Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Discernment Required for Wise Giving

By Michael Barrick


Donors are to be good stewards of the resources with which God has provided them – "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2)."

To be good stewards, donors must have discernment – "Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance" (Proverbs 1:5).
"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Donors, to be generous and cheerful givers, must have confidence that ministries' disclosures regarding financial practices, spending habits, board governance and compensation, and other key practices are complete, thorough, timely and transparent.

Accountability required

Sometimes, that means some ministries – which would prefer that their
fundraising and spending habits not see the light of day – will not be pleased with the efforts of Wall Watchers staff, has already advised donors to not contribute to the many so-called Word of Faith or "Prosperity Gospel" televangelists because of their refusal to release even the most basic financial data and other information, such as salaries and possible conflicts of interests among board members. Indeed, most of them live lavish lifestyles that demand an answer as to whether or not the gifts of the donors are not actually benefiting the leaders of these organizations.

These leaders refuse to share this information based on an unbiblical theological dogma that holds that extra-biblical "anointings" from God somehow provides them with immunity from having to share financial data and other information with donors.

Greed the Culprit?

With these "church" or "ministry" leaders living in multi-million dollar homes, jetting around the world in private planes, buying homes for their families and otherwise living a luxurious lifestyle that would not be otherwise available to them but for the generosity of unsuspecting donors, those giving to these ministries – and as important, those for whom donors intend their resources to help – deserve greater accountability from these "churches" and "ministries" than is presently occurring.

Service requires the proper motivation

Most importantly, we are accountable to God, and that is reflected in our relationship with Him and one another. Peter taught ,
"Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care – serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve, not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away" (1 Peter 5: 2-4).

Explicit in this verse is that we are accountable to God and to those whom we serve. In the life of the ministry, that is not only the recipients of the charity, but also those who made the charity possible. Clearly, the proper motivation – sacrificial service, not self gratification – is the only proper incentive for Christian service.

Misusing the name of the Lord is a sin

"You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God" (Exodus 20:7).
Those that would use God's name to raise money for their own benefit are
misusing the name of the Lord. A Christ-follower's purpose is clear: to bring
glory to God –
"So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Clearly, using God's name to coerce donors into sending money that then ends up in the pockets of ministry/church leaders and their families is a misuse of the name of God, undermines the Gospel and trivializes the sacrificial work of Jesus.
Silence gives sanction to sin

However, in some cases, a ministry just simply refuses to be transparent, or has been found to have engaged in questionable or illegal practices. Is silence acceptable in such situations? Scripture teaches not, and in fact implies that silence gives sanction to sin –
"Have nothing to do with fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them" (Ephesian 5:11)

The proper motivation

A Christian leader is to be a shepherd, have a willing heart, be guided by the
right motives and have a servant's spirit. Those that don't may be doing
"good," but they are not operating by God's precepts. Inevitably, such
management will bring shame to the practitioner, the Gospel and perhaps both.


While unscrupulous ministry leaders may reject independent accountability, there can be no question but that accountability is a biblical standard. It begins, of course, with each believer's relationship with God – "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10).

However, this is not to say that people are not accountable to one another. Those who would say that a person is accountable only to God ignore or fail to recognize that God has established human spheres of accountability – "All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5)
As noted previously, but worth repeating, those that serve as leaders – shepherds – are accountable to The Shepherd for how they lead their flocks

"Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be, not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you but being examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:23)
Having to be accountable is often not a pleasant task. However, the leader that wishes to grow in his or her relationship with God understands that being accountable to others is required –
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17).

Those that refuse to be held accountable to God's word by fellow Christ-followers invite suspicion. While pointing that out may not be popular, it is biblical.

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