how can we give like no one else?

I have good news and bad news. The good? My heart is a lot cleaner than the last time we chatted. The anger and bitterness are gone, and God has given me a lot to think about. Namely my own pride and self-righteousness.

My hope and prayer is that 1.) I’ll write this post with honesty and humility. and 2.) It will be received in the spirit in which it was intended. I’m not writing this as someone who’s doing it all right, but I want to be doing it right, and I’m determined to start making some changes based on what I’ve been reading in God’s Word.

Man, last week was rough. I can’t blame Ali’s post (because this is a topic I’ve struggled with long and hard), but she definitely got me thinking afresh about wealth and giving and our friend, Dave Ramsey.

Which brings me to my bad news. At the end of this post, (many of) you and I still aren’t going to agree on certain matters of personal finance. But I’m pretty sure we can still like each other and serve the same God as brothers and sisters in Christ.

And more good news. Out of all the notes I’ve scrawled in my journal, I’m only going to share about 25%. And I’m going to let Jesus and other New Testament writers do just as much (if not more) talking than me.

If you haven’t read Ali’s post, do that first. I’m not going to repeat everything she said. In a nutshell, she questioned Dave Ramsey’s 7 Steps to Financial Peace, specifically Step 7a.) Build wealth and 7b) Give. One of her main concerns (and mine): Is giving something we do at the very end, after building wealth, or should we be giving before that? Let’s explore.

(First: a disclaimer. This post isn’t about Dave’s rockin’ Get-Out-of-Debt Plan. I’m all for getting out of debt. And I think Jesus is too. Well, technically, I think he’s all for not getting into debt in the first place. We’re focusing on 7a and 7b here.)

I do wish I had a couple bucks for every time someone has told me some variation of the following statement: “I can’t wait until I’m out of debt and have more money, because I love to give and can’t wait to give BIG!”

I get that. I do. It makes total sense. That’s why Dave Ramsey is so successful. The dude makes so much sense. But I think for followers of Christ, he might make a little too much sense. Because the Savior we’ve decided to follow? Often makes little to no sense at all.

Take the story of the widow’s offering in Mark 12 (and Luke 21) for example. Jesus sits down across from the temple treasury and watches people putting their offerings in the box (isn’t that funny? I think that’s funny.) Verse 41 says, “Many rich people put in large sums.” Sweet. That’s gonna be me some day. I’m paying off my debt, building wealth, and living (and giving) large.

Then a poor widow puts in two little coins that together equal a penny. Boo. What is that? It’s not like you can even buy anything with a penny. Talk about not making a dent.

Then Jesus (the one who never seems to make any sense) calls his disciples to him and tells them that this poor widow has “put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.”

Did he not see the LARGE SUMS the rich people gave??

“For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

What in the heck is wrong with giving out of your abundance?? Seriously, Jesus?? How can you be happier with ONE CENT than a fistful of twenty-dollar bills??

Then there’s the rich young man who wanted to follow Jesus but walked away greatly saddened when he realized what it was going to cost him–“Sell all you have and give it to the poor and come follow me,” Jesus had told him. (Mark 10:17-31)

And the rich man whose land produced plentifully (sounds like God was blessing him), and he built larger barns to store all his crops, and said to himself, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years: relax, eat, drink, be merry, live like no one else.” (oops, I added that last part) God takes his life that very night and says, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21)

And the little kid with the 5 loaves and 2 fishes (talk about a meager offering) that Jesus took and multiplied himself and fed 5000 men + women and children. What if the kid would’ve said, “Hey, I only have this tiny lunch right now, and I know that isn’t going to do squat. But in 15 years, I plan on retiring with lots of money in Roth IRAs, and I’ll come back with lunches for all 12,000 of you. Won’t that be awesome and impressive?”

Moral of the story? From what I’ve been reading (and I read all of Matthew, Mark, and part of Luke this weekend), it appears that Jesus’ plan isn’t to build wealth and then give out of that. It’s give now, and let me turn your puny gift into something outrageous.

And if we’re going to get technical, I can’t find ANY place in the Bible where Jesus tells people to build wealth. In fact, when he tells stories, more often than not, “a rich dude” is his bad guy of choice. Yet we want to be rich??

