Archives For Giving

       Supporters of tithing as a requirement for Christians love to point to Malachi 3:10 for proof of why we should tithe. The most common argument is that this is the only place in the Bible where God tells His people to test Him. I’ve already discussed tithing in the Bible, but let’s look specifically at this idea. There are three major problems with claiming that we should tithe because God told us to test Him in it:

  1. We are no longer under the blessings or the curses of the Law.

  3. The entire Law of Moses was worded as a test for the Israelites.

  5. Tithing alone was never enough to guarantee blessings from God.

No Longer Under the Law

       Christians are under the New Covenant, and our righteousness comes from the blood of Christ – not our ability to keep all of the Law. To throw ourselves back under the Law – even just the law of tithing – requires us to completely turn away from the imputed righteousness we claim in Christ. If we’re going to say that we are either blessed or cursed based on our giving, we’re saying that Christ died for nothing. We are no longer under the curse of the Law because Jesus has taken that curse for us. And we are not blessed because we tithe – we are blessed because we have received eternal life through the blood of Jesus.

       Taking Old Testament commands and saying that they still apply to Christians, along with the blessings and curses attached with those commands, is to completely ignore the necessity of Christ’s death. His death broke the hold of the Law over our lives. We are no longer judged according to our ability to keep the Law. We are judged according to Jesus’ ability to keep the Law and our acceptance of His sacrifice.

The Whole Law Was a Test

       The Hebrew word for “prove” in Malachi 3:10 is the only place in the Bible where that particular word is used by God to tell people to “test” Him. But almost every aspect of the Law was worded as a test to the Israelites. God told the Israelites if they would keep all of His commandments, then He would bless them. That’s a test. He also told them that if they didn’t keep all of His commandments, then He would curse them. That’s a test. God is saying if you do (or don’t do this), then I promise I will do this.

       To simply look for the word “test” in the whole Bible, only find it in Malachi 3:10, and then conclude that Christians should tithe because that’s the only thing God told us to test Him in is to ignore the context of the entire rest of the Law! It doesn’t matter if a particular word was used in Malachi 3:10 in a certain way and never used anywhere else in that way. God gave almost all of His Law to the Israelites in the form of a test and told them to do it. So Malachi 3:10 isn’t truly the only time God told His people to test His promises (either to bless or curse).

Tithing Alone Will Not Bring Blessings

       The final problem with this approach to Malachi 3:10 is that it assumes all you have to do is tithe and God is required to bless you. This was never true for the Israelites, the people this command was written for. They were required to keep the whole Law if they wanted to receive God’s blessings. If they broke even one part of the Law, God told them He would curse them. This false interpretation of Malachi 3:10 as a promise of God’s blessings if you tithe completely ignores Biblical truth.

       Was God promising to bless sinners and non-believers who only obey Him in regards to tithing? Was God promising to bless unrepentant Christians if they tithe? How can we look at this one verse as a simple “you do this one thing and I (God) will bless you abundantly”? How does that understanding mesh with the rest of Scripture? James made it clear that this is not the case in James 2:10, and Paul even quoted Deuteronomy 27:16 to show that you are cursed if you don’t keep the entire Law.

Better Giving Principles

       It’s clear that despite Malachi 3:10 being the only place God says to test Him we are not called to tithe as Christians. Under the New Covenant, we have much better and much more demanding principles for giving. I encourage you to read more about New Covenant giving guidelines if you want your giving to be founded on Scripture.

       A new law passed on January 22 allows people who donate to charities providing earthquake relief in Haiti to claim those donations on their 2009 tax returns. Only cash contributions made after January 11, 2010 and before March 1, 2010 are eligible. This includes contributions made by text message, check, credit card or debit card. Obviously, this only benefits taxpayers who itemize their deductions.

       All you have to do is claim the donations on Schedule A of your 2009 tax return just as if they were made in 2009. You are still required to keep a receipt with your tax records. If you made a donation by text message, you can keep a copy of your phone bill as your tax receipt. If you gave a cash contribution, you’ll need either a receipt from the charity, a canceled check, or a bank statement. Finally, remember that this law is only for cash contributions – non-cash contributions do not qualify for this special treatment.

