Giving Too Much?
Dear Giving Too Much,
This is a delicate subject, and I commend you for reaching the point where the question needed to be asked. The vast majority of people need to be encouraged to be more generous and seldom reach the issue that you have raised.
Like many issues in Scripture, there is a balance. We are commanded to give generously but not at the expense of caring for our family’s needs.
Are we the rich young ruler?
Jesus clearly commanded the rich young rulerto sell all of his possessions, give the money to the poor, and then come and follow Him. But, the Apostle Paul later wrote that the sincere follower of Christ should decide in his/her heart what to give and to do so cheerfully.
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
It is my position that unless you are similar to the rich young ruler whose identity and security was in his wealth, you should not sell all of your possessions and give them to the poor. Rather, you should follow Paul's advice to give in proportion to what you have received and to do so liberally and cheerfully.
It is necessary for individuals to seek wisdom and for couples to act wisely and be united in their giving decisions.
Taking care of our families
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8 ESV).
Our children observe and learn from our behavior. When we set the example for giving, we demonstrate the Lord’s generosity to us. Strive to consistently live to give. A friend told my wife years ago that it is always better to err on the end of generosity than to withhold good in all ways, even within our families.
We recently had a used van that reached 200,000 miles; yet, it still had a good market value since it was in top condition. We sold it to our son and his wife after their first child was born because they needed one. He actually preferred to buy it versus having it given to them without a price. So, the sales price was $500. We also signed an affidavit that this was a gift and therefore not subject to market value sales tax.
We should make no excuses for not helping family members unless they do not know how to handle money wisely or they abuse it on selfish whims, addictions or sinful living. Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees who neglected their parents and wrongly justified it:
“For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God” (Matthew 15:4-6).
Giving to family members
While keeping basic guidelines in mind, look at the pros and cons.
Demonstrates your love.
Shows that you trust them.
Encourages and grants hope.
Develops stewardship in the receiver.
Creates dependence or irresponsibility.
Violation of set agreements or Biblical standards.
Manipulation develops, or giving becomes expected.
Development of skills and strong work ethic is prevented.
Stewards are not necessarily overseers or deacons, but the scriptural guidelines below are worthy of striving to attain. If giving interferes with the ability to manage your home and extend hospitality, you need to examine if you are giving too much.
See Paul’s list of qualifications for elders in Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Timothy 3:1-13. Note: both hospitality and managing your household well are commended. Are you able to extend hospitality and manage your home well? Can you generously provide for your family in time of need?
There are times when we have to adjust what we give. Changes in income, family needs and crises impact the analysis of dollars we can cheerfully give. We have friends who are attending to their parents’ needs, who are now in assisted living. That was not on their horizon 10-20 years ago. We know others who face the cost, needs and challenges of children with mental health issues, drug rehab and physical disabilities.
Should the Lord tarry, we have grandchildren who may face unprecedented needs in the future. “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous” (Proverbs 13:22).
Pray, and study God’s Word. Get wise counsel. Crown has a number of courses, such as MoneyLife and Flourishing in Generosity, that guide families on how to steward carefully what God provides. He will grant you peace to give generously, motivated by love, and to find the amount that brings joy to your heart.
Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Seven Gray Swans: Trends that Threaten Our Financial Future. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.