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30 Jul '08

Money matters: four categories of giving

Posted by T.J. Addington in church, money matters, The heart
A significant issue in helping those in our congregations grow in their spiritual maturity is to help them understand the part that generosity with God plays into their discipleship. It was Martin Luther who said that true conversion is a conversion of the heart, the mind and the pocketbook. In other words, until God has our wallet, he does not have our full follower ship. This is the reason that Christ talked more about money and possessions than almost any other topic in the New Testament.

As we address this issue in the church it is not first about meeting our budgets or funding our ministries. It is first about helping people follow Christ more closely. Those who do not learn to be generous with God miss out on many of the blessings that he shares with those who are. I have often said to my sons, "most people believe that they cannot afford to tithe. I cannot afford not to tithe."

The truth is that only around 2% of those who call themselves Evangelicals tithe. Studies have shown that there is also an inverse relationship between giving and income. The higher the income the lower the percentage that is given to God's work. One study indicated that 20% of those who made $20,000 or less per year tithed while only 2% of those who made more than $100,000 tithed.

I believe that one can categorize giving habits of believers into four categories - which frankly also pretty directly mirror the maturity of the individual. As you talk about giving in your congregation, it can be helpful to talk about these four categories and encourage people to take the next step in their giving commitments by moving from the category they are in to the next one.

Sporadic giving
This is the individual who periodically puts something in the offering. Generally these are immature believers who are also sporadic in their worship attendance. There is no true commitment to giving here except from time to time.

Regular giving
These folks have moved beyond sporadic to regular giving. This is a significant step forward because it indicates a plan and intentionality in their giving. This often reflects those who are more regular in their attendance.

Percentage giving
This is yet another step toward financial maturity because there is a commitment to give a percentage of one's income. Often the goal here is to get to the place where 10% of one's income is being given to ministry.

Generous giving
This reflects the most mature attitude toward giving. As Christ has been incredibly generous with us, so we choose to be very generous with Him, knowing that there are only three things that cross the line from time to eternity: our own maturity; the people we have influenced for the gospel through our lives and those who have found Christ or grown in Christ because of financial investments we have made. You cannot take it with you, but you can send it ahead of you.

If in your teaching about financial stewardship, you talk about these four categories of giving, you will see heads nod in acknowledgement. You then have an opportunity to regularly encourage people to move from one category to the next - as a part of their followership of Christ.

Two great resources:

Crown Ministries - curriculum for small groups.
Money, Possessions and Eternity, by Randy Alcorn. One of the best books ever written on what the Scriptures have to say about money and possessions - and their relationship with eternity.