       So you’ve still got a couple weeks to make charitable donations that you can count for 2009 – as long as they’re for Haiti earthquake relief efforts. However, be very careful about which charities you give to as many scammers are taking advantage of the situation and stealing donations using false charities. Your best option is to stick with well-known charities or charities you’ve donated to in the past. Make sure you initiate the donation yourself rather than giving out your information on the phone or via email. A couple of suggestions I can give you for good charities are Mennonite Central Committee and YWAM Haiti Relief Fund.

       As you know, I was in Haiti on a short-term mission trip just a few days after the earthquake happened. I met many great people while I was there, so I’m interested to hear how you’re helping the people of Haiti. Share your story in the comments if you’d like!

       If you spend much time reading personal finance advice for Christians (either on Provident Planning or somewhere else), you’ll probably start to realize that it’s not all that different from other personal finance advice. Most of the good advice for Christians applies equally to non-Christians as well. Stick to a budget, spend less than you earn, avoid excessive debt, keep an emergency fund, minimize your taxes, don’t buy insurance you don’t need, save for the future – none of those things are particularly Christian in nature.

       There may be some points in which Christian personal finance and secular personal finance will differ, but, generally speaking, good personal finance advice is the same regardless of your religion. The difference – and this is a major difference – is in the ultimate purpose, the final goal, of following that good advice.

       As far as the world is concerned, it makes sense to make smart personal finance decisions because that’s what is best for you. Good money management will help you meet your goals, maximize your wealth, and get the most out of the money you’ve earned. And according to the world, that’s what you should do with your money. Use it for the things you want. Use it to meet your goals and fulfill your dreams.

       But for Christians, making smart decisions in our finances is not important just so we can maximize our wealth and meet all our desires. Our purpose is not to find fulfillment in this world and the things it offers. Our purpose is to honor and glorify God – to serve Him with our entire being in everything we do. Our goal is to do His will. And part of God’s will for us is to share His love by caring for those in need through generous giving. We don’t try to maximize our wealth for our own use. We try to maximize our wealth for God’s use.

       I want you to remember this as you read the articles I write. Many times there won’t be a Bible verse in a post. Personal finance in the Bible is more about the principles that should govern our decisions – not specific applications (like how to get out of debt). But it’s very important that we remember the purpose of seeking and following good financial advice.

       When I talk about spending less, it’s so we’ll have more to give. When I talk about earning more money, it’s so we’ll have more to give. When I talk about making smart financial choices, it’s so we’ll have more to give. It all comes back to giving – giving motivated by love that flows out of our response to God’s Gift to us.

       Yes, making good financial decisions will have benefits for you personally. But our focus as Christians is on the benefits those decisions will have for the Kingdom. In our efforts to follow good financial advice, let’s keep our eyes focused on Christ and our minds focused on how we can serve Him fully.

       The advice we follow may not be all that different from non-Christians. But the motivation, goals, and results should be very, very different. And that difference will serve as a witness for the power of God’s love working in our lives.

       What do you think makes Christian personal finance different? Let me know in the comments!

Giving Anonymously

Corey —  January 8, 2010

       If you’ve ever wanted to give a gift without the person knowing it came from you, there’s a great way you can do that. Giving Anonymously is a non-profit organization that helps you give anonymously to those around you who are in need. The process is very simple:

  1. You create a virtual check with the amount and the name and address of the person you want to give to. You’ll also supply their phone number or email address. You can include a short note to the recipient as well.

  3. You then send the money to Giving Anonymously through a credit card transaction, electronic check, or by wire transfer. You can also choose to contribute to Giving Anonymously’s operating costs at this point. (If your gift is over $500, they require you contribute at least 3% of your gift to cover the transaction costs. Gifts of $500 or less have no minimum contribution to Giving Anonymously.)

  5. Giving Anonymously will contact the recipient to make sure they have the right address and to let them know they should be expecting the check. This keeps the check from getting thrown away or going to the wrong place.

  7. Once the recipient receives the check, there’s a toll-free number they can call to leave a voice message expressing their thanks. Giving Anonymously will then email you an audio file of the message so you can hear. If the recipient doesn’t leave a voice message, Giving Anonymously will send you a scanned image of the check to let you know it was cashed by the recipient. If your check is not cashed, Giving Anonymously will completely refund your gift and any overhead contribution you made.

