Spiritual bang for your buck: which charities should get your money?

If you’re anything like me, it’s not an uncommon thing to receive invitations to donate to some cause of other. It seems that wherever we go we are being entreated to give to some fund or charity, and that our mailboxes are full of letters asking for donations to this cause or that.  People inside the grocery store asking to purchase calendars for thirty dollars each. Teenage boys and girls at the checkout lines who will help you bag your items if you donate to their sports teams so they can go play a soccer tournament half-way across the country. Mailers asking for donations to help buy a Christmas turkey dinner for the homeless of the city. Mailers asking for money to help elderly Jews by helping them return to Israel. Cashiers at the registers of retail stores asking to donate to breast cancer research, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating illnesses. Cashiers at the registers asking  to donate to school supplies for needy children, the SPCA, or to give towards the Special Olympics. The requests are everywhere, and it can be exhausting.

Whereas I used to give a few dollars here or there,  I’ve since stopped doing that. Some charities I refuse to support on principle [anything to do with pink ribbons and Susan G Komen] but I’ve become increasingly selective over the years, to the point that I’ll ignore 95% of requests outright for one simple reason. I do not see any eternal value in doing so. Because my labors and income is a gift from God, I want to be a good steward of it. I don’t want to  be unwise in deciding where it goes and who receives it. I only have a limited amount of it, and so I want to ensure that it yields an eternal value wherever it is spent. For this reason, unless there is a Christocentric component, I will not give.

Case in point; the Special Olympics. Why would I give fifty dollars to this group when that money could feed and support a missionary in some parts of the world for several months? Where is the eternal utilitarian value of paying for an athletes hotel room or for his airfare so they can participate in a particular sport, when that same money could be used to purchase ministry tools for those who don’t have access to them, or could be used to feed and shelter a struggling missionary who is preaching the gospel to the unsaved? Where is the value?

I could give to my local SPCA, and at their request make donations to ensure that the animals are properly fed while they await to be adopted, that administrative and advertising costs are covered, and that they can buy enough sodium thiopental to put their animals to sleep. Or I could donate the money to various Christian organizations who print and smuggle in Bibles to closed nations and persecuted Christians.

I could give my money to a homeless shelter or food bank that feeds and clothes and provides financial and physical support for those who need it, or I could give to a homeless shelter and food bank that does all those things as well as makes it a priority to preach the gospel and include a component of Christian evangelism to the services they are providing. In this case I would never, ever give to the former, but I would happily give to the latter.

I could give to the local national park to help pay for salaries and garbage cleanup, capital projects and legacy gifts so that people have a better wildlife experience, or I could give even more sacrificially to my local Church as I trust the elders to spend it with care.

Ultimately I want to be wise and use my money in a way that will tangibly and practically further the kingdom of Christ. Its not wrong to give to all those organizations, but neither do I think it is particularly beneficial, especially for the Christian who ought to set his sights on different priorities and purposes in giving. Why give to an organization that seeks to only address the physical and emotional needs of someone when you can give to organizations which seek to address both physical and spiritual needs? Where is the eternal perspective on giving? Where is the biblical theology of money? I think it needs to be present at all times, and I think we need to be much more aware of it.

What are your thoughts on donating to charities or school groups of other social-justice type groups with no gospel centereness?  Am I onto something here, or do you disagree? How do you and your family choose where and why to give? I’d love to get your feedback.


[Contributed by Dustin Germain]

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6 Responses

  1. burrito34 says:

    I had been thinking about this very topic a few days ago. I don’t think it’s always an easy question to definitively answer for everyone and every circumstance. There is a “both/and” dimension that applies rather than an “either/or” and it ultimately comes down to the conscience of the giver. I think it best to look to Scripture for the principles to guide us in our stewardship of giving. God is kind to the thankful and ungrateful, the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45; Luke 6:35-36). Furthermore, Paul writes in Ephesians 6:10, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” How can one who is truly born again not have some measure of generosity within them, seeing that we have a Heavenly Father who is in some measure gracious to all? That said, it’s my conviction that a believer should support his or her local church first, good Christian ministries, second and then others as we believe best.

    Yet we certainly want to be careful that we don’t support charities that are opposed to Christ and the Gospel. That is a proper application with the thought expressed in receiving false teachers (2 John 1:9-11). Giving to charities in category 3 properly consists of at least two steps. One should do enough research to make sure that giving to a charity doesn’t support one that is anti-christian and prayer should always be involved in making s the decision to give or not give.

  2. rhology says:

    Totally agree.
    This is also why I don’t really give to beggars on the side of the road or in Metro stations. Money’s better given to a faithful man of God doing work for the sake of the work, and trusting God for his income.

  3. Robert says:

    Totally agree. Advancing the great commission as opposed to simply making things a bit better for a season. Also got to be aware about where an organisation provides the supposed gospel via non-Christian organisations – e.g., via partnering with Roman Catholicism.

  4. julie says:

    this also comes up with missionaries. Some missionaries send monthly or quarterly newsletters that are full of family information (usually trivial) and how folks are receiving water, food or medical help, but no mention of the gospel, preaching or souls being reached. I’m all for sending money to help with people’s physical needs, but what about their souls?

  5. JD Hall says:

    I rebuke all of you in the name of Lottie Moon for not more fully supporting the cowboy church-planting efforts of the Cooperative Program. Shame on you. Don’t you know your nickles are needed for ice sculptures and confetti cannons?

  6. Susan A says:

    Funny, we stopped at Taco Bell and they asked me if I wanted to give a dollar for the Children’s Hospital, I said no, she looked at me funny and I told her we give monthly to Hope International in the Ukraine. Our monthly support goes not just to feed 20 children but it is because the gospel is preached and the group is growing. I totally agree, we have to be good stewards but ultimately it has to be about Jesus, otherwise it is all for nothing.

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