giving

Riches of Poverty (Devotional)

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I often write down my reflections & prayers when I read Scripture. I pray that this challenges you to take Jesus seriously and helps you grow in your faith! I encourage you to read the passage first and then read my writing.


Mark 12:41-44
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”


In the eyes of the religious system of Jesus’ day, this woman was cursed by God. Similar to the beliefs of many Christians today, a healthy family & prosperous income are indicators of God’s blessing. As long as a person works hard for an honest living and seeks to love their family, that person will receive a ‘blessing’ from God.

God’s economy is NOT the American Dream.

This was a woman who realized that riches are uncertain. We do not know her name or age but we know two facts about her:

1. She was a widow.
At some point of time she had lost her husband. She had no one to protect her, care for her, or provide for her needs. She experience the tremendous pain of watching her husband pass into eternity. Her hope has been dashed against the darkness of death.

2. She was poor.
The only money she had to her name amounted to a few pennies. The fact that she was both a widow & poor shows that she had no family support around her. Many would purposely turn their eyes away from her due to her needy circumstances.

This is a woman choked by poverty, broken by death, and abandoned by family. It is in these impossible circumstances that she learned to hope in the only One who never fails – God himself.

Out of her poverty she gave EVERYTHING to God as an act of worship. The giving of the rich may have looked impressive by our standards… but not in God’s. The woman learned that life does not consist in an abundance of possessions; instead she has learned the key to being rich towards God. Her hope had been firmly planted in the God of the universe and her sacrificial giving is the fruit.


Father, my heart is often choked by the riches of this world. I give out of my wealth; not my poverty. I often give enough to appease my conscious rather than giving sacrificially and generously. O God, you see the destructive idols in my heart. I try to worship both you and money; in the end it leads me into destruction.

Holy Spirit, please empower me to view my finances as belonging to you. Show me the needs around me and enable me to give liberally to anything you place on my heart. I pray these things through Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, and to the glory of the Father. Amen!

Toxic Charity

toxic charity

Thanks to the Kairos Project, I have been profoundly challenged in my views of giving and charity. One of the assignments is to read certain books about the effects of charities on different people groups. The book I am currently reading is – Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help.

To summarize this book, Robert Lupton makes a compelling case that most of our giving to those less fortunate than us is actually hurting them. Instead of seeking time-consuming, holistic transformation of communities from the ground up, we throw a few dollar bills in the direction of those hurting and hope it will provide them with temporary relief.

According to Lupton, this uninformed generosity is far more dangerous than we realize.

I am not saying I am completely on board with Lupton (yet) as I still need to wrestle with the Scriptures in this area. With that being said, Lupton offers an incredibly helpful “Oath for Compassionate Service” inspired by the Hippocratic Oath that doctors affirm. I will try my best to explain each one of the points in a few sentences but I highly recommend reading the entire book.

1. Never do for the poor what they have (or could have) the capacity to do for themselves.
If you do everything for the person you are helping, you are destroying their humanity. This will foster dangerous levels of dependence which will ultimately harm the recipient of your aid. As Lupton says, “The effective helper can be an encourager, a coach, a partner, but never a caretaker.”

2. Limit one-way giving to emergency situations.
In times of disaster, it is necessary to come alongside the poor to offer monetary assistance. Instead of continuing to give in disaster mode, we should begin to empower the poor to change their mindset and circumstances on their own. Offering millions of dollars of aid with no holistic treatment for body, soul, and spirit will result in toxic charity and crush the community we are seeking to help.

3. Strive to empower the poor through employment, lending, and investing, using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements.
When you enable the recipient to pay off the aid they have received, it allows them to regain their sense of honor. Lupton makes a powerful case for the use of micro-lending in order to encourage entrepreneurship. This enables those in the community to see past their present poverty into a future full of possibilities.

4. Subordinate self-interests to the needs of those being served.
Lupton treats many short-term mission trips rather harshly. He refers to it as religious tourism – in essence, Christians in the west spend thousands of dollars to go on one-week mission trips in order to serve poverty stricken institutions such as orphanages, churches, and schools. Instead of these mission trips, this money could be funneled back into the economy to hire local painters, carpenters, movers, etc. to provide the service the organization needs at a fraction of a cost of a mission trip. This will provide employment and help stimulate the local economy.