May I humbly challenge us to think about something? Is the reason we want to build wealth and then give because it will hurt less to give if we have more left afterward? Is it possible that Jesus cares more about how much you’re keeping than how much you’re giving?

If we really, truly want to give like no one else, may I suggest we start TODAY, even if it hurts?

69 thoughts on “how can we give like no one else?

  1. Amanda

    I have not read that particular Ramsey book but we did another study of his (and are totally debt free–mortgage and all) and I have heard him speak at church before. The man believes in giving and encourages it strongly. Truly. I have never gotten the feeling from him that he thinks wealth comes first.
    Just my 2 cents….

  2. Erin

    The financial freedom that FPU has given our family has allowed us to give throughout all of the baby steps. We tithed before the class, but do so much more consistently now. Because we have significant savings and control of our budget, we have been able to meet the needs of our church or friends on several occasions, even though we are not “on” steps 7a and b. (I don’t say that to make ourselves sound good, but so people understand that you can give no matter which Baby Step you’re on.)

    I understand the issue with “building wealth,” but I think it’s more of a heart issue than a financial issue. Are you hoarding your wealth, afraid to share it with those in need? Or are you holding it with an open hand, considering it God’s wealth and trusting Him to take care of it for you?

  3. Christina

    Oh. my. goodness. Could have written that post myself. In fact, I think I HAVE written that post myself, in my head, like 10 times. Pretty much every time I hear the “live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later!” mantra. We don’t know how many days God will give us on this earth so to focus too much on possible ministry in the future (after we finally have more money) is a scary place to be. Thanks for being brave enough to post this! πŸ™‚

  4. Rebekah Gambrell

    I think that the hurting in giving makes me pray more for those that daily live with very little. Retirement is not in the Bible either…. saving for it??

    1. Alex

      Just out of curiosity, do you (or Marla) believe in a savings account or retirement? I realize that a retirement fund isn’t in the bible, but my grandmother is 89 years and can barely get around. There is no way she could be working, even at a sit down job at her age. Thankfully, she has a retirement that allows her to live with my aunt, but she also has her own money and is not a burden financially to the tax payers.

      I am not being smart, I am truly curious. I know that if the army went out of business, we would only be able to pay our bills for about a month or so and then have to borrow from either a bank, unemployment, or family. Therefore, we would then be burdens on the tax payers and family.

      Does saving in your minds mean that we aren’t giving enough? I believe the Lord has blessed us with a good paying job that allows us to take care of us, save, and give.


      1. Rebekah Gambrell

        So I tried posting one time and not sure what happened but it didn’t work…. so here I go again…. I think whether or not you save for retirement is between you and God but I do know that the way that my grandparents are living out their retirement is not right. I do have to say that they have been a long time coming around just on their salvation and I don’t think that I can get them to stop complaining about life for long enough for them to realize that they should serve others in their “retirement”. I don’t want to be obsessed with my yard and my house and my aches and pains.
        I went to language school with a bunch of retired couples that had decided to retire on the mission field. Language learning was 10x as hard but they had a burden for others. I know there are so many places in this country that would love volunteers to serve the poor and needy. I know so many retired people that just live for their doctors appointments.
        I know that in most every other country there is no retirement fund but their families are close and your children are responsible for taking care of you in your old age. You are a burden on someone but because you have given so much in your lifetime. I think the lazy retirement is not right.
        God wants to use us for his plans…. I am struggling with this myself. I feel like we have to fight everyday not to have the American dream consume us. I don’t think it is a blessing to live here at times. I think it is a curse. I become lazy and judgmental. I think living day to day and depending on God grows our faith. When we rely on our things then we don’t rely on God.
        Widows and orphans were entrusted to the church. People sold things and gave money to each other so they could have what they needed.
        It is a battle…. daily battle. I loved living in another culture where this was normal. They have no concept of saving for the future or thinking what they will do in the future. They live day to day…. not to say planning is wrong but there is trust there that I don’t know nor understand.
        Anyway…… I have no answer… just mumblings….

