Hopefully you’ve been reading enough from Shepherd to know that we’re big fans of charitable giving.  We want to be your cheerleaders in this, encouraging and inspiring you to want to increase your giving beyond your current levels.  I’ve written about why to give and how to give, but from time to time I get asked exactly where are good or right places to give.  How much should go to church vs other charities and which charities are worth supporting?

Church vs Charities

In some ways this answer depends on who you ask.  A pastor might quote Malachi 3:10, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse (likely insisting this is the local church) that there would be food in my house.”  Your missionary friend, on the other hand, might point out that most of the New Testament giving was done to either provide for the poor or to fund missionary journeys.

The best route here is to avoid legalism and the temptation to be right.  If you’re a Christian, then yes you should give to your church.  If you don’t think it’s worth supporting or are concerned that they won’t steward your funds well, then maybe it’s time to find another church to join.  Prayerfully consider how much of your giving dollars should go to the church, but I think Scripture is pretty clear either way that it should not be an insignificant amount.  If you’re able, go ahead and give 10% or more of your income to your church.

Which charities are worth supporting?

There are over 1.8 million charitable organizations in the US alone, according to GuideStar.  How are we possibly to decide which ones to support?  As a general principle, I think its best to focus our giving on the causes and people we are instructed in the Bible to support.  Kingdom Advisors has a great summary resource of many of these verses to help give us a framework for the various areas worthy of our giving.  They’ve identified 11 specific causes and people groups, and then categorized those into three broad areas of ministry of the Word, ministry of mercy, and ministry of justice.  I highly recommend reading through these verses, praying through the various areas and identifying any that perhaps you feel called to increase your giving to.

If you know there’s a cause you want to support but aren’t sure where to start, GuideStar, Charity Watch and Charity Navigator all have tools to help you search for charities that meet certain criteria.  They can also help you look up the charities you currently support to see how the rank from a stewardship perspective.

What about non-religious organizations?

This is another one of those personal opinion areas.  Of course there’s nothing wrong with being generous to non-religious organizations such as the pet shelter or your alma mater.  We all have groups that mean a lot to us for various reasons and it feels good to help them out as they have helped us.

I think it’s worth remembering that there are plenty of others that will support these secular causes while there are very few non-Christians who would be interested in supporting kingdom-oriented work.  So my personal conviction is that the bulk of our giving should go to those things mentioned above that are outlined in Scripture.  There are also those secular organizations that do the work we are instructed to carry out in scripture – caring for the poor and the oppressed, taking care of orphans, etc.  If possible, try to align the groups you support with those who want to meet spiritual needs in addition to physical needs.

Above all, I want to reiterate that it’s important to refrain from legalism in all of this, both in the organizations we choose to support as well as those of our neighbors.  We won’t earn God’s favor by giving the right amounts or to the right charities.  Putting that pressure on ourselves is dangerous and robs all of the joy from the giving.

The point in all of this is to give from a loving and generous heart.  Recognize how much you’ve been given, be intentional in where your dollars are going, and strive to give as well as you can!