Archives For Giving

       I’ve written a good bit of material designed to free people from the idea that the tithe is something they must do under threat of a curse from God. The giving standards in the New Testament are very different (and actually much more challenging) than those in the Old Testament. The teachings and example of Christ guide us into a mindset of giving that’s based on love for God and others – not just promises of blessings or threats of a curse.

       But I also understand why some people like to use the tithe as their standard of giving. It’s simple, straightforward, and gives you a guideline you can start using right away. (Assuming, of course, that you don’t try to set up a ton of rules to help you figure out how to tithe just right.) Freewill, sacrificial, generous giving motivated by love just isn’t quite as easy to figure out as a flat 10%.

       I came across a concept that I think can be helpful as a starting point – a way to think and pray about giving that will help you figure out what God wants you to do in your situation while also protecting yourself from lifestyle inflation. It’s called graduated tithing. The name aside, I think it can be a good way to think about your giving. Coming up with your own plan gives you an opportunity to consciously seek God’s will for your giving. Let’s look at it in more depth.

The Graduated Tithe

       I first came across the idea in an article that Craig wrote at Money Help for Christians. The concept of the graduated tithe seems to have originated with Ronald Sider in his book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity.

       Ron explains it this way. First, you start with a base amount. His family decided on a base figure that includes the current poverty level for his family’s size, plus costs for Christian education and college expenses, plus taxes, plus genuine emergencies. His family tries to give 10% of that base amount. Then, for each $1,000 of income above that base amount, they give an additional 5%. An example will help you see what I’m talking about.

       Let’s say you choose a base amount of $40,000. Here is what your graduated tithe (or giving system) would look like:

Income % to Give $ to Give Total Income Total $ Given Total % Given
$40,000 10% $4,000 $40,000 $4,000 10.0%
next $1,000 15% $150 $41,000 $4,150 10.1%
next $1,000 20% $200 $42,000 $4,350 10.4%
next $1,000 25% $250 $43,000 $4,600 10.7%
next $1,000 30% $300 $44,000 $4,900 11.1%
next $1,000 35% $350 $45,000 $5,250 11.7%
next $1,000 40% $400 $46,000 $5,650 12.3%
next $1,000 45% $450 $47,000 $6,100 13.0%
next $1,000 50% $500 $48,000 $6,600 13.8%
next $1,000 55% $550 $49,000 $7,150 14.6%
next $1,000 60% $600 $50,000 $7,750 15.5%
next $1,000 65% $650 $51,000 $8,400 16.5%
next $1,000 70% $700 $52,000 $9,100 17.5%
next $1,000 75% $750 $53,000 $9,850 18.6%
next $1,000 80% $800 $54,000 $10,650 19.7%
next $1,000 85% $850 $55,000 $11,500 20.9%
next $1,000 90% $900 $56,000 $12,400 22.1%
next $1,000 95% $950 $57,000 $13,350 23.4%
next $1,000 100% $1,000 $58,000 $14,350 24.7%



       After you reach a total income of $57,000, you’ll be giving away 100% of any additional money you earn. If your income was $75,000, you’d be giving $31,350 under this system – a little over 40%. At $100,000, you’d be giving away $56,350 or just over 56%.

       To use the graduated tithe (or giving system, I just like that better), you’d want to update your base amount every year. This will help account for changes in your personal situation, taxes, and most importantly – God’s will. He may lead you to give more in some years by choosing a lower base amount or to give less by choosing a higher base amount.

A Few Caveats About the Graduated Tithe

       I share this idea with you not to enforce a legalistic standard but to offer an alternative that will help you focus on giving more and not becoming greedy as your income rises. If you decide to use the graduated tithe, you should be very careful if it makes you begrudge giving and takes away the joy of sharing. If you don’t have love and give cheerfully, it’s not going to matter how much you give. In that case, you’re going to have to seek God’s heart and ask Him to help you have His love develop in you.

       Also, you should use this example as a guide – not a law. If your family is in a situation where this can’t work for you right now, then adapt it to fit God’s will for your giving. You’ll need to go through this planning process with a lot of prayer and request guidance from the Holy Spirit, but it can be something that helps you give generously in your situation.

