Why Do Christians Give? Philanthropy Or Christianity?

Why do Christians give? It is a simple question, yet the answer provided to many Christians is often vague at best. Many Christians hear a variety of reasons for giving such as: “God has been generous to you so you should be generous in return,” “It belongs to God and you are just redistributing it,” “There is joy in giving,” “It will teach you many spiritual lessons,” or “It is a good thing to help out your fellow man”.

These reasons are all truthful, but I fear they miss the point. I have trouble separating or seeing the difference between these explanations and “Philanthropy.” What separates the Christian’s call to give from a mere desire to improve the welfare of our “fellow man”? Is there any difference between the two?

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why do Christians give?

Our Giving Must Point Back To Christ

My pastor, a great Bible teacher, often quotes an old theologian who said something to the effect of: “If it is not about Jesus, it is not Christianity.” I will do my best to answer the question of giving in this context:

Our giving must point back to Christ.

In the flesh, in sin, we are TAKERS. Since the Garden of Eden, we are out to get whatever we can for ourselves. Even our very acts of giving can be corrupted by self-serving motives. Christ’s life in us reverses this trend. We become GIVERS when in close communion with His Spirit. Not just givers of money, but everything: time, energy, love, talents, emotions, and on and on. We live to bless others. In the flesh, we are like a sponge, soaking up all we can for ourselves. Even when every possible avenue is saturated, perhaps even drowning, we still seek to absorb more.

Christians give because Christ is in them. Simple as that.

In Christ, we begin see the water start running in the opposite direction, away from ourselves. We actually begin to see our heart and soul believe: “It is better to give than to receive ” (Acts 20:35). Instead of a sponge: “He who believes in Me…From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38) As Christ gains the victory in the hearts of men, their desire for generosity, to bless others before themselves cannot be contained. Christ said: “where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21) When He, whose life, death, and resurrection lived out His saying: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13) consumes our hearts we cannot help but to follow His example. To live to give and bless others becomes a sacred joy when Christ has His proper abode in our heart.

If I am honest, I don’t know if I have ever met a godly man that was stingy. (Notice, I did not say “rich”. I have met many godly men that were rich also.) The more I study the life of Christ and inspirational men and women of faith, the more I see that the spirit stirred with the love of God cannot help but to live a life of Generosity. Those in keeping with the fountain of Living Water feel suffocated by selfishness. They are compelled to live and give as Christ. They are transformed by His Spirit and the act becomes as natural as breathing.

In conclusion, Christians give because Christ is in them. Simple as that.

Our Savior is the essence of generosity. He is alive in us and the desire to bless others is only a natural expression of His power in our hearts. Certainly, our giving respects God’s ownership, brings us joy, teaches us things, and helps those less fortunate than us, but these are only branches not the Vine. Christ, the very author of “It is better to give than to receive” is continuing His work and manifesting Himself and His power through His people. This, dear believer, is Christianity not philanthropy.

This is an article by Rob Kuban, author of the book on Christians & Money, Dollars And Doctrine: What Does The Bible Actually Say About Money?.

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Last Edited: 7th December 2012

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  1. kev says

    I don’t buy it.

    I’ve met more than a few Stingy Christians, and more than a few generous, giving, charitable non-Christians. Like me! My wife and I give quite a fair bit to charity, and we’re agnostic. And we’re not the only ones. I have an atheist friend who would give you the shirt off his back.

    We also know many very giving Christians; but we’ve encountered a few who wouldn’t give you a penny if Jesus himself came down and told them to smarten up and give you a penny.

    Some give, some don’t. You’ll never convince me that it has anything to do with ones’ religious inclinations, because I’ve seen so much evidence to the contrary.

    • says

      I don’t think the article said that non-Christians can’t be giving, or that people only give if they’re religious? I agree with you that Non-Christians can be very giving – and I think that’s great!

      To me the article is saying that the motivations behind the giving of Christians and non-Christians are different. While I can’t completely speak to the motives of the non-Christian, the Christian is motivated by his relationship with Christ, and his desire to live like He did.

      I agree with you that there are Christians who aren’t very giving, and aren’t living out their faith, but that is more than likely because they don’t have a close walk with Christ, and because they’re human. We all fail from time to time, and sin. I know I at times can let me relationship with Christ start becoming less important, and at those times I end up becoming a more selfish person. That’s part of the human condition, and why we need Christ – and his example!

    • Andrew says

      Kev,

      If i were you I would be frustrated! As i read every ones response to your post i see people subtly questioning you ability to have pure motives. It sounds like they are saying becuase you are not a christian your motives are driven by something other than “christian” reasons to give. That becuase you do not have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ you cannot give in pure God honoring ways. They might say becuase you (and every person) are sinful and are only controled by your flesh with selfish, wrong, and impure (not God honoring) motives that your giving is less pure. I think I disagree with that. Compassion and Empathy, a sense of justice, and love are all biblical attitudes to give. Maybe not reasons but attitudes. And I think you can have that attitutide. It does not mean good works get you to heaven and that your a shoe in to the Kingdom but it does mean that I believe you when you say you give and you care. I do not quesiton your motives.

