A Little Math Lesson

I’ve been back in the states for a few weeks now. I’ve been able to catch up on all those things that we miss while we’re in Ethiopia. In other words, I’ve eaten lots of good ol’ southern home cooking. In Ethiopia we’d call it our “cultural food”. Grits and gravy are hard to come by in Ethiopia.

Showing off my catch.Besides food I got a special, unexpected treat earlier this week. Fishing is probably the thing that I miss most while in Ethiopia. God blessed me with beautiful weather and a friend with a boat last Monday. We did a lot more fishing than we did catching, but that didn’t bother me a bit. I was just happy to be on the water with good friends.

I could go on and on, but there’s something more pressing on my mind. Recently we’ve had several people interested in donating to us and our ministry, but unsure about what they should give. “What is a normal amount that people give?”, “How much do you need?”, or “What amount would make a difference?” are the common questions that we receive. We often stumble as we try to answer, because there is no easy answer and these aren’t really the right questions. There really is no way for Jess and me to answer these questions. So in an attempt to answer the intent behind these questions I am going to give you the Jonathan Bridges philosophy on giving. This applies to any charitable giving whether it’s for missionaries, churches, or other ministries.

He looked up and saw the rich dropping their offerings into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow dropping in two tiny coins. “I tell you the truth,” He said. “This poor widow has put in more than all of them. Luke 21:1-3

First we have to rethink some basic assumptions. It is important to remember that God’s ways are not our ways and this includes the way we do math. When we give to God’s work one plus one does not necessarily equal two.

I’ll give you an example from our own supporters. We have one supporter who gives $15 per month. There is another supporter who gives $300 per month. According to standard accounting practices we’d say that there is a big difference in these gifts. However, according to God’s math these amounts are equal. I know these supporters well enough to know that each gives prayerfully, according to what they have, from a cheerful heart, “as he has decided in his heart – not reluctantly or out of necessity”.

Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

So you see, it is impossible for us to answer these questions for an individual giver. In doing so we may be making a grave mistake. If we suggest too little we may rob a giver of a full blessing. If we suggest too much we may place an unnecessary burden on a giver.

God is the one who must answer these questions. For the gift to be effective it must be decided between the giver and God. The first step is to prayerfully review your budget with God. If you are truly seeking to glorify Him and increase His kingdom He will bless the intent of your heart by giving the right answer. Don’t focus so much on the actual dollar amount, but the answer that God gives. I must warn you, though. The answer will probably cause a little discomfort. God will likely require some sacrifice, stretch your faith a little, and ask you to give up some things for Him.

Jess and I have seen personally over the past few years that when this formula is followed the amount given is exactly the right amount. God knows what we need more than we do and He has promised to supply our needs while we faithfully and dependently serve Him. He has faithfully supplied our every need and I have absolute faith that He will continue. The fact that many people have been burdened with a desire to support us is a clue that our needs may be increasing in the near future. This makes sense with a new baby coming in just 2 weeks and some expanding ministry opportunities in Ethiopia that Jess and I have been discussing lately (We’ll be revealing these as they firm up more).

If God has placed a burden in your heart to support our work, or any other ministry for that matter, don’t just impulsively start writing checks. First check with the one who sets our pay scale – God. In doing so He will bless your gift and ensure that we have all we need.

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