       I really want to emphasize the fact that you need to seek God’s will on this. You shouldn’t use the tithe, the graduate tithe, or any other giving system as a replacement for prayer and discernment. God will guide you as you seek to please Him. Make that your primary goal and He’ll help you figure out what the right amount is for you.

Your Thoughts

       What do you think of the graduated tithe? Let me know in the comments below!

This article was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance as an editor’s pick!

       I’ve written extensively about tithing in the bible, New Covenant giving, and New Covenant giving guidelines for Christians. Not too long ago, I wrote that tithing is so Old Testament. I explained that I don’t hate tithing, but I’m against teaching it because we have a much better example for giving in the life of Jesus Christ.

       But to make my point a little clearer on how New Covenant giving differs from Old Testament tithing, I thought it would be helpful to look at Jesus’ teaching. I’m going to divide this into two sections. First, we’ll look at what Jesus taught about tithing. Then, we’ll look at his other teaching on giving in general. This will be the verses only – no commentary.

What Jesus Taught about Tithing

       Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith. But you ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone.

Matthew 23:23 (WEB)

       But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, but you bypass justice and the love of God. You ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone.

Luke 11:42 (WEB)

       9 He spoke also this parable to certain people who were convinced of their own righteousness, and who despised all others. 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: ‘God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14 (WEB)



       And that’s it. That’s all Jesus said about tithing.

What Jesus Taught about Giving

       23 If therefore you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:23-24 (WEB)

       Give to him who asks you, and don’t turn away him who desires to borrow from you.

Matthew 5:42 (WEB)

       Give to everyone who asks you, and don’t ask him who takes away your goods to give them back again.

Luke 6:30 (WEB)

       35 …for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. 36 I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’ 40 “The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:35-40 (WEB)

       32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive back as much. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil.

Luke 6:32-35 (WEB)

       But give for gifts to the needy those things which are within, and behold, all things will be clean to you.

Luke 11:41 (WEB)

       33 Sell that which you have, and give gifts to the needy. Make for yourselves purses which don’t grow old, a treasure in the heavens that doesn’t fail, where no thief approaches, neither moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Luke 12:33-34 (WEB)

       12 He also said to the one who had invited him, “When you make a dinner or a supper, don’t call your friends, nor your brothers, nor your kinsmen, nor rich neighbors, or perhaps they might also return the favor, and pay you back. 13 But when you make a feast, ask the poor, the maimed, the lame, or the blind; 14 and you will be blessed, because they don’t have the resources to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14:12-14 (WEB)

       In all things I gave you an example, that so laboring you ought to help the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Acts 20:35 (WEB)

       For whoever will give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you are Christ’s, most certainly I tell you, he will in no way lose his reward.

Mark 9:41 (WEB)

       33 But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, 34 came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’

Luke 10:33-35 (WEB)

       1 He looked up, and saw the rich people who were putting their gifts into the treasury. 2 He saw a certain poor widow casting in two small brass coins. 3 He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow put in more than all of them, 4 for all these put in gifts for God from their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, put in all that she had to live on.”

Luke 21:1-4 (WEB)

       1 Be careful that you don’t do your charitable giving before men, to be seen by them, or else you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 Therefore when you do merciful deeds, don’t sound a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may get glory from men. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you do merciful deeds, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does, 4 so that your merciful deeds may be in secret, then your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Matthew 6:1-4 (WEB)

       21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sad, for he was one who had great possessions. 23 Jesus said to his disciples, “Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard it, they were exceedingly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter answered, “Behold, we have left everything, and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Most certainly I tell you that you who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on the throne of his glory, you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 Everyone who has left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive one hundred times, and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many will be last who are first; and first who are last.

Matthew 19:21-30 (WEB)

       21 Jesus looking at him loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross.” 22 But his face fell at that saying, and he went away sorrowful, for he was one who had great possessions. 23 Jesus looked around, and said to his disciples, “How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus answered again, “Children, how hard is it for those who trust in riches to enter into the Kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.” 26 They were exceedingly astonished, saying to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus, looking at them, said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God, for all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to tell him, “Behold, we have left all, and have followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Most certainly I tell you, there is no one who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or land, for my sake, and for the sake of the Good News, 30 but he will receive one hundred times more now in this time, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land, with persecutions; and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last; and the last first.”

