Give (not to me!)

(I originally posted this page on the other blog but felt it was appropriate here as well.)

I was reading through the Psalms this morning (January 4, 2009) and encountered these lines from Psalm 39:4-6,

O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!       Selah
Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!

From these few verses we learn, among other things, that life is short, the eternal God is our creator and sustainer, and we all have a natural tendency to “heap up wealth” on earth and not in heaven.  In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus said,

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Randy Alcorn calls this the Treasure Principle, and through his writing and speaking he is encouraging Christians to actively “heap up wealth” in heaven, where it will last forever, and not on earth, where we cannot ultimately keep and enjoy it.  How?  By giving away in this life the resources that God has generously supplied us with.

In the opening verses of Matthew 6 Jesus also warns about being hypocritical in this matter.

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

Hmm.  Does this mean we should never tell anyone whether or not we’re giving money to those people and/or ministries that need and depend on the generosity of other people?  Or is this a matter of motives and the heart?  Personally, our accountant and her assistants know how much and to whom we give charitably every year since they prepare our taxes for us.  Someone at the IRS knows those details as well.  The people or ministries we are giving to obviously know what we are giving.

On the other hand, Jesus also told his followers in Matthew 5:14-16 that they/we are the light of the world which should not be hidden.  Much like a city on a hill or a lamp on a table we should let our “light shine before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven.”  John Piper has said that this is one of the most significant ethical challenges facing Christians today – how to so live that God gets the glory and not us.

So how to reconcile these passages in a way that makes sense and is helpful?  I could say that we endorse the following ministries and then leave it at that.  That might seem sort of corny though, or half-hearted.  We do endorse and recommend these ministries, but we also follow that endorsement with contributing to them.  In other words, and in this case, we put our money where our mouth is.  However, I don’t want to give the impression that we are stellar and unfailing examples of giving, because we’re not.  We still hold on to too much, and give away too little.  But by God’s grace that seems to be changing for better as we continue our sojourn through this life.

Perhaps Christians in America have treated this topic like other topics in our Christian lives – as far too personal to share with anyone, and completely non-transparent.  A little more (or a lot more) transparency in our lives would generally be a good thing for everyone.

Now then, I propose that the following ministries are worthy of your consideration.  There are many others that are also worthy of your consideration, but these ministries represent where our concerns lie.  This is not our exhaustive list, but it is a good start.  If nothing else, perhaps it will inspire you to start giving away what God has entrusted you with, and in that way start laying up for yourself treasures in heaven.

Make Way Partners

Make Way Partners is an organization that is working around the world, and especially in Sudan (Africa) and Eastern Europe, to end human trafficking and modern-day slavery.  One option that they have available is to become a sponsor of one or more of the orphans at their orphanage in Sudan.  This story is what drew our attention to this ministry and spurred us into action.  Click here to find out more about sponsoring a child at their Sudanese orphanage.  Make Way Partners is an Affiliate Member of ECFA, and uses only 6.4% of contributions for administrative expenses.  Wow.

Bella Pregnancy Resource Center

The Bella Pregnancy Resource Center is located in Spearfish, SD, and is actively working to give pregnant women and girls alternatives to abortion that do not end in the death of a baby.  This is life-saving, in-the-trenches, Christ-following stuff.  Bella can be reached at bella@rushmore.com, or (605) 642-4140.

Abortion is an issue that has been ignored for far too long by Christians or, for that matter, any thinking person with a conscience.  Want to know more about the grim reality that is abortion?  Check out www.abort73.com.

The Voice of the Martyrs

VOM helps meet the physical and spiritual needs of Christians and others in countries around the world where persecution of Christians is a very real, daily occurrence.  That includes Christians being martyred (killed) for their faith in Jesus Christ.  Yes, persecution still happens.

Living Water International

LWI recently came to our attention through the Advent Conspiracy and through one of Amy’s sisters.  Their mission, as posted on their website, is “to demonstrate the love of God by helping communities acquire desperately needed clean water, and to experience “living water”—the gospel of Jesus Christ—which alone satisfies the deepest thirst.”

What do they do and what have they done so far?

LWI is an implementer of participatory, community-based water solutions in developing nations. In its 16-year history, LWI has completed nearly 6,500 community water projects in 26 countries, which provide safe, clean water to 9.5 million people every day.

This video, which documents one shopper’s trip to a dollar store, makes the point that for each dollar spent there, or anywhere else, someone somewhere else in the world could have had clean water to drink for the next year.  According to LWI, it costs them an average of $0.98 to provide clean, safe water to one person for one year.  That, my friends, is an incredible return on investment.

Habitat for Humanity

People (our fellow human beings) need shelter.  Many people don’t have it, through no fault of their own.  Habitat is working to end poverty and provide decent, safe, affordable shelter for people.  You can help.

Prison Fellowship/Angel Tree

According to Jesus there will be real consequences on judgment day for ignoring prisoners.  Prison Fellowship is working to take the gospel into the prisons and transform prisoner’s lives.  That’s a win-win situation for everyone involved, and “everyone” includes the prisoners, you, and me as fellow members of one society.

Your local church

No link for this one, but it’s real.  What?  You’re not involved with a local church?  According to the New Testament that’s not an option for Christians.  You need a local church.  There’s a local church that needs you.  Go find it and get involved.