  5. Beth in Baltimore

    My position as a blog reader puts me in an interesting spot. There’s the mom who has given her life for her adopted children, following Dave Ramsey’s plan so they get out of debt and don’t need as much income. From what I can tell, this family is giving all they have plus some. Then there’s you, calling us to generosity, New Testament living, purging….it’s all interesting. Oh, and this other blog, where someone built this gorgeous house after great loss and I was all grumping around about some things I was dealing with. And then I remembered Job, and how he lost it all and God chose to give it back to him in great abundance. And I felt put in my place. If God gives someone a nice house who am I to judge? THANK YOU FOR LEADING ME TO THINK!

  6. Kelly S

    Our church had our annual voter’s/budget approval meeting yesterday, and spent 45 minutes of the 60 allotted with people saying our church is giving too much “away.” Last year we were giving 15% to local/regional/global missions. This year tried to up it to 16%. Instead yesterday it got voted down to 12%. All in the name of saving for the future, protecting our church’s assets, taking care of OUR needs, etc. It makes me sad. I wish we were giving away 90% of our church budget for others, not keeping it! Just wanted to share an example of not only an individual having a mindset like this but a whole group (who probably feed on each other to stir up fear and selfishness, I’m afraid!)

    Anyways, I agree with you wholeheartedly on this topic – thanks for your thoughts!

  7. teresa atkinson

    my daddy was a giver. (laugher and joy surrounded him most of the time) my mama is not. (she spends way too much time in a depressed state) my first husband is not. (he too sufferes from withdrawal and depression) the man i love now is. (again laugher, joy and joy surround him) Is there a correlation between being generous as a lifestyle and waiting for “my ship to come in”?

    I am headed toward being debt free and i am doing it the hard way, because the first husband ran up a ton of high interest debt, now i am digging out alone.

    i say all of this to say that I try to give — and help — and respond to the prompting to continue giving. i do not have much in the way of money or things, but i am so blessed by the sharing of what i do have.

    i am convicted to become debt free – but i am also convicted to share the abundance of the blessings i already have now.

  8. Elizabeth

    There are lots of fabulous comments here, so I don’t have much to add. But I do want to say that we just finished the Financial Peace study a couple of months ago, and I remember Dave Ramsey talking about giving throughout the study, not just at the end and not only after you’ve “built wealth.” Giving is a lifestyle, and he talks a lot about it. Generosity is very much an important part of what he teaches, no matter how much money you make or how far along you are in his plan.

    I’m still learning so much in this area. I’m convicted about being debt-free AND giving like crazy, and it’s not always easy to see how that can be done. Giving comes first, but when you owe someone else money, you are responsible for repayment. So getting motivated and sticking to a plan to become debt free ultimately frees you up to give more and more and more.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thanks for weighing in, friend. And as someone who’s been on the receiving end of your generosity more times than I can count, I can vouch for your sweet, giving heart. Love you!

  9. O Mom

    Oh Marla I am just crying reading this. I agree 100% with this but then why is my follow through so hard. i have been praying and praying for us to get out of debt, and ya know what Jesus answer is? Give more! It wrecks me and scares me, but I so want to do things His way….Needing prayers that I stop trying to figure it all out and just do it.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Take it from someone who’s been in a lot of stupid debt. Jesus is right. In the past year, we’ve gotten rid of 2 monthly payments and we’re down to our last little debt (besides our mortgage). And we’ve given more than ever before. It’s pretty much a miracle–and all God’s doing. Trust him, friend!

  10. ann

    marla, i totally agree with you. totally.
    …and after braces and lots of dental visits, my dad always said the only thing he’ll be able to leave me is good teeth. πŸ™‚

  11. Shannon Wheeler

    I’m reminded in reading what you’re saying of 2 Cor 9:10 “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” and also of Proverbs 28:27 “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.”

    It sounds like God is saying in both the Old and New Testaments that what He gives us, He very highly prioritizes our using for the good of others and that He promises we will be cared for ourselves by Him as we are freely giving what He’s entrusting to us.

    Dave Ramsey has attacked a lot of what is preventing Americans from giving, which is being fiscally irresponsible, slaves to debt, etc., which is awesome. I do share your concerns though, that the reason for saving is to be able to spend for our personal enjoyment freely later on. I love that he values giving, but I agree that we are instructed to give (even when it hurts) according to the leading of the Spirit at all times, even before we’ve paid down our “debt snowball.”