Mark 10:21-31 (WEB)

       22 When Jesus heard these things, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have, and distribute it to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was very rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he became very sad, said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to enter in through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” 28 Peter said, “Look, we have left everything, and followed you.” 29 He said to them, “Most certainly I tell you, there is no one who has left house, or wife, or brothers, or parents, or children, for the Kingdom of God’s sake, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the world to come, eternal life.”

Luke 18:22-30 (WEB)

Note: I didn’t include Luke 6:38 in this list because when I read it in context Jesus seems to be speaking about giving forgiveness and mercy rather than money.

       I’m seeing a pattern in Jesus’ teaching and it’s not tithing. I wonder why so many churches spend more time talking about tithing than Jesus did…

       A reader asked me what you should do when you want to give more but your spouse is not a Christian. It’s especially difficult because she doesn’t want to go against her husband’s wishes. This issue can be hard for women who want to honor their husbands as God’s Word teaches but also want to honor God. However, I think a similar approach should be used for men married to non-Christian women as well.

       I don’t have personal experience with this, so I don’t pretend to know all the answers. If any readers have dealt with this, please share your thoughts in the comments. I will, however, attempt to approach this from a Biblical and practical perspective in an effort to help people deal with this challenging problem.

Pray

       As in all things, we must seek God’s will first. Prayer is one way we communicate with God. When you feel God’s Spirit leading you to give more but your spouse is not a Christian and does not want to give more, your first step must be prayer. Specifically, here are some matters you can pray about:

  • Your Spouse’s Salvation – Not so your life will be made easier, but so they will receive eternal life.
  • Wisdom – For how you should approach this situation with love and grace when discussing it with your spouse.
  • Guidance – For what you should do if your spouse is not willing.
  • Patience – To wait upon the Lord and to continue being a light to your spouse despite the difficult struggles you face.



       God will give you His strength to handle this task. If He is calling you to give more, then He will provide you with a method to make it happen.

Talk with Your Spouse

       Next, you should approach your spouse lovingly and graciously to share what God has placed on your heart. Focus on gracious speech – do not accuse your spouse or attack them. You may be surprised by their response. Try to share where God is leading you to give and why. Talk about ways you could give more by focusing on contentment and the generous blessings you already have.

       If your spouse is completely opposed to the idea, do not press the issue and cause an argument. Doing so could damage your witness to them. Listen to their viewpoint and see if a compromise could be made. Here’s an example:

       Let’s say your spouse doesn’t want to give up anything they’re used to so you can give more. The two of you have budgeted a weekly amount for you to buy lunches at work. Offer a compromise. You’ll pack your lunches and use the money you save to increase your giving. This way your spouse doesn’t give up anything and you still get to increase your giving. Or maybe you have a way you could earn some extra money on the side. You could offer to have some of it go to your joint budget while using the rest to increase your giving.

Give Your Time

       If your spouse is completely opposed to increasing your monetary giving in any way, you could look at ways to donate some of your time. Again, this is probably something you should discuss with your spouse. You must also be careful that your volunteering will not cause you to neglect your relationship. But a couple hours a week can really help a mission or charity quite a bit without causing much stress on your marriage.

Continue to Pray

       Finally, you must continue to pray about the situation. This is a difficult situation and can be extremely trying on your faith. Continue to seek strength from God and pray for your spouse’s salvation. Honor your spouse and live a life of generous, sacrificial love just as Jesus did. I am not saying your should sacrifice your relationship with God to keep your marriage intact, but you must do your best to be a light to your spouse in all situations. A mature Christian (of the same sex) can provide helpful counsel and encouragement during this trial in your life, so seek fellowship and support if needed.

Your Thoughts?

       What do you all think? Is this a Biblical approach to the situation? What are some other ideas that could help someone deal with this issue? How have you handled it in your own life? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Recently, my wife and I have been doing pretty well for ourselves. We aren’t what most people consider rich (although, by the world’s standard’s I am rich), but we do have a few extra dollars to truly enjoy ourselves. We are no longer forced to wait 6 months for a movie to come out on video because we can’t afford a night out on the town. We can now afford to visit both of our families within the same year and not pay for it later. This is a nice feeling to have, until the guilt kicks in.

