Charitable Giving

Preaching and Worship Resources about Charitable Giving

Charitable giving is the generous donation of goods or services to organizations or people in need.

In Scripture

"For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat" (Ex. 23:10 - 11).

"Take from among you an offering to the Lord; let whoever is of a generous heart bring the Lord's offering: gold, silver, and bronze" (Ex. 35:5).

"When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God" (Lev. 19:9 - 10).

"All tithes of the land, whether the seed from the ground or the fruit from the tree, are the Lord's; they are holy to the Lord" (Lev. 27:30).

"If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be" (Deut. 15:7 - 8).

"Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want" (Prov. 11:24).

"Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full" (Prov. 19:17).

"Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you" (Matt. 5:42).

"When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matt. 6:3 - 4).

"The king will say to those at his right hand, `Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me'" (Matt. 25:34 - 36).

"He said to them, `Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise'" (Luke 3:11).

"Love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked" (Luke 6:35).

"He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, `Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on'" (Luke 21:1 - 4).

"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (John 3:16).

"In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, `It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:35).

"The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. . . . You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us" (2 Cor. 9:6 - 7, 11).

"Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God" (Heb. 13:16).

"If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, `Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,' and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?" (James 2:15 - 16).

Points to Ponder

The Main Goal of Charity The main goal in charitable giving is to imitate God, who from creation on through providence and salvation is a robust giver. In fact, God gave his only Son to the world. If God is generous, and we are images of God, being renewed in righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24), how would we even think of being stingy? Stinginess, tightfistedness, and selfishness move us toward or even beyond the perimeter of the kingdom of God, which is alive with generosity. Charitable giving, on the other hand, shows that we understand how life is to go within the kingdom of God. Charitable giving is obviously intended to meet the needs of those who have less. People who have less need us. They count on us. Their need calls to us. And God observes. After all, "whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord" (Prov. 19:17). Moreover, our goods and services help build up the kingdom. As the essay on "good works" says, charitable giving has over the centuries built an impressive array of kingdom ministries. In one of his books, the historian Jaroslav Pelikan asks us to imagine passing a super magnet over the history of the world and drawing up everything good that has been influenced by Jesus and his gospel and supported by charitable giving — all the billions of people whose broken hearts have been mended, all the hospitals and orphanages and adoption agencies and schools, including the foundings of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, every missionary movement, all organized efforts to welcome refugees, all the outreach efforts in housing and home finance and hunger relief, the movements for abolition and women's rights, all the groups of Christian businesspeople who band together to give an African village a well or a Haitian village a new clinic. If you were to draw a magnet over all this plus everything else that's good and has been provided by the charitable giving of Christians, let's just say you'd need quite a magnet and that you'd leave quite a hole in history.

Charity as a Spiritual Discipline Charitable giving is also excellent spiritual hygiene for the giver. Stinginess often stems from fear: What if I run out? What if I don't have enough? And, of course, prudence in making provision for the future is no vice. But our security lies not in our bank accounts and stock portfolios, but in God's providence. Our "only comfort in life and in death" is that we belong to "our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ" (The Heidelberg Catechism, A. 1). This truth needs to have full play for a Christian, overshadowing or at least accompanying prudent provision for a rainy day. Robust charitable giving mortifies our stinginess and disciplines our fears. Some Christians, intent on realizing the maximum spiritual benefit from their charitable giving, deliberately give smaller amounts frequently rather than larger amounts infrequently. They want to move regularly against their fear and stinginess. But Christians (and others) may sometimes offer charity as a poor substitute for justice. If we acquiesce in the second-rating of people in our country, becoming impatient and irritated with calls for their equality, we may pacify our conscience by providing plenty of our used clothing and canned goods to these folks. They would like justice; we would like them to have our old shirts and socks instead. This swap is entirely likely to be an abomination to the Lord, who wants us both to "do justice and to love kindness" (Mic. 6:8). Justice is the base. Charity is a welcome add-on to the base. We usually think of charitable giving as openhandedness with material goods (principally money), but one may be generous as well with "possessions, time, attention, aid, encouragement, emotional availability, and more." Except for the first, each of these things is nonmaterial. Indeed, some of the greatest forms of generosity in the universe are nonmaterial, such as God's grace for sinners manifested in the incarnation and the self-giving death of Jesus Christ. As the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:21 - 35) shows, God's generosity to us (in the form of forgiveness, for instance) is meant to spur our generosity to others. Proverbs 11 and 2 Corinthians 9 represent a strand of biblical teaching that recognizes the benefits to the giver of her generosity. Givers tend to thrive. They don't finally lose by giving. (Scientific evidence supports the thesis that, in generosity, those who do good also do well.) Does this corrupt their motives? Not necessarily. Healthy givers act out of gratitude for God's generosity to them and out of love of neighbor. They do not give just to insure their own thriving, but it is not wrong for them to notice that those who act generously do in fact tend to thrive. It's just the way God has arranged things.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.