    And I think that for some of us, the way to “live like no one else” is to be unwilling to live in a life of abundant material suplus in our own homes, because we’ve gotten to know those in this world with less on a personal level, and we just plain old don’t get any heart-level satisfaction out of huge financial spluges on ourselves, even if we can pay cash for it, when there’s a tremendous amount of need our brothers and sisters in this world are facing. I haven’t felt like my feet are back under me after being in Ukraine. I am wrestling with being ok with a nice gift being given to me, or that type of thing, and I don’t believe God wants us to have guilt in being blessed, but I definitely think He wants us to be having more real dialogue with Him about how we use what He’s blessing us with.

    Thanks so much for talking about this stuff right now, as we’re really marching full-steam into the holiday season.
    Please would you be praying for a Christmas outreach we’re doing for the children’s center in Ukriane, too? So far all but about 4 of the kids have been selected by U.S. or Canadian families to receive a gift this Christmas, and I’m asking the Lord to please provide a giver for these last few kids. We have almost double the amount in need this year than last, so it’s cool and overwhelming at the same time!

    1. Marla Taviano

      The more I give, the less I want. It’s crazy how God can just take away a desire for “stuff.” Sometimes he provides the $, sometimes he gives you the thing for free, and sometimes he gives you the blessing of not wanting/craving/desiring it anymore.

      Praying for the Christmas outreach!!

  12. Joshua

    Regarding your last section about Jesus saying about building wealth… I don’t know that He specifically said to build wealth, but he certainly did bless them – Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Job … All very wealthy men and very blessed men. And then the Lord id specially say that if we give (tithe) our storehouses will be flowing over! (Mal. 3)

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thanks, Joshua. I purposely stuck with New Testament passages/examples so no one could say, “That’s from the Old Testament, so it doesn’t apply anymore.” All of those dudes were definitely rich and blessed by God, but where are their NT counterparts? The bulk of the wealthy guys in the NT are being scolded by Jesus. πŸ™‚

      1. Russ

        Not necessarily there’s a pretty good list of wealthy people who had a positive impact in the Kingdom:

        Lydia (hosted one of the first home churches)
        Joseph of Arimathea (gave up his personal tomb for Jesus)
        The Women supporters of Jesus’ ministry – Joanna & Susanna, and others (provided for the ministry of Jesus out of their own personal resources; assisted in the burial of Jesus)
        Joseph called Barnabas (sold personal land to help believers)
        Cornelius the Centurion (was generous to the needy)
        The Roman Centurion (built a synagogue)

        This doesn’t necessarily mean that all wealthy people gave generously or had any positive impact at all, as Marla has pointed out already there is a long list of people who Jesus did indeed scold. πŸ™‚

        I’m just playing the other side of the card here, seeing as that it seems to be very easy to be hard on the “rich” in the New Testament, since some of the more visible and memorable stories are about the NEGATIVES of holding an improper view of money.

        As we can see though when looking at some of the people who surrounded and supported the ministry of Jesus and in the times of the early Church, God chose to use natural resources to work in and through.

        The good thing is those folks held the resources that God had entrusted them with in very loose grips. I hope to be the same way, whether I have just one dollar or millions of dollars.

  13. Gabe Taviano

    Saw that some have mentioned the Good Samaritan, forgetting that it’s a simple story of one man caring for another who has less…..not really a story of someone who has stewarded his finances correctly. I think what Marla is getting at is that it’s not up to the person to save up all they can in order to bless others, it’s about God being able to bless others through you regardless of what you have.

    That’s one thing I don’t really dig about Dave’s plan myself…’s all about you leaving something behind for people and giving when your cup too full and the excess has nowhere else to go. I’m not going to wait until the end of my life to ask where God wants me to go after I’ve traveled and done everything I intend to do, so why should I think about money that way?

    Regarding leaving an inheritance, what happened to God providing for the people and the light / impact of the life He let us live be enough for those that follow us? I know people that potentially could leave me thousands of dollars, but their life itself hasn’t left me much. The truth is, you can give like no one else without owning a single thing. Sometimes effective and safe plans (like Ramsey’s) get in the way of us realizing that, sometimes they don’t.

