When Giving Actually Makes You a Poor Steward

When giving makes you a poor stewardI was recently asked when giving is – and isn’t – appropriate. Here’s my answer.

But first, to prevent anyone from reading this post and thinking it discourages giving, let me be clear at the beginning that Scripture frequently commands, and therefore, we should be generous:

  • Deuteronomy 16:17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.
  • Proverbs 21:26b The righteous gives and does not spare.
  • Luke 3:11 Jesus said, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.”

This post in no way is meant to discourage giving (you can read a recent post from me about the importance of giving).

It is a great blessing to be able to help those in need. As the saying goes, “It’s as much a gift to give as to receive.” Being able to come together as a family and tell your children, “This family is struggling. God has blessed us, and we’re going to help to them in this way. Let’s pray for the family and thank God for the opportunity He’s given us to give to them in their time of need.” Continue reading “When Giving Actually Makes You a Poor Steward”

How much should Christians give?

Last post discussed that the New Testament doesn’t command giving a tithe, but it does command giving! So how much should Christians give? Here are three New Testament principles to make that determination.

First, Christians give according to their income.

Two New Testament verses make the point that the amount Christians give relates to the amount of their income:

  • 1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income.
  • 2 Corinthians 8:12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.

How much should Christians give?Neither verse states how much Christians give, but they do say that giving should be according to our income.

Luke 12:48 For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required.

Although this isn’t speaking directly of finances, the principle applies. If God gives you more, He expects you to give more. It’s completely reasonable that some people should give much more than a tithe (10%).

Second, Christians give sacrificially.

This is another reason it’s not a good idea for Christians to feel bound to a tithe. For some Christians that would require very little sacrifice.

This principle is important – not just because of what it teaches us about giving – but because of what it teaches us about our relationships with the Lord in general. God doesn’t need our money. His will is accomplished with or without our help. But God allows us to worship Him through giving, and the only way our giving is worshipful is if it involves some sacrifice.

Continue reading “How much should Christians give?”

Do Christians have to give a tithe?

Do Christians have to give a tithe?I was asked whether Christians have to give a tithe or tenth.

You might notice the title is worded, “Do Christians have to…” versus, “Should Christians…” or “Can Christians…” If you want to give a tenth, that’s fine. I know Christians who say, “God expected a tenth in the Old Testament, so I want to give a tenth in the New Testament.” Many people look at the Mosaic Law for principles to apply today, including in the area of giving, and that’s fine. But if you think Christians have to give a tenth, that’s different and you should keep a few things in mind.

First, Christians are not under the Mosaic Law

Giving a tenth was commanded under the Mosaic Law. Christians are under the Law of Christ, which carries forth the morality in the Mosaic Law: “Do not lie…steal…murder…commit adultery.” You see all these commands confirmed in the New Testament. But the ceremonial commands – including those related to giving a tenth – are not maintained.

Second, God commanded giving a number of tithes.

There was a tithe for the Levites, the use of the temple and the feasts, and the poor of the land. This actually pushed the total closer to 23.3%. Continue reading “Do Christians have to give a tithe?”

Warnings for the Stingy

Warnings for the stingyWhile the stingy hope to keep more for themselves, God’s Word is clear that the opposite results.

Since Proverbs has thirty-one chapters it works well to read a chapter each morning. This provides wisdom to take with you throughout the day. We often do this for our morning family Bible study, especially on days when I say to myself, “What should we do today?” or “I don’t feel like continuing through…” This was the case yesterday, and I was particularly struck by the consecutive proverbs related to giving. A clear principle developed in Proverbs 11:24-

A stingy heart leads to poverty while generosity secures blessing

Proverbs 11:24 There is one who scatters (or gives freely as it’s translated in some Bibles: NIV, NLT, ESV, HCSB, ISV), yet increases more; And there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty.

Someone who’s very generous receives more as a result. It’s reminiscent of Jesus’ words in Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

In contrast, the second half of the verse says someone who’s stingy – despite their best efforts to have more – ends up poor.

Proverbs 11:25 The generous soul will be made rich,
And he who waters
(or refreshes in NIV, NLT), will also be watered himself.

Again the generous person is blessed, but with the word waters or refreshes it goes beyond giving financially to giving emotionally and relationally. When people join Woodland Christian Church we tell that we expect them to be giving, but we stress that it goes far beyond putting a check in the offering box. We want people to give of their time, energy, talents, etc.

