The title of this post is a bit of a paraphrase of a very impactful quote I heard earlier. The quote was relayed to me by Dave Ramsay, but he did not make the quote up himself. The idea that when someone gives money away, they are giving back is fundamentally wrong. They are not giving back, they are simply giving. This logic holds true from both a secular standpoint and a theological standpoint.
If charity is giving back, then, contextually speaking, accumulating money is taking, perhaps even from those who are receiving the charity. But are those with money really taking from those who are without? Perhaps an entrepreneurial example, after all this website was created to promote Christian entrepreneurship, would break this myth down. Jeff Bezos started out selling books online? Did he take from those who used Amazon in its early days? Yes. He took people’s money, and gave them what they wanted. He did not at gunpoint confiscate people’s money. That would be the government. The customer wanted a book, and Bezos provided. Bezos got money. The other guy got a book. Was it a fair transaction? Obviously Amazon must have had good prices or else some other company would be in their place today. People do not keep going back to rip offs. So what might we conclude from this entrepreneurial example? Voluntary trade is not theft. In fact, voluntary trade is a win-win. This is a basic economic principle.
Back in November, I wrote about Standard Oil, the so called oil monopoly. The research in the article demonstrated that Standard Oil became a “monopoly” by being the best lowering prices for everyone. No one would get mad at JD Rockefeller for selling 5 people a gallon of kerosene for $10, but selling a gallon of kerosene to 50 million people for $2 makes him a villain in the eyes of many. Note: these prices are made up, but economies of scale is another real economic concept. He had the best price for what everybody wanted and the market rewarded him for it. He then also gave boatloads away. JD Rockefeller did not get wealthy at the expense of the common man, many of which benefited from lower prices for a higher quality product. Rockefeller did however become rich at the expense of his competition, which is entirely fair.
The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.Psalm 89:11 ESV
On a more theological note, if everything belongs to God, what then is really ours? In order for something to be given, it must first be owned. After all, a thief giving hot items away does not grant the recipients of those items a more legitimate claim of ownership than the victim. Though God has given us an abundance of blessings, this would mean that God is the source and not man. So again, the whole “giving back” notion is broken. If we give away money we are not giving it so much as we are using it to, hopefully, further the kingdom in some way be it direct or indirect.
It would be more legitimate to claim that tithing is giving back, to God, a point that would be splitting hairs to disagree with. Nonetheless, I will proceed. Our God is not one in need of anything we can give, for even our works are filthy rags. The only thing God wants and does not have are those who’ve rejected Him (John 3:16), for our God is good and in his omnipotence desires a personal relationship with man. But I digress, in tithing, we give to the Bride of Christ, as our worldly possessions do not enter the Heaven, staying in this physical realm. Instead God, hopefully is the guiding hand for all tithes and offerings. Once again this money is being used, not given back.
People do not become wealthy by keeping other people poor. Therefore, we are not “giving back.” Or we are merely steward thus are not giving back. In either mindset, the conclusion is the same. Whichever one you act on more in your financial life, the results ought to be the same, for I should hope you follow Jesus and use you finances for the glory of God.