Giving bull

I fear that I’ve been a little lax in communicating my stance on giving to folks. I want so badly to say, “God doesn’t care how much you give as long as it’s from the heart.” It’s a caveat to those who are experiencing a tinge of guilt for their wholesale pursuit of the retail god. They decide that they want to start “giving” but discover that at their present level of living, they simply cannot “tithe.”

In the past month, our church has had an incredible series on the Journey to Financial Freedom. We’ve heard from different pastors in our area as guest speakers, and we still have a few more weeks in our financial small groups. I don’t think anyone who has participated regularly has left unchanged and unresolved.

However, I don’t want to fudge on this important issue. It’s not a matter of squeezing a little giving into our existing lifestyles. If our current level of living is too great for a biblically prescribed level of giving, then there t’ain’t no squeezing that’s gonna make lemonade out of a watermelon. If your living level prohibits your giving level, then the former must decrease while the latter must increase.

I’ve got just a thin steak of mercy running in me. Most who know me well say I’ve got more than that; however, I generally appreciate receiving plain talk, and because of that, I generally give it as well. So here it is, if you’ve heard or read from me any semblance of permission to gradually grow into giving, please slap me.

Here’s why:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, nota dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5.17-20, ESV)

You see, we’ve taught consistently this past month that the tithe concept was not just an Old Testament one that New Testament Christians can replace with some type of warm fuzzy giving. I still believe that the tithe is the starting point of obedience. Jesus states clearly that His teaching is not replacement but enhancement. In fact, we know that the Pharisees tithed – even to the point of tithing on herbs and spices. According to Jesus’ point, our righteousness should exceed that of the Pharisees. New Testament giving, then, becomes a matter of standard obedience and joyful excess.

So… for all those who would “relax” the commandments and meekly counsel you to grow into giving, I say, “Bull.” Increase your giving level while decreasing your living level. If you must sell out to start over, then by all means, do so joyfully. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 

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8 comments

  1. TJ says:
    Way to go Jeff! It’s important as a pastor to persistently challenge your sheep to be obedient to scripture. Financial counsel should always begin with the tithe, as it is the firstfruit of our labor that belongs to God (that’s why it’s robbing Him if we don’t bring it in to the storehouse). Tithing opens the windows of God’s blessing on the remaining 90% that is ours. It’s not just a “law of Moses” concept, as we read of Abraham tithing the first of his spoils (Genesis 14, Hebrews 11)- before the law was ever given. Even in the Garden of Eden, God specified ONE tree out of all of them to not touch (I’ve actually heard it taught – don’t ask for a quote, cause it’s been a long time ago – that there may have been 10 species of trees in the garden). When we tithe, a supernatural blessing comes over our finances because of our obedience and trust in God. Besides, that first 10 percent of my paycheck isn’t going to make the difference of whether I can make my “refrigerator payment” (or whatever the bill may be) on time! In other words, I can’t do it on my own with 100% of my income, so what’s it going to HURT if I obey God with 10% so He will “rebuke the devourer” for my sake. I’d much rather obey God, than to try to figure it out on my own.
  2. Jeff says:
    Thanks, TJ, for your affirmation.

    I would qualify your comment, though, “Tithing opens the windows of God’s blessing on the remaining 90% that is ours.”

    I don’t think any of it is actually ours if we operate from a stewardship mindset. That’s why it’s so vital for us to acknowledge God with the firstfruits. It’s not saying, “Here, God, I know you need this,” but it’s a recognition that He doesn’t want ALL of it back but expects us to use it and grow it in a way that is loving, wise, and will bring Him glory.

  3. TJ says:
    of course, i’m figuratively speaking… everything in our lives belongs to God (at least it’s supposed to). It appears to me that the early church in Acts actually pooled ALL of their money together – and everyone’s needs were taken care of. I’m sure that would be good preaching, resulting in a u-haul gift certificate being given to the pastor immediately following service!
  4. TJ says:
    maybe that’s a misuse of “figuratively” – I’ll just blame my misuse of terminology on the spam protection that is frying my mathematical side of my brain.
  5. Jeff says:
    I’d love to see a Debt Reduction Group that is so intent on reducing each other’s debt that covenants are signed, a family is picked, and the whole group works on getting that family out of consumer debt first. After they’re out of debt, the whole group works on the next family’s debt, and so on…

    Just never have had the guts to initiate one.. What think ye?

  6. TJ says:
    Go for it! I’ve heard of something like this working, I just can’t remember where it was. I know it was a larger church. I think they actually took up an offering every month and helped a different family attack their debts with it. It worked wonders along with a financial class where the members of the class could help one another.

    Run with it!

  7. Jim says:
    I certainly like the Debt Reduction Group idea…would like to discuss this further.
  8. Jeff says:
    Jim, did you know that Debt Reduction group has started? See Journey’s website for more info.

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