You and your Finances
This article was posted Valentine's Day 2007. It's about Christians and their money. Though we usually think of finances when we discuss reaping and sowing, it is possible to give of our time and our talents when we're strapped for cash. These days, in the midst of a recession that's bad and getting worse, the most unkind thing I could do would be to skirt the issue of sowing. The widow of Zarephath sowed what she had into caring for God's prophet. At a Coffee Bar Bible Study, a young man tossed a $20 bill on the table between us. He said something like “I haven't been sowing anywhere lately" and that my ministry was as valid as any.
A woman in Tennessee had been setting her tithe checks aside, no longer feeling led to give the money to the church she'd been attending. Her husband suggested she mail the checks to my ministry. I received $900 worth of checks from her soon after, every penny of which I was quickly able to sow elsewhere.
These people "get it" and that's awesome. I'm afraid too few DO, instead hanging on to their cash as if it were the last they'd ever see. Instead of sowing it, they hold on with both hands until something meaningless comes along and pries it from their grasp.
THE POWER OF PARTNERSHIP!
These situations have made me realize that in the many messages I've broadcast since 1999, I've only addressed the subject of “giving" or “tithing" ONCE! Shame on me, for there's such a blessing in store for those who comprehend it - and MOST of us don't. The truth of the matter is, most ministers feel very ill-equipped to handle the subject of Biblical finances. Personally, my own reluctance probably stems from not wanting to be lumped in with anyone's concept of money-grubbing ministers. Forgive me for that. It's a sensitive subject; any time I even so much as alluded to it, I received the typical accusations pertaining to greed, scams, “getting rich off donations," and taking advantage of old ladies. - people believing the devil's lies rather than the truth of Scripture.
Fact is, you MUST know the truth about giving, regardless of how people react to the message. Let he who has eyes to see read what the Spirit is saying.
For starters, God doesn't want our money; He wants us. And since our hearts are so inextricably tied to our wallets, we MUST learn His Kingdom principles regarding finances. The giving of finances is about the closest any of us will ever come to a human sacrifice. Ever wonder why it's so hard to give to a ministry and so easy to give to other, meaningless, matters? You can't tell ME there's no devil! And he'll do everything within his considerable power to keep our money steadily draining out of your possession. His well-planned deceptions are the reason it's so hard for us to sow finances as we should.
It's tough to contribute to an invisible cause! To many of us, being a good steward of what God has provided us with is best defined as finding a good deal on something we really didn't need anyway. I recall a “Blondie" cartoon where Blondie proudly told Dagwoood she had saved them $200 one day. “How?" he asked, excitedly. “I bought this pretty $400 mink for half off," she exclaimed.
Yes, we give willingly, cheerfully supporting the “ministries" of drive-thru restaurants and check-out counter gadgets and vending machines. In America, the average kid spends about $40 per trip to the shopping mall; their parents, about $80. Our closets and attics are filled with old and broken junk. In contrast, Jesus said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy...," Matthew 6:19, 20.
The apostle Paul wrote: “...for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God" (Philippians 4:16-18).
Ask yourself: “Is anything at all being credited to my heavenly account?"
To have fallen into the trap of “being under grace" and, therefore, are under no obligation to give, is to have fallen into deception. Although we are free from the bondages of legalism, we are now free to give as we feel led, freeing up even more resources to help others in need.
WHERE THE HEARTS IS, THERE OUR TREASURE IS
The word “tithe" actually means “one-tenth." According to The Barna Group, the average amount of money donated to churches in 2004 was $895 per donor. that's hardly a 10% tithe. When inflation is factored in, that is actually less than the amount that churches received in the late 1990s. Barna states, “From 1999 through 2004, cumulative annual giving to churches increased by $89 per donor, representing an 11% rise since before the turn of the millennium. After factoring in inflation, however, churches are actually getting about 2% less than the current value of the money contributed in 1999."
God doesn't need ANY portion of our money any more than He needed the fruit on the tree in the Garden of Eden. The issue is this: recognized rights. Five-hundred years before the Mosaic Law, Abraham was tithing; Jacob, 250 years before the Law. Once the tithe was implemented, God's people were bound under the Law. Under the NEW Covenant, we should willingly give ALL that we can - 100% of everything we have - to build God's Kingdom as His co-laborers. After all, we're citizens in this Kingdom, too, y'know. To build it is only to build into what is now ours anyway! We must become intimately joined to the Kingdom enough for that to ring true to each of us.
To those who teach a mandatory 10% tithe AFTER the cross, sorry, there's no Scriptural evidence that the “storehouse" many keep telling their congregations to tithe into is an expensive, usually-empty building, property, equipment, musical instruments, or salaries (64% of western church workers are administrative and janitorial). No, the storehouse is the Kingdom of God. But there's so little teaching on the Kingdom. The Word of Faith movement has been the cause of many a shipwrecked faith as people developed a “give to get" mentality. Name-it-and-claim-it-blab-it-and-grab-it theology certainly has elements of truth within it, but too few ever asked the ‘why’ questions ... like, why weren't the preachers in the $500 suits and the fancy Italian shoes teaching this stuff in 3rd world nations?
It won't play in Peoria, that's why.
