Many times in my life I’ve heard people say the Bible is old and it might have been relevant when it was written but it no longer is. It is true that society over the past two centuries has drastically changed but God’s word is just as true today as it was yesterday or a thousand years ago. First I will start with a verse and then look at where we are at today.
He looked up, and saw the rich people who were putting their gifts into the treasury. He saw a certain poor widow casting in two small brass coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow put in more than all of them, for all these put in gifts for God from their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, put in all that she had to live on.” Luke 21 1-4 (WEB)
I saw an article recently on Motley Fool taking about the average charitable contributions by income. They noted that only 25% of Americans used itemized deductions on their tax returns so the results aren’t a complete picture of all charitable giving but close enough. The context of the article focused on your risk for getting audited if you stray far from the IRS averages when you itemize your charitable contributions. I want to talk about the findings in the context of the above Bible verse because the group who gave on average the most of their income were the poorest.
In fact the group with an adjusted gross income of less than $25,000 was the only group who gave more than 10% of their income to charity. This is astonishing to me because the tithe itself is supposed be 10% of your income. The group under $25,000 of income gave on average 12.3% of their income to charity. The second group to have the highest charitable contributions was the $25,000 to $50,000 group who gave 6.8% of their income to charity. A nearly 50% decrease, astonishing right?
The group who gave the least was the upper middle class and the borderline wealthy, by American standards at least. Now before I go any further, this article was never meant to be a guilt trip nor do I want you to be comparing yourself to others. The Bible points our clearly that giving all you can because you want to is what you need to be focusing on. God wants you to give because you want to and not our of a legalistic desire to try and impress Him. He doesn’t need your money but He wants your heart.
From a finance perspective, the only way you can give the maximum, no matter how much you make, is by being responsible with your personal finances. You need to avoid debt at all costs. You need to create a budget and stick to it. You need to create margin in your life so you can give instead of just constantly consuming more. There is no greater legacy that you can leave than helping the least of these.
“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’
“The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
“Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’
“Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46 (WEB)
The Bible is just as true today as it ever was. The parables and stories we read are playing out on a daily basis all around us just as the Bible said they would. The ones who are the most dependent on God tend to be the biggest givers even though they are the ones who can least afford it. It is a powerful reminder to pray and reexamine our own heart. Because Gods’ opinion is the only one that matters, not mine nor anyone else. I think there is no better time to reflect on the condition of our own heart than at Christmas time. God loves you so much and He wants the best for you. He knows that giving will always be a more memorable experience than taking.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can’t carry anything out. But having food and clothing, we will be content with that. But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
But you, man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you confessed the good confession in the sight of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:6-12 (WEB)