QUESTION: Barry in Washington wants to know if the time he spends volunteering for his church counts as a tithe. What does Dave think?
Dave's ANSWER: No. You can tithe if you want to with your time; there's nothing wrong with that, with giving a tenth of your time to your church. But the purpose of the tithe is to teach you to give money. You can not give money and God will still love you. That's fine. You can not give money and still be blessed. That's fine.
But you should learn to give off the top of your income before you do anything else instead of trying to figure out a way around it. It's not a duty or a Christian rule. It's an opportunity to learn how to be a generous person. Any time someone asks me a question of how to get out of giving, that tells me you're coming at the question from the wrong side. The other side would be asking how you can increase your giving. That's when you've got it figured out.
Generosity creates the best managers of money. People who are generous win with money like nothing you've ever seen. It sets them up and puts them in a completely different place. When you give, it changes you into a giver. Givers are more attractive people. They are people you want to be around or promote or hire or be married to.
You want someone who is generous because they are not just givers of money. They are just giving people. They give, not take. So many people in our culture today have become transactional. They are takers rather than givers. They just want to receive.
You've got to make a decision about which of those you're going to be. It's not just about a tithe. You don't worry about the technicality of a tithe; wondering if it's from your gross pay or your net. That's not the point.
The point is to be a giver. The point is that when you are generous, it changes you and it opens up doors for you and resets your whole mind. When you get all caught up in the details of giving, it means that you're worried that you're giving too much. You really can't give too much unless you reach the point of irresponsibility where you can't feed your family.
QUESTION: Tim in Ontario and his wife drive beaters. This is the third time they’ve had to use the emergency fund with a truck in the shop. Is it possible they’re giving too much?
ANSWER: Sure, it’s possible. You need to be giving some because giving changes you into a giver, and givers are less selfish people and have a tendency toward more prosperity versus selfish jerks. You want to be constantly turning yourself into a more generous person. If you’re giving away the farm and there’s nothing left for the kids to eat, then you are giving away too much at that point. For Christians or Jewish people, the Bible says to give a tenth of your income to your local church.
I think it’s very important that you give, and you do a great job. Really, what I think or what you think doesn’t matter. What really does matter to you and me is what the Scriptures say—what the Bible says, in other words. I find very little indication that you should give above the tithe until you’ve taken care of your own household. Tithing off the top first before you do anything else I believe is scriptural. I could take you through a Bible study and show you that exactly. Above that would be called an offering, and the primary indication—there’s not exact Scripture on it—is that offerings are done from surplus. Then you go all the way back to 1 Timothy 5:8, I believe it is, and it says to take care of your own household first. Your first goal after the tithe is take care of your household. Then above that to support other ministries and other things with your giving.
It sounds like you guys are living hand-to-mouth, and you’re probably going to have to scale back some of these other ministry supports until you get your household done. That’s not a permanent declaration, and it’s not an absolute declaration, but it is something you’re going to have to consider but with the idea that we’re going to get our foundation laid and then give a lot more later. We certainly give a lot more than 10% of our income today, but we’re able to and not even blink at home, so to speak. When we were broke and just barely getting by, my first obligation after my tithe was to my family. Biblically, that’s my first obligation.
I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. It’s just something for you to consider the wisdom of the balance of this in light of the Scriptures.
QUESTION: Linda on Twitter asks about some ways to teach her kids to be givers as they grow up. Dave tells Linda how he did it.
ANSWER: All three of my children are great givers. I think there’s a multi-layered thing in your parenting that causes them to be givers. The first thing is that little children are not logical in their giving. They’re lavish in their giving. Most of them are very impulsive, very childlike, and very sweet in their giving. The first thing it does is just melts the parents’ hearts. They are sweet, and they’re stupid too because 20 minutes later they’ll go, “Where’s all my money?” because they forgot. They’re childlike—childish—in their giving. That’s a good place to start. Reinforce that. Just say, “Giving is an awesome thing.” Teach them to be wise givers, age appropriately. We don’t want to turn everything into a lesson. Life’s too short. Just teach them to be givers in terms of when they give and encourage them to give.
