As a financial educator and speaker I am asked all sorts of questions:
How do I start a budget? Why do I need to cut up my credit cards? Do you really think I earn enough to be debt free? There is one question I’m rarely asked in a public setting, but I know many in our churches think about:
How do I resolve the struggle of giving properly or surviving?
How do church members reconcile giving or paying their house note?
Giving or keeping their lights on? Giving or eating?
1 Timothy 5:8 clearly tells us if we do not take care of our own house we are worse than a non-believer, but this should not be the basis of the argument for giving or not.
We all know we are supposed to put God first financially, but the reality of giving within our churches tells a different story. The Empty Tomb Inc. reports that member giving as a percent of income is 2.38, meaning “tithing” among Christians is under 3 percent. I’m not sure how you can “tithe” 3 percent, but that’s for another time.
Seventy percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. The personal savings rate is negative 0.5 percent. Credit card and student loan debt is steadily climbing. These are the same people that attend church every week. They sit next to us, they worship and sing with us, and, if we’re honest, they are us.
I submit that we need to change our mindset on the issue. The truth of the matter is we’re not giving, and we’re not surviving. The struggle is not between giving and surviving; it’s between debt and surviving!
If all the money we have coming in has someone else’s name on it, how do we expect to be able to give? God and the church are not hindrances to our survival; lifestyle choices, bad money management and debt usually are. After life gets a hold of our finances, there’s simply not enough left over to give to our local churches.
Mismanagement of the 100 percent leaves no room for giving at the level many of us desire to. If we cannot survive on 100 percent, how can we expect to survive on 90 percent and fund the work of God’s kingdom properly?
So how do we fix the problem? We have to break free from the bonds of debt (Proverbs 22:7, Romans 13:8). Establish and live on a written budget (Luke 14:28). Save (Proverbs 21:20). Re-evaluate our lifestyles and see what we can change (Ephesians 5:15-16). When we are in a better stewardship position- managing God’s resources, God’s way- giving is a natural byproduct.
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