What is the purpose of wealth? How does having wealth relate to Christian giving and Christian philanthropy?
Money For What?
Everybody would like to have more money. If you had more money what would you do with it? Would you pay off your mortgage? Would you use it to get out of debt? Suppose you were debt free; then what would you do with more money? Would you buy a bigger house? Would you buy a nicer car? Colossians 1:16 says:
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. (NIV) (emphasis added)
We have what we have at God's pleasure and not our own in order to accomplish God's purposes and not our own.
Called To A Higher Purpose
As Christians, we are called to reflect the character of Jesus Christ. Romans 8:29a states:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son... (NIV)
Jesus's character was marked by giving. He willingly gave up his life so that we might enjoy eternal life with Him (See John 10:14-18). Therefore we too ought to be willing to give for the sake of others.
We are good stewards when we manage our material goods according to God's principles, and demonstrate God's love towards others. Since God owns everything anyway, (see Psalm 24:1) we are only stewards, or caretakers, of what God has entrusted to us. Randy Alcorn says that, "The steward manages assets for the owner's benefit. The steward maintains no sense of entitlement to the assets he manages. It is the stewards job to find out what the owner wants done with his assets and then carry out his will."1Christian giving is about understanding how God would have us use our resources and being obedient to that.
What About Tithing?
Many questions surround tithing and yet tithing is part of Christian giving. Some people will say that tithing is an Old Testament thing and not applicable in New Testament times. Others question tithing on net versus gross income. Still others wonder about tithing their time or talents instead of their money. Let's take a look at all three areas.
Old Testament Vs. New Testament
It is true that tithing originated in the Old Testament. After Abram rescued his nephew, Lot, he gave 10% of everything to the Melchizedek, king of Salem, who brought out bread and wine and blessed Abram (See Genesis 14). This is the origin of the tithe. Some will claim that Jesus did away with the old covenant and therefore we are not bound by the old covenant law. That may be true but the old testament law said thou shall not murder. That law still stands. In fact, Jesus raised the bar. He said that whoever hates his brother is guilty of murder (see Matthew 5:21-22). A person's heart matters as much as a person's actions.
Net Vs. Gross
The late co-founder of Crown Financial Ministries, Larry Burkett, was once asked if a person should tithe on their net or gross income. He gave a somewhat amusing response. He said, "It depends on whether you want to be blessed on the net or the gross." While that is a somewhat amusing response and may hold some truth, I think there is a better response. Proverbs 3:9 says:
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;(NIV)
When I get a paycheck, before I even see the check, the government has already taken out taxes. They want the firstfruits of my labor. And that is what they get if I tithe on the net. When I tithe on my gross income I am giving the Lord the firstfruits of my labors.
Time & Talents, Not Money
Some people have asked me about tithing on their time and talents instead of their money. People have asked me this because it is easier for them to part with their time and talents more than their money. I think that they ought to be tithing on their time and talents as well as their money. Jesus said in Matthew 6:21
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NIV)
Jesus is far more interested in capturing our hearts than our money. When our Christian giving includes a tithe on our income we are showing Jesus just how much we trust Him to take care of us; particularly when things are very tight.
Give God Your Best
Christian giving is about giving God your very best, not your left-overs. Imagine inviting a bunch of guests over for dinner and Jesus is one of those guests. You seat Jesus at the place of honor, at your right hand. You pick up the platter of meat, take a little and pass it to your left. The platter goes around the table, with each guest taking some, and by the time that the platter arrives at Jesus' place there are merely a few scraps left. You begin to offer some left-over meatloaf from the night before as a substitute.
Jesus Loves You
Now I know that you are as offended at the thought of giving Jesus your left-overs as I am and you would never do that. But that is exactly what you are doing when you fail to tithe. Jesus is getting whatever is left-over after you have paid the mortgage, bought groceries, and paid the utility bills. Jesus loves you and has promised to take care of you (John 14:18). You allow Jesus to demonstrate His love and care for you when you trust Him with your tithe; when your Christian giving reflects a dependence on Him.
What About Charitable Giving?
Giving to charities is a good thing but should never replace our tithe. We are commanded to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse/church (see Malachi 3:10-11). It is the church's responsibility to take care of the poor and needy not the government. I think that we as the church need to take back our mandate from the government.
Evaluate Your Charities
If you desire to donate to charities outside your church and don't know which ones to support, I would suggest that the best charities to support are those charities for which you have a passion. Also do your due diligence and make sure that the organization is worthy to receive your hard earned money. You can go to
American Institute of Philantrhopy
for information on hundreds of non-profit organizations both religious and non-religious in nature. The key in all of your Christian giving is to be sensitive to what God is calling you to and being obedient to that.
1The Treasure Principle Workshop DVD, 2004, Randy Alcorn & Howard Dayton from
Crown Financial Ministries
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Biblical Personal Budgeting Homepage from Christian Giving
How To Make A Budget from Christian Giving