The second thing we’ve done is as Christians, we believe that we don’t own anything—that we’re called to manage it. I don’t own things. I just manage them for God. He has put me in charge of the management—not you. You don’t get to manage the stuff He gave me to manage. That’s my job. And so I don’t really need your input, thank you, on whether I’ve done a proper job or whatever. If I ask you, then I’ll take your input, but the size of car I drive or where I live or whatever—I just couldn’t give a flip less what you think about that. So I’m a manager. That’s what I’ve taught my kids. They’re managers. When you don’t own anything, when you’re just managing it, it’s easier to give it away.
We were doing some charity things the other day here in the company, and we were donating $10,000, which is a lot of money, to this situation, and I called my controller up and said, “Write a check for $10,000 to such-and-such charity.” You know, my controller didn’t go, “Wait a minute!” There was no emotion for my controller to write that check. Why? Because my controller doesn’t own the money. They work for the owner. I’m the owner. They just gave away my money. It was not painful at all for her to give away my money. When you’re not the owner, it’s not as painful to give.
First, you want to encourage natural giving. Secondly, you want to set them in a different mindset that they’re not the owner anyway. “These aren’t your toys. These are toys that God asked you to manage for Him. One of the beauties of that is you get to play with the toys. But sometimes, one of the things you need to do is to give some of those away to someone else who needs them.” That creates that layer of giving.
As the children get older, your job is to teach them to be a little bit more wise and more thoughtful in their giving patterns. Again, for instance, as an evangelical Christian, we tithe. We give a tenth of our income to our local church, and so as our kids started reaching the age that they were doing fractions and math, we could teach them about one-tenth of your income goes to your local church where you attend. That’s part of the management contract that you have with God.
Lastly, do very practical things where the children actually experience the giving hands-on and they see the result. So adopt a single mom, take an angel tree gift to a child. Your children need to be involved in picking that out and then delivering it and actually experiencing being a giver. That is serious fun. I recommend you help them experience that—to feel what it’s like to cause someone to be blown away by a gift. That is really cool. And to let your child feel that—let them feel what it’s like to hold money and then release it or hold things and then release them.
QUESTION: Juliet in Orlando wants to know how far parents should go in helping adult children. Juliet and her husband are in their 80s and have no debt. Their sons were brought up to have no debt, and now one of them has a home he can’t afford. He’s asked for money. Are they hurting him by giving him money?
ANSWER: You’re not hurting them. I mean, $1,500 probably didn’t do it. The thing you’ve got to do is anytime you give someone money, you want to make sure it’s causing them to move in a direction that helps them. If you give them money and they don’t work and they stay disorganized and keep overspending, then you’re giving a drunk a drink. But if you’re giving someone money who’s trying and struggling and heading toward the right thing, really what you’re doing is giving them a leg up. If he’s dependent, what is he doing that’s causing him to become dependent? He needs to change those ways in order to qualify for more help. Otherwise, we’re giving a drunk a drink. That’s called enabling. When you enable, you’re helping them to become less than they should be. That’s not really helping.
With what you described, those folks have been through some really tough times, they have a houseful of kids, and they’re trying to reset the mortgage. If now they get on a budget and do some smart things going forward and you have some extra money and want to help them again, that’d be fine. But if she goes out to the mall and buys 62 dresses and runs up a bunch of credit cards again and the kids don’t have lights in the house because they’ve misbehaved with money, then they call and want you to pay the light bill, I have a problem with that, because that’s enabling. It doesn’t sound like you have so far, though. It sounds like you’re just being careful.
QUESTION: Chad on Facebook asks what percentage of your income you should give away to the less fortunate and whether or not you should be out of debt first. Dave says you should always give and explains how he gives.
