The Bible instructs us to help the poor, the widow and orphan and to give our lives to defend them. I’m having a hard time figuring out how much of my money I should be using to do that. Honestly, I don’t make that much money and after rent, utilities and groceries, there isn’t much left. Should I not be saving or putting money away into a 401k? Or should I just give it all away? I hear pastors ([Names of megachurch pastors and authors]) talk about giving it all away but what does that look like practically?
It’s awesome that you are thinking about how much money you should give to help the poor. Despite the fact that Jesus is very serious about that topic (see Matthew 25), a whole lot of Christians just skip right over it because, if they thought about it, they might actually have to give something. So your heart is in the right place, and you are on the right track.
You have consulted scripture, that is right on track. You are asking for advice, that is important. The third ingredient in getting wisdom is to ask God directly in prayer. That is the most important step, but it is also the easiest to skip. God has a plan for your finances, just like He does for every other part of your life. Nobody else knows exactly what that is, so the only way to figure it out is to go to God directly.
Being righteous with your money is about doing what God wants you to do with it. It is not doing the most “extreme” thing and just assuming that God is on board with that. Another note, those Christian authors/megachurch pastors who are telling you to give it all away- they are wealthy. That doesn’t mean they are bad people, or that they are insincere about giving. They probably genuinely mean what they say, but they do have church salaries and, on top of that, book revenues and speaking gig fees. Again, nothing wrong with that, you just have to take it with a pinch of salt when rich guys are telling non-rich people what to do with their money.
The other issue with this idea of being extreme about your money is that it can veer into guilting people into giving, and that is not okay. 2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Giving should be a joy, an opportunity to partner in the work of the kingdom. It shouldn’t be an emotional burden.
It is not sinful to have a savings account. It is sinful to do whatever you want with your money without asking God. Your money is not yours. God gave it to you, it is His, and He has plans for it. I think it is fair to say that that plan includes you paying your rent, having food, and even having fun with your money; but it definitely includes looking out for the least of these.
You don’t have to be giving away huge sums of money to make a difference. There are folks across the world giving $8/month to BridgeBox. For some of them that is a real sacrifice, and all them are making a difference to the lives of poor people in Chicago. If you give what God calls you to, He will make that money make a difference.
If there are times you have just no money to give (believe me, I relate) you have time to give. Go to a soup kitchen and help serve. Go to an old folks home and spend some time with those widows and widowers. Volunteer at Big Brothers/Big Sisters and step into the lives of kids who don’t have parents around.
If you take what you have before God, no matter how little it seems to you, He can turn that into something that will change lives, including yours.
-Matt from The Bridge