P – Pray for a generous heart.  Make people a priority over prosperity.  Don’t think: “How much do I have to give away in order to be obedient?”  Ask: “Give me opportunities to sow.”

L – Lifestyle cap.  As we earn more, we should give more. If you are wealthier than you used to be, have you done more to increase your standard of living or your standard of giving?

A – Accountability.  Set goals and find someone you can trust who won’t be threatened by talking frankly about finances. Sex and money–we don’t talk about them nearly as much as Jesus did.

N – No less than a tithe. Whether the Old Testament requirement is a binding prescription or not, I find it hard to imagine that Western Christians who have seen the glory of God in the face of Christ and enjoy great prosperity, would want to give less than was required of the poorest Israelite.  Statistics consistently show that Protestants give less than 3% of their income to their churches. A tithe, for most churchgoers, would be a huge step in the right direction.

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Comments:


30 thoughts on “A PLAN for Giving Generously”

  1. Dan K. says:

    Great counsel Kevin. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately and to have more guidance is always helpful.

  2. We don’t talk about money as much as Jesus did. But sex? Seriously?

    GV

  3. (Although I agree with the P.L.A.N! Good advice!)

  4. Neil says:

    Excellent advice. The Lifestyle Cap has worked really well for us. Living below your means — not just within them — is a great place to be. As you cap your lifestyle in terms of cars, housing, clothes, vacations, etc. you’ll be amazed how much more you have to give and save.

  5. Don Sartain says:

    Only three percent? Really? Ouch…

  6. kpolo says:

    Ok, as believers, our generosity is pathetic.

    I’d also love to hear similar financial stewardship principles for Churches. The average Church gives something like 2% to world missions for e.g. and spends boat loads on audio/visual equipment and Church decor.

    Note: We shouldn’t wait for the Church to get its spending priorities right before we fix our giving priorities.

  7. Bryan Lees says:

    Thanks Kevin! I was just speaking to one of my youth about this Sunday night after youth group. I’ve shared it with the group and hope to have a good conversation this weekend!

  8. Judd Rumley says:

    Kevin,

    Amen on the acronym.

    I would just nuance the N as the NT does not say it that way. I would emphasize the joyful systematic sacrificial giving. Those in debt may not be able to give a “tithe” but I do not want to scare them away from the happy helpful hope of giving to the Lord’s work. As they get out from under the bondage of money into the blessings of ministry I would them push past the 10% mark (as stated in letter L).

    I plan to use the acronym and will say N – No amount is too little and no % is a starting OR stopping point! It’s an attitude of the heart.

  9. Doyle says:

    Agree with kpolo. I have no problem with the idea of PLAN. But one look at most church budgets with the top heavy staff salary and benefits and self serving expenditures, it is no wonder giving is below 3%.

    I would much rather give directly to mission organizations that are on the front lines providing food, medicine, housing, and most importantly presenting the gospel to the lost in the world and the least of these.

  10. kpolo says:

    Doyle,
    Interesting that your bring up giving to missions organizations and para-church orgs. Of late, I’m really being convicted that believers should give primarily (if not exclusively) to the local Church and not to para-Church organizations. Even if the spending priorities of your local church are not perfect (find a better Church or work to influence your current Church). Para-church organizations should work with local churches and I’m leaning towards the view that para-church organizations directly pleading to believers is unbiblical. If God’s design is for us to belong to Churches under the leadership/stewardship of elders and for elders to make be stewards of the Church’s resources, then it is wrong for para-church orgs and for us as believers to circumvent that structure, even for reasons of temporal/isolated failure of the structure. Note my deliberate use of “temporal/isolated” as I don’t believe this will ever be a systematic failure, not as long as Christ the living God is head of the Church.

    Kevin, am I off base here?

  11. Doyle says:

    kpolo,

    Given Kevin’s familial ties to a parachurch organization that consistently circumvents the church and asks individuals directly for money, I think you may be barking up the wrong tree.

    As for me, I will continue to give more directly to missionaries and less to church. We are told to invest wisely in the Kingdom. If you take a good look at church budgets and how they spend their money, you’ll be investing in a great coffee bar for Sunday morning and you’ll help the pastor make the payment on their primary residence and their summer home, but will you really be helping to fulfill the Great Commission?

  12. Kevin DeYoung says:

    I used to think (or almost thought) that Christians should only give money to their local churches. Then I became a pastor. While I think Christians should give primarily to their local churches, there is also room for Christians to support other ministries, causes, and individuals their church will not support (for any number of reasons). I’m glad people can privately support missionaries they believe in (or are related to) even if we can’t put them all on our budget. I’m glad some Christians will give to Christian schools or specific relief ministries even if our church isn’t going to focus there.

