giving under grace in freedom with priorities (pt 2)

The previous post laid out several statements in the NT that, when taken together, depict a certain priority and/or pattern for Christian giving. The view taken here is that Scripture makes the care of one’s home and church the central tenet of Christian giving. Without denying that we also give as an essential act of mercy in the church’s mission to the world, we can’t ignore the number of times that the Bible names our natural and spiritual family as our primary dependents. Whatever else Scripture has to say about our giving it certainly communicates an expectation that we will take care of our own.

I recognize that any biblical directive can be twisted or abused so I don’t mean to suggest that a “family first” approach should be pursued without qualification or exception. The fact of the matter is that all giving is open to abuse (whether by the giver or the recipient) and church history is replete with men & movements that have been corrupted by a creeping materialism masked in Christian generosity.

In the interest of brevity (this being Thanksgiving eve and all), I would advocate the following as a good faith effort toward a biblical pattern of giving (in descending order):

1) Give to provide for the needs of my family including any extended dependents (e.g. aging parents).

2) Give to support the ministers, ministries, and expenses of my local church. With the exception of family, this will represent the largest proportion of giving. [I take it that giving to a local church will serve the broader goals of meeting the needs of local/foreign missions, alleviating burdens on the poor, etc.]

3) Give for the assistance of various para-church ministries and/or workers as I may be led, whether a singular gift or regular giving.

4) Give spontaneously as the Spirit leads in unexpected opportunities.

Neither my interpretation nor the resulting model is assumed to be infallible. I’d be eager to hear any other thoughts or to see something I missed.

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

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