    My prayer is that we get our eyes off of worshiping the plans of men and onto plans that are more eternal than temporary.

    1. Russ

      Definitely agree with that. I only brought up the good Samaritan, because it was in a quote that I thought would shed some light on why Dave holds to the ideals he does.

      Obviously without the heart to help the injured traveler we wouldn’t have the story in the first place, but the fact that he had resources to help empowers his heart to actually help.

      I don’t see anything wrong with that.

      1. Russ

        “Obviously without the heart to help the injured traveler we wouldn’t have the story in the first place, but the fact that he had resources to help empowers his heart to actually help.”

        Ok. that didn’t come out as clear as I wanted it to! πŸ™‚

        What I’m trying to say is that you can have a heart to give, but if you don’t have any resources (not just money) it’s harder to help those less fortunate. We see that in the story of the Good Samaritan. It’s a little detail (and not one the story is built around) but it’s there nonetheless.

        Had the Samaritan not had any resources he couldn’t have helped AS MUCH. Managing and stewarding resources gives wings (and ability) to good intentions. It doesn’t mean that you can’t give generously or that anything less is a bad thing…in the same way if I have more resources to give from, it’s not a bad thing either.

        I think it’s safe to say that if our heart is to hoard for selfish gain (including leaving a legacy) then it’s not right. But if our heart is turned towards God and he blesses us to give into Kingdom purpose (whether from meager resources or from abundance) it’s a good thing!

          1. Russ

            Definitely, I’m not sure it’s actually possible to have an entirely full cup when it comes to being a finances and the Believer.

            I think we’re all on the same page when it comes to holding loosely to the resources God sends through our hands.

            By the way, Gabe, glad to see you’re up and running these days! Hope you’re feeling better! I’ve been praying for you (hehe, stealth prayers!)…

  14. janelle

    My thots….” live and walk in the Spirit “…..if we truly, truly give ourselves…..and make Him LORD…each day…then we will give, do, be….tithe, save, whatever, buy, what HE wants us to do that day. If we ” give ourselves” first – wholly ( sp ) to HIM in all seriousness….our pockets will follow. Tell me God what belongs to YOU today, what YOU desire from me today….money, time, what ever. The heart of the widow was HIS….before the money hit the box. If He has our total sincere heart…….

  15. Leigh

    Someday I’d like to see the other 75% of your notes, Marla. I have a feeling we could have a good long productive conversation about all this. My parents raised my brother and I to tithe and to give. What this looks like has changed over the years. Just before starting grad school, I began sponsoring a World Vision child. As I was paying for school by myself, this seemed counterintuitive. But my very ability to go on for an advanced degree reminded me of my wealth, such as it was, and I felt sponsoring Miriam was more important than the other ways I could have spent my money. I never made a lot of money as a social worker but I was comfortable and I still gave. Since quitting my job this past June, I knew money would be an issue until I start nannying full-time in January. Yet God has provided enough part-time work to keep me going. If I didn’t have the safety net of my savings, I might not have made the same decision but I absolutely know quitting my job to pursue this path was the right thing to do. And during this down time, I’ve continued to tithe and give, even though that money would surely come in handy. When I think about that, I remind myself what a luxury it is that I quit my job with its regular salary and benefits to forge my own path. The organizations, children, and missionaries that I support don’t have that same luxury. God blesses giving, I have confirmation after confirmation of that.

  16. Brooke

    As the wealthy (wo)man with storehouses full, I often fear that taking them it all away is the only way God will ever reach my husband’s heart. I’ve come to discover that I’m okay with that. So when I get excited about potentially becoming a landlady – and how we could provide a really nice, affordable home for a family – I know I’m coming from a God honoring heart.

    As with everyone, my situation is unique and can’t be compared to anyone else. Because of this, I don’t think the whats are as important as the whys.

    The widow didn’t give all she had because she thought it was an obligation. She did it out of her faith – knowing that the Lord would provide.

    I have to have faith that no matter how it happens, God will provide. He will seek my husband and do whatever it takes to bring that 1 lost sheep into the fold.