On a side note, Lupton is not entirely against the concept of short term mission trips. He states, “Isn’t it time we admit to ourselves that mission trips are essentially for our benefit? Religious tourism would have much more integrity if we simply admitted that we’re off to explore God’s amazing work in the world.”

5. Listen closely to those you seek to help, especially to what is not being said – unspoken feelings may contain essential clues to effective service.
Many people seeking aid will not want to share their whole story. This is usually not due to them being deceitful, instead they are often ashamed that they need to seek help. To effectively provide aid, you MUST be listening to the Holy Spirit and studying the unspoken sadness and brokenness of the person’s life. The unspoken feelings may provide substantial clues on how you can truly help them succeed.

6. Above all, do no harm.
Lupton describes this far better than I can – “Before we embark on a new service venture, we should conduct an ‘impact study’ to consider how our good deeds might have unintended consequences. Are we luring indigenous ministers away from their pastoral duties to become schedule coordinators for our mission trips? Are we creating dependencies that may ultimately erode self-sufficiency? As Hippocrates admonished: above all, do no harm.”


I do not fully agree with all of Lupton’s conclusions but I do find his arguments surprisingly strong. Ultimately, we need to hold all teaching in light of Scripture. As I continue to wrestle with this issue, I would highly recommend that you purchase Toxic Charity and read it in its entirety, ESPECIALLY if you are involved in any form of charity.

Three Reasons Why YOU Need a Budget!

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In a couple of weeks, Ashley and I will be celebrating our one-year anniversary! Today I was thinking about some of the practical things that made our first year together a success. One of the many tools we implemented was a budget that we actually use.

YOU NEED A BUDGET!!!!!

I cannot overemphasize that point. Whether you are in high school, college, a 9 to 5 (or more than one of those) you NEED to be following a functional budget. Below are three reasons why.

Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” – Proverbs 21:5


 

  1. A budget helps maximize your giving.

One of the pushbacks I hear about sticking strictly to a budget is that it overemphasizes money. Honestly, I think this is just an excuse for lazy and foolish people to not properly manage their finances (before you get mad that I called you lazy and foolish, go read Proverbs and you’ll find out it’s true). I have found that keeping a budget does not decrease your giving, it actually INCREASES it.

When you form a budget you are able to create certain categories that have set amounts. When you spend out of these categories, you do not have to feel guilty or worried about your monthly bills because you know you can afford to spend money in that area (as long as your budget is actually functional of course).

Practically, I highly recommend having at LEAST two areas for giving in your budget. The first one being tithing to your local church (yup, that DOES mean at least 10% of your income). Second, I would recommend setting apart an amount that you can give to other people. This amount can be used for any type of giving – from charity to taking a friend out to eat. This will make you much more generous AND give you confidence that you won’t go broke.

 

  1. A budget destroys the power of money.

If you have never used a budget, you probably think this point is counterintuitive. You may be asking, “How does spending time managing my money help remove its power? Wouldn’t that put a greater focus on cash?” The keyword to that question is MANAGING.

Either YOU will manage money or MONEY will manage you.

If you are going through life without a budget (especially if you are on a fixed income) you will constantly be attacked with thoughts of anxiety and stress over your finances. You will buy a gift for someone or have to repair your car and then spend the next two weeks worrying about whether or not you will be able to pay your rent and electricity bill.

If you manage your money properly, money will serve you. If you do not manage it properly, you will serve money.

 

  1. A budget increases your income.

Okay, not technically. If you stick to a budget I cannot promise that your income will go from $30,000 to $60,000 but it WILL increase your savings and your overall wealth. Sticking to a budget is not a “get rich quick” scheme. It takes many years of discipline. Yet the time will come when you will look back and are grateful you heeded the advice of being strict with your spending habits.

“If you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”

Above is a quote by Dave Ramsey. If you live and are strict on your budget now, you will reap the rewards later. This should not be your sole reason for sticking to a budget but it is the eventual outcome. I would like to take some liberty and change Dave Ramsey’s saying slightly… If you live like no one else, later you can GIVE like no one else.

Sticking to a budget will maximize your giving, destroy the power of money, and increase your income! So why not give it a shot?


Do you use a budget? What are some of the advantages that you have noticed when it comes to properly managing your finances?

By the way, I highly recommend checking out the ministry of Dave Ramsey. His website can be found at www.daveramsey.com – He has loads of Biblical wisdom when it comes to managing finances.