Where does your charitable giving go? You’re generous with your money, but are you sure it’s not being wasted? Michael Eaton, a British theologian pastoring in Africa, once complained, “wealthy Christians are not very skillful at asking questions and finding out where their money goes” (Eaton, Branch Commentary, p. 631). Should that be a concern for grace-givers?
In 2 Corinthians, Paul was taking a collection for the saints in Jerusalem, and it ended up being a large amount of money. Paul wanted to take every precaution to ensure the gift went where it was intended to go:
Thanks be to God, who put the same concern for you into the heart of Titus. For he welcomed our appeal and, being very diligent, went out to you by his own choice. We have sent with him the brother who is praised among all the churches for his gospel ministry. And not only that, but he was also appointed by the churches to accompany us with this gracious gift that we are administering for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. We are taking this precaution so that no one will criticize us about this large sum that we are administering. Indeed, we are giving careful thought to do what is right, not only before the Lord but also before people. We have also sent with them our brother. We have often tested him in many circumstances and found him to be diligent—and now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you (2 Cor 8:16-22, emphasis added).
In that passage, you see some practical suggestions for giving wisely under grace.
First, Paul wanted to take careful thought to do what was right. Think about giving. Under grace, you especially have to think about your giving because there’s no law to tell you what to do. Under the Old Covenant, you were told how much to give, when to give it, and whom to give it to. You weren’t responsible for what happened to your donations afterward—that was the Temple’s business. But under grace, you’re free. There’s no set amount to give and no specific organization you have to give to. Instead, you give according to what you have purposed in your heart. But that kind of freedom means you should think about your giving.
Second, Paul wanted to take precautions about the gift. It was a large amount of money, a long way to travel, and criminals all around, perhaps even in Paul’s inner circle (cf. John 12:6). So he wanted to take precautions. How? He had the churches appoint one of their own to accompany the gift to Jerusalem. That way, the churches could be assured that Paul wasn’t simply robbing them.
Third, Paul wanted to avoid criticism. He wanted to make sure “that no one will criticize us about this large sum that we are administering.” Paul wanted accountability and transparency. Presumably, he wanted the churches to keep helping each other financially, but that would only happen if they trusted the process. If they did, they would give again, so Paul wanted the whole process to be above criticism.
Those are all good principles for grace-givers to keep in mind.
Have you given careful thought to your donations? Are you giving to Christ-centered ministries? Are you supporting teachers who preach grace? Are you giving to ministries that are accountable and transparent?
Sadly, there’s always a news headline about a pastor or minister stealing money. You need to be careful of religious con artists. Obviously, it would be best if you avoided giving to ministries that are careless or irresponsible with their finances. If you ever want to check an American non-profit’s finances, you can go to GuideStar and look up their public IRS Form 990 (here’s ours). Be generous, but be smart. Know whom you’re giving to and what they’re using the money for.
Thought for the day: When you give from your heart, remember to use your head.
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