In the first post entitled, “Should Christians Tithe to the Church?” we discovered, biblically, that that “principle” is taught nowhere—nowhere—in the Bible. Please note that I just wrote that this is a “principle” that is taught in churches. We call it a principle because we don’t want to call it law. Law puts on the other side from grace. We don’t want to go there, so we call tithing a principle. Even for those churches who teach that tithing is not in the New Testament, they will still require adherence to it—or some other kind of giving—if one wants to become a member, a covenant member, on the council, an elder—whatever we want to call those who are on the “inside.” The thinking may be phrased in this question, or something like it: “How can you say you’re a committed member here if you’re not giving to this church? And I don’t mean $10 a month.”

However, we also saw in the last post that it’s clear in Scripture that God’s people are to give to the Lord, to the poor and to widows, especially those within the household of faith. Our problem in the U.S. is that giving to the “poor” is a bit problematic. Even the poor in this nation have more money than most other people in the world. Not only that, some of the “poor” and “homeless” in this country have cleverly discovered how to game the system. Even charitable organizations spend a majority of funds donated to them not on those in need, but on the salaries of presidents, vice presidents, CEOs, staff members, and administrative costs. (I recommend you check out the website Charity Navigator before you give to any charity. That site will tell you not only what percentage of funds actually ends up going to those in need but also how much the CEO makes.)

It doesn’t end there, though. Giving to the poor in “less developed” countries isn’t as easy as it should be. When we lived in China and India, we were approached by beggars who were undoubtedly objects of pity. But looks are deceiving. “Beggars” in those countries—and there are probably others—are purposefully maimed in order to make their handlers rich. When one gives money to them, he is supporting a malicious system.

So, where your money should go? Great question. This is where Christianity becomes wonderfully challenging, engaging, and relational. Where or to whom you give will be revealed as you seek God and serve others.

I know, I know. It used to be so easy to put one’s check in the basket, didn’t it? Or to give by credit card online. Add some info in the required fields, click on the button, and you’re done. Now you must pray for wisdom, direction, and opportunity.

Why did the Lord have to make this so…relational? We should have known, shouldn’t we? We all know the story of the Good Samaritan. It’s safe to say that he was involved relationally with the man who had been beaten and robbed.

However, there are some things to look at from the Bible concerning where to give, in addition to the poor and widows.

We are taught to help support those who teach.

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages’” (1 Timothy 5:17–18 ESV).

“Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Philippians 4:14–20 ESV).

And missionaries:

“Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth” (3 John 5–8 ESV).

However, this doesn’t solve all of our problems, does it? How much should one give to teachers, pastors, and missionaries? Again, it is a matter of prayer and relationship.

And does giving to pastors and missionaries mean that you also give funds to support church staff and all the other multitudinous stuff that is required to run church organizations? Please note that I’m making a distinction. There is a pastor or teacher that should be supported, and there is a church organization that cries out to be supported. There are many among us who say that there is no difference. I will not contend with those who hold this view, although I do not hold it. The learning curve—the-disengagement-from-the-money-swallowing-church-structure journey—has been long and enlightening for us. (One of the many things I learned from being on church staff: It sure is easy to spend someone else’s money.) So, it behooves me to offer the same grace to others that was given to me as our brothers and sisters engage with our amazing, loving, holy, powerful, living God and His word.