    Sometimes I think that losing all of our money would be the easy way out…I pray that it would happen so that my choices in life would be easier. So that I could stop weighing every word I say to my husband as if eternity depended on it.

    Life is hard. So its walking with and serving a Living God. Money isn’t the issue. Its just what most of us tend to love more than we love Him, so its a great illustrator for Jesus to bring the true issue into focus.

    1. Bethany Peters

      Wow, I love this: “Money isn’t the issue. Its just what most of us tend to love more than we love Him, so its a great illustrator for Jesus to bring the true issue into focus.”

  17. Russ

    Good thoughts.

    As someone who has read and follows much of Dave’s advice one thing I think is important to note is that Dave encourages and even challenges folks to give from day one. Not just at step 7. And not “after” you’ve accumulated a huge stockpile.

    I really do love the heart of what you’re posting, but I think you’re pushing really hard into an area that makes Dave’s advice in that specific arena look like the ONLY advice he gives on the matter.

    The first item in the “Allocated Spending Plan” is “Giving/Charitable Gifts.”

    Quote from Dave’s plan: “In fact, while you ate working the steps to wealth, you should be doing all three of these things.” He’s specifically talking about using money for fun, investing, and giving. He assert that those are the only good uses for money.

    Another quote: “giving something, even if it is just giving your time by serving soup to the homeless, should start from Baby Step One.

    He also states that if good people (specifically believers) don’t have money them by default it will remain with evil people. An interesting thought. He says, “the bottom line is, if you take a stand that managing wealth is evil or carnal, then by default you leave all the wealth to the evil, carnal people. If wealth is spiritually bad, then good people can’t have it, so all the bad people get it… If we all abandon money because some misguided souls view it a evil, then the only ones with money will be the pornographer, the drug dealer, or the pimp.”

    Now I’m not saying that I feel that you’re saying that managing wealth is evil or carnal, but I do feel like this quote, at the very least, paints a picture of his ideas.

    1) Give from the beginning (through all the steps).

    2) As you become wealthier (not a bad word) you’ll be able to continue to give and to give more.

    Indefinitely think that his ideas aren’t anti-biblical. Good stewardship and giving are both old and new testament principles. Lose the giving part, and good stewardship technically can’t happen (for the believer). Lose the good stewardship and giving is limited…doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

    Last quote: “The Bible states that pure religion is actually helping the poor, not theorizing over why they are poor (James 1:27). Margaret Thatcher said, ‘No one woul have remembered the good Samaritan if he hadnt had money.’ The good Samaritan had a good wart and a heavy enough purse to pay an innkeeper to help take care of the injured man. Money was involved. Money was at its best that day. Money gives power to good intentions. That’s why I’m unashamedly in favor of building wealth.”

    All quotes from Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book. 2003 Thomas Nelson, Inc.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thanks, Russ, for pointing out some things Dave has said that go beyond his 7 basic steps.

      Here’s where I disagree–that if I don’t hoard wealth, then evil people will get it. My God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and all the money in the world actually belongs to him. If I’m earning money and giving it away as I go, the poor will get my money, not the evil people. There’s not a big pile of money just sitting out there, and if I don’t grab “my share,” the evil folks will.

      Maybe I’m misunderstanding your point? Not sure.

      1. Russ

        I think ultimately there’s a fundamental difference in the definition of becoming wealthy. You use the word “hoard” which has a very negative context. I used the word “manage” which (in my mind) has a positive context.

        I see it in the same light as the use of money in the parables of the talents (Jesus’ words). One guy hid and buried (hoarded) his money, the others went out and stewarded (managed) their money (their intentions were to make more for the master).

        Like I said, in my original comment, I don’t believe that YOU are saying that evil people get all the money, but that’s a quote I used to shed some light on Dave’s perspective.

        I see merit in both being in a place where one can freely give away everything they’ve got, if God instructs them to do so, and also in the place of managing wealth in such a way (while giving along the way) that allows people to steward wealth for Kingdom purposes.

        I agree that God is ultimately in control. I think the point that Dave is making (which I agree with) is that many people (if statistics are accurate indicators, and I’m sure they are) aren’t in a position to give much (if any at all) because they are in such bondage (debt). Financial immaturity is the norm.

