We tend to give in areas of personal passion or to places we care about. But is it possible we have this a bit backward? Isn’t it important to put God at the center of the equation and see what he thinks? How do you decide where to give?
And how do we determine what God thinks in such a unique time as right now?
God cares about each of us. He allows us to steward financial resources for his glory and our good. He knows that as we glorify him out of gratitude for his gifts to us, we experience true life. And he desires that we reflect his generosity through our giving.
If we make obedience to God and reflecting his love to the world our supreme motivation, then giving comes into view as an excellent context to glorify God. So, what are the things we can support from the resources he has entrusted to our care to glorify him?
Where does God tell us to give?
God’s Word is not silent on this topic. I see three geographic areas for us to target, and two things to support in six specific areas. Acts 1:8 gives us a glimpse of three areas where we will be witnesses for Christ. Picture this as concentric circles: Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth.
This is instructive for us when we’re thinking about our giving, too. Jerusalem identifies what is local. Judea, for Jesus’ disciples, meant going further and broadening the scope of their work to bring the message of the gospel to everyone. Samaria meant going somewhere they wouldn’t have gone had Jesus not chosen to send them, and the ends of the earth was as far as they could go.
What about you? Are you strategic enough in your giving to think where you are giving locally, nationally, and internationally? God has a heart for all three.
Next, there are two things that God’s Word tells us will last forever. We can safely assume that God cares deeply about both of them. Those two things are God’s Word and people.
We can give toward God’s Word, by supporting the translation, distribution, teaching, and preaching of the Scriptures. We can give toward God’s people by supporting workers spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to those who have not yet heard it (3 John 5-8). Such giving undoubtedly glorifies God.
To whom does God tell us to give
While the Bible does not spell everything out in as much detail as we might like, when it comes to people, it does give us a few more clear instructions about where (or to whom) we should give. In the Bible, six groups of people surface repeatedly as recipients of giving. God seems to have these groups on his heart. Perhaps we should, too!
- Care for the poor and oppressed
God has a special concern for the poor “in need,” especially those within the Christian community (1 John 3:16-17 and many other texts). Specifically, Scripture identifies orphans and widows (Deuteronomy 10:18-19; James 1:27), the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, prisoners (Matthew 25:34-40), the poor (Deuteronomy 15:7-8, Proverbs 14:31, 19:17), the refugee (Leviticus 19:33-34; Matthew 25:35, and also victims of calamity (Luke 10:30-37; Acts 11:27-30).
- Christian workers
We give to provide financially for pastors and teachers (Galatians 6:6; 1 Corinthians 9:7-14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18) and to support missionary work (Philippians 4:15-19).
- Family members
We must care for our immediate family (1 Timothy 5:4, 8, 16) and remember our larger Christian family (1 Timothy 6:6-8).
- Government officials
We should give what we owe to the government, even if we think our taxes are unfair. God has put civil “authorities” in place, and we financially empower them to do their job (Romans 13:6-7).
- Those who advance God’s kingdom
This brings us full circle to any other giving that reflects the love of Jesus. For example, the Jerusalem collection showed Christian care to the ancient world (1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9).
- Where he calls you
There may be times when you sense God’s strong call to give to a certain cause, whether through a Christian-run or secular organization, or even directly to a person. When you walk with God, you may sometimes develop a very sharp sense for where he is asking you to share financial resources. See how this sense grew sharper for one giver as he obeyed God’s nudges.
Finally, there is a group we are called on to show our generosity through prayer. This type of giving sets Christian generosity apart. Jesus gave to us when we were his enemies. He calls us, in turn, to love our enemies, to do good to them and pray for them (Luke 6:27-36). This includes even those who may oppose us (Romans 12:20).
My best advice is to focus on laying up treasure in such a way that it aligns our hearts with the heart of God. These categories don’t exhaust the things to which Christians may give, but they point us to support what God cares about locally, nationally, and internationally while giving us room for creative freedom. And more creative thinking may be needed when God is calling you to something specific.
Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). So, my best advice is to focus on laying up treasure in such a way that it aligns our hearts with the heart of God. I’m not sure there is anything that could lead to greater joy.
This text was adapted from Purposeful Living: Financial Wisdom for All of Life, compiled by Gary G. Hoag and Tim Macready.