My Thoughts

       I think Giving Anonymously is a great way to give money if you don’t want to create any sense of obligation for the recipient. Yes, you can try to communicate this when you give a gift in person, but it can be difficult to make the recipient understand there are no strings attached and to keep them from repaying you in the future.

       If you use this service, I’d encourage you to at least contribute 3% of your gift to help cover the transaction costs. Giving Anonymously has to pay for the credit card and electronic check transactions plus the cost of the checks, postage, envelopes, and other overhead. There’s no transaction cost for them if you send a wire transfer, but you’re going to end up paying quite a bit for that and they’ll still have the other overhead costs. There are free ways to send money to people, but you’ll give up your anonymity with those methods.

       Finally, if you’re worried that hearing the recipient’s thanks via the voice message would go against Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 6:1-4 (give in secret – your Father will reward you), you can always delete the email that Giving Anonymously sends you. But you might miss out on an amazing story and a blessing – check out the sample messages they’ve received at the bottom of their home page.

       If you’re interested in using Giving Anonymously, I encourage you to check out their website and contact them if you have any questions.

Your Thoughts

       What do you think of the idea of giving anonymously to others? Is it a good idea? Is there a better way to do it than through Giving Anonymously? Let me know in the comments!

       I’ve written in the past about the problems with the “prosperity gospel”. But something I haven’t done is discuss God’s purpose for Christian prosperity. God does want to bless us, but it’s not so we can waste that wealth on lavishly pampering ourselves. He has a specific purpose for prospering Christians and we can find that purpose in His Word.

God Prospers Us To Meet Our Needs

       God blesses us to meet our physical needs. Christ promised us that God knows what we need and He is happy to provide it, but we should seek His Kingdom first instead of worrying ourselves to death about those needs.

       31 “Therefore don’t be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘With what will we be clothed?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6:31-33 (WEB)

       We should have faith that God will provide for our needs as we seek His kingdom. This is something I struggle with myself, for Jesus’ words here are difficult to follow despite the freedom they offer. Our weak flesh leads us to worry even though Jesus has promised that God will meet our needs. We must remember that God desires and has the power to meet our needs. He has given us eternal life in Christ, and He will not withhold what we need when we seek Him.

       My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19 (WEB)

God Prospers Us So We Can Give Generously

       God also blesses us to meet our spiritual needs and the physical and spiritual needs of others. We see another purpose for prosperity clearly illustrated in the Bible – namely the purpose of generous giving.

       In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul is asking the Corinthian church to complete their desire to give to the poor Christians in Jerusalem who were suffering from a famine. He provides wonderful counsel for the Christians in Corinth about God’s ability to bless them so they can be a blessing:

       7 Let each man give according as he has determined in his heart; not grudgingly, or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that you, always having all sufficiency in everything, may abound to every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has scattered abroad, he has given to the poor. His righteousness remains forever.”

       10 Now may he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness; 11 you being enriched in everything to all liberality, which works through us thanksgiving to God. 12 For this service of giving that you perform not only makes up for lack among the saints, but abounds also through many givings of thanks to God; 13 seeing that through the proof given by this service, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the Good News of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all; 14 while they themselves also, with supplication on your behalf, yearn for you by reason of the exceeding grace of God in you. 15 Now thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!

2 Corinthians 9:7-15 (WEB)

       Paul explains to the Corinthians that God is able to meet all our needs so that we may focus on being generous and doing good things in His name. God prospers us so that we will have the opportunity to give generously. It is up to us to use that opportunity to honor Him instead of following the Worldly path of honoring ourselves.

       Even though the “prosperity gospel” is false, there are small nuggets of truth in it that get warped into something ungodly. God desires to bless us so He can meet our needs – both physical and spiritual. But wealthy Christians are called not to merely go through life enjoying the wealth God has blessed them with but to use that wealth to honor God and help others.

       When God makes Christians rich, it isn’t for our own benefit only – it’s so we can glorify His name by being obedient to our confession of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Our response to that Good News should be unending thankfulness and amazing generosity. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

       After reading through my articles on tithing in the Bible, you might be wondering exactly how you should give. So here are some Biblical guidelines for Christian giving.