        Personally, we give away a lot of our resources (including money) each month. I’m a firm believer in living to give. That being said, I’m also a firm believer in keeping my eyes, ears and heart open for that spontaneous nudge from the Spirit that says give this way…or give that way. In between those times, our family tithes/gives regularly and continues to work our way out of debt so that we can eventually be in a situation where we’re able to continue to give (in an even bigger way). Our heart in the matter isn’t changed…but our capabilities will be.

        Knowing that the “system” that we are following encourages giving from day one is important to us. Because, honestly, if the system encouraged “hoarding” wealth until later we’d be out.

        I think for me I look at it like this: the financially immature person continues to stay in bondage to debt. The financially mature person either never goes into debt, or works their way diligently out of it. The immature person can still give, but their capabilities are severely limited. The mature person can give and help others in a bigger way. The operative principle in those two scenarios is debt (not the person’s generosity).

        If this is ultimately about helping others (James 1:27), I personally see a commitment to giving from the beginning and working towards great stewardship and bigger giving as something that fits in the Kingdom mindset. Right alongside the person who freely gives (and doesn’t manage wealth). I believe they both have a time and a place in the Kingdom.

        You originally used examples of the woman with the two mites and the rich young ruler to support your perspective (and it’s a good one by the way!). One could also use many of the parables about sowing and reaping, parables of the talents, the good Samaritan, etc. to support the perspective of stwearding finances for the Kingdom. I don’t think it’s an either/or for this topic.

        I read recently that about half of the parables that Jesus shared were about stewardship of finances and property. I’m sure we can both agree that the heart of those parables isn’t to necessarily to paint stewardship in either a negative or a positive light, but to draw attention to the HEART of the steward. Which I believe is what your post is all about in the first place!

        I say all that to say, that I agree with your post. I just wanted to shed a little light on where Dave’s coming from, because I believe if you talked to HIM about it as well, you’d hear his heart in the matter. Stewarding wealth isn’t about hoarding it. It isn’t about materialism or “affluenza” – it’s all about providing for those who are closest to you (remember the Bible says that folks who don’t take care of their families are worse than unbelievers). It’s about teaching those who are closest to you Character. It’s about leaving the fingerprints of heaven around you everywhere you go (when necessary use money). And like I believe you’re saying, it’s about being willing and able to do and to give when the Holy Spirit nudges us in that direction.

        Thanks for the discussion! I appreciate your willingness to dig into this. πŸ™‚

        1. Marla Taviano

          Thanks, Russ. I pretty much agree with everything you just said. And yes, the word “hoard” is negative. “Build” is not. But I do wonder what the difference is, where the line is drawn. And I’ve heard lots of interpretations of the parable of the talents. One thing I know is that it wasn’t the servants’ money, it was their master’s. May we all truly look at our money as His.

          And I still don’t buy the line that if I don’t get the money, an evil person will.

          Thanks for the respectful discussion.

  18. Claudia

    Marla, God has had you share some really good stuff with this post. We went throoough a debt management program many years ago. One of the conditions of the program was havin a budget that balanced an that meant our level of giving was almost non-existent. About two months into the program God moved in our hearts and we began tithing for the first time in our lives. Am amazing thing happened…we were able to finish the program a year and a half early and we were able to give offering over our tithe. We went back and looked at the figures and they defiinitely diidn’t make sense but God says His ways are not our ways! πŸ˜‰

  19. Melissa

    I agree with you on this Marla, and thank you for digging into the Scripture and showing us how Jesus thinks we should handle our money. I’m even married to a financial guy, and we both are turned off by these ideas that there is only one way to do things if you are a Christian, especially regarding money and schooling.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Ah, schooling. As a mom of 1 in a magnet school, 1 in a neighborhood public school, and 1 homeschooler, I can testify that there are plenty of okay ways to school your kiddos. I also attended a Christian school, was homeschooled, and attended public school. And taught at a Christian school, a public school, and now homeschool. (I feel like Paul, listing all his qualifications to prove he has room to talk.) πŸ™‚

