Category Archives: Giving

Acts 5 = worst church marketing program ever?

Short version: If God can grow his church while striking two generous but deceptive donors dead, then maybe — just maybe! — He doesn’t need slick, manipulative, man-made “church growth” programs.  Just preach the Good News inside and outside the church.

The title is sarcastic, of course.  The church grew dramatically even with this not-so-seeker-sensitive approach where God kills Ananias and Sapphira on the spot for lying to the Holy Spirit (and if that wasn’t enough, the next passage is about how the Apostles were arrested and beaten for proclaiming Jesus). It is unfortunate that mainline, “seeker-sensitive” and “emergent” churches didn’t study it more carefully before watering down their doctrine so badly.  When leaders feel that they must twist or ignore the word of God to advance the kingdom it is evidence of weak or non-existent faith.

Acts 4:32–5:11 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

In the midst of the explosive church growth we read this cautionary tale.  Some people read it as the early Christians being communistic, but that isn’t the point at all.  As always, we must read carefully and in context.

The passage describes the general behavior of believers but it doesn’t say God commanded this (“no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own.”). 

Peter didn’t say that Ananias and Sapphira were obligated to donate anything at all: “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?

The sin wasn’t in not giving enough, it was lying to God.   This was a serious thing, especially when the church was forming.  They needed purity and honesty, just like we do today.  Just because we are in the age of grace doesn’t mean that God doesn’t take sin seriously. 

Satan was defeated at the cross in an ultimate sense, but he was and is still active in tempting Christians and non-Christians. 

Despite this event, the church continued to grow.  Consider how lax church discipline is in the U.S. today.  I’m not wishing for judgments like those again Ananias and Sapphira, but the lack of discipline has let all kinds of false teachers in the church and corrupted our witness. 

Again, this passage was not a Biblical command to never own property.  Saying your possessions aren’t your own doesn’t mean anyone can come take them, it is recognizing that ultimately they all come from God.  We aren’t giving him anything He didn’t give us in the first place.

Other passages round out the New Testament guidance on giving, notably 2 Corinthians 9:6-7:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

We don’t need deception to spread the Gospel.  We need the truth.  We should share it as ambassadors, but we should share it without apology.  If you distort the message to appeal to spiritually dead people, then don’t be surprised when your church gets off track.

One of the reasons I’m careful about choosing which charities to support

Once you are on their mailing lists, it is hard to get off!

I donated money to a Campus Crusade guy about 15 years ago.  I was the leader of the Christian Employee Network Group at Compaq (and subsequently HP) and we met on several occasions.  But I eventually stopped the support because I wanted to channel it elsewhere.

But I’m still getting updates from him in the mail!

I contacted him twice to have him remove me from his distribution list.  Nothing happened, so I started just throwing them away unread.  We moved in 2003, but he somehow got the new address (I didn’t give it to him).  Then we moved in 2009 and the mail still kept coming.  We moved this year and I just got an update.  Argh!  What a waste of stamps.

This is why I primarily support our local church and then a handful of other carefully-selected charities.  I’d rather give more to fewer organizations than a little to many of them.  I am good at saying “no” to the little requests (grocery store checkout suggestions, general solicitations, etc.).  I treat it like I do my retirement investments:  I want to diversity a bit but not too much, and I want to ensure that my money is going where it can do the most good.

So my advice is to do the same: Give, because giving is fun*, but do so with discernment.

2 Corinthians 9:6–7 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

*Oh, and give because Jesus promised rewards, and He has the most credibility of anyone in the universe to back up his promises.

Matthew 6:19–21 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Why Leftist economics illiteracy matters: Importing refugees is immoral even without the terror risk

And of course, the terror risk is huge.  The system is like a giant magnet drawing in terrorists.  But let’s ignore that and consider how this feel-good process ignores that we have limited resources to help people, so we must help them in the most cost-effective way possible.  Discernment and wisdom are virtues.

Source: Why Refugee Resettlement Is Immoral 

In other words, each refugee we bring to the United States means that eleven others are not being helped with that money. Faced with twelve drowning people, only a monster would send them a luxurious one-man boat rather than twelve life jackets. And yet, with the best of intentions, that is exactly what we are doing when we choose one lucky winner to resettle here. Some will object that we can do both — relocate some refugees here and care for others in their native region. But money is not infinite. Every dollar the government spends is borrowed and will have to be paid back by our grandchildren.

. . .  The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports a $2.5 billion funding shortfall in caring for Syrian refugees in the Middle East. The five-year cost of resettling just 39,000 Syrians in the U.S. would erase the entire current UNHCR shortfall. Security concerns aside, it is morally unjustifiable to help the few at the expense of the many.

So while the “Christian” Left is churning out self-congratulatory memes for not just spending but wasting other people’s money to show how “generous” the Left is, the adults in the room are thinking about how to best help the refugees and to keep people safe.

I have said many times that Leftists literally fail at basic economics, and that is no exaggeration (though it is a slight exaggeration to say that my dog did better on a college economics test than Leftists would).  And this is where that really matters.  If people mismanage their own finances, that is one thing.  But pretending that we have unlimited funds is counterproductive, dangerous and wasteful.

