Three Lessons from Zsolt Szalai, Hungary

Each month, we introduce you to a Christian who is on the generosity path, and we ask them what God’s taught them about giving.

This month, meet Zsolt Szalai from Hungary.

1. We Should Talk About Giving More, Not Less. 

As Zsolt talks with givers in Hungary, he encourages them to think about giving. “People are rather shy about these things,” Zsolt says. “I know that people have very different practices, but sometimes the church leaders think that if they emphasize it too much, they get into the trap that people think they only want their money. But,” Zsolt continues, “if they don’t talk about money, people may not understand that it’s God’s money, not their own money. It needs to be part of our thinking that this is how they can serve the Lord.”

In a market like Hungary, pastors should also discuss non-financial giving. “When people’s hearts understand giving, then they will give more money and not just money, but also other kinds of giving. If people say, ‘I really cannot give,’ they can give in other ways. They might have free time to take care of the kids when parents are in church.”

When people’s hearts understand giving, then they will give more money and not just money, but also other kinds of giving.

2. Give to the Cause of Christ.

“Before I really understood Christ, I had been giving to a lot of secular purposes and organizations,” says Zsolt. “I was surprised when I first read that many people I admire rarely give to secular organizations. But secular people can give to secular things. For the cause of Christ, not so many will give. As a Christian, I should focus on the cause of Christ since we are the only ones who will do that.”

Zsolt continues, “Martin Luther said, ‘It’s first our heart and then our mind and then last our money is converted.’ Even if your heart and mind is converted, my money wasn’t converted yet. I had a completely different giving pattern. I thought these church guys were asking too much money. I thought people just wanted to be my friend because they knew I had some money. My giving was occasional and opportunistic.”

“Now my giving is mainly for evangelization,” says Zsolt. “We give to CBMC Hungary and ministries like Alpha and the Hungarian Evangelical Alliance. I try to focus solely on the cause of Christ. When I give to organizations that are helping people, I want to make sure that they are also spreading the Gospel.”

3. Commit Half, Hold Half as the Spirit Leads.

Now I really ask God to give me the wisdom where he wants me to give.

While Zsolt’s giving is no longer “occasional or opportunistic,” neither is it totally planned. “I plan 50% of my annual giving and leave the rest to the Holy Spirit during the year,” says Zsolt. “There will be some needs arising with the year that I don’t see now. I ask the Holy Spirit where there’s a need.”

“So my 50 percent is decided,” says Zsolt. “There are ministries I like to give to, then I leave things a little bit open. For example, last year, there was this huge refugee program that needed some financial support. In January, I wouldn’t have known that that would be such a huge issue in August and September. If you leave open your opportunities, you leave some place for God. Obviously I pray over all my giving. Earlier I was not praying too much about my giving. Now I really ask God to give me the wisdom where he wants me to give.”

Zsolt loves to give to… overseeing Kindergarten renovations:

While Zsolt supports ministries like CBMC and Alpha, he’s passionate about ensuring that he’s personally involved. “My favorite story of giving,” says Zsolt, “was not giving of money, it was giving of time. The kindergarten at our church had to be renovated. We managed to get some state subsidies to rebuild and I managed the project. It was a business matter – and I like business – but it was for a very good cause. So people in our church were excited and aligned with this. They gave money to reach the objectives to renovate the kindergarten.”

Now, when Zsolt sees the impact of the church’s kindergarten, he feels a special joy. “Children are very much open. Many people, if they don’t come to Jesus as a child, they don’t come at all. The kindergarten serves 100 children and it’s a great tool for evangelization. Children come home and say ‘why don’t we pray before eating?’ I really love that.”

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