The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every part of life. One area of life that it has interrupted is the economy. Governments are arguing over stimulus packages, non-essential business are shut down, and people are less social. This means that money is not flowing as usual. This is seen across the globe and not merely in our own neighborhoods.
This has significance for a lot of churches, especially small ones when it comes to giving. Churches must make adjustments to budgets since this will undoubtedly impact ministry plans and even payrolls of small church pastors. But how should individual Christians approach this topic of money and the church? Is it just a taboo that we should avoid? No. Christians must search the Scriptures on every topic, whether taboo or not.
Here are a few (unchanging) biblical principles on giving that can help guide us during this time.
#1: Give with the Right Heart. The Bible indicates that financial support of the ministry is a heart issue. We cannot forget the often quoted passage, ” . . . for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7b). Christians give cheerfully because we know that we are investing in eternal matters. We give cheerfully knowing that it produces thanksgiving to God (2 Cor 9:11). Christians should feel an appropriate tension between sacrifice and cheerful giving. Jesus, gave Himself sacrificially but He did so willfully and with great joy, ” . . . Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Heb 12:2b, emphasis added; cf. John 10:18).
Whether our economy is thriving or striving, Christians give with a cheerful and sacrificial heart. We support causes that go beyond life on earth. We are stewards of God’s good gifts and happily give that which is temporary, for the benefit of that which is eternal.
#2: Give as a Biblical Steward. The Bible instructs Christians to givethoughtfully and intentionally as good stewards, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart” (2 Cor 9:7a). The Bible also tells Christians to give, “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save” (1 Cor 16:2a).
Basically, the Bible tells Christians to be faithful budgeters. This shows that Christians should aim to account for all the money that God has given us. This does not mean we are stingy, but it does mean we are serious about our finances. Christians understand that the Lordship of Christ even includes how we spend our money. It’s all his to begin with anyway.
#3: Give in Proportion. The Bible instructs Christians to give in proper proportion to what they receive. To be clear, this is not an argument for a particular percentage (e.g., always give 10% of your income). Rather, I believe the Bible says that our ability to give should be proportioned with how much and when we are paid. Paul told the Corinthians, “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper” (1 Cor 16:2, emphasis added). Christians should give to the church as they prosper. Sometimes our financial prosperity is not much, so we give what we can. Other times our financial prosperity is in abundance, so we can give in abundance.
The pandemic might have us making sacrifices and that is understandable. Less work will produce less income, which for this season might mean less giving and that is ok. It is part of giving proportion to what we have received.
The good thing is that our joy is not tied to our finances. Paul says that Christians must learn contentment as he did (Phil 4:10–14). He also reminds us that giving out of our poverty never robs us of joy. Consider the example of the Macedonian Christians, “that in great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality” (2 Cor 8:2, emphasis added). Notice the extremes? “Abundance of joy” and “deep poverty” coexisted. This means that joy and wealth are not tied together; sadness and poverty are not tied together. You can be poor and happy; you can be rich and miserable.
Our joy is always in the Lord. Therefore, when we give in proportion we are giving out of wisdom. We are giving what we can in our circumstances and we can and should do so with a cheerful attitude. Therefore, as a Christian, you ought to make every effort in this pandemic to give with wisdom and cheerfulness.
#4: Give with Proper Priorities. The Bible never wants you to give at the expense of personal necessities. The Bible calls for Christians to provide for their own families (1 Tim 5:8), their local ministries (Gal 6:6), to other Christians (1 Cor 16:2), and with great wisdom for godly purposes (1 Tim 6:17–19).
Does my local church need the money? Maybe, depends on the situation. Should I give to one parachurch organization over another? Maybe, depends on the situation. God. Perhaps the church has enough money and would like to support another local church in need (cf. Acts 11:27–30). Perhaps a missionary could use the money in a helpful way (see possibly Rom 15:22–25). Perhaps a family in the church is in greater need of the money that your local church, a beloved parachurch organization or missionary.
These are difficult paths to navigate. Therefore, as a Christian you ought to consult with your local church leadership with how to steward your money. They might know situations or ministries that could use your help. Perhaps they might even encourage you to save your money. The point is that they should know you fairly well and godly leadership will always strive to point you in the right direction. Listen and consider to their counsel insofar that they are biblically sound.
Conclusion. Money is a sensitive subject. Here in the America, we love money. We live in a country where capitalism rules. Money is powerful and influential. But do not forget that money is also revelatory, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). How is COVID-19’s economic impact affecting your personal finances? Perhaps, more importantly, what is COVID-19’s impact on the economy revealing about your heart?
Give with the right heart. Give as a good steward. Give with the right proportion. Give with the right priorities.