I sometimes get emails from people who give that I don’t think should be giving.
Somewhere along the way, they’ve been taught that the way to deal with a huge debt load or a loss of a job is to start giving away crazy amounts of money.
I’ll say upfront that I think this is an irresponsible action for Christians because not all giving in all situations honors God. Yes, there is a place for risky giving, but there is also a place for responsible giving.
Reasons Why You Might Be Called to Give Less
1. The Care of Family is Honorable
One of the honorable ways to use money is to provide for one’s own family. This pleases God much like giving pleases God.
In Mark 7:9-13 Jesus challenges a Jewish practice whereby one might not honor their mother and father (the financial implication is clear in this passage) because their resources are Corban – devoted to the Lord. Neither Jesus nor God would approve of a decision whereby you dishonor your family in order to give that money instead of providing the needs of your family.
“Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” 1 Timothy 5:3-4
Paul claims that a way our religion is practiced is through the care of family. No only is that a way whereby we care for our families, it is a way that we please God.
If a person loses a job or suffers a major financial blow, I think they need to continue to be outward focused, while recognizing their biggest ministry is to their family. The Parable of the Talents enforces the fact that when God gives us less, he would expect our giving to decrease as well.
2. You May Have an Unhealthy Giving to Get Theology
A taboo motivation for giving is to get more in the same currency. The Bible does promise blessings to those who give, but it doesn’t seem to be in the same currency.
Some people who encounter a hard financial time will give in order to get. They assume that if they owe $10,000 on a debt they can give away $5,000 and God will bring the original $5,000 plus a gracious gift and make it $10,000.
If you have $5,000 to pay down debt, God is honored when you pay down your debt with $5,000 instead of giving it way, expecting him to go out and return the original and then some. Both wisdom and faith are charactarisitcs of those who are made in the image of God.
3. You May Be Testing God
We live our lives in submission to the will and desire of God.
Too frequently, we may be giving in order to test God. Jesus told us not to test the Lord our God. Malachi 3:10 does encourage a particular group of Israelites in a unique time in history to test him, but we’d need to recognize the uniqueness of that situation. I don’t consider Malachi 3:10 to be a call for all Christians in all circumstances to test God. If that were the case, Jesus certainly failed the test when he refused to test God.
If you are really struggling financially, you ought to walk by faith in your situation. You should not, however, manipulate the situation in a way that you put God to the test.
4. We Ought Not to Be a Burden on the Church Whenever Possible
When we give, I think we need to be aware of our potential to become a burden on the church. We are called to be a blessing to the church, not a burden.
Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 1 Thessalonians 2:9
Paul worked hard in order that he would not burden the church. We ought not to manipulate our financial situation with the intention of becoming a burden on the church. The body of Christ functions as it should when we minister to those in you need. However, if you neglect your personal responsibility to your home and then expect the church to bail you out, this will be a burden to the church.
While we’d all prefer to grow in the grace of giving, there are thousands of situations whereby I think a God-honoring decision is to give less.
Are there other reasons whereby one might be called to give less?