An Open Letter to Single People.

“I’d love to give to your ministry, but I’m single.”

More than one person has laid this line on me.  I’ll challenge them to partner with us financially, and then they will (with a serious tone) tell me that the reason they don’t/can’t give is because they are single.  Like giving is something that only the grownup married people do.  I have a news flash for you, single folks (and as may become apparent, this news flash does not apply to single parents).  You have more expendable income now than you might ever for the rest of your life.  Yeah, you are single and have less income.  So you can live with three roommates and pay 250 bucks in housing costs per month.

I look back on the financial situation I had as a single guy and marvel at how much money I had.  Mind you, I was pulling in a cool $16,000 per year.  I was by no means a high roller.  But I paid off 16,000 dollars in student loans and bought an engagement ring all within 3.5 years of graduating college.  There were months that, because I was committed to getting out of debt, I would throw 900 bucks at my student loan.  You can do a lot financially as a single person if you put your mind to it.

These days my rent is 4 times higher, my food expenses are nearly tripled, and there are entirely new categories on the budget, like “childcare,” “kid’s clothes” and “life insurance.”  Yeah, I have more income, but it only doubled, and believe me, my expenses way more than doubled.

Your lack of financial discipline is related to being single (your behavior most directly affects only you at this point), but to be honest, as one on this side of a wedding day looking back, I need to let you know how ridiculous you sound when you use singleness as an excuse not to give.  If you are anywhere near average, just your out-to-eat budget each month could fund a dozen compassion children.  And don’t get me started on shoe budgets and entertainment expenses.  I know, you have to spend money out to find “the one.” But don’t use that as an excuse to be a poor steward of what God has given you.

I am not speaking as one who has it all figured out.  The only reason as a single guy that I paid off loans so quickly was that I had a significant auto-draft taken from my paycheck each month.  It was discipline by default.  I’ve just had one too many people tell me (in a list of reasons why they can’t give) that they are single.

The habits you make as a single person, especially when it comes to finances, will dramatically affect your marriage.  Money fights and money problems are among the leading causes of divorce.  So while it’s just a cute shoe collection as a single person, it may be a huge source of arguments and strife later in your marriage. One of the best things you could do now would be to take an honest look at your finances, and maybe even bring in someone to help hold you accountable to be giving, saving, and spending sacrificially.

And before I get angry comments from single people who are giving and are financially responsible, let me be the first to say that not all single people in America are a fiscal wreck.  I recognize also that the folks that have given me this excuse were just looking to soften the blow.  I primarily wanted to rebuke the underlying sentiment that would make it OK to pick this particular excuse.

Singleness is a great time to give sacrificially.

Dear American Christianity: Part Two.

(to the pastors)

If the congregation is not generous, it may be because you* aren’t sharing the gospel with them.

A biblical way to motivate people to give is to repeatedly show them how much they’ve been given, and how great the needs are elsewhere.  A person who understands the gospel, that Jesus Paid it All, is far more likely to give, out of a sense of gratitude.  A gospel-perspective on money shows you that Jesus is the treasure of the Christian life, and having HIM melts away a need for more money, more possessions, and more power.  Jesus is the blessing of the gospel, not (necessarily) financial well-being.  The gospel makes generous people out of selfish people.

But as pastors, when you moan about not having enough money, it looks to the watching world like you are en route to becoming Creflo Dollar, with his Rolls Royce and penthouse apartments.  It looks like you care more about the money than the mission.  Yes, money is important, and many churches don’t talk about it enough. Money is a mega-theme running throughout the Bible.  But the gospel is THE theme of the Bible.

You should talk about the gospel more than you talk about the dollars.  Every time I bring someone to church they should hear about the costly death of Jesus.  If the sermon is from Nehemiah, I should hear about the costly death of Jesus, and Him resurrected.  If the song is about how good it is to praise the name of Jesus, the worship leader should point out that apart from his death and resurrection, all of our praises would be filthy rags.  The gospel, that we are wretched sinners saved by an unmatched, righteous, perfect King of kings ought to be the first thing people think about when they leave the service.  It ought to be tied into every component of the service, from the children’s choir to the handbells to the baptisms.  All of it needs to be tied back to the cross, where Jesus was as generous as humanly possible (and more).

Every time you ask for money (which you should), it ought to be an appeal that is drenched in the gospel.  Pastors, you should not want the 10% of someone who you know thinks they are earning God’s favor, or unleashing blessings from God, because that means they’ve missed the blessing of the cross.

*I’ve used the term “you” throughout because this is specifically a note to pastors, as opposed to those of us in non-pastoral ministry.  The same principles apply to us, and by God’s grace, I’ve begun to see how unbiblical even my own heart has been in the (recent) past toward fund-raising.  It’s my prayer that, going forward, all of those of us who make our living from sharing the gospel would keep in mind that we need not panic and manipulate.  God will provide.  The gospel is the power of God.