My final entry on the subject of Christian giving and fundraising…
Over the past few weeks we have considered the contentious issue of Christian giving and fundraising. That it is so contentious is a sad commentary on our biblical preaching and teaching on the matter. In this, my final blog on the subject, I would like to summarize and set forth a few principles that might serve to guide our practices. (It should be noted that this is by no means an exhaustive list or Scriptural exposition.)
Some principles for CHRISTIAN FUNDRAISING
The Bible Should Not Be Wielded as a Cudgel—Some of the most impassioned preaching I have ever heard is on the issue of money, but this is seldom to the credit of the preacher. One should not shirk the responsibility of teaching on those passages that emphasize Christian giving, but we should not abuse people in the process of doing it. They should not be coerced.
Seek Funding from Christians, Not Unbelievers—This one is a bit nuanced. In III John 7, the Apostle instructs us to take “nothing from the Gentiles.” In other words, they did not seek funding from the unconverted. Superficially, this seems like an impractical injunction. Who cares, some may ask, where the money comes from if it furthers the cause? They did not, however, accept support from non-Christians because it might be injurious to the Gospel. What motive has an unbeliever in giving to a Christian ministry? Is he buying favor with God? He may think so, and your acceptance of such monies may contribute to his prolonged spiritual darkness. Furthermore, the biblical command to give does not apply to the unbelieving.
But the matter is, as I have said, nuanced. In Ezra, King Darius is petitioned for material assistance in the rebuilding of the House of God. Darius gave it. Nehemiah asks much the same of King Artaxerxes in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and he receives it. These were hardly Christian kings. On the contrary, they were pagans. So what are we to make of this?
The principle at work here seems to be that the Jews could, in good conscience, receive this governmental assistance because a) the law sanctioned it, and b) there were no strings attached. To use a modern parallel, a friend related to me how the government of a third world country asked a team of Christian missionaries to run the state orphanages in addition to those operated by the missionaries. So impressed was the government with their work, that they offered them the financial resources to do it. Meeting with the government, the missionaries agreed with the understanding that the government have no influence whatsoever in how the institutions were operated. That is, they must agree to let the orphanages continue as independent and Christian. The state agreed to these terms.
Don’t Be Ashamed to State Your Needs—Christians engaging in meaningful, productive ministry should not be ashamed of the fact. Be open and honest about what you need to do the work, but at the appropriate place and time. Indeed, there are times when you should not mention it at all, even if it hurts you financially. In I Corinthians 9, for example, the Apostle Paul chose not to exercise his right to ask the Corinthians for their support for his excellent teaching. Why? He knew them to be spiritually immature and that some would accuse him of being motivated by money, not ministry. That they heard the Gospel was more important to him than his own needs.
Don’t Fundraise for the Sake of Fundraising—There is an old Soviet proverb that says, “We dig iron ore from the ground, to make steel, to make big machines, to dig iron ore from the ground, to make steel …” Some Christian ministries seem to operate much the same way. They write letters, to raise money, to hire people, to write letters … The ministry should be engaged in productive ministry or it should die on the vine.
Some principles for CHRISTIAN GIVING
Giving is a Choice—Giving is volitional: “Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (II Corinthians 9:7) If you feel embittered about the check you are writing to your church or to this or that ministry, don’t do it. It certainly earns you no favor with God. Christian giving is not a tax or a membership due. During my time in ministry I have occasionally come across such people. It is a good practice to tell them to keep their money because they are not giving it with a heart toward God.
Give to Christian Endeavors—Giving to the United Way, Easter Seals, or your alma mater should not be confused with Christian giving.
When Giving to Ministries, Give to the Ministerially Excellent, Not the Mediocre—Not every ministry endeavor should be supported. Indeed, many of those in ministry, however sincere they might be, perform an unnecessary function or lack the requisite gifts, work ethic, or clarity of purpose to fulfill their mission. Put your “talents” with those who will not bury them. (See Matthew 25:14-28)
Give without Fanfare—If you require a pat on the back or your name on a plaque, then you have received your reward. Don’t expect a heavenly one. (Matthew 6:1-4) And your giving does not have to be limited to tax-deductible entities. Find creative ways to give and meet needs. I assure you, even if the government does not recognize that you gave to a widow in need, the Lord does! I find that occasionally giving where I don’t receive a tax deduction is a good test of my true motives.
Give Generously—And finally, give abundantly in the full recognition that what you have was given to you from above. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven! (Matthew 6:19)