We’ve always dreamed of living a life that is different from the American Dream. We don’t want a mansion or nice cars, but what we really want is to make a difference. While we’ve had to give up on some of our dreams, we still hope to make a positive difference in this world. We may not lead the next revolution and break systems of injustice, but we genuinely do care about the world.

That’s why the other day my wife came to me and said we need to give more. She wasn’t talking about giving away all our wealth, but she was talking about caring about other people before our selfish desires. Right when I thought we were finally starting to enjoy ourselves, she drops this self-righteous bomb on me.

If I am honest with myself, I can’t help but think two things when she brings this up.

  1. This means we won’t be able to enjoy ourselves as much.
  2. She’s absolutely right.

Once I let myself process it a bit more, I realized that we do need to give more and that’s when the question really began to hit me: How Should we Give? What’s the best way to give?

You may think I am a bit extreme, but I love to analyze things. Some may say OVER-ANALYZE. Here’s the issue: I love to make sure that I am making the best choice possible. This applies to this situation of giving. I could easily give more money in the offering plate each week at church, but is that really making a difference, or am I just making myself feel better? I think when we are honest with ourselves, most of us give just to feel good. We didn’t want to make our gift another one of those, so we decided to talk about what’s the most effective use of our money. We don’t have a lot of money, so we wanted to make sure it counted for something.

Qualities of an Effective Gift

After much discussion, we realized that a gift that is really going to make a difference should have these qualities:

  • Sustainability - The most important thing for us is sustainability. We’ve seen “band-aid fixes” too often in our lives. People can give poor people money all they want, but if they don’t give them a way to earn money for themselves, it won’t make a difference. Sure, it might provide them with a nice dinner tomorrow, but if they have any hope of feeding themselves tomorrow, they are going to need something that’s sustainable. It’s similar to the idea of teaching someone to fish instead of giving them a fish.
  • Affordable Enough to Give Now – While we would love to provide a well for a community in Africa or something that would REALLY make a difference for a LOT of people, we’re not foolish enough to believe we can afford that. We recognize this and yet we still want to give now. We don’t want to wait to give 3 years from now because who knows what excuses we will come up to justify spending that money on ourselves. This is the reason, we wanted to be able to give now – so we can make it a habit before we forget about it.
  • Most Bang For Our Buck – This expression may be dying out, but we really wanted to get the most return for our investment. That’s how we see it. We see giving as an investment in making the world a better place. While there are multiple ways to give a sustainable gift, we wanted one that would give the highest return.

What Did we Decide?

While I don’t want to limit my readers to thinking this is always the best choice for anyone, I do want to share what we decided on for last month. We decided to give a goat via Heifer International. It’s a well-known organization and giving a goal has several benefits:

  • Ability to thrive in extreme climates – In other words, less risk for our investment.
  • Provide Quarts of Milk a Day – This can be a great way to provide food for the family or a source of income
  • Manure for Fertilizer – Not only do they get food from the milk, but the ability to grow crops
  • Children – Goats can have 2-3 kids per year, meaning either exponential source of food/manure or more money by selling the children.

Readers, what goes into your decisions when you decide to give?

 

Do you think you give enough to charity? Most likely the answer is no or maybe. I always think about how I could be donating more, or I always say “I’ll start donating more once I cross XX off my list of financial goals or when I have XX completed.”

Lately, it’s been that I’ll wait until my student loans are paid off. However, this list has the potential to be never ending, and I don’t want it to be like that.

I want to give to charity and need to stop making excuses.

I’m going to admit that I am guilty of not donating enough time nor money. We do donate, but not nearly enough in our eyes. The amount is barely even equivalent to 1% of our annual income.

I don’t know if you’re similar to me, but whenever I buy something for myself, I always triple-think about it. Would the money that I’m spending on this dinner be better spent by donating it to a family during the holiday season? Maybe a child could use new clothes also…

Also, whenever I go to any type of store, whether it be the grocery store, pet store or a clothing store, I am almost always asked if I would like to donate a dollar to their charity. Sometimes I do decline, but it nearly eats me alive when I think about how a dollar wouldn’t change my life, but a dollar could greatly change someone elses’.

Giving to a charity does not only have to constitute giving money. Giving to a charity can also be donating your time, as most likely, your time is invaluable.

Many charities cannot find enough volunteers to help out, which would make an endless amount of cash still not useful if they cannot find those willing to put in physical time.

