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Ask Chuck: Best practices for charitable giving

Ask Chuck your money question

Dear Chuck,

I’m considering dropping support of some of the organizations and institutions I’ve helped in the past and putting that money to better use. It’s been disheartening to see a drift in values. Do you have a guide for Christian givers? 

Redirecting My Charitable Giving

Chuck Bentley
(Courtesy of Christian Economic Forum)

Dear Redirecting My Charitable Giving, 

We are experiencing a sea change in our nation. Epic shifts away from Judeo-Christian values and beliefs are underway at almost every level of society; schools, corporations, churches, ministries, and families are adapting to cultural philosophies and pressuring others to join them.

We should analyze not only where our giving is being directed, but all of our spending, too. We can vote with our wallets, as the old saying goes. 

Larry Burkett’s advice 

Years ago, long before the radical philosophies of our time were emerging, Larry Burkett, Crown’s late founder, addressed the question you posed, in his book, TheComplete Guide to Managing Your Money. I have quoted him extensively below. 

“Christians should be very sensitive, not only concerning whom they assist, but how the money is used. God has established the requirements for us. The standards are clear for individuals – assess whether they are willing and able to work. Also, are they asking for needs, or wants, or desires?”

“Get personally involved with the people you help if possible. Share God’s principles of finance with them. Help them establish a budget and live by it. Find out how they are living. Would they spend the money you might give them for alcohol? Are they wasting their present income in foolishness? If so, you have no requirement to support them. In fact, by doing so you may well be interfering in God’s plan for them.”

Christian organizations should be assessed likewise. Not only does God provide opportunities for giving to the needs of the saints but also to invest tithes, offerings, and sacrifices into His work. Unfortunately, today Christians are besieged by charitable requests from every side. Many are deserving, but some are poorly managed, unfruitful, and even dishonest. Seek God’s wisdom before giving. Get literature from them that thoroughly describes the organization and its doctrine. Talk to others who have invested. Require references if you have never heard of the group before. Let the organization know why you are questioning them. Be discerning; be a good steward of God’s resources. 

A minimum checklist of questions

  1. Is the organization communicating the true message of Jesus Christ? If not, do not get involved with them. This refers only to organizations that come in the name of Christ. There are other charitable organizations that do great work through secular channels.
  2. Are people responding to the organization positively? Are lives being changed as a result of its input?
  3. Is the organization seeking and accomplishing goals? If so, it should be able to explain its goals to you. 
  4. Are the lives of those in leadership positions consistent with the scriptural principles that God outlines for Christian organizations?
  5. Is the organization multiplying itself, or is it dying out? (This is not always an absolute standard because you may find new leadership in an organization that is seeking to expand previous boundaries.) Ask around, and be discerning. Pay a visit to them personally, particularly if the decision involves a large amount of money.
  6. Is there a standard of excellence along with a freedom from lavishness and waste? How much do they spend raising money? If you find an organization spending half or more of its finances in order to raise more money, I would question its effectiveness. Can you invest elsewhere and get a better return for God’s money?
  7. Check them out with other Christian organizations. Tell them you are looking for an honest answer.

“Share willingly according to God’s plan, but be discerning and cautious as a steward. Accept nothing less than excellence for the Lord’s money.”

Ministry watch

A great resource is to check out Ministry Watch. They keep tabs on organizations that are to uphold the principles of God’s Word and report on both those that adhere to high standards of excellence and those that are missing the mark. You can learn about them here:

Thank you for your desire to support organizations that honor the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. Your action multiplied over millions of others will have a profound impact!  

For more guidance on how to best steward the resources that God has entrusted to you, has several courses to help, such as MoneyLife and Multiply: A Biblical Guide to Investing. These courses and others can be found here:

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Seven Gray Swans: Trends that Threaten Our Financial Future. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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