  20. Amy

    Marla, months ago you posted something about Dave Ramsey and you really made me think. I think his teachings on paying cash for things, budgeting and getting out of debt are all things that are solid advice. Beyond that, I have really questioned it. Last year we started doing that and did save up 6 months of income. And honestly it just did not sit well with me. We had all this money just sitting there and it was really hard for me knowing how it could help. Since then, we’ve dwindled it down by GIVING it. It’s been an amazing feeling to be able to do that. So yes, just in my experience I can’t say that saving, saving, saving is something I feel much financial peace over at all. BUT. It also is great to have SOME cash so that when our dryer breaks or something we don’t go into debt and owe someone. I think there’s a balance somewhere and it should be GOD-led on where that line is. He knows what’s in store for us. But I totally don’t put someone down for saving large. Perhaps there is a parent raising the next doctor that will cure cancer and they want to pay cash for their college. We just don’t know and can not judge someone as long as God is leading them. Thank you, though, for posting this. It always challenges me!

    1. Marla Taviano

      That’s a very, very good point about saving for your child’s future medical school education. Or saving to adopt a child. Or saving for a car because yours is about to die for good. Or whatever. But if God would ask me to give that chunk of money away, would I be willing? Would I trust that he will provide for me when I need it? I think that’s the question we should ask.

  21. ali

    “May I humbly challenge us to think about something? Is the reason we want to build wealth and then give because it will hurt less to give if we have more left afterward? Is it possible that Jesus cares more about how much you’re keeping than how much you’re giving?”

    It was at this point that I teared up. Because I am constantly trying to justify my giving so that it hurts less. And yet when I consider the times that I have felt the pain of giving, I am so graciously reminded of the months later when God reminded me of what I’m not missing. It’s like He’s saying to me, “I know that hurt, Ali, but I promise peace, comfort, and contentment. Sure, I don’t offer those gifts in the form of earthly things, but when you make sacrifices for my glory, I will bless you hundredfold.” I am so undeserving of His goodness.

    Thanks for kicking my Thanksgiving week off right, Marla. I pray that I can soak in this space allowing His Truth penetrate my greedy, selfish, materialistic flesh.

    1. Marla Taviano

      I do the exact same thing, Ali. Try my best to minimize the pain of giving. In fact, I’ve got some b-day $ burning a hole in my desk drawer right now as I try to figure out a way to give AND get myself something fun. I know God’s not against fun, but I also know from experience that I’ll get greater joy from giving than I will from getting. Never fails.

  22. Jeanine

    Great thoughts, Marla – thanks for sharing this! I was thinking about John the Baptist recently, and how he dressed differently and even ate differently than others, and how he came to bear witness for Jesus. So, it stands to reason that our witness will have a lot more bearing if we look different from others. Not that we have to dress funny or eat strange things, but should we have the biggest houses and all the accoutrements of wealth when there are children who will spend their whole lives in orphanages and others who will die today because of a lack of clean water? I think not.

    1. Ruth Chowdhury

      Jeanine, you said something that I have been thinking about this past week. John the Baptist was a good example of being holy; holy doesn’t necessarily mean perfect… It means being set apart. Different. So we are to be different. Set apart so the world can see Jesus in us. Holy. Good word.

  23. Bethany Peters

    I love this:
    “Is it possible that Jesus cares more about how much you’re keeping than how much you’re giving?”

    It reminded me of that Sisterhood of the Traveling belt and how one girl’s conviction turned into over a thousand dollars toward giving people clean drinking water.

    And actually, I think God delights in the smaller (but more sacrificial) gifts because then He can display His power by multiplying it and more glory goes to Him instead of the giver.

    1. ali

      I thought about the traveling belt, too! Because let’s face it, Antrhopologie is gorgeous – everything in that store makes me melt. But sometimes God says, “I have something way more beautiful in store for you.” The hardest part for me is listening to His voice. I hear it all the time. But man oh man, Ali, I too often want to listen to ME and not Him. Ugh.

  24. Ruth Chowdhury

    Amazingly said. This almost brought me to tears with conviction and truth. I think people have good intentions, for sure, but you’re right. The Bible – Jesus – is clear on how and when to give. Thank you for being obedient, humble, and honest. I love that.

      1. Ruth Chowdhury

        Doing pretty good. Prayer request “results” will take time to see… Maybe I’ll email you soon. Thanks for asking & for praying!

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