As my husband and I were preparing to go to Africa as missionaries more than fifty years ago, we eagerly sought wisdom from those who had gone before us. One such retired missionary doctor who had served the Lord for many years had a lasting impact on our lives. We knew him as a kind and gentle man who was more interested in encouraging us to go to Africa than in talking about himself. It was his relatives who told us about his habit of giving. Apparently the IRS frequently investigated his income tax statements because they could not believe that a person with modest means would consistently give fifty percent of his gross income to missions. After a lifetime of missionary service this man was still laying up treasure in heaven.
My husband and I from the beginning of our marriage had started the practice of tithing ten percent of our income, but as a young woman in my twenties, our older missionary friend prompted me to set the goal of someday being able to give fifty percent of our gross income to the work of the Lord in the place of His choosing. I hoped that would be to missions in Africa. I wanted to lay up treasure in heaven as our friend had done, and fortunately my husband agreed with me.
But there are many ways to lay up treasure in heaven, and perhaps before we talk about those ways we should talk about what we mean by treasures.
What are treasures?
God lays up His own treasures in heaven. They are the souls of His people.
Our treasures are the gifts that God has given us to use for His glory. Our treasures consist of time, talents, energy, creativity, and material wealth. Of course, all these belong to God anyway. In fact, we owe our whole lives to Him in gratitude for what He has given us in Christ Jesus.
However, this article is primarily about material wealth, and that means our money. It’s money that moth and rust can destroy and that thieves can break in and steal. Where we put our money tells volumes about us. Truly, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Furthermore, our conversation is always about those things that are close to our hearts.
How are we to use the money that God in His grace has given us? I would suggest that there are three ways to use our finances that are biblical.
First, we must meet the needs of life for our families and ourselves. Our Father in heaven knows that even as Christians we need certain things to sustain us. Since He tells us that earthly fathers give good gifts to their children, He surely would have us be generous and wise in providing for our families.
Second, we are to give the tithe to our churches. This tithe should be at least one tenth of our gross earnings. Although many think that this is Old Testament thinking and that New Testament Christians are not expected to tithe, I do not see that this obligation to support churches and ministers has ever been repealed. Those who minister should be given a fair wage, and the costs of building and operating a church are considerable. Those who receive from the church owe it to their church to see that the needs of the church are met. I can attest to the fact that there is great joy in placing our tithe money in the offering plate each month. Some people say that they give a part of their tithe to the poor or other ministries of mercy besides the church. There are many good programs and causes in our world that cry out for our funds, but I am convinced that the tithe should go to the local church where we are privileged to worship, pray, hear the Scriptures read and taught, partake of the sacraments and fellowship with other believers. What we give to other ministries should be above the tithe. I call this extra giving “sacrificial giving.”
Third, we are to participate in sacrificial giving to others besides our church as the Holy Spirit leads us. We are to give to those needs or programs that God puts on our hearts. When we give to these things we are laying up treasure in heaven.
How are treasures laid up in heaven?
As a teenager, God had given me a love for His Word and also a desire to help the needy. From the time I was seventeen years old, I had the desire to be a missionary, and after I was married, God granted my desire. My husband and I spent nine years in Tanzania, East Africa, and after we returned I was privileged to teach the Bible in the United States for a number of years. However, God would not let me forget Africa. My heart was there and so was some of my treasure. Then in God’s grace, with the help of my husband and several others, I was able to start the Rafiki Foundation to teach the Bible and to help the needy in Africa. In 1987 the Rafiki Foundation was registered as a non-profit organization set up to assist Africans in meeting their practical needs as well as their spiritual needs. Rafiki at this time operates Rafiki Training Villages in ten African countries where orphans are cared for and educated and where the Bible is taught daily. Rafiki also trains local groups to do the same. It should not be surprising that since my heart is in Africa I would want to put my treasure there.
The way that I lay up treasure is by giving money and time and energy to caring for and educating orphans and making sure they receive good, solid Bible teaching every day. Our Rafiki Villages not only teach our orphans, we teach every person who participates in village life from the smallest orphan to the mammas to the laborers and to the teachers. And as if that were not enough treasure being laid up, God has given Rafiki the open doors to provide Bible study material to the schools of our partner denominations. It is possible that Rafiki Bible study material could be taught to several million children in the coming years. That’s treasure being laid up in heaven because God’s Word will do its work in the lives of children. Of course, producing and distributing these materials takes money. Rafiki looks to God to lay on the hearts of those who want to lay up this kind of treasure to give to this effort.
Where can I find venues for giving?
There are many worthwhile programs that lay up treasure in heaven. When I am asked for suggestions of places to give I naturally start with Rafiki, but then I warn potential donors that there are many fraudulent groups seeking funds, especially those who say they are working with AIDS orphans in Africa. Donors would be wise to check very carefully before giving their funds to any organization. Get the facts first. Here are some points for those wanting to give to orphans in Africa:
How long has the organization been operating in Africa? There are many fly-by-night organizations that start and then fall by the wayside.
Who funds them? Are they adequately capitalized or are they hoping that you will get them started? I can attest to the fact that it takes a great deal of money to operate even a small orphanage in Africa.
Does the organization hold a 501c3 status? Make sure you can get a tax deduction for your giving.
Who are they helping? Is the money going to a cause that really needs it?
Is the organization Christian? If it is not, then its work will not have eternal benefits. Wise givers want their funds to count for eternity. That’s what it means to lay up treasure in heaven.
Where do I get my treasure?
Often we say that we would give more if we had more to give. It would seem that believing the words of Jesus is the key to having funds to give. In Luke 6:38 Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
Giving is a matter of faith. Trust God to keep this promise to give to you and you will have more than enough to lay up treasure in heaven.