When You Give

leaning treeTwo of a mans most precious commodities are his time and his money. For the average man both are difficult to come by and even harder to keep. For that reason we tend to be very particular about what we do with both and who we allow to impose upon our supply.

The American Revolution was sourced out of the Colonists resistance to taxation without representation. It’s safe to say that their jealousy for their time and treasure is what fueled the Revolution. They refused to allow King George to take their money and waste their time while offering nothing in return.

It’s a fundamentally American trait. We don’t want anyone to make demands on our time or our money without adequate reason or our consent. So it’s no surprise that most American Christians are resistant to their Pastors and Bible Teachers encouraging them to give of their finances to their local church.

Jesus addresses our habits of giving and gives us instruction in The Sermon on The Mount when He says,

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4 ESV)

Jesus tries to change our point of view when it comes to giving. He wants us to take our eyes off of the temporary and instead focus on the eternal. Giving helps us fight the lure of the immediate in favor of the promise of the eternal.

When we give of our finances to the Kingdom of God our eyes are not on the Earth but on Heaven. We use our finances as a tool to help us realign our hearts with the things that really matter. Jesus explains further in the sixth chapter of Matthew,

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

There are two truths here. First, what you give to God is never lost! The treasure that you commit to His trust cannot be taken from you. Investments in this life can be broken, be lost, be undervalued, devalued and stolen. However, whatever you invest in the Kingdom of God is secure “where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal”.

The second truth is that giving is an indicator of the inclination of your heart and the inclination of your heart matters. If a tree is going to fall, it’s going to fall the direction it leans. Jesus wants us to lean towards Heaven and our habits of giving is an indicator of that inclination, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. That’s why 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “God loves a cheerful giver”. He wants giving to change the inclinations of our heart and replace duty with joy!

We were created for Gods glory. Furthermore, everything I do for Gods glory will also serve my joy. That’s the way God designed us to be most fulfilled and most at peace. That’s one of the reasons that Jesus prayed that our joy may be full (John 16:24). Because our joy is an indicator that we’re living our life for Gods glory.

Giving is for joy!

So, WHEN YOU GIVE:

Jesus said, “WHEN you give”, not “if”. The implication is that His disciples will be giving people. Giving is evidence of faith. It takes faith to give God a portion of your finances. Faith that the remainder will be enough to meet your needs and faith that God can do more with less! Knowing how important and necessary money is to every person it is no wonder that Jesus calls giving “the practice of righteousness” (Matt.6:1,ESV).

Jesus goes on to say, when you give, don’t give to be seen of men. The aim of someone who gives ostentatiously and explicitly is to be seen of men is to look pious and religious, to procure a reputation among their peers and community of being a righteous person because, again, giving is what Jesus called “the practice of righteousness”. Jesus calls that hypocrisy.

Our giving should be sourced out of our love for God and our love for our neighbor. Giving itself is not the goal but rather giving that is sourced from genuine heart change.

John the Baptist gives instruction regarding repentance in Luke 3. He gives his listeners three ways to show the “fruits of repentance”.

1) Share food & clothes with the poor (vs.11).
2) Tax collectors shouldn’t take more than they’re allowed (vs. 13).
3) Soldiers should be content with their wages & not extort money (vs.14).

Notice, they’re all related to how they handled money and possessions!

So now we have been presented with giving as the “fruit of repentance” and “the practice of righteousness”. Giving is important to the spiritual health of every believer!

The point of giving is genuine heart change, evidenced by a persons giving of their finances. We see this illustrated in a great way in Luke 19 in the life of Zacchaeus. After talking with Jesus, Zacchaeus the tax collector decided his life needed to change.

“And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I [will] restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house…” (Luke 19:8-9, ESV)

Zacchaeus had not repented yet. He had not yet been baptized. But Jesus viewed his commitment to generosity as evidence that there had been genuine heart change in Zacchaeus. When his heart towards giving changed Jesus said it was evidence that salvation had come to his house. Giving is about heart change.

Finally, Jesus goes on to teach His disciples to give as privately as possible. Privately to such a degree, that if you can prevent your left hand from knowing what your right hand is doing, do so when you give!

Jesus knew that the temptation is there to make a spectacle of the poor or the needy in the self interest of the givers reputation. In order to be seen as “practicing righteousness”, and gain a reputation as a generous person, some people would be inclined to make a public show of the poor and the less fortunate. It shows we are unconcerned for the dignity of the poor, we disrespect their personhood, when we make a spectacle of giving to them.

“Look at how poor they are, and how righteous we are, to be giving them these simple things they cannot even provide for themselves!” Jesus taught that is not the right spirit of giving.

