The Word of God has more to say about finances than it does about heaven and hell. Jesus said trusting Him with our money was the least use of our faith (Luke 16:9-11). If we can't do that which is least, then we can't do the greater things. This is very important.
Before I get into teaching on finances, let me say that this week, I watched a fundraiser held by a Christian network, and I was appalled. I saw manipulation that makes con men look honest, and it was all done in the name of the Lord with tears and lots of hype. It really grieved me, as I know it would many of you.
But do you know what upset me the most? It wasn't the minister misrepresenting the Lord. That always has and always will happen. What's the chaff to the wheat (Jer. 23:28)? We keep our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2). What really upset me was that these tactics work.The body of Christ responds to this type of appeal with big bucks, and that's why ministers do this: It works. There are organizations receiving hundreds of millions of dollars per year through gimmicks, lies, and manipulation.
That says volumes about the immaturity in the body of Christ.
As I prayed about this, I felt like the Lord said to me, "How can My people mature in this area without teaching, because â€˜faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God' [Rom. 10:17]? So, if you want to see the body mature in this area, teach them." That's what I'm doing.
As I said in my opening paragraph, there is a lot of information in the Bible on this. So, I encourage you to get my six-CD album Financial Stewardship, which I began teaching on television at the end of April. It's free on our website, or you can order the CDs or DVDs for a gift of any amount. It will give a good foundation from God's Word on prosperity.
But in this letter, I want to focus specifically on what the Bible has to say about why, when, and where to give. A biblical perspective in these three areas would stop this silliness.
First, the motivation behind your gift is more important than your gift. This is the point being made in 1 Corinthians 13:3, which says,
"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."
The reason you give is more important than what or how much you give.
Any presentation that says you can buy God's blessing or the salvation of a loved one or some other positive result with your financial gift is using the wrong motive to get you to give. It is true that the widow gave Elijah all she had and that her needs were supernaturally supplied for the next three years as a result. But 1 Kings 17:9 says, "I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee." The Lord had commanded her to sustain Elijah. This wasn't about getting her needs met, although that did happen; she was giving to help the man of God.
It's also true that Cornelius' gifts came up before God as a memorial (Acts 10:4), but it was his faith that pleased God (Heb. 11:6). His giving was just a manifest token of his faith and trust in the Lord. God's blessings cannot be bought (Acts 8:18-20).
It is true that when we give, the Lord will give back to us a hundredfold in this lifetime (Mark 10:30), but giving only to get is the wrong motivation. God prospers us so we can establish His kingdom (Deut. 8:18), give to those in need (Eph. 4:28), and abound unto every good work (2 Cor. 9:8). We do need to expect to receive when we give, primarily so we will be resupplied and able to give more. However, the emphasis should be on giving, not receiving. It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). We should live to give and not give to live.
Second, there has been a lot of misunderstanding about when we should give. Many Christians only give after all their needs have been met. But the Scriptures teach that our gifts are first fruits (Prov. 3:9). That means the first thing we do when we receive money is to honor the Lord by giving a portion of it to His work. Anything less is not honoring the Lord.
Also, some of us are taught only to give at the specific command of the Lord. Of course, God's Word is His instruction, and we shouldn't have to have an audible voice to give us further direction. There are times when the Lord will specifically direct our giving, but it's not all the time.
The Scripture says,
"As he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).
What if the only time our children ever told us they loved us was when we told them to tell us? It is true that we have to teach our children to say things like "Thank you" and "I love you." We do lead them into things like that, and the Lord does lead us to give at times. But all parents long for the day when those responses come out of their children's hearts spontaneously. Likewise, the Lord wants us to give as we desire to give, not under pressure.
So, when we are condemned into giving or made to feel guilty if we don't give, that's the wrong time to give. I had a friend who once gave $1,000 to a minister just so he and everyone else could leave. The minister said he wouldn't let anyone go until their goal was reached. After three offerings, they were still $1,000 short, so my friend gave the $1,000 just to get out of there.
I would never give in a situation like that. That's rewarding negative behavior. It's like casting a vote and saying, "I like it. Do it again even more." Every time we give to a minister who is manipulating us, it's like casting a vote for that type of treatment. We have no right to murmur and complain when we voted for the thing we are upset about.
Third, concerning where we should give, that's the easiest one of all. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:7-11, Galatians 6:6, 1 Timothy 5:17-18, and many other scriptures, that you are to give where you are fed. You don't eat at McDonald's but go over to Wendy's to pay. You pay where you eat. Likewise, you are to give where you are fed.
Malachi 3:10 reads,
"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."
I've heard many ministers use that verse to teach that your tithes belong to your local church, and offerings above your tithes go to other ministries and benevolence work. I agree with that if your church is truly a storehouse. A storehouse is where you keep your food or go to get food.
The local church is the backbone of God's work here on earth. There are ways that a local church can feed you that no other ministry can. You can't call me in the middle of the night or have me perform your child's wedding or help counsel them. You need the fellowship of other believers. I can't offer you that, but the local church can.
But, how many of us realize we don't live in a perfect world where every church is meeting the needs of the people who attend? There are people who go to church every week and never get fed. In fact, I have many people tell me they are starving or being poisoned in their local churches, and they are living off my teaching.
It's wrong to get fed in one place and give your tithes and offerings to another place. If you aren't in a local church that truly feeds you, then get out of there and find a good one. Then give your tithes to that church and your offerings to other ministries. But if you can't find a good church or, for other reasons, are staying put in a dead church, don't give your money there. You are subsidizing them.
I can guarantee you that those who use gimmicks and condemnation to manipulate are not truly feeding God's people. Mainstream religion is not feeding people. If the body of Christ was to purify their motives in giving, give only when they can do it cheerfully and not out of guilt, and give where they are truly fed, then those who aren't feeding God's flock would have to repent or go out of business. Also, true ministers and churches that are actually feeding the body of Christ would have more money than they needed.
For instance, our Gospel Truth television broadcasts are available to three billion people on the planet. If only 1 percent of them actually watched our programs, that would be thirty million people. If only 10 percent of them actually received, that would be three million people per day who are blessed. A one-dollar-per-month gift would nearly double our income. It's that simple.
Every ministry that is truly reaching people would have similar results. The only exception I can think of is the ministries that minister to those who can't give, such as missionaries or those helping the poor. Those are what I call benevolence ministries, and they need gifts from those who aren't fed directly by them.
I used my chapel hour in Charis Bible College this week to teach on this very subject, "Why, When, and Where to Give." It really blessed the students. I think this teaching would bless you and help you be more discerning in this area. Also, I'm sure you know some people who have bad attitudes about giving because of the abuses they've seen. I think this would be a great way to get them past these hurts and help them to begin receiving God's best in this area of finances.