Those who are stingy with their time and effort lack friends 

Friendly, loving people who are interested in others will often find others friendly, loving, and interested in them. And the opposite is also true: those who are unfriendly, selfish, and uninterested in others often find it difficult to make friends and will find people uninterested in them.

Proverbs 11:26 The people will curse him who withholds grain,
But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.

Another contrast between the generous and stingy, continuing the same principle: the generous are blessed and the stingy are cursed. This proverb, like the previous one, also goes beyond a discussion of finances to our relationships with people. It’s not financial gain or loss, but social gain or loss. People can’t stand the greedy, but they love the giving. Being generous moves beyond just being blessed financially to being blessed in our relationships with others.

Proverbs 11:28 He who trusts in his riches will fall,
But the righteous will flourish like foliage.

This last verse gives a strong encouragement regarding finances: we shouldn’t put our trust in them. Putting our confidence in our bank accounts will lead to failure. Instead we need to pursue righteousness – which is available by grace through faith in Christ – and that’s what our confidence needs to be in.

Discuss

Have you found these warnings to be true? Do you think of being stingy only with money, or do you see how it relates to our time and energy too? Share any thoughts or questions below!

WCC's response to Typhoon Haiyan, how you can help and a final update

Tuesday morning I was praying for the Filipino victims of Typhoon Haiyan (by the way, I know based on Matthew 6:6 we’re supposed to keep our prayers lives private, but this story won’t make much sense if I don’t share that part with you). I felt convicted about praying without doing anything (James 2:15-17 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead), so at that point my prayer changed from praying for the victims, to praying how to help the victims. While I was praying I received an e-mail from World Concern and the subject said, “Typhoon Haiyan – How your church can help.” I thought, Wow, this is great Lord!

My initial plan was to write about helping the victims in my weekly bulletin letter, and when I opened the e-mail it said, “We have written a short paragraph for your Sunday bulletin to aid any announcement and offering you plan to make during your service this weekend.” I’m serious! That’s exactly how it happened and here’s the statement they provided: “Help victims of Typhoon Haiyan through this crisis. World Concern and its partners are responding now to help save lives. Your gift will help distribute food, safe drinking water, emergency shelter and relief supplies to the people of the Philippines. Nearly 10 million people are affected by this disaster. Please join us and pray for the victims and please donate today.

Here are two things to know about World Concern: first, 90% of every dollar goes to the need, and second, when I spoke with them they said the first month is more about survival than evangelism…sort of like the Good Samaritan dealing with the man left half dead in the road. The work is done through the local churches in the area to demonstrate the love of Christ, and then the Gospel is spread later.

Here’s how WCC is going to help…

Until Sunday, December 1st, the congregation is invited to put a check in the offering box with “Philippines” in the subject line. We’ll see how much money is given and WCC will match that amount in a gift to World Concern. On December 8th I’ll let the congregation know how much we ended up giving. If you would like to join us in this ministry, please send your checks made out to Woodland Christian Church (430 Buckeye St, Woodland, WA 98674) with “Philippines” in the subject line.

And here’s an approach you might take with your family…

Sit down with your kids, discuss the disaster with them while possibly showing some pictures, share applicable verses (like James 2:15-17 and Luke 10:25-37), figure out an amount to give, and then pray for the victims together as a family. Tell your children it is a tremendous blessing for us to have the opportunity to live out our faith and give to those in need!

Update made on December 9th, 2013: The amount the congregation gave was $1,765 and WCC matched that amount bringing the amount given to World Concern to $3,530!!!

A Great Blessing for WCC

Our leadership is pretty tight when it comes to spending money and I mean that as a compliment. They take seriously the money that’s given to the church, seeing it as an important stewardship. Here are three sobering realities associated with the money we receive that I think goes through the mind of every pastor/elder when finances are considered:

  1. This is money people gave to the church that could’ve been spent any number of other ways to directly benefit them, their children, their family, etc.
  2. Every dollar we spend on the church is a dollar that’s not going to a missionary.
  3. Even though this money is given to the church, it’s not really the church’s money; it’s God’s money and He expects it to be used for His glory. Some day there will be an accounting for how it’s spent.

