When someone becomes a Christian there are many things to think about. How do I pray? Where should I start reading in the Bible? What does it really mean to not only believe in Jesus but to follow him every day? These are great questions and essential to ones growth in faith. Other questions that come much later are about money. How much should I give to God? Where does my money go when I give to God through the church? How is it spent? Do I have to give to the church first or can I give money wherever I want as long as it's a Christian cause?
I want to answer those questions in this article today. New believers sometimes ask how much they should give? The Bible's answer is found in 2 Corinthians 9:7 "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." Earlier in this passage it talks about giving as an act of grace in which Paul hopes the church will excel (2 Cor 8:7) I believe in informed giving. Meaning, the Bible is explicitly clear, that while we should give cheerfully and without compulsion we must also recognize that the tithe (10% of ones income) plays a huge role throughout Scripture. Jesus affirmed the tithe along with 50% and even 100%. So, my answer is, give what you feel God wants you to give, ALWAYS with the desire that he increase your capacity and desire to give. If you've been a Christian for 20 years and you're still just dropping one bill in the basket each week or month, it's time to grow.
Where does my money go when I give to God through the church? How is it spent? The churches budget falls into 5 categories. Here they are with the percentage of the budget they require: Staff (51%), Office & Admin (7%), Ministry (7%), Outreach (11%), Building/Maintenance (24%). The total church budget is $151,826 which isn't much. When you give, the money is pre-designated to these five areas. There is very little extra planned into such a tight budget. Sometimes people try to help by purchasing things for the church themselves and then reducing their own giving by that amount. But this reduces the overall amount coming in and limits the choices the church can make in its spending. For example, someone might purchase a brand new rocking chair for the nursery and then count this as their tithe. But the reality is, that $200 would be more helpful going toward the budget as a whole since we may decide a rocking chair isn't really a priority at this time.
Do I have to give to the church first or can can I give to other organizations if they're Christian based? God designed and designated the Church to be his representative on earth. We are his hands and feet. No other organization, no matter how noble the cause, can claim the pedigree of the church. It is first in Jesus' affection and his Plan A for bringing the Gospel to the world. So, my answer is yes - the church first, always. If you are blessed in a significant way, by all means, give to other organizations (Jody and I do) but give to the church first. If you give, and I hope you do, give sacrificially, cheerfully and liberally as God has blessed you.