Paul and Janice Crouch, the founders of Trinity Broadcasting Network, built up a single Christian station into the world’s largest Christian television network. And things have turned out well for them. The network’s donors help fund generous salaries of R4 million a year for Paul and R3.5 million for his wife, Janice. There are other perks as well, including a TBN-owned jet and 30 homes across the country, among them a pair of mansions and a ranch in Texas.
Pastor Paul Crouch calls it “God’s economy of giving,” and here is how it works. People who donate to Trinity Broadcasting Network will reap financial blessings from a grateful God. The more they give TBN, the more God will give them. Being broke or in debt is no excuse not to write a check. In fact, it’s an ideal opportunity for God is especially generous to those who give when they can least afford it. Crouch told his viewers during a telethon that, “He’ll give you thousands, hundreds of thousands, and He’ll give millions and billions of dollars.”
Once a year at our church we teach specifically on giving. Here is a summary of what I believe the Bible actually teaches on money and giving.
Perhaps one of the most basic truths of the Bible is that in our lives there ought to be no compartments. We love to compartmentalise our lives e.g. we are good “Christians” on Sundays (Sunday compartment) and then live like an unbeliever at work (work compartment)! So we are tempted to have a Sunday compartment, a Work compartment, a Friends compartment, a Sex compartment etc.
But according to the Bible, Jesus is the Lord of all, and every area of our lives falls under his Lordship. Therefore there can be no compartments. Either he is our Lord or he is not. Zaccheus recognised this and realised that his “Financial dealings” compartment also fell under the Lordship of Christ. After Zaccheus’ encounter with Jesus he therefore returned four times what he had stolen. Our money and how we spend it falls under Christ’s Lordship.
No others gods
The Bible teaches in various places that we can only truly serve one master. We’ll either serve God or something else. Indeed the first commandment says: You shall have no other gods before me. We will either serve God and live under his control, influence and direction; or we will live for money, career, comfort or prestige. Jesus put it this way: You cannot serve both God and Mammon. You will bow down to one or the other. Money is a good thing, as long as it does not become a God-thing. With money we can provide for our family, give to those in need, support gospel ministry, educate our children, go on holiday – and these are all good things. But money can also become your master and lord who you bow down to and run after and end up selling your soul to – that’s a bad thing.
Jesus also said that you can gain the whole world, have the biggest stock portfolio, own shares in a few companies, and live the so-called good life, but end up forfeiting your soul – if you are not rich towards God.
Jesus told his disciples, and by implication us (if we are Christians) in Matthew 6, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Here is a great truth: If we seek first God’s Kingdom and rule, if we seek to live God’s way with gospel-centred priorities, God promises to take care of our needs. But there is a big “IF”. In order for us to not be anxious we must seek first the Kingdom.
Why give according to the Bible?
1. Support gospel ministry (1 Corinthians 9:7-14)
2. Help those in need (1 Corinthians 16:1-4)
Why should we not give?
Give to get
Often we hear sermons about giving and the preacher will say that in order to receive financially we need to give financially. So we give in order to get and as a result the prosperity gospel guys are very big, especially in Africa.
This is wrong. We don’t give to get more money. The Bible says that it is more blessed to give than to receive. We give out of grateful response for what God has done for us in Christ. God gave us everything, including his own son. God, who is rich, made his son poor, so that we who are spiritually poor and bankrupt can be made spiritually rich. We do not give to get. In fact, our giving is mandated to be sacrificial, meaning that sometimes we can’t do some of the things we want to do because we’ve given.
One commentator writes: “Nowhere does the Bible propose the gaining of financial rewards as a motive for giving. But the man (or woman) who gives ungrudgingly for the blessing of others may rejoice in the knowledge that in doing so he is sowing a seed which will produce a harvest of blessing for himself.”
God may bless us financially or in some other way if he chooses to, but that is not the motivation and expectation for giving.
Giving to earn God’s approval
The largest mosque in the Southern Hemisphere was opened in Midrand a few weeks ago. The complex, which consists of a school, clinic, mosque and shops, was funded by a 75-year-old Turkish man, who is not surprisingly a Muslim. The mosque is a small replica of a mosque in Turkey. It is estimated that the mosque costs about R300 million. I’m not sure why “Uncle Ali” built the mosque, but I do know that alms giving is one of the five pillars of Islam. The pillars are acts of religious devotion that, if kept , increase your chances of eternal salvation. I can’t judge the heart, but “Uncle Ali” might be trying to earn Allah’s divine approval.
Are we not tempted to think like that as Christians?
We may subconsciously believe that by giving we are earning God’s approval, or in some sense, buying our way into God’s good books and securing our place in heaven. But that’s not Christianity. We are saved by grace and any good works, including giving, is a response to God’s grace
We give because God needs the money
“Shame, God is so poor, he needs the money”, is what some people think – so we reluctantly give our R10 on Sunday. God is viewed as the great Taker who keeps taking all our money, like some street beggar. We end up therefore giving reluctantly, begrudgingly and very little.
The Bible, on the other hand, tells us that God is not poor. In fact he is very rich. He owns all the platinum in South Africa and indeed the whole world. And he is not a Taker, but a Giver. He loves to give.
John Piper says: God is the great Giver, Fountain, and Father, flowing with ever-replenishing blessing and grace and hope. The person who views God as he is, a Giver, feels, as he looks at the needs of the world is a free, internal impulse to give, to share.
What does the Bible say about giving?
Give because God gives
Giving is evidence of Christian maturity
Giving is an investment in God’s Kingdom, not an expense
Giving should be planned, sacrificial and cheerful
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income…”
Giving is important
God is a very generous giver, and he calls us to be the same.