He said to give privately. Avoid the show and the spectacle of generosity. That definitely means we shouldn’t post our generosity and giving on Facebook! He said give privately and our Father in Heaven will reward us openly. God rewards those who are givers, give cheerfully and give out of pure motives.

Randy Alcorn, in his bestselling book, The Treasure Principle, leaves us with six scriptural principles concerning giving.

  1. God Owns Everything and I Am His Money Manager
  2. My Heart Always Goes Where I Put God’s Money
  3. Heaven, Not Earth, Is My Home
  4. I Should Not Live Merely for the Moment but for Eternity
  5. Giving is the Only Antidote to Materialism
  6. God Prospers Me Not to Raise My Standard of Living, but to Raise My Standard of Giving

I don’t believe giving should be a chore. It should not be a duty. Giving should be a delight. Everything I do for God’s glory will also work for my joy and giving is one of those things. Giving is for joy.

One of the greatest steps of faith you can take is to trust God with your finances. If you do, be sure of this, He will bless those who bless His kingdom.

How To Go Broke At Christmas

I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey’s financial advice. I definitely recommend you check out his website and take advantage of the many resources he has available for financial counseling and Biblical money management and principles. His advice helped steer our family out of financial crisis during a very important time in our young marriage.

Dave recently posted blog entry with advice on how to go broke during the Christmas season. You can read his blog here or scroll below for Dave’s advice.

7 Ways to Go Broke This Season

If you’re trying to get out of debt, this time of year can easily become crazy and stressful. You want to go all out and have fun, but you know that “going all out” is what got you in trouble in the first place.

So what’s an early Baby Stepper to do?

What you need is a good plan—and, sometimes, a good plan is as much knowing what not to do as knowing what to do. Well, heed these warnings, regardless of what Baby Step you’re on! If you want to have a merry different Christmas, you might not want to do the following things:

1. Try to keep up with the Joneses.

That’s just not a good idea. The Joneses are broke. They have a lot of bills, ridiculous car payments and tricked-up mortgages. But at least they look good! Have you seen Mrs. Jones’ hair? Wow! That’s fancy! But despite the good hair, stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. You don’t need her hair, and you don’t want their debt following you into 2013.

2. Mistake Batman for food.

Come again? You need food. You need shelter. You need clothing. Your son doesn’t need the $100 remote-control Batmobile. Would that be awesome? Of course! But you don’t need it. Keep your priorities in focus during Christmas. Do what you can, and don’t spend more than you have—even if it’s an awesome Batmobile.

3. Give presents to everyone in your family.

Most of us simply can’t afford to give a $20 gift card to every brother, sister, aunt, uncle and cousin in the family tree. But we do it anyway. A lot of times, it’s out of some vague sense of guilt or obligation. Instead of giving something to everyone, you can have a family drawing where people draw names out of hat. Then, you’re only responsible for the person whose name you have drawn.

Plus, if it’s been a trend over the past few years to just exchange gift cards that everyone picks up at the last minute at the end-of-aisle kiosks, is it really meaningful and worth the effort?

4. Let the stores determine your plan.

The mall will suck you in and spit you out like a bad piece of fruitcake. Going to the mall without some type of plan of attack is like going to a donut factory without expecting to gain weight. If you don’t go in with a purpose, all the shiny, bright plastic stuff will draw you in like a moth to a flame. Make a plan and stick to it.

5.Cover every inch of your house and yard in lights.

There’s nothing wrong with a little festivity. Who doesn’t love seeing a house wrapped in lights on a cold December evening? But if your power bill triples during the Christmas season, and if you can’t seem to avoid buying 12 new inflatables for your yard every Christmas, then you might want to tone it down a bit.

6. Treat yourself to something nice … or two or three nice things.

You’d be surprised at how many people, while out gift shopping for others over the holidays, decide to buy something for themselves! Say what? This is why the previous point is so important—don’t go shopping without a plan! The mall will mock you if you attempt to enter its gates without a determined gaze and the willpower of a vegetarian in a steakhouse.

7. Travel long distances.

Nothing will make you go broke faster than trying to buy plane tickets for a family of five. And that’s just the cost of getting to where you want to go. On top of that, you’ve got lodging, food, a rental car—and, oh, don’t forget the presents! Again, it’s okay to travel. But don’t prioritize going to see the grandparents over providing for your family at Christmas—especially if you have kids. The grandparents are retired. Let them come see you.

You don’t have to buy into the commercial hype that says you must go shopping and come home with a dozen shopping bags and $1,000 in debt. That’s not smart. Or merry. Or festive. Or jolly. It’s just an all-around bad idea.

