2 Corinthians 9:6-7 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
One of the things about Christianity that trips up believers and unbelievers alike is when you get to that moment in church when the focus turns for a moment to the topic of money. The preacher says the word, and buckets start getting passed around and dollars and checks start getting dropped in. The unbelievers who are there sometimes get offended when they hear the pastor start mentioning the giving of money. Their ears stop up and any chance of them being blessed that day are gone. Sometimes it’s existing believers who find offense over the verse the pastor used to talk about the offering, or maybe they disagreed with the way he presented the whole subject, and now any chance of them being blessed that day are gone.
Either way, the fact is that I’m sick and tired of things getting in the way of PEOPLE coming to GOD. The giving of money in church used to be a stumbling block for me. I’ve seen unbelievers who by the grace of God were in the church completely tune out the entire message because they didn’t like the fact that the pastor was asking for money. I’ve lived and witnessed this be something that can inhibit a relationship with the Lord. That’s why I felt strongly the need to write about it. God’s gathering His people right now. We need to be doing whatever we can to knock down the roadblocks that might prevent people from answering that call. I refuse to sit idly by and let misunderstandings about the nature of giving financially to God be something that keeps anyone around me from coming to the Lord. So I know it’s not exactly a normal entry here on this blog, but I hope you’ll indulge me as I share what I’ve learned about giving and how it’s directly impacted me and my relationship with God.
When I used to struggle with financially giving to God there were three questions that tripped me up. Why did the church need my money? Why did God want me to give up my hard earned money? Was it even right for the church to be asking for my money?
Well, some of those answers are easier than others. As I’ve spent more and more time in the word of God you find that the subject of giving tithes and offerings is covered multiple times.
Proverbs 3:9 Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
Luke 3:11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
Deuteronomy 15:10 You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.
I could keep going, but I think you get the point. The bible clearly and often establishes the principle that we are to give offerings to the Lord. So that answers one question I used to have, as it’s obviously right for the church to ask for offerings/tithes.
Let’s look at the first two questions, because I’ve learned that “why does the church need my money” and “why does God want me to give up my hard earned money” are really the same question. It boils down to me wanting to keep what is mine. And that is where I had to learn one of the hardest and most profound lessons I’ve learned so far in my walk with God.
Nothing is really mine.
I exist because God made me. That means that my life is His. I woke up today because He willed it to be. That means this day is His. I have my job at the newspaper because of the writing talent He gave me, which means this job is His. And if the job is His, then the money I make at the job is His.
I’m gonna pause the money talk for just one moment, because I know that the above paragraph is a heavy one. I assure you, it was a major revelation when this truth became known to me. The idea of a selfless life goes against everything our culture teaches us. MY job, MY money, MY house, MY car, MY television, MY talent, MY skills, MINE MINE MINE. To even suggest otherwise in today’s America is going to get you some strange looks and probably some ridicule, but we should always remember that while we may be in this world we’re not of this world. The bible tells us we’re going to be ridiculed by those who are still of this world, but that we’re not to conform to their way of life. In this case, that way of life I’m referencing is the idea of MINE. The greed and selfishness that runs rampant through every vein of society.
I live and breathe because God wills it. Every second I still have life on this earth is a second He has gifted to me, meaning it all belongs to Him.
Getting to the place where you realize that all good things are of God and thus all good things belong to God is not easy, and it’s not something that’s ever going to be understood by unbelievers. From the outside, it can be a scary concept. I feared I would lose my identity when I submitted to this grand truth, but miraculously the total opposite happened. God showed me that my identity comes from Him, not from my bank account, or my job, or my social status. Everything else is just stuff, and the only thing about me that matters is the fact that my father is almighty God Himself. When you get to a point where you start to grasp these truths, that all good things in life belong to God, then giving money to Him is pretty simple.
Here’s something that helps me as I tithe ten percent of my income each week. I’m in an amazing church. The good works this place does are clearly evident, and they spend a lot of time, energy, and I’m sure funds helping not only missionaries and paying pastoral salaries, but also by helping the needy in our City. That helps me feel better about giving up a portion of each paycheck, but the truth is, you’re not giving to a church. The bible doesn’t tell us to give offerings and tithes to a man or a church, we’re commanded to give to God. In a way, what happens to the money once it passes out of my hand isn’t even really a concern of mine anymore. If you’re giving with a glad heart, then it’s easy to trust that God will honor the sacrifice you’re making and that He’ll use that money to bless others.
I know a struggle people have with the idea of giving is their own needs. You see television preachers saying to send in all your money and that God will drop ten times as much money right back into your life. I know that it’s within God’s power to bless those who give money with money in return, but if you’re giving money only because you’re expecting money back from God then I suspect you might not be giving with a correct heart. God’s word tells us time and again that givers will be blessed, but the nature of the return isn’t promised to be financial.
Luke 6:38 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.”
The bible several times repeats the promise that those who give with a glad heart will receive blessings in return. It’s natural in this day and age to want that blessing to be monetary, but that desire comes from a life spent in a world that idolizes money. No matter what some TV pastors may tell you, you don’t always get a monetary reward from the Lord in return for your giving. God is limitless and his power is infinite. He promises that those who give will be rewarded, that those who sow into the ground will reap in return. Money’s nice, let’s just be honest here. In the right hands, it can be a tool for good. But the bible doesn’t mince words about money’s ability to cause us to stumble in our walk with God.
1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Matthew 19:24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
So sure, if God wants to bring finances into my life then that’s cool, but we need to be sure we’re not always expecting it to go that way. God tells us on several occasions in the bible that those who give correctly, those joyful givers, will be blessed in return. It’s not a maybe, or a possibility, it is presented in His word as a certainty. So it’s not wrong to expect blessings in return when you’re faithfully giving financially to the Lord in the correct way (glad hearts!), I just think there’s a danger of us only looking for money in return for our money. That strikes me as a good way to miss out on any number of other types of blessings. If our eyes are only on our wallets, we might miss some other area of our life in which God is trying to bless us.
CLOSING AND PRAYER
On Thursday I will close out this look at giving to God with a deeply personal look at my own finances and the way in which my faithful giving to God has resulted in blessings in my life. I hope you’ll come back and read it, as I think it really drives home many of the things I talked about here today.
For prayer today, I want to pray to be free of bondage to money. We live in a world of wantings and cravings and needs, where the dollar bill seemingly reigns supreme. I don’t know about you, but I only want to serve one master, the God of Creation. I know all about bondage to money, I think almost every one of us does. Having money is vital to survival, but it shouldn’t be the reason for our existence. Money and worries over money can lead to depression, acts of desperation, and so many other terrible things. So let’s pray together today for God to help us get our finances into the right place in our lives. I know it’s important, we have to eat and pay bills and take care of our loved ones, but God needs to be the center of our life. Father God, I pray right now that you break the hold that money can have over us. Lord, help us keep our life in the proper perspective, help us keep each aspect of life ordered in a manner that honors you. Lord, I know that the good things in my life are of you, and thus they belong to you. Help me loosen my grip on my finances, help me turn it over to you, and trust and honor you with my whole life, including my money and the way I use it. Make us wise stewards over our finances, give us deep wisdom when it comes to how we spend our money, and give us opportunities to bless others through our finances. I pray this in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.
I love you guys so very much, and I hope you’re all having a wonderful week so far. But no matter what kind of week you’re having, pause for a moment and remember that God loves you with an everlasting love. He’s a good God, and he cares about His children (us!) very, very much.