A Toys R Us store near us recently closed. In fact, every store will close because Toys R Us is out of business. The company carried insurmountable debt from a 2005 buyout. And it was overwhelmed by competition from other retailers like Walmart, Target, and Amazon.
Toys R Us’ fate corresponds with a general trend in retail – people don’t shop how they used to. Rather than taking the time to visit brick and mortar stores and paying full retail prices, we shop online for the best deals. We want to get more for our money so we cut out the middleman.
We ought to get more for our money at church too.
Where is Your Offering Going?
Churches collect an offering every week. An “offering” is a donation. The yearly offering comprises the church’s annual budget. Before making a collection, the church reassures us it is using our money to further the gospel.
Churches usually ask us to donate 10% of our income. This is based on an Old Testament principle – the “tithe,” or tenth. The church then donates 10% of our offerings to missions. This fund supports missionaries, church plants, children’s homes, Bible colleges, etc.
So if you give 10% of your income to the church, and the church gives 10% of its income to missions, then only 1% of your income goes to the poor, persecuted, and lost. The rest covers the church’s expenses. In other words, most of what you give just pays the bills.
What is the Point of Giving?
The first Christians gave generously to the church. In fact, they gave more than 10%! Luke says “they shared everything they had…those who had lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-35).
But we must ask how the church used their money. Did they use it to undertake a building project? Pay the pastor’s salary? Pave the parking lot? Renovate the lobby? Buy coffee and donuts? Start a marketing campaign?
No. Luke tells us “they sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” (Acts 2:45). Because they shared everything they had, “there were no needy persons among them” (4:34). The money they donated “was distributed to anyone who had need” (4:35).
In short, the early church gave to meet needs in Jesus’ name.
Can Your Offering Go Further?
There are many opportunities to meet needs today. But to do so, we may need to cut out the middleman. We might need to give less to the church in order to give more to the poor, persecuted, and lost.
Most of the world’s children are raised in poverty. You can support them through Compassion or World Vision. A monthly donation provides your child with food, water, clothes, medicine, and education. You can also give practical gifts through World Vision that equip the poor to provide for themselves.
Similarly, most of the world’s Christians suffer from persecution. Voice of the Martyrs ministers to persecuted Christians in 160 countries. They provide relief for those suffering the fallout of persecution. You can donate to help those who are widowed, orphaned, and displaced for their faith.
Aren’t We Supposed to Tithe?
I’m sure your pastor says so! But the New Testament never commands us to tithe. Despite popular belief, God does not expect you to give 10% of your income to the church.
However, He does expect us “to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:18). And He wants us to “excel in this grace of giving” so there may be equality in the body of Christ (2 Corinthians 8:7).
It is good to give to the church. But it is better to meet needs in Jesus’ name. We must realize these two aren’t necessarily the same.
What ministries outside the church do you support? How are you making your offering go further?