1. Provide for Your Family’s Needs First

       Giving so much that you neglect your family’s needs can be dangerous unless you have a clear call from God to do so. Your first priority must be to care for the needs of your family. God has made it clear that this is His first priority as well:

       But if anyone doesn’t provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8 (WEB)

       Paul makes is clear that neglecting your family’s needs is a serious offense to God for a Christian – on the order of denying the faith and being worse than an unbeliever. That’s a pretty strong statement! Paul is speaking here about believers who have widows in their family who need help, but the concept would also apply to your own household. Meeting your family’s needs is one way we show the love of God. Giving while ignoring your family’s needs can be detrimental to your witness as a Christian unless you have decided as a family to purposely deny your needs in order to give. This verse makes it obvious that you must be certain it truly is God’s will for you to give if it will prevent you from meeting your family’s needs.

       However, the difficulty for Christians – especially those in wealthy countries, like America – is differentiating our wants from our needs. The line between a want and a need is often blurred in America. Is television a family need? Is eating out a family need? Is an expensive car a family need? Be careful that you do not mistake a want as a legitimate need.

       This idea should also include reasonably providing for future needs, which would include savings and insurance. Again, remember we’re talking about needs and not wants. Making sure you’ll be able to eat a decent, healthy meal when you can’t work any more is saving for a need. Saving so you can eat at five-star restaurants every night during retirement is not a need – it’s a want. Again, be sure you don’t mistake wants as needs. I can’t emphasize how important it is that we don’t confuse the two in trying to figure out what we can give.

       If you are so poor that you truly cannot meet your family’s needs and give at the same time, consider alternative ways to give. Giving your time as a volunteer or simply taking time to show God’s love to someone can actually be much more powerful than giving money.

2. Pay What You Owe

       After meeting your family’s needs, your next duty is to pay whatever you owe. Your giving should never put you in a position where you will fail to pay what you owe to others (debts, taxes, etc.). Breaking a vow or promise to pay so that you can give will not honor God.

       7 Give therefore to everyone what you owe: taxes to whom taxes are due; customs to whom customs; respect to whom respect; honor to whom honor. 8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:7-8 (WEB)

Note: “Honor” in verse 7 can also be translated as “money”, as in a debt you owe.

       It’s clear that you must first fulfill your obligations to pay anything you have promised to pay. I don’t take this verse to mean that you shouldn’t give at all if you are in debt. Most debt agreements require that you make a certain minimum payment – and that is an obligation you must keep.

       If you are deeply in debt but able to meet your family’s needs and make your minimum payments, you will need to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit to determine how much of your extra should be given away and how much should go toward repaying your debt. Debt is not a sin, but it’s not necessarily a good thing either because of the burdens it can create.

       Being free of debt can enable you to give even more, but the decision to completely stop giving in order to get out of debt is something you must personally discuss with God through prayer. Scripture is clear that you must at least meet the payments you have agreed to make, but beyond that I can give you no guidelines about such a situation.

3. Give Generously to Anyone in Need (Even Your Enemies)

       After you’ve followed those first two guidelines the only instructions we have as Christians are to give generously to anyone in need (even our enemies). We should give willingly, cheerfully, and out of love.

       You’re not going to find a specific percentage or amount in the New Covenant that dictates how much a Christian should give. Our example for giving is Jesus, who gave everything generously and sacrificially – even while we were still sinners rejecting God. The only standards we have are to take care of our family’s needs, pay what we owe, and then give generously to the needy with the right motives in our hearts. Here’s what the Bible says:

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

Matthew 5:42 (WEB)

       He answered them, “He who has two coats, let him give to him who has none. He who has food, let him do likewise.”

Luke 3:11 (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)

       Therefore, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

Romans 12:20 (WEB)

       Let each man give according as he has determined in his heart; not grudgingly, or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.

2 Corinthians 9:7 (WEB)

       But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and closes his heart of compassion against him, how does the love of God remain in him?