    As to the comment about how much we talk about sex, you have a point there. It used to be the case that the church didn’t talk about sex, but probably not so any longer.

  13. Arthur Sido says:

    It is an article of faith in the church that we should give first and foremost to the local church but nowhere in Scripture do we see people contributing money to pay for the operational expenses of a local church organization. Giving in the NT was almost exclusively to meet the material needs of other believers in need or in one case to support itinerant apostolic workers like Paul ministering in another location (2 Cor 11:8). When most Christian giving stays “in house” to keep the institution running week to week it is little surprise people give so little. My advice is to give sacrificially to those in need. There are plenty of people in need that we should take care of instead of paying for buildings that sit empty most of the week or paying able-bodied men to sit in their offices and prepare sermons.

  14. Justin says:

    Kevin,

    I want to focus on “N” as, showing my cards early, I am simply astonished at how many people and churches believe that tithing is a Christian practice, put themselves under such a mandate and teach such a mandate. You have a notable voice in the Christian media which is why a “whether it is still mandated or not” approach is particularly troubling. It is akin to saying that the Scriptures don’t matter as much as what my charitable feelings are leading me to do. For that matter, I would challenge you or anyone to show me where in the Scriptures God’s people are told to give 10% minimum. It’s not there. Does anyone else see this as a red flag? What other laws do we comfortably compel others to obey, but don’t even obey ourselves as they were prescribed in the OT? Tithing as a requirement for those of faith is dangerous as it points people to Law, not Christ (Gal 3:10-14). Please consider what the Scriptures say about tithing and what they say about giving. Too many people are in chains that have been laid upon them by ministers who have not been faithful to the Scriptures or the Spirit, but instead think it easier to create a new law with an old name for the sakes of their coffers and the self-justifying hopes of the people that follow them. Read 2 Cor 8-9:6 among other places. Paul teaches extensively on giving but interestingly omits any referencing to tithing (cf Gal 3:10-14). As well, tithing is mentioned in the gospels only when Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees, but is then absent from the rest of the NT. More can be said, but before that I would say that all would benefit if more were read. Read the Scriptures, what you will and won’t find may surprise you. Mark 7:7

  15. kpolo says:

    Arthur,
    I’m just a lay person, but while I sympathize with your case against the Church’s budget priorities, I do believe a Pastor should be a full-time paid position (a worker deserves his wages; don’t muzzle an ox; an elder who …. deserves double honor). I do believe that Church admin staff and other non-Pastoral staff (and non-accountants, the one exception I will make) should be volunteers from the congregation, not paid positions.

    Yes, the NT doesn’t describe giving for admin needs, but that is just that – missing description. I think you’d agree that we should be cautious making a missing description into an injunction.

  16. Ken says:

    I agree with Justin, never try to put the church back under the law.
    You always end up with self-righteous law keeping people.
    Maybe the N should be need.

  17. I agree, 10% should be considered a minimum for every believer (with the possible exception of those in debt, as Pastor Rumley notes)—not for legalistic reasons, but because if we don’t have any kind of guide or standard to compare ourselves to, it’s too easy for us to slouch closer to the 3% you mention, or even lower.

    I notice that you said Protestants give less than 3% to their churches—I think it’s OK to spread one’s giving between his local church and other recipients, including giving directly to mission organizations, as Doyle suggests (although I’m somewhat sympathetic with kpolo’s suggestion that there should be no such thing as para-church organizations).

    I agree with kpolo, mission work abroad should be important both to individual believers and to the church.

  18. Dylan says:

    Justin,

    You’re missing the point of this post with your response. It’s not an argument for or against the OT and/or NT position on tithing per se. The clause “Whether the Old Testament requirement is a binding prescription or not” is about moving our thinking beyond what is or is not required to consider what we would delight to do if we have beheld Christ.

    The issue Kevin is addressing with “N” is that beholding Christ (2 Cor 4) transforms us and part of that transformation is that we become generous. Such a radical change from selfishness to generosity will make quibbling over small giving irrelevant. He’s arguing for a new reality (contra OT) wherein it’s crazy talk to our ears to aim low. That has significant NT support!

    Ironically, I think Kevin is putting before you a freedom beyond the freedom for which you argue. The husband who is passionately in love with his wife buys her flowers because he delights to do so, not because he’s seeking to meet a quota (required or not). A husband who loves his wife deeply from the heart will do all that is necessary and more! The one who has beheld Christ will not fail to be generous.

  19. Sow and Go says:

    This is a important article! I have been helping ministries find financial seed sowers for years. thanks to the internet we have just started this crowd-funding platform for ministries.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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