4 Important Biblical Priorities in Giving

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This week I’ve enjoyed reading through a book called Decision Making and the Will of God by Gary Friesen and J. Robin Maxson.  The book is fascinating and has helped provide a lot of important insight about God’s will in my life.  One of the unexpected bonuses of the book is that the authors included a chapter on “Giving and Wisdom”.  In that section, they outlined what they believe to be the biblical priorities of giving.

Friesen and Maxon list the priorities as follows:

  1. Our own family
  2. The preacher (local church)
  3. Work of proclaiming the gospel
  4. To meet physical needs – first to believers, and then to unbelievers

Scriptural References for the Biblical Priorities in Giving

Provide for ones own family.

1 Timothy 5:8 – Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (All scripture quoted from the NIV.)

Paul places a high premium on the provision for family.  He indicates that this is a God-honoring event.  Of course, different cultures will set ‘household’ and ‘relative’ markers in different places, but the fact remains we do have a God-ordained responsibility to provide the needs of our family.

Why would this be?

It is hard to be involved outside of your home if your home is in shambles.  Even when it comes to church leadership, Paul calls us to use the management in our homes as an indicator of our ability to manage the people of God (1 Tim. 3:4).

Support the preacher and the local church.

Galatians 6:6 - Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

1 Cor. 9:11 - If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?

We have previously discussed the complicated situation of a minister’s salary.  Individual churches have different stances on how much a minister should be paid, but clearly, the church ought to pay those who minister to the church.  That salary is to come from those of us who receive the instruction.

In our day and age, most churches have overhead (probably too much in my opinion), but the heat and air conditioning does need to be paid.  The building needs to be cleaned.  Those of us who are members ought to carry our part of the responsibility for the local church.

Work of proclaiming the gospel

Philippians 4:15-16 - Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.

Acts 13:2-3 - While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

In addition to helping fund the work of preaching and ministry in the local church, we are called to help those who are going out and proclaiming the gospel.

Meeting Physical Needs

Galatians 6:10 - Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Galatians 2:10 - All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

Much of the giving and collecting of money in the New Testament was collected to help the Jerusalem Christians.  As a family of believers, we have an obligation to our brothers and sisters who suffer through hunger and famine.

Summary

I think the above priority list is a helpful guide for us to follow, though there may be appropriate reasons to make an exception to this priority list.  Use the suggestions as a guide and not a legal priority requirement.  Clearly, there are cases where people gave in a different manner, but it does seem those examples are not the norm.

How we prioritize our giving in our home:

We do take a portion of our income and use it for both the needs and wants of our family.  After that, our goal is to break up our giving in three parts:

  1. Giving to the local church
  2. Giving to support missionaries and evangelistic outreach
  3. Giving to support the poor
I guess without knowing it, we’ve been doing what Friesen and Maxon suggest.
What do you believe are the Biblical priorities for giving?

 

Comments

  1. says

    Nice article highlighting the Biblical Priorities of giving. I’m curious to hear more of your thoughts on church overhead. It seems like so many expenses get paid leaving little extra money to give to missions, the needy among the congregation, etc. Some churches pay more in interest expense on the mortgage of the church building than any other expense. Also, do you mind linking to your articles about pastoral salary?

    Oliver

    • says

      Oliver,
      I think church overhead is a necessity that can be taken to an extreem. People who do research in church growth discuss how the physical church property impacts newcomers. I think all that can be taken a little too far, but we need to be aware of our physical surroundings.
      Thanks for the note about linking the salary article. I’ve now updated the link.

      • says

        Not to get too far off topic, but I would be wary of pastors focusing too heavily on church growth studies. As I’m sure you’re well aware from your time spent as a missionary, brothers and sisters in Christ meet to worship God in all sorts of nasty places, in hiding and secrecy, in the cold, in all sorts of weather conditions, etc. The problem with the church growth movement is when you bring in the masses with entertainment, entertainment is going to be the only thing that keeps them inside the four walls. Just my two cents…

        Thanks for the link to the salary article. I’ll be checking in out here shortly.

        Oliver

        • says

          Oliver,
          I agree with you. We can too easily turn ministry into marketing. Still, while there are ways we cannot make the gospel attractive (changed the moral message of God) there may be some simple ways we can make it more appealing (change the carpet). The call is for balance, wisdom, and prayer.

  2. says

    I’ve been mulling over item 4 in the initial list of priorities – “To meet physical needs – first to believers, and then to unbelievers”. My issue is not with giving to meet physical needs, but the judgement implied by putting believers before nonbelievers. I read the passages you provided and see quite clearly where that qualification comes from. However, it is not my place to judge someone else’s faith. Additionally, ministering to the needs of all regardless of ‘believer’ status could be viewed as an outreach program (tied into item 3).

    Maybe I’m looking for your thoughts, but regardless I wanted to let you know you got me thinking. Thanks!

    • says

      Margot,
      I think the reason why one would give first to believers is not because they have ‘judged’ the unbelievers. I think the reason is because in order for the church to function as church there is to be mutual concern for the needs of brothers and sisters in Christ. Our generosity and care for others within the body of Christ is a way we live out what it means to be a Christ follower. We are supposed to be an example to the world in how we care for each other. I don’t think Paul is suggesting we ignore the needs of unbelievers, but he does call us to recognize our first obligation to those who are in the body of Christ.

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