So sure, it costs 12 times as much to bring a refugee to the U.S. than to settle him in the Middle East and it greatly increases the risk of terrorism against our neighbors, but let’s spend their money anyway because economically illiterate Leftists post fallacious guilt-inducing memes.

I encourage people to read all of the National Review article.  But one of the problems with Leftists is that not only do they just consume Leftist media, but that same media tells them to never consume conservative media.  Because bias.

P.S. Try to forget that these pro-abortion extremists care so much about “the children” that they insist that Jesus is fine with killing them up until their first breath.

I followed K-Love’s advice and donated what God told me to: Zero.

K-Love radio is a national Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) station that uses the same fundraising approach that KSBJ does in Houston: Lots of “sloppy God talk” instead of just explaining their ministry and inviting you to participate à la 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.).

Example: They endlessly say to give “what God tells you to,” as if that was something we should expect God to do.

Now could God give you a specific figure?  Of course!  He’s God!  But is that in any way normative based on scripture?  Should you expect him to give you a specific amount? Of course not.  Even a cursory reading of the Bible would reveal how ridiculous that is.

This ties into the lack of discernment so prevalent in the church and how badly people do with decision making and the will of God.

KSBJ would have testimonials like a guy in bankruptcy who donated to KSBJ with what little he had.  Great example, eh?  Stiff the people who lent you money and give it to KSBJ.  Very God-honoring.  /sarcasm

And while they had plenty of testimonials by people who donated and then got blessings, they never mentioned those who gave and didn’t get the Joel Osteen-type rewards.

One of the things I loved about Care Net Pregnancy Center in Houston was how they never used any emotional ploys.   They just shared all the great things the ministry did and gave people the opportunity to join in.  They have thrived for years and even paid a building loan off very early.  Trusting God with the results and skipping the games can be really effective — and much more God-honoring!

A different Pregnancy Resource Ministry had a speaker who used the “give what God told you to give” line.  The guy was very sincere and the ministry was sound, so we gave anyway.  But why use such word games?  God “told” my wife a different number than me.  So was one of us holier than the other, or was one hearing from Satan?

I had only been listening to K-Love a couple days when they started their pledge drive.  Great timing.  Their normal programming seemed fine, as far as CCM goes.  But that left a bad taste in my mouth.

Update: And as Pastor Timothy noted in the comments, if God is going to speak to you outside his word with that specificity, why would it be with on something like that?  How come these people don’t ask God to tell them exactly whom to share the Gospel with?

King David vs. the theological Left

If you ask the government to take from neighbor A by force to transfer to neighbor B, then that is not charity on your part, and certainly not something Jesus taught. He said to give your own money.  Yet the theological Left and its false teachers do this endlessly.

These people, who claim the name of Christ, should follow the example of King David when he was making an offering to the Lord: 1 Chronicles 21:24 But King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

David wouldn’t even take the offerings that were given freely.  He didn’t want to just re-gift something to God.  The theological Left does something far worse than re-gifting: They advocate taking from others by force to “give” in their name.  They are greedy (wanting to keep what they have) and covetous (jealous of what others have), not generous.  Don’t let them fool you, and don’t be a part of it.

Give generously, but give your own money.

2 Corinthians 9:6–7 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

I’m with Bono on this one.

Via Bono: Only Capitalism Can End Poverty.

This is a great day. For years, Bono has been something of a pain, banging on about the need for billions of dollars in Western foreign aid to Africa. I have criticized him for ignoring the real source of African poverty – lack of capitalism – on numerous occasions.

But, unlike many who hate capitalism without reservation, Bono is open to changing his mind. Here is Bono giving capitalism its due recognition during a recent speech at Georgetown University. As the musician put it, when it comes to poverty “free enterprise is a cure.”

Indeed, the evidence is overwhelming.

According to the World Bank, global poverty is declining rapidly. In 1981, 70 percent of people in poor countries lived on less than $2 a day, while 42 percent survived on less than $1 a day. Today, 43 percent live on less than $2 a day, while 14 percent survive on less than $1. “Poverty reduction of this magnitude is unparalleled in history,” wrote Brookings Institution researchers Laurence Chandy and Geoffrey Gertz in a recent paper. “Never before have so many people been lifted out of poverty over such a brief period of time.”

Yes, we should still share with the less fortunate — preferably out of our own wallets.  But we must use good discernment with giving to ensure that it isn’t counter-productive.  Know the charities you support and ensure that they are really making a difference and are run efficiently and effectively.  Use good discernment and pray for wisdom!  But don’t forget that making people more self-sufficient may be the greatest gift.

For example, one of the reasons we love and support the AIDS Orphan mission in Kenya is that it doesn’t just cost effectively (literally $10/child/month) feed, clothe and educate these orphans (and the widows who take care of them), it also gives them life skills.  We met many kids who baked bread, sewed, did hair care, planted trees, etc. and made such good livings that they supported themselves and their siblings.  Their joy was contagious.  We feel blessed to be a small part of that and feel confident in giving to the program because we’ve seen it first hand many times and have gotten to know the leaders well over a number of years.