George Müller on Money and Giving

George Müller Mueller

George Müller on Money and Giving

My wife and I make a practice of reading together every night before we go to bed. We’ve recently been going through the autobiography of George Müller—the guy who built several orphanages despite having no paycheck, never directly asking for money, and never going into debt—and I thought there were a couple passages worth noting in light of today’s money-hungry preachers and theologies. Müller writes:

January 1, 1840. About one o’clock this morning, I received a sealed envelope with some money in it for the orphans. The individual who gave it was deeply in debt, and I was aware that she had been repeatedly asked by her creditors for payment. I resolved to return the envelope without opening it because no one has a right to give while in debt. I did this although I knew there was not enough on hand to meet the expenses of the day.

Can you imagine a preacher doing this today? “No one has a right to give while in debt,” Müller says. Today, we have preachers who encourage people who are in debt to give on credit in order for God to bless them and help get them out of debt. People are told that God’s interest rate is higher than that of the world, so giving to God (which of course means giving to the preacher or church) is the best investment one could make. Not so, says Müller. Rather, Müller expects that people get out of debt as quickly as possible and then—and only then—give money to others.

I agree with this principle entirely. If I give while in debt, I’m not giving my money away, I’m giving my creditors’ money away—it’s not my money to give. (Actually, if these prosperity preachers really believe their theology, this means that people who give on credit are actually heaping up blessings for their creditors, since it’s their money that’s being given.) But if I am not in debt, I can legitimately give my own money—and because I’m not bound to interest, I am free to give more money than I could have if I had debts to pay. More Müller:

How much should you give of your income? God lays down no rule concerning this point. We should give cheerfully and not because it is required.

Again, how remarkably different this is from the bulk of (at least Evangelical) preachers in the USA today, who insist that God demands 10% of everyone’s income (gross, not net!) be paid to a church or preacher. Müller (who lived before this emphasis on tithing developed) understood things rightly—the one requirement of giving laid down in the New Testament is that no one give as though it were required (or under compulsion). The principle of giving that Paul establishes in his churches is not the tithe but equality, based on an allegorical reading of manna in the Law—the person who gathers much should share with the person who gathers little, since it’s all going to rot in the end (2 Cor  8).

I am convinced that if churches chose to follow this example—pushing for people to get out of debt before they give a cent, encouraging members who have means to help debt-ridden members out of debt, and abandoning the teaching of tithing so many churches have put in place—they would be significantly stronger, both spiritually and financially. Just from a basic economic standpoint, communities with less debt will always be stronger than those with more.

11 Comments
  • Pingback:All that Tithing is Apparently Not Working… | Professor Obvious
    Posted at 12:08h, 19 May Reply

    […] course, that modern emphasis on tithing is just that—modern (as can be observed in George Müller’s teaching on giving).

  • Itamar
    Posted at 09:01h, 26 May Reply

    Agreed and well said.
    I’ve heard 2 Corinthians 8:3 quoted- that the Macedonian churches gave “beyond their means”- as justification for “giving on credit”. Thoughts?

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 10:17h, 26 May Reply

      I think that’s bunk. It’s a hyperbolic statement about how they gave until it hurt, that they sacrificed. For one, they didn’t have the same kind of access to credit that we do in modern times. It’s better to understand this as saying that they gave to the point that it impoverished them, not that they gave what they didn’t have to begin with, not that they went to someone else to borrow something to give away. That concept of going to other people to borrow something to give away is absurd—but that’s what we’re effectively telling people to do if we’re telling them to give on credit.

  • Colin L
    Posted at 14:35h, 20 November Reply

    Nicely put… I as just wondering if you could give the page # of the above quote, “How much should you give of your income? God lays down no rule concerning this point. We should give cheerfully and not because it is required.”
    Thank you!

  • Pingback:All that Tithing is Apparently Not Working… — Jason Staples
    Posted at 12:50h, 07 October Reply

    […] Of course, that modern emphasis on tithing is just that—modern (as can be observed in George Müller’s teaching on giving). […]

  • Chris
    Posted at 11:52h, 29 April Reply

    Hi Colin,

    Perhaps Jason missed your comment. I looked up the quote you inquired about, and this is where you can find it: http://bit.ly/2oW6lOh

    God bless.

  • Daniel Hilton
    Posted at 17:50h, 07 July Reply

    What’s Wrong With Tithing. I Live In India I Tithe To My Local ⛪ I also help Widows And Orphanages.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 10:30h, 12 July Reply

      Nothing is wrong with giving. The problem is treating it like a 10% tax rather than giving as able to meet needs.

  • Meghan Marks
    Posted at 14:09h, 15 June Reply

    I disagree with criticizing the 10% minimum. John Wesley was quoted saying that if you’re unable to give the minimum 10% then lust for material goods has consumed you and will eat your flesh like fire. He also observed that the more you buy the more you believe you need. Whenever I give my ten percent I think to my self “at the very least I’ll do something worthwhile with ten percent of my money even if the other 90 gets wasted.” Though, Wesley also taught that 100% of our income belongs to God and is to be spent with discretion and wisdom, everything above covering basic living expenses should be spent advancing the kingdom of God and caring for those in need.

    Everything we spend on ourselves is going to amount to nothing, it’s meaningless. What’s given to God has eternal value, If you don’t tithe you’re stealing from God, if you don’t give above your tithe, your stealing heavenly rewards from yourself in order to spend them here where they won’t last.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 08:55h, 18 June Reply

      There is no “10% minimum” to criticize.

      The notion of tithing as a minimum expectation of giving 10% of one’s income to the church that you’re assuming was not practiced by the earliest Christians but is instead a much later innovation that developed out of land taxes previously imposed by the church.

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