In 1996, Tom Cruise played the role of a super slick sports agent in the movie, JERRY MAGUIRE. In the film, Jerry has a life-changing epiphany about his role and the perceived dishonesty in his profession. So he writes a new mission statement and commits to change. His decision to follow his conscience costs him his job. But he’s able to hang on to one client, Rod Tidwell, played by Cuba Gooding. In one of the funniest moments in the movie, Cuba Gooding tells Jerry what he wants him to do in order to continue to be his agent. It’s a line that became an instant classic: “Show Me The Money!”
Fifteen years later, it’s not Cuba Gooding or Tom Cruise saying, “Show Me The Money!” It’s friends and family members, fellow church members, even total strangers asking us for money on social media.
It’s easy to be taken advantage of and give impulsively to friends and family members, even total strangers.
You’ve seen the appeals. According to TopTenReviews, “Online fundraising is a great way to raise money and obtain funds for various reasons. Whether you’re looking to fundraise for personal purposes – such as medical, travel, school or other expenses – or you’re working for a nonprofit organization, online fundraising sites can help you launch and manage your campaign.” 1
You might be surprised to know there are a bunch of online fundraising sites. Here are the top ten: CLASSY, CROWDRISE, FIRSTGIVING, FUNDLY, FUNDRAZR, GIVEFORWARD, GOFUNDME, MYEVENT, RAZOO and YOUCARING. “Fundraising sites vary in their fees and costs. Some are free, some have plans where you’re charged monthly and some extract their fees from your donations. The fees generally range between 3% and 8% of the funds you raise. Every site has credit card transaction fees that will be deduced from all donations.” 2
It’s easy to ignore strangers. But friends and family members? Not so much. It’s also easy to be taken advantage of and give emotionally and impulsively to people and purposes for things that really aren’t necessary or helpful. Robert Lupton addresses that in his book, TOXIC CHARITY: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help. (If you haven’t read it, you should get it.) While he addresses a wider spectrum of fundraising than the subject of this blog, one of the statements he makes on the very first page is riveting and eye-opening: “While we are very generous in charitable giving, much of that money is either wasted or actually harms the people it is targeted to help.” 3
SO HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND?
Clearly the Bible teaches we should give to the needy (Proverbs 14:31) and we should give generously (Psalm 14:21). However, there are some things we should consider before giving to anyone or any organization.
- We should have A PLAN for our money and giving should be a major part of that.
- Obviously, God and His church should always be at the top of our list since everything we have comes from Him.
- The biblical practice of giving God our first fruits/tithing should be the baseline for our giving (Proverbs 3:9-10; Malachi 3:6-15; Leviticus 27:30; Matthew 6:19-33; 22:15-22; 23:23).
- We should MANAGE OUR MONEY in a way that honors God and allows us to give more.
- Poor financial management is one of the root causes of financial problems.
- The majority of our giving should be ON PURPOSE, not on impulse.
- We should set up online giving, making sure our tithes and offerings to our local church are always taken care of first.
- Emotional or impulse giving (i.e., responding to a felt need) should be the exception, not the rule. Setting up online giving will enable us to give strategically, not spasmodically.
- Not every CRISIS is.
- There are legitimate crises every day in our world. A police officer being killed, leaving a mother and children behind. Someone’s house burning down. Those are opportunities to help others who are in desperate, immediate need.
- An unpaid student loan may be a crisis to the student, but it may simply be the result of someone who failed to plan and prepare, instead partying and playing. Now they want us to finance their foolishness.
- There’s clearly a difference between who wants our support and who deserves it.
- Some “needs” are really WANTS.
- We’ve been asked to help pay for vacations, summer mission trips, school bills, adoptions, even trips to the Holy Land. While each of those are noble endeavors, none would fall into the crisis category or be accurately labeled needs. Yes, people might say they need to go on vacation, but they need to save their own money for it. Mission trips are terrific opportunities to expand your experience. But again, we should work and save our own money for them. No one has to go to college. But few work and save to cover those costs beforehand, even though everyone should. Wanting to adopt a child and wanting to go to the Holy Land are wonderful ideas as well. But where would someone ever get the idea others should cover those costs and not them?
- We don’t want to ENABLE laziness, lethargy or create dependency.
- Oftentimes, the worst thing we can do is give money to someone.
- The Bible says to stay away from people who are idle and if anyone is not willing to work, don’t even let him eat. Further, we are to work quietly and earn our own living (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12).
- In 1 Timothy 5:8, Paul said anyone who doesn’t provide for his own family “has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
- We should always make our requests known to God before responding to anyone’s request.
- The Bible is clear we should never get worked up or worry about anything. Instead, we should let our requests be made known to God and He will give us His peace (Philippians 4:6-7).
- We should seek the counsel of Christian friends and spiritual leaders in our lives.
- “In an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).
- We won’t get in trouble asking too many questions or seeking too much Christian counsel. We only get in trouble when we don’t.
While we never want to discourage anyone from giving, we need to make sure we’ve thought through what we’re going to do before we do it.
Our church has the reputation of being one of the most generous churches in America, having given away millions of dollars over the years, to needs both here and all over the world. Our Change for a Dollar program is just one example of how we give away thousands of dollars every week to meet needs. However, we have a committee who carefully sorts through all the requests and many are turned down because they aren’t legitimate. Rather, they are wants or the result of mismanagement and bad choices.
Here are five guidelines to help all of us:
- Anything we give to anyone or any organization should be above and beyond our regular giving to our local church.
- Don’t rob the Lord’s work to help someone else do theirs.
- Make sure the person or organization has “skin in the game.”
- If people are asking us to sacrifice, they should too.
- Most online fundraising sites make it fairly easy to see who has contributed and how much.
- If the site manager (person requesting financial help) hasn’t donated, neither should we.
- We should make sure the people asking for help are not under the discipline of God.
- When people say they’re having financial problems, the first question I ask is: “Are you tithing?” Why? Because, when people aren’t honoring and obeying God in their giving (Proverbs 3:9-10; Malachi 3:10; Matthew 23:23), that’s usually one of the main reasons they’re in a mess.
- Most don’t tithe to their local church and many don’t give anything. It would be a good idea to find out what church people attend and ask some questions before making any donations.
- Repeated requests usually indicate other problems.
- If someone has an emergency every month or even every year they need more than money.
- Rather than fund their requests, we should encourage them to find help so this doesn’t keep happening.
- There are legitimate needs all around us. When we’ve considered all the above and have the desire and means to help, we should.
It should be the goal of every one of us to honor God and manage whatever He gives us, not only to provide for our families…
... but so we can help others as well.
© 2016. Barry L. Cameron
3 TOXIC CHARITY: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help. Robert Lupton. 2011. HarperCollins, New York, NY. pg. 1.
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.