Summary: Comparing and Contrasting Four Approaches to Charitable Giving
Matthew 6:20 - Jesus said, "Where your treasure is there will your heart be also."
Out of every $10 held by Christians in the world $8 are in the hands of North Americans, according to Neal Pirolo, author of Serving as Senders. The Lord has allowed North American Christians to possess such great wealth because he realizes, "To whom much is entrusted, much is required." Last year , 2001, only 1.3% of money was given for missions. That means we spend nearly all of the money on ourselves instead of fulfilling Christ’s great commission of Matt 28:18-20.
Someday, the Lord will require every one of us to give an account of what we have done with our resources.
Jesus said, "If you have not been faithful in little things
(Implying wise in one’s stewardship) who will entrust to you great things
(Implying greater responsibility, authority and influence) (Luke 16:10)
Let us look at four approaches that are popular in most of the churches in North America to see how we can maximize our contributions for the sake of Christ’s ETERNAL kingdom and glory.
1. POVERTY Theology - This imbalanced view of giving encourages a non- materialistic disdain for possessions.
The proponents of poverty theology believe that possessions are a hindrance to spiritual growth and blessings.
Teachers of the poverty theology would have one believe that Jesus wants us to live exclusively according to His statement, "Sell all that you have, give it to the poor and come follow Me." (Luke 18:18-22)
When followers of this theology purchase items they tend to select the lowest quality goods because they believe they are pleasing God through their frugality.
One is encouraged to think that most of our needs are actually just human wants that can be overlooked. Learning to reject the "things of this world" is the obvious mantra of a poverty theologian.
Followers of this thinking are more concerned with just having their daily needs met instead of worrying about long term financial planning.
These dear people try to assume a carefree attitude toward their finances but often end up becoming dependent on someone else to help
them through economic hardships.
2. PROSPERITY Theology - This imbalanced view believes that prosperity is the reward of the righteous. In a word, the teachers of prosperity theology espouse riches as God’s reward.
There is a cause and effect relationship in this teaching which implies that you are successful because God is pleased with your work or displeased if you are in poverty.
Purchases are usually of highest quality because followers of this thinking believe God wants them to have the best.
Teachers emphasize, "Persistently asking, seeking and knocking until the doors are opened to you." (Matthew 7:7) However, they usually forget that Jesus said the poor you will always have with you.
The preachers of the prosperity gospel believe that one needs to have seed faith so that God can multiply their gifts.
Many persons have been disappointed when they have not seen God reciprocate with large blessings when they gave sacrificially. They forget that God is not encouraging people to give so they will get. They see themselves as the owners of all that they survey. Often the prosperity gospel followers are preoccupied with money as it almost becomes an obsession. They are usually driven by Proverbs 10:16 which says,
"The wages of the righteous bring them life, but the income of the wicked brings them punishment."
They struggle to be content with what they have.
3. COMMONLY PRACTICED Theology - It is common to find many Christians in North America assuming that it is acceptable to God to pursue household possessions and family pleasures.
After all, most preachers in good evangelical churches preach that God has entrusted them with blessings in the form of earthly necessities.
Many well meaning theological teachers instruct their students that it is a right that God has given wages to those who work hard.
It is not uncommon to find most Christians in North America living at the standard of living equal to most non-Christians or even above the norm.
Having lots of things is not considered sinful as long as they are used for the Lord’s purposes on occasion.
Many followers of "Practiced theology" justify their approach to money and possessions as a matter of taking care of their families. They often cite verses like "If you do not care for your own family you are worse than an infidel. (I Tim 5:8) They also assume that God’s people should be busy with their own households. (Haggai 1)
Teachers and followers of practiced theology are fond of accumulating things for themselves. They do not see any problems in building up their credit by borrowing money to finance their homes.
Unfortunately, few of them are mindful of how Paul the apostle said, "I consider everything but rubbish so that I may known Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to Him - even to His death. (Phil. 3:8-10)