Over the generations, across the world, and right to your local church family, there will be numerous examples of godly and generous givers. Among those who have given, are many who have given even at times of extreme poverty or hardship (Luke 21:1-4; 2 Cor 8:2). It is right and proper to be immensely thankful to God for these saints (maybe you are one such person). Under God, what has been given has served the gospel and those the gospel has reached for centuries. Godly giving, although rarely put on display, is a wonderful testimony to the power and gift of the gospel. Praise God.
So how should a Christian organise their godly giving?
Let’s look first at our priorities and then at the practical mechanics!
Godly Giving Priorities
The way people give often comes down to a question about priority. When it comes to financial giving it is not uncommon for Christians to organise their giving with the wrong order of priorities. At a basic level, it goes something like this:
Start with income
Then work out what is left over to give
Whilst it may still be a generous amount that is given, the point is that in thinking about expenses and/or savings before giving is an order with betrays a lack of willingness to share. That may sound harsh. But think about the priority that is being fed – income is what I earn, expenses is what I spend (on me), savings is what I retain (for me) and giving is what I give (to others) – hardly putting others before oneself!!
Perhaps a more sound (and dare I say Christian way) of ordering our priorities is to
Start with income
Prayerfully work out what you think you should give
Minus expenses and saving
If it does not add up, then it could be that expenses or savings are too high. I say that because generosity means very little unless it challenges the luxury of our own lives and comforts. It may mean that you need to cut back on expenses, or reduce the amount that you save, and then if it still does not add up, then your giving will need to be reviewed. Generously is not measured in the amount you give as much as it is measured by the sacrifices you make in giving.
Godly Giving Mechanics
Now let’s talk about the actual mechanics. What follows here is an attempt to show how the thinking behind godly giving takes place practically. Six steps to put theory into practice!
Step 1: Pray
Working out what to give, who to give it too, when and how to give are all good concerns and require a degree of godly wisdom. Alongside this should be a desire to be content in any and every situation (c.f. Phil 4:11-13). Contentment is something that needs to be prayed for (and learnt) as we set our hearts on the treasures of heaven. This whole exercise should be given to God in prayer.
Step 2: Work out your income.
Tax time is a good time to do this. Add up your gross income amount. Include in this figure whatever incoming funds you receive (e.g. wage, salary, government benefits, income from property or investments, bonuses etc.).
Step 3: Work out what Word-based ministries you want to support financially.
I say word based, because there are so many good organisations asking for money. If you cannot meaningfully support all, then one way to choose between them is to support those who are intentionally and unapologetically seeking to proclaim Christ through the proclamation of his Word.
They may be organisations of which you are a member, your church being to most obvious example. And they could be organisations which you have some kind of history or interest in supporting – a university or tertiary ministry, a mission organisation, a theological college, a ministry training organisation, a child sponsorship/s, an outreach ministry (i.e. to city workers, bush or school ministry, homeless mission) and the list could go on.
Step 4: Work out how much to give.
Now look at the numbers and work out what support you want to give to each of your chosen ministries starting with your church. Fairly quickly, you’ll work out that a ‘10% tithe’ is not going to stretch that far. Rather than working out how much you give based on a 10% guideline, just work out how much you want to give! The percentage is less important.
Step 5: Work out your costs – your expenses and expected expenses.
This is often where our personal comforts will be challenged. You know the amount that you want to give away (step 3) and so when this list of expenses gets added it will become quite clear if the numbers don’t add up! By looking at the costs you can work out what and if anything needs to be cut back. There are all sorts of expenses that can get the chop if needed.
This is a good step to work slowly and creatively through. Give some thought to what you spend – challenge what is necessary, what is a preference, and what is a luxury. Cutting back (reducing your spend), limiting (reducing your frequency), ceasing (stopping something) may all be options. You may also be able to work out ways to make costs cheaper (e.g. using vouchers, making rather than buying lunch, cashing in reward points etc).
Now, with this step, it may very well show that your necessary costs can not be covered. If that is the case, then you will need to return to Step 3 and reduce the amount that you intend to give.
Step 6: Adjust your electronic giving
In the country where I live, the ability to set up electronic giving is a gift. You have worked out both the organisations and the amounts to which you want to generously give, so setting up the electronic schedule means that you can set and enjoy – at least until tax time next year. Of course, knowing that you have a schedule set to ensure regular giving should not prevent you giving at will, for whatever gospel cause that comes across your path each year.
There you go. Not rocket science, but hopefully reflective of gospel priorities and a system that helps you to be godly in giving. How you organise your giving is up to you, but bear in mind: Christians are givers. We are called to be godly in giving. So be wise and intentional and generous for the sake of the gospel which saved you.
For other articles in this series:
Generous in Giving (Part 1 of 4)
Christians are givers! (Part 2 of 4)
Godly in Giving (Part 3 of 4)
How does a Christian Organise their Godly Giving? (this one)