Friday, July 10, 2009

Almsgiving

Like I said Monday, I'm crafting a couple of posts on some things and I'm waiting for them to feel right. So for today, I'm going to steal a question that was asked in the Otter Creek summer class based on Matthew 6. TJ McCloud (one of our ministers) referred to Jesus' thought that when we give to the poor we shouldn't let people see it, but do it in secret.

Matthew 6:1-4
1"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Based on that, should a Christian claim charitable contributions as deductions on their taxes?

7 comments:

Amber Adams said...

This passage speaks to the question of, "Why do Christians give?" more than "How should Christians give?" Almsgiving is done to glorify God, to make His Kingdom balanced and just in the distribution of wealth (2 Corinthians 8:9-15). It isn't done to make us look good, but to make God look good, in that His Gospel cares for everyone totally and equally. We are instructed to give in secret because it helps us avoid the temptation of taking the glory for ourselves instead of attributing it to God. It also helps keep our motives pure. Are you making that charitable contribution because of your Savior, or are you really doing it to lower your taxes? The former is a sacrifice for the love of God and His Gospel, the latter is a sacrifice for the love of money. It might look like those two things are on the same side in this particular instance, but ultimately no one can serve two masters. However, this doesn't mean Christians absolutely cannot take the tax deduction. If you honestly look inside your heart and know that you would give even without the deduction, then it is a blessing to live in a country that in this one example aligns their laws with the laws of God. As with most moral questions, it is the duty of the individual Christian to examine their own conscience in light of the Gospel and see if it is clean.

Chris said...

By claiming a tax deduction I am pretty sure a Christian is not trying to impress the IRS--by all means take the deduction.

Do it while you can, under Obama one might not be able to do it much longer.

Jim Voorhies said...

I've always felt the answer is in "render to caesar." I take it to mean that in this case we don't use our charity to flaunt ourselves as the perfect expression of Christian almsgiving to our friends and neighbors, but when it comes time to fill out the tax forms, we should be honest in what we did. We do both because they are the right things to do. They both ensure we are honest in why we do what we do.

Ben said...

I think you could back your question up and first ask "Should you write a check to the Church or donate cash?" Others will see where the check came from. For that matter, passing a plate is bad too.

Few will not argue with the fact that a lot of church leaders know who the big givers are and are more attentive to their thoughts and actions over anonymous givers. Right or wrong...it happens.

Jeff said...

Ben, not that I want to argue with you, but to give you some hope the church leaders I've known in life probably are just the opposite. They seem more attentive to the needs of people that may not even give at all.

And OC has the answer to your check vs. cash question - direct deposit. It's a great thing. When tax time comes around, you just fill the forms out honestly and "render" what you are supposed to render. I think if anyone is calculating how much to give based on what it does to lower their effective tax rate, that is an indicator of a poor motive

Keith Brenton said...

Uh ... you mean to keep it secret from a nameless faceless IRS bureaucrat who could care less whether I give to a church?

Isn't the emphasis of the verse, rather, to not TRUMPET our generosity before others (Matthew 6:1-4)?

Preston said...

TJ raised a great question, I think, one that some people are unwilling to seriously consider. I wonder whether a 21st-century Jesus would say something like, "Woe to you, rich Christians! For you write checks to the church all year long, but when April comes, you are giddy to see how big a tax break you're going to get. I tell you the truth, you have already received your reward."

He probably would never say something like this because he would not want to offend our American civic sensibilities or alienate the well-off members of his audience. He was real careful that way.

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