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Biblical Giving, Holding Donors Accountable

Author: Jim Harries
Date: 13.05.2010
Category: Partnership, Evangelism Training, Prosperity Gospel

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Biblical Injunction to Give, Holding Donors Accountable

Issues of finance tend to loom large on the mission-field, as elsewhere. Many today believe this to be appropriate, as they believe that the mission of the church in the West is integrally linked with its obligation to address the resources imbalance vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Often ‘giving to the poor’ is practiced as a duty, with little consideration of its impact. This paper argues that there should be accountability of donors, and not only recipients of funds.

The Bible advocates generosity.  It makes it clear that God is concerned for the poor and the vulnerable.  How should Christians respond to such concerns today, on the international scene?

Globalisation has brought the ‘poor’ from other parts of the world into televisions in the living rooms of the rich.  International trade and other interdependent relationships imply responsibility for the plight of others.  How that responsibility is to be exercised is one of the very hot questions of this age.

Popular responses to economic inequality on the part of the West tend to be articulated in terms of wealth transfer; to bring balance.  In that sense they are simple.  If there is more money here than there (on the basis of ruling exchange rates), then that implies the need to transfer funds (and doctors, teachers, medicines, infrastructure etc.) from here to there.  This is taken as implementation of the ‘giving to the poor’ advocated by the New Testament (e.g. James 2:16).

To the Western conscience, steeped in centuries of thought deeply influenced by the Christian faith, equality is a pressing imperative.  An important question that I want to address here – is how this is to be implemented?  History provides horror stories.  Jonathan Martin gives us many of these.[1]  The outcome of US government policy towards native Americans is just one illustration he gives of how good intentions in wealth redistribution can reduce a people to a state of wrack and ruin.

Continuing as things are, risks a repetition of such and other similar horror stories.  Where has the Western donor community been going wrong?

It seems that the power-implications of giving are often overlooked on the international scene, even though such implications are many.  That a donor acquires power over a recipient community should be clear.  Many efforts may be made to conceal this, but it cannot be otherwise.  There are those who take advantage of this on both sides of the relationship.  Exploiters on the side of the donors force people to do what they want to.  The ‘corrupt’ on the side of receivers consider themselves justified to abuse the funds of those trying to exploit them.

Foster articulates a pre-modern view of economics, which he considers to be of ‘limited good’.[2]  If there is a limited amount of resource available, then someone’s having more implies that someone else is having less.  This seems to have been the situation, or at least the understanding, at the time of Jesus.  Giving to others for Jesus meant remaining with less.  There was therefore a clear overlap between the concept of ‘giving’ and that of ‘sacrifice’.

Keywords: donors, accountability, recipients, money, finance, generosity, giving, monopoly

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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Jim_Harries (-3)

See also this site

that draws on this conversation. 

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Jim_Harries (-3)

See also:

that builds on this post.

Reply Flag 1 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Jon_Hirst (2)  
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I want to affirm what you have shared here but take it one step further. I think that the challenge in front of us in a global economy is to view every person that a missionary or nonprofit touches as a person that God has put in our care to disciple and coach in relationship to the cause in which we work.

That means that donors have just as much stake as those being blessed because they are both receipients of the ministry of a servant of God.

If we view each donor as someone who God wants us to help grow in Him, then our asking for money would look different. It would not be less direct, but it would be in relationship instead of as a transaction.

My good friend Eric Foley, who is participating in the Lausanne Conversation as well, wrote a great book about this and has a fabulous blog about what he calls Transformational Giving (

I think the key thing that will change the unhealthyness that currently exists in fundraising is a biblical approach that sees each recipient as someone that God has called us to disciple and minister to. Wouldn’t it be amazing if every donor was being discipled on multiple levels?

And the obvious next step is that as donors grow in Christ, they will then be ready to own the cause with us and actually do ministry alongside us. Healing the donor inequity issues will begin to heal our huge missionary recruiting problem as well!

I hope this is an encouragement to you as you think through this key topic.


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