God cares about each of us. He allows us to steward financial resources for His glory and our good. He knows that as we glorify Him out of gratitude for His gifts to us, we experience true life. And He desires that we reflect His generosity through our giving.
In giving, it can help to start with three questions: Why should I give? How do I give? Where should I give? Often, we tend to give in areas of personal passion, or to places we care about. But we may have this a bit backward. We must put God at the center of the equation and see what He thinks.
If we make obedience to God and reflecting His love to the world our supreme motivation, then giving comes into view as an excellent context to glorify God. So, what are the things we can support from the resources He has entrusted to our care to glorify Him?
God’s Word is not silent on this topic. I see three geographic areas for us to target, and two things to support in six specific areas. Acts 1:8 gives us a glimpse of three areas where we will be witnesses for Christ. Picture this as concentric circles: Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth. This is instructive when thinking about our giving. Are you strategic enough in your giving to think where you are giving locally, nationally, and internationally? God has a heart for all three.
Next, there are two things that God’s Word tells us will last forever. We can safely assume that God cares deeply about both of them. Those two things are God’s Word and souls, that is, people.
Regarding God’s Word, consider giving toward the translation, distribution, teaching, and preaching of the Scriptures. Regarding people, consider giving toward workers spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to those who have not yet heard it (see 3 John 5-8). Such giving undoubtedly glorifies God.
While the Bible does not spell everything out in as much detail as we might like, when it comes to people, it does give us a few clear instructions on where (or to whom) we should give. In the Bible, six groups of people surface repeatedly as recipients for giving. God seems to have these groups on His heart; perhaps we should too!
- Care for the Poor and Oppressed
God has a special concern for the poor “in need”, especially those within the Christian community (1 John 3:16-17 and many other texts). Specifically, Scripture identifies orphans and widows (see Deuteronomy 10:18-19; James 1:27), the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, prisoners (see Matthew 25:34-40), and also victims of calamity (see Luke 10:30-37; Acts 11:27-30).
- Christian Workers
We give to provide financially for pastors and teachers (see Galatians 6:6; 1 Corinthians 9:7-14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18) and to support missionary work (see Philippians 4:15-19).
- Family Members
We must care for our immediate family (see 1 Timothy 5:4, 8, 16) and to remember our larger Christian family (see 1 Timothy 6:6-8).
- Government Officials
We should give what we owe to the government, even if we think our taxes are unfair. God has put civil “authorities” in place, and we financially empower them to do their job (Romans 13:6-7).
- Our Enemies
This type of giving sets Christian generosity apart. Jesus gave to us when we were His enemies. He calls us, in turn, to love our enemies and “do good” to them (Luke 6:27-36). This includes those who may be opposed to us (see Romans 12:20).
- Those who advance God’s kingdom
This brings us full circle to any other giving that reflects the love of Jesus. For example, the Jerusalem collection showed Christian care to the ancient world (see 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9).
These categories do not exhaust the things to which Christians may give. They point us to support what God cares about locally, nationally, and internationally, while giving us room for creative freedom. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). So, my best advice is to focus on laying up treasure in such a way that it aligns our heart with the heart of God. I’m not sure there is anything that could lead to greater joy.
David Wills joined The National Christian Foundation, the largest Christian grant-making foundation in the world, in 1998. He serves as President Emeritus and National Relationship Manager. He lives outside Waco, Texas, is married to Chris, and has seven children.