Do you have any additional advice for a family wanting to go broke this Christmas?

Why Give to World Missions?

Today, the least churched nations in the world are where Christianity was birthed. Missiologists speak of this area as the 10/40 Window. The 10/40 Window is made up of 28 Muslim Countries, 1.1 Billion population (est 2000), 2 Hindu Countries, 1.1 Billion population (est 2000), and 8 Buddhist Countries, 237 Million population (est 2000) totaling almost 2.5 Billion people with limited access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The 10/40 Window includes nations such as Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chad, China, Cyprus, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Gambia, Greece, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Western Sahara, and Yemen.

According to researchers the 10/40 Window constitutes 82% of the poorest of the world’s poor (per capita GNP less than US$500 per year), 84% of those with lowest quality of life (life expectancy, infant mortality, and literacy), the hub of the world’s major non-Christian religions (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.) close to 100% of those who are both most-poor and have least-access to Christian resources, the least Christian resource investment and least sharing of the Christian message.

These are all “Old World” nations (mostly in the eastern hemisphere) with at least 50 percent of their land mass falling within 10 to 40 degrees latitude. These are all nations that need a revival of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Violence, sickness, poverty and oppression that can only be broken by the Spirit of God dominate in this region of the world. Missionaries who leave the comforts of their home and families to evangelize these nations are deserving of our financial support.

Allow me to give you 10 Reasons why Christians should invest in the Kingdom of God by giving to missionaries.

1. Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. (John 14:6)

2. There are 1.6 Billion people who have never heard the Gospel. (Romans 10:14)

3. Jesus instructed us to send people to disciple all nations. (Matthew 9:38; Matthew 28:19)

4. God has blessed us so we can bless the nations with The Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Psalm 67:7)

5. It’s a secure, eternal investment. (Matthew 6:20; Rev. 7:9)

6. You’ll be blessed for giving to God’s work and His people. (Matt. 10:42; 2 Cor. 9:6)

7. Our missionaries are worthy of our support. (Matthew 10.10)

8. God is worthy of the worship of all nations. (Isa. 43:6-7)

9. It’s an act of grace. (2Cor. 8:1-15)

10. Everything we have belongs to God anyway. (Col. 1:16; Haggai 2:8; Psa. 50:12)

Please consider giving to Global Missions. Partner with a Missionary family or ministry. Jesus wants you to help reach the nations with His Gospel for His Glory.

Enough Is Enough

After an evening of watching television commercials one might easily be convinced that the American dream is to be in debt.
“That’s a little dramatic don’t you think?” Think again.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston there are 156 Million credit card holders in the United States and 576.4 Million open credit cards. That is 3.5 credit cards per person with an average balance of $3,000 per card. As of March 2010 the total U.S. revolving debt, 98% of which is made up of credit cards was $852.6 Billion dollars and total U.S. consumer debt was $2.42 trillion. That’s just the credit cards. That leaves unstated mortgages and vehicle loans.
When is enough enough?
The average American has 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2 cars and 1 big problem. We want, we buy, we charge, we consume. We end up in debt, stressed out, working more overtime, sacrificing our families because we have bills to pay. We miss watching our kids grow up and lose precious time with them to make sure we have the shiniest metal in the driveway and the most square feet in the best of neighborhoods and we call it all living the dream. We don’t know when enough is enough.
Famed Chicago architect Mies Van Der Rohe made famous the dictum “Less is more.” That may be true of the skyscrapers downtown but as far as the suburbs are concerned, more is better.
There must be a place in our lives where the contentment of enough takes over. A moment where we can step back and realize we have been blessed. Enough is enough.
I was particularly stressed some time ago over an amount of money that I needed to spend, did not want to spend and did not have to spend. I spent a day or two worrying about it and being generally irritable. Then I started to look around and realized just how blessed we were.
My wife and I have everything we need. I could have never dreamed of all the ways we’ve been blessed and had our needs met. We have a simple and comfortable home, two dependable vehicles and 2 beautiful children. We have friends whose company we enjoy and loved ones we are blessed to live near. For us, it’s enough.
Would we like more? Sure. If someone gave us a Cadillac Escalade, we’d take it!
Contentment is not synonymous with stagnation. Just because we are content does not mean I would not like a newer car, a more spacious home or more money in the bank. It does not mean we’ve given up trying or have decided to be proud of our poverty.
Our contentment means I will not sacrifice what really matters for those things that are just things. We will try to acquire what we need and what we would like as we are able. Until then, we can be satisfied and content in the blessings we enjoy all around us.
We have enough, and enough is enough.