Before, I would always use the excuse of not having enough time to volunteer. However, I truly did. Instead of going home and watching TV, I could’ve been dedicating just a couple of hours of my time to a charity every week. A couple of hours wouldn’t have killed me, and it could’ve made a large difference in the eyes of the charity.

There are many great reasons for why you should donate:

1.  You can really help someone.

Not everyone is fortunate in their life, and some things they cannot help. Also, the person may just be down on their luck lately and may just need quick help.

There are many examples of this, such as a young child whose parents cannot afford school supplies for them, or maybe they have a single mother who does not have enough time for them because they are constantly working. Or maybe someone just lost their job and just needs help until they get back on their feet.

2.  You’re going to spend it anyways.

If you have the money, you will most likely spend it. Instead of buying your 5th chocolate bar of the week, maybe you can designate a certain amount of money towards helping a charity of your choosing.

Dedicating just $30 of your monthly income will make a difference in someone’s life, especially if many more people started doing this. $30 is most likely not a lot to you, and will require you just to cut out one small thing out of your life every month.

3.  They are tax-deductible.

Yes, while some would like to think that they would never consider taking a tax deduction, it is a benefit, and there should be no shame in taking this. If you are helping the world, then you are helping!

Be a little creative when it comes to making a charitable donation. Think bigger than simple household items and start looking at less obvious items, like a vehicle or even a boat. Making boat donations in New Jersey is an easy process. This state in particular provides great tax benefits. In many cases, donating a boat is very simple, just select a charity online and fill out a few papers. Help out causes such as hunger, cancer, and homelessness while saving a little money during tax season. It’s truly a win-win situation!

Do you give to charity?

Do you believe that you give “enough”?

       Today, a reader named Melissa shared this comment on my summary of tithing in the Bible. (I’ve edited it a little for clarity, but I did not make any drastic changes.)

       ”I have been a faithful ‘tither’ for years, raised by parents who were faithful tithers. And there has been something about ‘tithing’ that has always had this ‘check’ within me, even when I was adamant about ‘wanting to tithe’ and knowing ‘God’s promises’ about tithing. I began researching about tithing to basically find out where the 10% of all my gross income should be going. Let me tell you it has led down a completely different path!!!! It has led me closer and closer to who Jesus is: GRACE. Jesus IS grace personified. Grace presented giving over and over and over!!!!! I WAS a cheerful and faithful tither…now I will allow grace to lead me to be a cheerful and faithful giver!!!! I appreciate the revelation that the Holy Spirit has given you and others about giving from the heart and not tithing from a pocketbook. God is NOT about numbers!!!”

- Melissa



       In my response, I thanked Melissa for her comment because it’s exactly for people like her that I wrote those articles on tithing. You see, some people accuse me of being greedy, stingy, or just trying to make excuses not to give because of what I’ve written about tithing. Because I don’t teach tithing, they assume that I don’t want to give – or that if I do then I don’t want to do it generously.

       Nothing could be further from the truth! If anyone spends just a little bit more time reading what I’ve written about New Covenant giving and generosity, they’ll see that I am actually trying to teach us to be even more generous than what those who teach tithing demand.

       The difference is that I’m trying to point us to the ultimate example of giving: Jesus Christ. He is the full revelation of God’s will for us in all things, including giving. And while looking at Him and trying to follow Him, no one will be making excuses not to give. You can’t help but want to give to those in need in response to His grace, mercy, and generosity.

       We don’t need demands and obligations and curses to urge us to give if we will only look to Jesus and follow His example. Those who follow Jesus and abide in Him will have such overflowing love for God and others that you won’t be able to hold back their generosity. You don’t need to tell them to give 10% or be cursed and you don’t need to promise them riches and blessings to get them to give. They want to give because they have God’s love living in them!

       This is the real purpose of my articles about tithing. It’s not to excuse us from giving. It’s not to find a way to give less. And it’s not to destroy churches and make them go bankrupt (yes, I’ve been accused of that). The real purpose of these articles is to open our eyes to the truth about giving. And that truth is found only in Jesus Christ – not in the Law.