1 John 3:17 (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)

       If I dole out all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but don’t have love, it profits me nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:3 (WEB)

       While those verses don’t tell you exactly how much you should give, they do make it clear that we, as Christians, are to be extremely generous for the right reasons (giving motivated by love for God or others). It’s also important to remember that just giving money isn’t enough to please God – right relationships are much more important:

       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)

       So what are we to do? How do we know how much to put in our “Giving” category when we make our budget? The answer is to commit yourself (and your money) to God first, then follow His Spirit’s guidance as to how much, to whom, and how often you should give. No, it’s not as simple as just saying give 10% and you’re good. But God’s desire isn’t for people who just follow a set of rules. God desires a personal relationship with each one of us – and good relationships require lots of time and communication.

       If you want to do some more in-depth reading about New Covenant giving, check out any of these articles:

       I pray this gives you a better idea of how Christian giving should look based on God’s Word. Please let me know your thoughts or questions in the comments below!

Not for Itching Ears

Corey —  December 31, 2009

       If you want to hear how the Bible can make you a millionaire, you’re in the wrong place. If you want to hear that you can give 10% and you’ve done your duty to God, you’re in the wrong place. If you want to hear how easy life is going to be as a Christian, you should go do another Google search because you’re not going to find that here.

       Provident Planning is not a place for people with itching ears.

       But if you want to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you’ve come to the right place. If you want to know what the Bible – not man – teaches about money, you’ve come to the right place. If you desire to be a lover of God rather than a lover of money, then I invite you to join me as I seek God’s Truth for personal finances.

       3 For the time will come when they will not listen to the sound doctrine, but, having itching ears, will heap up for themselves teachers after their own lusts; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside to fables.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 (WEB)

       A lot of the most popular teaching about personal finance for Christians emphasizes how Biblical financial principles can make you rich. This naturally appeals to many people because the love of money is so prevalent in our society. Those who teach how the Bible can make you rich while putting little emphasis on God’s true purpose for those riches are doing nothing but scratching the itching ears.

       God’s Word is not a guide on how to get rich and enjoy all the fine things of the World. God doesn’t want rich Christians to splurge on luxuries while their brothers and sisters die from hunger and thirst. The Gospel is not about how you can prosper in this life. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you can retire early.

       Jesus warned us of the dangers of greed. He taught us to give generously to anyone in need. He taught us to seek God’s Kingdom first – to make it our top priority in life. All of God’s Word testifies to the fact that our best life will be an eternal life in Heaven – not here on Earth. He has warned us that this life will be full of trials, tribulations, hard times, and difficulties. But He has promised us the most wonderful blessing – eternal life with Him for anyone who believes in His Son, Jesus Christ.

       3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine, and doesn’t consent to sound words, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, 4 he is conceited, knowing nothing, but obsessed with arguments, disputes, and word battles, from which come envy, strife, insulting, evil suspicions, 5 constant friction of people of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. Withdraw yourself from such.

1 Timothy 6:3-5 (WEB)

       Many false teachers talk about how God will bless you if you’re a Christian. Or they tell you to send them a love gift or plant a seed and God will pour out miraculous financial blessings for you. These people do not teach the whole Word of God! We are to have nothing to do with those who twist the Scriptures for their own financial gain or teach a gospel different from the one Jesus taught.

       As Christians, we are rich – but you can’t measure our wealth in dollars. We have eternal life with God as our promised reward for faith in Jesus. That reward outweighs anything you can imagine for yourself in this life – and that reward is why contentment and giving should be our primary concerns when it comes to money. Reflect on these words from the Bible:

       6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can’t carry anything out. 8 But having food and clothing, we will be content with that.

       9 But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

       11 But you, man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith. Lay hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you confessed the good confession in the sight of many witnesses. 13 I command you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate testified the good confession, 14 that you keep the commandment without spot, blameless, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; 15 which in its own times he will show, who is the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and eternal power. Amen.

       17 Charge those who are rich in this present world that they not be haughty, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on the living God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy; 18 that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 19 laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold of eternal life.

1 Timothy 6:6-19 (WEB)

       So if you want to learn what God says about money and what the Bible teaches about personal finance, then please sign up for free updates to Provident Planning. And if you ever find me teaching anything contrary to the Scripture or the Gospel of Jesus Christ, please contact me and let me know.

       But if you just want someone to tell you the things you want to hear, you’ll have to go somewhere else to get your ears scratched.