Spending money in the church is a large responsibility that encourages quite a bit of consideration and prayer behind every purchase. People might come to our church and see things that could be replaced or improved and they might suspect it has to do with us lacking money, but if you inquired the response you’d probably receive is “It still works.” The reality is we’re not lacking money. This leadership’s frugality has put our church in a good place financially, including having a beautiful church, fellowship hall, parsonage and no debt. We’re able to give generously to missions and at one of our recent board meetings we actually felt like we had too much money saved up and we needed to give more to missions. India Evangelical Mission is one of the wonderful missions we support and we were able to give them $8,000 for a well they wanted to build. We’ve also been in a place to help people in and out of the church which is a huge blessing.
One nagging situation though has been our sound system. I talked to Jim, one of our elders, and he agreed that we should do something about it. Let’s face it: being able to hear the sermon is a pretty big deal. I don’t know what could be considered a higher priority than that…maybe only the lighting that enables people to read their Bibles as the pastor preaches? (NOTE: the lighting is something else we’re working on too!). We had a board meeting approaching and Jim and I decided we would talk about a new sound system then with the rest of the leadership.
Here’s where it gets cool…
Isaac, a friend of the church who’s really knowledgeable when it comes to sound said he could set us up with a pretty good system for X amount of money. Jim and I decided we would run that by the board and have Isaac go ahead and purchase the system and install it for us.
At our board meetings we usually talk about new business toward the end, which is when purchasing the new sound system would’ve been discussed. To be clear, aside from Jim and I, nobody else knew we were going to get a new sound system. Toward the beginning of the meeting our financial person said, “I want to let you all know somebody anonymously donated Y amount of money to the church and they’d like it to be spent on a new sound system.” The amount donated was almost 70% MORE than the amount Isaac said he would spend. I don’t like to speak for God, but it was hard not to look at this as God’s way of encouraging us to go forward with a new sound system and even providing for us to do it! Again, when you’re thinking about spending money on the church, you go back to those three considerations I mentioned earlier and ask yourself, “Is this really what God would have us do with His money?” Receiving the news about the donation was a great blessing for a number of reasons, probably most of all because we could feel like it was what God wanted us to do and this was His way of providentially letting us know.
We’ve got a few other church improvements on the horizon as well: the movable walls and the carpeting in the fellowship hall, the parking lots, the kitchen, and I already mentioned the lighting. We’d appreciate your prayers as we go about trying to be good stewards of God’s money.
Finally, if the people who donated the money for our sound system read this, please know what a great blessing it to us and we’re very, very thankful for it. I hope it’s encouraging to know that as thousands of people hear God’s Word preached at WCC over the years, you can feel like a part of every one of those sermons.

India Evangelical Mission

We receive regular updates from the missionaries we support and we read those letters at the evening service to let you know how they’re doing, to keep you familiar with them and the work they’re doing, and probably more than anything hopefully to encourage you to pray for them. Then we put the most recent letters in the foyer for you to read them.

Sometimes G.V. Mathai with India Evangelical Mission writes a personal note that you wouldn’t be able to see because it’s on the back of the letter. I wanted to share part of his most recent personal note with you, but first, here’s a little background. When he visited our church and spoke at our evening service, he said one of their needs was $8,000 for a well.

For a few months the leadership has felt like we had a good problem: too much money in our savings. We want to be good stewards of the Lord’s money, and having it sit in savings drawing very, very little interest – when there are missionaries with real needs – isn’t being good stewards. So we decided to give IEM the money they needed for their well. I wanted to share all this with you for two reasons: so you’d know how things are going with IEM, but also so you’d know how the church is using your money. Mathai wrote:

Dear Pastor Scott & Everyone at the Church,

            We thank God for answered prayers! We are so grateful to you all for your prayerful consideration & sending the money to dig a well at our ministry center in Kerala. You dear ones at Woodland Christian Church have been so gracious in helping to meet the needs of the work of our Lord in India.

            The people at IEM will be thinking of you & praying for you.

            We plan to leave for India the end of December. Please pray for Mariamma and me and everyone going with us.

            We love you all & pray for you!

So thank you all very much for your giving! One of the wonderful things about supporting missions directly or indirectly (by giving to your church that supports missions) is it allows you to be part of work God’s doing on the other side of the world. All of you should feel encouraged about the blessing this well is going to be, and you were each able to be part of it!