Religion

Reconsider plan to cut back church donations

I know we ought to support our church with our money, and we still do. But recently we’ve cut back on our giving because the economy is so uncertain, and we don’t want to be caught short if one of us loses our job. Are we wrong to do this? — Mrs. A.Q.

Almost every day I hear of at least one church or other ministry that has had to cut its budget because their giving is down —and as a result, they are no longer able to do everything they once did. And yet the need for their services has never been greater.

This is one reason why I hope you’ll reconsider your decision to cut back on your giving. Admittedly, these are difficult times, and we all need to be more careful with our money. But most of us could get by with less, and this is a good time to reevaluate our needs and decide what is really essential. If you don’t have a budget, now is the time to make one — and stick to it.

The real question, however, is this: What is most important to you? Is it your own comfort or security? Or is it God’s will? The Bible says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5). Put Christ first in your life, and then ask Him to help you trust your future into His hands.

Then ask God to guide you in your giving. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own needs — but once we see the world and its needs through God’s eyes, we can’t help but be more generous.

I come from a nation where we worship many gods and goddesses. I would like to worship Jesus also, because I believe He too was a god, but a Christian friend told me I can’t do this. Maybe you can tell me why. — I.K.

I’m thankful for your interest in Jesus Christ, and I hope my answer won’t discourage you or keep you from learning more about Him. It could be the most important thing you ever do, because (as your Christian friend knows) Jesus Christ could change your life.

I know it may be difficult for you to accept at first, but the Bible (which is God’s Word) tells us there is only one God, not many gods and goddesses.

He is all-powerful; He is so powerful that He created the universe. The Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). He created you also — and He did this because He loves you and wants to be your friend.

But the Bible tells us we aren’t God’s friends because we have turned our backs on Him and chosen to ignore His standards of right and wrong. The Bible calls this sin — and our greatest need is to have our sins forgiven, for only then can we become His friends.

But how can we be forgiven? We can’t wash away our sins, no matter how hard we try.

Only God can take them away — and this is what He did through Jesus Christ. He was God in human form, who came from Heaven to take away our sins. He did this by sacrificing His life for us. May you discover more about Him — and then ask Him to come into your life and be your friend.

Did you see the results of the recent poll that claimed the number of Christians in our country is going down, and the number of people who have no religion is going up? Do you think it was accurate? — M.G.

Yes, I did see this poll — and I have no reason to doubt its accuracy. In many ways, our society has become more and more secular in recent years, and one sign of this is the growing number of people who completely ignore God.

But this isn’t the whole story. I often think of the parable Jesus told of the wheat and the tares (or weeds). (You can read it in Matthew 13.) In this parable, Jesus told about a farmer who discovered that his enemy had secretly sowed weed seeds in his field — although the farmer didn’t realize it until the plants were already growing. Only at harvest time could they be separated.

This, Jesus said, is a picture of the world: “The good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom (of God). The weeds are the sons of the evil one (Satan)” (Matthew 13:38). In other words, we shouldn’t be surprised when evil (like the weeds) increases — but at the same time, God’s work is also increasing and growing stronger. The two grow together side by side! We see this in many parts of the world today.

Pray for our nation, and pray especially for those around you who do not know Christ. Pray too that God will make you a witness of Christ’s love to others. Christ’s final instructions to His disciples still stand: “You will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Why doesn’t anyone ever preach on the story I heard when I was in Sunday School, about the widow (I think) who was praised by Jesus although she gave very little to God’s work? All I ever hear is preachers urging people to give more money, and frankly I get tired of it. — P.H.

You are referring to an incident Jesus and His disciples witnessed one day in the Temple in Jerusalem. On that occasion, “a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny” (Mark 12:42). Others, however, put in much more — while making sure people were looking so they’d be praised for their generosity.

But Jesus didn’t praise them; He commended the widow instead. Why? One reason was because she — unlike the others — wasn’t trying to impress anyone; her only concern was to serve God.

But Jesus also commended her because she — unlike the others — gave sacrificially; those two coins were all she had. Her love for God was so deep, Jesus was saying, that she was willing to give everything to Him. In God’s eyes, she gave far more than all the others.

Jesus wasn’t saying that God’s work isn’t important, or that it doesn’t require financial support. God’s work always needs the sacrificial support of God’s people (even in difficult times). The Bible says, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Which is more important to you: your pocketbook or your relationship with Jesus Christ?

Christ gave His all for you; have you given your all to Him?

The Rev. Billy Graham, whose column appears in Faith & Values every Saturday, can be contacted at “My Answer,” c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201 or www.billygraham.org.

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