How to GIVE
Richard Foster, stated in his book Money, Sex and Power:
When we give money, we are releasing a little more of our egocentric selves and a little more of our false security. Giving frees us to care. It produces an air of expectancy as we anticipate what God will lead us to give. It makes life with God an adventure of discovery. We are being used to help make a difference in the world, and that is worth living for and giving for.1
Jesus shares with me the importance of how I should view my possessions. He teaches me how I should view my money. He shares some principles about my money.
THREE PRINCIPLES ABOUT MY POSSESSIONS
My possessions are temporary.
““Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy…” (Matthew 6:19, CSB)
Jesus shows us that there is life beyond this life on Earth. There is an afterlife, and our possessions will not follow us there. So, possessions are temporary.
My possessions can be a trap.
““Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth…where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19, CSB)
““No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24, CSB)
Jesus knew that people could treasure their possessions. This is where a person gets trapped. When a person makes the possessions the priority in life, it can trap us. Jesus warns me about laying up treasures. He says that the money and possession I have today can be easily destroyed.
My possessions can be transferred.
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20, CSB)
This is the thrust in this passage. Money is not meant to be hoarded. Instead, my money and possessions are meant to be passed on. I can’t take money with me when I die. So learn to give it away.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, CSB)
Your treasure reveals your heart. How you treat your money shows what you really believe and how you will behave. A Christian will be a giver, not a taker. A Christian will use the money in the way that Jesus here. Their priorities will be eternal, not earthly. What are the priorities when it comes to giving? There are four priorities that the Bible lays out for how to give my money away. Let me share with you four priorities.
FOUR PRIORITIES FOR MY MONEY
God and His church come first
God gives me the ability to make money and have possessions. Since God is the source of all that I have materially, I need to think about Him first. The Bible lays out this principle in Genesis.
Cain and Able gave a sacrifice of a portion of their respective harvests.
“In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also presented an offering—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but he did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent.” (Genesis 4:3–5, CSB)
Abraham gave ten percent of what he received as a result of winning a war.
“He blessed him and said: Abram is blessed by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and blessed be God Most High who has handed over your enemies to you. And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (Genesis 14:19–20, CSB)
The Bible consistently shows that after I receive a possession or money, I am too give some of it back to God. Malachi shares with us the idea that there is a storehouse where I give part of my possessions.
““Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me!” “How do we rob you?” you ask. “By not making the payments of the tenth and the contributions.” (Malachi 3:8, CSB)
“Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in my house. Test me in this way,” says the Lord of Armies. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure.” (Malachi 3:10, CSB)
Many of you think that the church only wants your money. But stop and think about this mentality. When you go to the grocery store, do you say, this store just wants my money? When you go buy a new car, do you say, General Motors just wants my money? When you go to the mall, do you say, the mall just wants my money? You don’t say that about the grocer. You don’t say that about the dealership. You don’t say that about the mall. Why? Because that’s not the issue. The issue is that you need food and the grocery store has food. The value you place on the food you need makes it legitimate for you to pay for the food you receive. You need a car so it makes sense to buy a vehicle to get you where you need to go. You need clothes, so you go to the mall in order to find what you need. In other words, it’s not that these places just want your money, but they are indeed providing something you absolutely need.
We need God. We need spiritual help. We need spiritual light. We need training for our children. We need to know God’s way. If we can go to the grocery store for physical food, then we ought to be willing to come to the house of God for spiritual food without whining about it. The question is not, does the church want my money. The question is, does the church serve good food.2
Invest in myself so that others can use it when I am goneAfter you give money to God and His work in your local church, you should put some of that money away.
THREE LEVELS OF SAVINGS
Short-term Emergency Fund
At this level of saving, you put a small amount of money in the bank account. This is your “rainy day” fund. This money is to be used only in emergencies.
This is a set of savings for the long-term. One starts with a larger emergency fund. Most experts say you should set aside 6-9 months of your expenses. This is a larger emergency fund. It serves as a long-term set of savings. The more money you have saved in this fund, the less likely you are going to encounter problems that you can’t solve.
An example of this was when Joseph urged Pharaoh to save grain for the seven years of famine. There were seven good years. But in the following seven years were famine. The only reason that Egypt (and everyone else who came to Egypt, including the people of Israel) survived those lean seven years was because of a long-term savings. This Bible story reveals the power of saving and how it can help you (and others) when times are lean.
Another form of long-term saving is what you plan to live on in retirement. You have Social Security from the government that you have saved. However, that won’t be enough. You buy a house as a long-term investment. You save extra money that you invest for retirement. It sounds like it is hard to do but it can be done.
If you spend all of your life working and have nothing left over, then that means somehow you have failed in your work—barring something catastrophic. If for year after year and decade after decade, you are still living from paycheck to paycheck, then you have made some decisions in your life that have been generated by Madison Avenue and not by the kingdom of God.3
This is money that you should be able to give away to your family. This is why I call it legacy savings. You make plans to give away after you are gone. Perhaps it is a house that you have bought. Maybe it is money you set aside, or life insurance you have bought. You need to make a plan to take care of expenses for others when you are gone. You need to write a will. You need to make a plan for who will inherit what you have after you are gone, no matter the size of your estate.
Volunteer my money to the Holy Spirit’s leadership
I give some of my money to God and I save some money for my use in emergencies and in the future. I should have some money to use as God leads me. The Holy Spirit will show me opportunities where God feels I should give my money.
Jesus gives a warning here about the eye. He says that my eyes can lead me in the wrong direction when it comes to my possessions and money.
““The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22–23, CSB)
The danger here is similar to the danger that everyone encounters when they lead with their eyes. It happened to Eve. She was tempted by what she saw.
“The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:6, CSB)
It started with her eyes. She saw something and was tempted to react to what she saw. We have to go from being tempted to be led by what we see when it comes to our desires with money. Impulse buying is dangerous. This is the opposite to being led by the Holy Spirit. Our eyes are deceiving. The Holy Spirit is always truthful.
This money is separate from the ten percent to the church. Instead, this money is up and beyond that. Remember that Malachi said that there were “tithes” and “contributions.” The tithes were the tenth for God and His work. The contributions are monies that are used at the leading of the Holy Spirit. This kind of giving is when we have a need in the church. We ask you to give beyond your ten percent. Perhaps someone lost their home and they need help. You sense that the Holy Spirit shows you that you can help. You obey that leading when you give.
Enjoy using money to bless yourself and others
You have given to God, invested for emergencies, and given money when the Holy Spirit shows you. There are also times when you give your money to bless yourself and others. If you have paid all your debts, and paid all your bills, and you have money left over, you can bless yourself. There is nothing wrong with that. But it can only be available after all else has been paid.
God is a giving God. He wants me to be a giving person. When I learn to give, I learn to be more like the person God made me to be.
1 Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 100. Originally from: Richard J. Foster, Money, Sex and Power (Harper, 1985).
2 Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 212.
3 Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 212.