To Whom Should Believers Give Their Offerings?


Surprisingly, Scripture does not specifically direct believers where they ought to give. It does, however, provide wisdom that can guide Christians in their giving. The New Testament reveals three categories for giving.

Local Church

The first and arguably most important place to give is to the local church. Paul teaches that the elder is worthy of his wages (see Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17-18). An elder or pastor can reasonably expect support from the church that he serves.

An elder does not have to draw support, however, as he may minister in a bi-vocational manner and receive little or no support from the church; the apostle Paul chose to engage in the vocation of tent-making rather than draw support from all of the churches to which he ministered (see Acts 18:1-3; 20:33-35; 1 Cor. 9:6, 12, 15; Phil. 4:14-16).

While there is a biblical reason for supporting the church, there are also practical reasons. Most churches require funds to pay for utilities, maintenance, equipment, materials, and the like.

More importantly, the local church is the place that ministers to the body of Christ, to the community, and to the world by supporting missionaries, local Christian charities, and those in need in the congregation. By giving to your local church, you also provide funds for local evangelistic outreaches and other ministries that serve the community.

In the end, you know that your money is going to support a doctrinally sound church that uses the money wisely. Without question, your local church ought to be your first priority in giving. 

Christian Organizations

Second, you can give to other Christian organizations. This would include mission organizations, parachurch groups, and individuals who are involved in these ministries (see 3 John 5-8). Hopefully, your local church and denomination are connected to some of these ministries, but obviously the local church cannot do everything.

Therefore, on your own you may desire to support a community pregnancy support center, a ministry for orphans, or a friend who will be serving overseas.

A word of caution, however, is that giving to other Christian organizations ought not to usurp the place of the church. Too often, other organizations and ministries compete for our giving, and if we are not careful, our church is neglected.

Unfortunately, this happens all too often with television-based prosperity gospel ministries. People give more to a televangelist whom they watch once a week than they do to their local church. Such a paradigm for giving is not wise.

Poor and Needy

Third, it is important to give to those who are in need. This includes both believers and unbelievers who have genuine material needs. The Bible is clear that the community of faith is to assist the poor. We are to be wise but open to using what God has given us to meet the needs of those in our church and community (see Gal. 6:10; 2 Thess. 3:6-10; Heb. 10:32-34; 13:1-3; James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:17).

When we give joyfully to the church and to Christian ministries that are faithful to the Word of God, we show our love for God in a tangible way.

Caution

Regardless of how much is given, it is important to give to ministries that exalt Christ and that exhibit transparency in their financial dealings. 

_____________________________

David W. Jones (associate professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) and Russell S. Woodbridge (assistant professor of theology and church history).

This brief article is an excerpt from their book "Health, Wealth & Happiness: How the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ?" (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications), pg. 155-158. This book is endorsed by Mark Dever, Daniel L. Akin, and Benjamin L. Merkle. 

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