship. Keep in mind this is a talk on giving and not financial planning. The Bible speaks to the importance of saving, being debt free, etc.
Q: Should I prioritize giving over saving? Should all of my giving be sacrificial?
A: I don’t have a quick answer here. Keep in mind, I’m just shooting from the hip, so to speak. My initial thought is “yes”. Prioritize giving because everyone else in the world is going to push the other direction. The world, especially in America, will tell you to take on debt, build credit, save and invest. However, not many are pushing to give. So, I’ll answer yes on the prioritizing of giving because I think it’s important as you steward God’s money and as you experience the joy that is associated with giving. I don’t know that all giving should be sacrificial, but I’ll lean on a couple of quotes to give thoughts…
"Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open."
-Corrie Ten Boom, Dutch Christian Holocaust survivor who helped Jews escape Nazis during World War II
"When it comes to giving until it hurts, most people have a very low threshold of pain."
Q: How important is giving time?
Ha, okay, seriously, I think we are called to a greater stewardship and it is not just in regards to money. Time counts. Time exposes our heart, our sin and our need for a savior. I would view time as a resource that belongs to the Lord, is entrusted to us and it something that we can offer to the Lord out of gratitude for his time given to us.