       I want people to see that tithing as it is taught today is far from Biblically accurate. I want them to understand the grace we have received from and in Jesus. I want them to experience both the freedom and the joy that comes from giving with a pure heart motivated by love for God and love for others. I want them to get past this letter of the Law stuff and focus on the Spirit. It’s about a transformation of going from “What’s the least I must do to fulfill my obligation to God?” to “How can I more fully express my love for God and for people? How can I please and serve God completely?”. I want us to let go of the shadow and take hold of the the One who came. I want us to let Jesus be our example for giving and fully follow in His steps.

       I pray that all who read what I’ve written about tithing will realize that it’s not just about arguing over words and trying to make excuses or justify ourselves. My goal is not to cause more division, strife, or arguing, but to open our eyes to the truth in Scripture and gain a fuller understanding of what Christ did for us, what He wants us to do, and how we can start living that out. I will try my best to be clear about those things, but it doesn’t always come through.

       So just know that when you read something I’ve written about tithing it’s not so we can keep more for ourselves. It’s so we can let go of the shadow, cling to Jesus, and be free to experience the relentless, irrational generosity that God has for us and to begin sharing that with others.

Do you know how missionaries in the traditional sense fund their efforts? Growing up in and being an active of a Christian church, I have become quite familiar with how missionaries fund their mission efforts. In fact, it was just last week that I met up with a friend of mine who, with his wife, is an official missionary with a particular denomination.

He and his wife returned from overseas for 2 short (and meeting-filled) weeks in the U.S. In fact, it was so busy for him and his wife that I only got to see him for a couple hours. One of the primary purposes of their trip back to the U.S. was to raise more monetary support. While it was great to see him and he was able to connect with friends, I can’t help but question the sustainability of the Missionary system. While my particular friend wouldn’t consider himself a traditional missionary, I still can’t help but criticize the traditional system of missionaries, with particular attention to the finances.

What is a Missionary?

For those who didn’t grow up in the church, you may be wondering what I am referring to or what/who is a missionary. Let me first start by defining missionary, as it has traditionally been understood within Christian churches. While I would like to trace the development of this term, it would take thousands of words to do so – and unnecessarily so.

In the traditional sense, a Missionary is one who is on a mission by God. While this is the basic understanding, the term is most often used to refer to a religious individual who travels overseas for the sake of spreading the gospel – i.e. sharing about the influence of Jesus Christ in their lives in order to make the world a better place. The actual work that missionaries get involved in varies from person to person. Some see the most important aspect as winning souls, saving innocent people from an eternity in Hell. Others find the purpose in making this world a better place and focus more on social justice issues.

While there are recent voices who stress the importance that anyone can be a missionary in their home location, there is a strong correlation with moving overseas or to a foreign place.

How Missionaries Traditionally Fund their Efforts

Moving to a new place is difficult enough without having to worry about how to provide for the family. Given the primary purpose of a Missionary’s effort to be about church-related activity, it is often difficult, if not impossible for Christian missionaries to provide for themselves as they work in a new place. As a result, missionaries are often financially able to do what they do only by support from the sending communities. It is through the financial support or sponsorship that they are able to leave and pursue this work.

My friend and his wife are only able to live overseas as seminary instructors and members of the church through the support of many local churches here in the U.S. Simply put: sponsorship makes their work possible. This means lots of visits to churches and correspondence with local churches to fund their trip(s) and effort(s).

Is this Missionary System Sustainable?

While I think sponsorship is an important step in the right direction, I can’t help but wonder about the sustainability of this system. First and foremost, (and not just financially) this form of Missionary work can easily be seen as charity (in a bad way). What I mean is that this type of work, while helpful for many people, does nothing to help the other community long-term. It is a short-term fix; a band-aid.

Financially speaking, the system to fund missionary work is very similar. In order to obtain enough money to support their efforts, missionaries are often required to return to their home to ask for financial support. For many people, this could mean long periods of time away from what their work. It is not only dependent on the willingness to give of the rich communities, but does nothing to stimulate the economy where Missionaries are working. This is all done instead of trying to create a business in the new community, which would be of greater help to the communities in which missionaries serve.

To put it simply, the traditional ways that missionaries fund their efforts is not sustainable. It is always dependent on the sending community’s support and does very little to empower the community that missionaries serve. I don’t mean to say that the entire concept should be thrown out the window. But, if Missionaries want to have any lasting influence on the community that they are serving, they should make every effort to create sustainable change.

What are your thoughts on Missionaries?