I’ve never been SCUBA diving because there are fish in the water I don’t want touching me. I’ve spoken with those who do dive, and they tell of times they sometimes get mixed up on the time spent underwater or which way is up (another reason I see no need to dive). When confusion comes, they look at and trust their gauges to remind them.
I see a financial giving plan doing the same thing for God’s people. Most of us have no plan to give beyond (1) I have money (2) it’s not currently spoken for and (3) I feel like it. This is a poor “gauge” overall and leads to accidental giving. This way of giving is also attached and tethered to the circumstances around you rather than what God has led you to do. This is the norm however in the western church. Paul tells us to excel (2 Cor. 8:7) in giving and this means upgrading your gauges.
In order to do this, you must develop a GOAL. This GOAL is what you hope to give. It can be expressed in annual or weekly terms, in percentages or exact numbers – whatever works for you. It should be aggressive, thought out, prayed over, and written down. Once the goal is established, you can work backwards and let the rest of your expenditures “follow after” the goal. For example, If I want to put spinning rims on my car, but it means bailing on my giving, then the goal acts as a gauge telling me “no”. Without the gauge/goal reminding and leading us, we’ll fail to excel in our giving.
If your expenditures follow your goals and planning, you stand a chance in being generous. But if your goal follows after your expenditures, you have no chance of being generous.
As an example, our church has decided to give 25% of internal giving to “mission”. This covers campus ministry, church planting, benevolence, relief and development in Central City. We knew going in that this is aggressive (the US church average is closer to 7%), but we have thought it through and prayed over it. This GOAL acts as the throttle on all spending that follows. This makes our spending value driven rather than need driven. We will not be able to purchase some things when we’d like, but our values remain intact. Our gauge/goal defines all expenditures. My family operates like this as well.
Do you have something like this? Do you have a goal? Has it developed a plan for the remaining expenditures?
Start by asking, what is sacrificial for me/us? Pray over where you currently spend your money and ask God to inform how you can grow, after all – He owns it all and has tasked you to manage. You may need a staff meeting with the owner.
Develop a list of things you can no longer do in order to make the goal work. It’s important to be thorough here. Understand that giving that feels no sacrifice isn’t generous, only comfortable, therefore unbiblical.
Give with Gospel joy. Remind your heart that it’s not about getting rich, or making God not-mad at you, but a reflection of Jesus who emptied and vacated His wealth for your benefit, shedding wealth and accruing shame for you.
Giving without gauges is as unwise as diving without gauges, you quickly find yourself upside down and out of air. No one is accidental with diving. God is submitting to you that this is important.