ANSWER: You always want to be a giver because...giving makes you—when you do it—into a better person. That’s not mushy and corny. It’s just an actual fact, because when you give money away, it reshapes your heart. Better people get more opportunities. Who do you want to give opportunities to? A grouch who’s self-centered, or a person of a generous spirit? You get a generous spirit by being generous. You always want to be a giver.
You could come up with a lot of different things to look at. As an evangelical Christian, I tithe a tenth of my income to my local church before I do anything. Then my other giving over and above that as a Christian is called an offering. The offerings come from surplus, which are after my family is taken care of and after I’ve met my responsibilities. There’s not a certain percentage that you have to do or should do there. That’s up to you to find your way. But I do recommend giving a tenth of your income to your church if you’re a Christian. If you’re a member of another religion, you may have some directive on that. Things above that, you decide what you’re going to do.
You ought to always be spending some, giving some, and investing some—always. As far as what percentage while you’re getting out of debt, I wouldn’t go more than 10% while you’re getting out of debt, with rare exceptions.
QUESTION: Danny on Twitter asks how to choose who to give money to during the holiday season. Dave says the more money you're going to give, the more careful you should be.
ANSWER: The more money you're going to give, the more careful you should be. If you're giving away $2, I don't think you need to spend 8,000 hours of due diligence on the charity you're giving $2 to. If you're giving $2,000, I'm going to spend some time on that one. I want to see full disclosure. I want to look at the expense ratio, how much of the money goes to administrative costs. You don't want the administrative costs to eat up 90% of the donated dollar and 10% goes to the actual hungry child or whatever the ministry does. You've got to be wise and reasonable about this.
The bigger the gift, the more time you spend investigating. When we're giving a major gift, I'm not opposed to doing a site visit and taking a tour. You can feel in the air what's going on.
QUESTION: Tonya in Arizona from MyTotalMoneyMakeover.com wants to know how you trust giving large sums of money to nonprofit organizations when there’s so much fraud. Dave talks about how he handles it.
ANSWER: When I’m giving a large sum, the way I look at it is as if I were investing a large sum, because I am on God’s behalf. He has called me to be a good manager for Him. If I hired one of the managers in my firm, and my job was to give money to help others, how would they do their job well? In business, we call it due diligence, meaning we dig into the investment; we know what’s going on there.
I’ve got a good friend of mine that’s a billionaire who does giving. He says he looks at several things. A few of them that come to mind that I remember him mentioning are he wants to see that the ministry has strong leadership—that it’s operated well. The people involved have what’s known as a clue.
Number two, he obviously wants to see that the cause is valid.
Number three is he wants to see that a large percentage of the dollars—the vast majority of the dollars—are actually spent on the help that the ministry is giving versus the staff and the administration and the overhead. Sometimes, things get confused, and $.90 of every dollar is operating on overhead. There was a big article on United Way a few years ago saying that a huge percentage of their money was covering overhead.
Then they get into the actual operation of the thing, and one of the other things he mentioned is that he wants to study the longevity of it, meaning he doesn’t often put a large sum in a start-up. Most of the time, he puts a large sum in something that’s been operating for years and therefore will likely continue to operate for years. You want to cause something to continue; that’s his statement. Obviously, there are exceptions to that, and when you feel like in prayer, God told you to do something, well, you do that. Shut up.
That’s a great question, and those are the kinds of things Sharon and I look at when we decide what we’re going to give to. We don’t mind giving smaller amounts to situations where someone is starting or we’re not sure about their leadership or something along those lines. By and large, it’s just like investing in a business. I want to know that the players are strong. If you wouldn’t invest in that business, then don’t invest God’s money in that deal. We are called to be good managers even in our giving.
It requires work and due diligence to be a quality and efficient giver—to be a responsible giver.
QUESTION: Sergio asks Dave to explain his definition of giving. Is giving to a friend who is down on his luck and helps Sergio with his business tax deductible? Dave explains.
ANSWER: Giving to someone who is not a certified, non-profit organization is not tax deductible. If you pay your friend for doing work, you can write it off, but then he has taxable income. Just giving someone money doesn’t make it deductible.
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