1. Giving to people on the street when they ask if you feel unsafe to do so...what should I do? - Anonymous

    • It is a good reminder for us that following Jesus is not meant to be safe, and that many times it requires a risk of many things we hold dear (Mark 8:34-35; John 15:20-21; Luke 14:33).  However, giving to people on the street is a more complex issue that simply saying we should always risk.  That’s because the issue of how we give to those in need is much more complicated.  If we feel unsafe in this particular circumstance, fortunately, there are better ways to give that are also safer, such as supporting a homeless ministry or a rescue mission.  Homelessness is not just a poverty of material possessions.  It involves so much more, and these ministries specialize in helping people to recover their lives in ways that address the factors of chronic homelessness.  Still, we should watch our heart and motivation.  As I said in the first service, there are times when my concern for giving in a “wiser” way is a convenient way for me not to give to someone or to avoid uncomfortable situations.  When I find my own heart fighting to keep what little I would give, I make note of that.  If I find myself judging what they might use the money for, I remind myself that I spend lots of money in ways that don’t honor the Lord, some which may even be harmful to me as well.  So I would still favor a thoughtful, regular plan of giving to those who know best how to work with people on the street, but I don’t want to miss the times when God is training my heart to give out of a sense of compassion in the moment, even though it may not be perfectly safe or the best solution to a long-term problem. 
  2. Do we give $ when we are in serious debt? (More than a mortgage...Loans, Credit cards, etc.) - Anonymous

    • Yes, I believe that we should give to the Lord even when we are in serious debt.  However, this question is best addressed when we consider the circumstances that has led to accumulating the debt, and that’s difficult to do without knowing more.  I would counsel both giving and working on a program (with the help of others, if necessary) to address the debt.  So, while trying to be sensitive to something that is unique to your situation that I am not aware of, I’ll answer the question more generally:  Throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament, giving was presumed, and we don’t have any indication that those who were in debt were addressed differently.  In fact, the scripture writers included examples of those who gave out of the last of what they had (1 Kings 17:7-16; Mark 12:41-44).  If we say to ourselves that we will begin to give when things are better, many times we find that day never comes and there is always a reason not to give.  A good test is to examine our pattern of giving before we went into serious debt.  If we were giving regularly, then perhaps the debt is the result of unforeseen circumstances in our life that otherwise interrupted a pattern of good stewardship.  In that case, I would consult with close Christian friends about your particular circumstances, though I would likely say we should continue to give.  However, if we weren’t giving regularly before we got into serious debt, the debt may not be the issue, and it may be an issue of the way we have managed money in general and whether or not we have understood our stewardship of what God has entrusted us.  Even in times of serious debt, giving to God first is an act of faith and obedience, and it reminds us that everything we have comes from Him, and that he is above all and able to provide in any way he desires.  On a personal note, when I was first challenged to start giving regularly, I was in school and in serious student debt with several credit cards maxed out.  I resisted and cited all sorts of reasons that someone with so much debt should not be giving, but even then I recognized that my real struggle was with giving itself.  I didn’t want to do it, but I eventually was convicted to take the steps I needed towards obedience.  That was 25 years ago.  There were many moments (and we still have them) where we wonder if it is acceptable to stop giving, or reduce our giving, because of circumstances in our life.  I wish I could tell you that we don’t struggle with the issue anymore.  But even after all these years, the temptation is still there.  Yet we continue to give and to instead adjust our lives around our giving, so that we give up other things first, including things that we sometimes feel entitled to enjoy.  In a few weeks, we will be teaching on the struggle of storing treasure on earth and the worries of this life, and those verses are very much tied to this same issue. 
  3. I don't know how I feel about the suggestion that we should give the majority of our tithe to the church. Why? Because I don't really trust the "church". (I'm not talking about new song here; I'm talking about the church at large). I don't think that the church is always seeking the will of God. And while I agree that this might mean I'm trying to control our money, I also see it as stewardship. I DO want, for example, our pastors to be paid well. But I don't want to pay for showy church buildings and fancy renovations. Personally, my husband and I give most of our tithe to an orphanage that we are very familiar with. It's run by Christians and it's in a country where there are no social services like we have here. In many respects, I see that orphanage AS the church. Thoughts? - Anonymous

    • First, I applaud your giving towards an orphanage and heart that is behind it.  Also, the fact that it is run by Christians means that it is an extension of what the church is doing in the world.  It not only gives Jesus the glory for the work, but it is the only chance that these orphans can be fully restored – not just from their material poverty or lack of family connections – but in every way that Jesus heals the broken relationships that lead to poverty, especially the broken relationship between God and His children.  As I stated in the message, there are some who advocate a hard and fast rule that all of our giving must go to the church.  I don’t take that view.  I believe we should give the majority of our giving to church because that is the model we see in the New Testament (examples, Acts 2:34-35; Acts:5:1-11, 2 Cor. 8), but we recognize the great work that is being done by others in the name of the Lord through nonprofits, especially since it was also the case throughout scripture that people gave to the needy directly.  In our own giving, my wife and I give about two-thirds of our giving to the church, and one-third to other Christian organizations.  But you identified the issue that gives me pause, even in our own giving to nonprofits, and that is our tendency to control our giving and to distrust the church and the way it allocates what it receives.  Can control be a part of stewardship?  Yes, in certain circumstances.  But “stewardship” is management of God’s resources for his purposes.  So we have to ask, does Jesus want us to manage his resources in such a way that we give to his church?  Of course he does.  Would Jesus ever say that he doesn’t trust his church, and that he doesn’t want the money he has entrusted to us to be given generously to his church and his work in the world?  Jesus may have his own words of correction to individual churches (Revelation 2 and 3, for example), but he has no plans for the church to ever be Plan B (Mat. 16:18).  Yes, we live in a time when we are skeptical of institutions, and many of us can shake our head at the ways in which some churches choose to spend the money they receive.  Ultimately, those persons are accountable to Jesus for the way in which they invested his resources (Matt. 25:14-30; 1 Cor. 3:10-15).  And while I don’t advocate reckless abandon in giving, many of us lean too heavily on the side of caution and want to make sure that our giving is focused on our own priorities.  We should affirm the work of the church as invaluable and the way it differs from nonprofit ministries.  (We are discussing an upcoming series on What is the Church, and that may answer this more fully.)  The church is the body of Christ in the world and involves the proclamation of the gospel, the ministry of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, the equipping of the saints, the community of the believers and even the place of accountability and discipline.  In our day and age, that requires resources to hire the workers of the gospel and to pay their wages (1 Tim. 5:17-19), as well as to house physically all of the ministries offered by the church.  If Newsong is one of those churches that we do trust, then we should be giving generously to Newsong.  If it is not a church we trust with our giving, then it would be strange to continue to sit under its teaching or its ministry.   If our issue is that even the churches we do trust don’t give enough to the missions and compassion efforts that do this important work in the name of Jesus, then we should speak up about that fact and urge leadership to reallocate the budget, while asking ourselves whether these churches would be more able to do so if we all gave more to the local church.  After all, if Newsong was flooded with additional giving, no one’s salary would increase, the amount to maintain the facilities would remain the same, and we be in a position to see that increase go toward greater ministry impact.  Until that day comes, we continue to give faithfully to the church, while also giving to other worthy ministries that proclaim the name of Jesus and fulfill his purposes in the world.