Archives For January 2010

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.
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  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.)
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  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.
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  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!

My Beliefs

Corey —  January 6, 2010

       I assume anyone who spends more than a few seconds on Provident Planning will realize I am a Christian. But in case you didn’t know – I am a Christian.

       You may wonder exactly what I believe or what “flavor” of Christian I am. So I thought I’d write up this post about my beliefs and background so you’ll know where I’m coming from.

       As a child, I attended a Baptist church until I was around 13. During high school and college, I attended non-denominational churches. Now I am a member of a Mennonite church, specifically Mechanic Grove Mennonite Church in Quarryville, Pennsylvania. No, I don’t drive a horse and buggy. We’re what you would call “moderate” Mennonites. GotQuestions.org has a short article about who the Mennonites are, what they believe, and the various types if you’re interested. You can find more in-depth information at Third Way Cafe’s page on “Who Are the Mennonites?”.

       If you really want to know my beliefs in depth, you can check out the Mennonite Confession of Faith. (Note: My church does not emphasize the veiling of women or the holy kiss. Some members follow it and some do not.) However, I also agree with the simple statement of faith that can be found on GotQuestions.org’s website, and I would consider anyone who agrees with me on these issues to be a true follower of Christ. (Though I’m not as insistent as they are about the proper mode of baptism, and I don’t agree with their views on non-violence for Christians.)

       As always, if you have any questions or comments, you can contact me or leave a comment below.

       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!

New to Provident Planning?

Corey —  January 1, 2010

       If you’re new to Provident Planning (and even if you’re not new), I’d like to invite you to check out my Start Here page. You’ll find an organized list of foundational articles that will help you understand what Provident Planning is all about. Thanks for reading!