      I dont know you and i dont know why you give. But i believe some of the above listed attitudes could be your motavation to give and i think that is honorable.

      May i gently share a thought with you for your reflection. If God exists (and I know that could be a long email between an agnostic and a believer) and IF the scriptures are a valid text to detirmine Gods attributes; here is a thought for you.

      The Scriptures teach that God does not give as much as he is fundamentally a giver. It is not what He does but who he is! That is a crazy/awesome thought to me! The Scriptures also teach that mankind if created imago dei, in the image of God. That means that built into you creaturehood is the attribute and personality of Almighty God. Yes, as Christians we believe that sin and evil greatly effect our motives but none the less in your giving you are acting out the image bearer inside of you. That is why you can experience a sense of satisfaction and meaning when you give. So when you give out of a sense of compassion, empathy, justice or love you are reflecting a deep reality that you where created in the image of an almighty, giving, loving God that created you and wants to engage in relationship. A mystery of Life is that when we love, serve, give, pursue humility, and holiness we find a depth and meaning to life that can be found in no other place. At least no other place that I have looked. It is in the person of Jesus Christ that I see this beauty more than any other Person in history. And the Scriputes tell me that he is the exact replication of God. He might have some of the anwers as to why you sense a deep joy in giving. For me, if I was going to be honest with myself, I still have to deal with my vices and sins. Jesus was there for me on those issues as well.

      Your giving might be a whisper from your Creator to give him a second thought. Because He knows that both you and Him are worth it.

      Peace

  2. karyn sweet says

    @ Kev I think a Christian who doesn’t at least strive to be giving (or loving or thankful, etc) isn’t really trying to live a Christian life. They’re Christian in name only. As for the giving habits of nonreligious people or people of other religions, is not that they can’t be just as giving – they just have a different motivation than a Christian. A Muslim person might give because it’s one of the pillars of faith. A Buddhist might give because money is illusion anyway. An agnostic might give because they feel it’s the right thing to do. And I think they’re all good reasons.

  3. says

    Kev,
    I agree with you more than you think. I am willing to bet I know more stingy Christians than you do!! Haha. That is why I do what I do at dollarsanddoctrine.com I think Peter put it best. The post is only designed to show a difference in motivation. The post is designed to show that a Christian, more and more consumed with Christ, will begin to become more generous. It is simply the source of generosity, living through and out of us. That is why Christians who take their faith seriously will find themselves giving more and more. I know many non-believers that give, but yours/their motivation to give is different. Christ gives through me. I know that might sound strange, but its what I believe. As to why so many Christians are so stingy (actually, evangelical Christians are statisically the highest giving subgroup in America…I will have to consult my “archives” to quote the article), but I tend to agree that many American Christians are in fact stingy. This is because most American Christians make much of the riches of this world, and little of the riches of Christ. That is why dollars and doctrine exists.

  4. says

    As a life-long Christian, I agree that we are called to give. It’s easy to forget but our money isn’t really our money. I truly believe that God rewards those who give even when they themselves are struggling. It’s an act of faith. That said, I have been guilty of not giving as much as I should sometimes because I feel I need to make sure I provide for my family when in fact God is the one who provides. I am still a “work in progress” Christian and I believe so are those that go to church and don’t give at all.

    I do have to agree with Kev on a few things. Non-Christians can be much more giving than Christians at times. I recently found out at my church (evangelical), only about 15% of the members tithe consistently! Wow.
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  5. says

    I too think it is great that Kev can be very generous.

    I used to be an agnostic and I wasn’t like Kev; all I ever thought about was myself. Only after Christ came to live in me and started changing me did I start to become generous. I still have a long way to go, but Rob’s summary statement, “Christians give because Christ is in them. It is that simple” certainly applies to me. I give because of Christ, not because of any nobility in myself.
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  6. says

    I have instilled in me a belief that I should give because I have the ability to do so. How much I give and who I give to are tempered by other outside factors, but I don’t know that I would have that belief in me were I not raised to be a Christian
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  7. says

    What is sad is that less than 3% of Christians tithe. That is pathetic. Financial bondage truly has it’s grip on many Christians. God does not need our money. He had plenty. Tithing is a trust issue. It would seem that many Christians do not trust God with their finances.

  8. says

    These are all great points, thanks for sharing everyone. Tithing is definitely a trust issue. I give as a christian and it is easy some days and difficult at times as well.

  9. Nick says

    What “tithing” means is different to everyone. Is it 10% of after tax income, 10% of gross income? If it’s 10% of gross income, then are you including the portion of your social security tax that your employer pays, the portion of your health insurance your employer pays, and your retirement contributions from your employer? If you include all that, it’ll be well over 10% of your “gross income”. Also, are you doing all 3 tithes mentioned in the bible or just the standard 10%?

    Questions questions…

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