Jesus didn't do it, folks. Neither did Paul. Think of how stressless ministry would be without all that building-related “stuff" anyway ... and how much more effective we'd be in our Kingdom work if we weren't running those “spiritual corporations." Fact is, WE are The Church, the people of God, NOT the edifices and institutions of man.
Ephesians 4:28 tells us: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to give to those in need."
Something to give? The thief must work SO THAT he will be able to give? YES! And if that's expected of the thief, it must certainly apply to the rest of us, eh? That's the Kingdom principle of giving: work so you'll have MORE TO GIVE! Work so you'll have something to sow because, in sowing, you advance the Kingdom! In sowing, God can give you MORE to sow.
SERVING SOMETHING BIGGER THAN SELF
According to a CNN/Money.com report (Jan 25, 2006), Americans are among the world's most cash-strapped people, based upon the latest semi-annual survey from ACNielsen. Nearly a quarter (22 percent) of Americans have no money left once they've paid for their essential living expenses and spent their discretionary dollars. That puts the United States at the top of a list of 42 countries for saving futility. Among developed countries, Americans are the most cash-strapped people. The United States is neck and neck with Portugal. In fact, this score revealed that we're saving the lowest amount of money that we've saved in 72 years! Stashing money in the bank just isn't happening like it once did. For those who do, the bank has three bedrooms and a couple of baths.
The “making-a-living" mindset is a perversion of truth. It's based upon self and encourages humanistic, “all-about-me" thinking. If all we're waking up for each morning is to get back to the grindstone so we can make money so we can buy more stuff so we can impress people we don't know or don't like, getting ourselves into debt requiring that we work even more, even harder... folks, this is a merry-go-round we need to get off of right away!
God is our Provider. He's the King, it's His Kingdom and He desires to care for His people who submit to His dominion. Look at the example of King Solomon and how impressed the Queen of Sheba was when she saw how well he cared for his subjects. Remember how well God cared for His children as they fled through the desert? Manna in the morning, quail at night, 40 years of shoes that didn't wear out, water out of rocks. King Jesus did the same. When He was teaching thousands, He also served a lunch of loaves and fishes. His heart was filled with compassion for those in need. He wants US to trust Him to meet our needs as well.
Problem? We're too affluent. It's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25). Satan wants to “bless" us with all kinds of worldly stuff, just as he attempted to “bless" Jesus in the wilderness. Be careful not to fall into his traps. He knows that giving is a spiritual principle of God's Kingdom. “For God so loved the world that He GAVE...," John 3:16. God's a giver and so should His children be. Satan desires to make it more and more difficult, even unreasonable, to give.
Saints, make a note: we can NOT satisfy a spiritual need by using natural means. We cannot SPEND ourselves into feeling joyful, not for more than a moment. That new "thing" may make us happy for a moment but, after that, we're looking for another "thing." Whether it's a new car or a chemically-induced high, ultimately, they leave you wanting more. All the supposed “needs" that we have to accumulate more of this world's treasures, all of which “moth and rust destroy," are a perversion of the Scriptural truth that we should store our treasures in Heaven. We can't take it with us, but we CAN send some treasures on ahead, as they say.
Resist busy-ness. In our frenzied fervor to earn more, we're spending less and less of today's gift of God (The Present) on that which matters. And where others are concerned, “love" is spelled T-I-M-E. but we have so little available.
GIVE TILL IT HELPS!
I once heard a preacher tell the congregation to “give till it hurts." Boy, was I ever motivated...NOT!
Nothing to give away? Search the cushions of your couch. When I was crippled up, suffering from a debilitating, incurable spinal disease, I walked to church and plunked my last eighteen cents into the plate. Unemployed for 7 months, I took a homeless man home with me and shared my can of beans and mac ‘n cheese. Why? because I understand God's Kingdom economy. Learn what I'm teaching you now! You WILL be blessed! Satisfaction GUARANTEED...or your tithe back!
Since those daysI haven't looked back, friends, as God has not only blessed me with physical healing but also with material blessings and even honor and favor with many others in the six years since. I once read about a man who gave away 90% of his income. The remaining ten percent was enough on which to live quite well. That's my goal, too. I observed that a wealthy Christian man I worked for gave away money to Christian causes seemingly as fast as he was earning it. I was there when he gave everything he had in his wallet to a young lady who rolled her car the day after she became a Christian. She had no insurance and had missed a great deal of work. I have learned that one simply cannot out-give God.
Sowing into the Kingdom does NOT mean paving a church parking lot or buying a new gargoyle for the cathedral. It means sowing into people's lives - the people Jesus died for (that includes everyone). It means helping those less fortunate, especially widows and orphans. It means sowing seed in fertile fields that bear fruit; a place where lives are being transformed. We are mere stewards of what we've been given. If we are wise with what we have, we will be blessed with more, I've found.
We are certainly under no obligation to give ONLY to our church if the Spirit leads us to give elsewhere in the Kingdom...a woman who needs help, another ministry, whatever. My wife and I give to several other organizations ourselves as well as to our own Church. I contend that the early Church gave to causes, whether those included the traveling Christian minister of that day, the widows and orphans among them, or needs they feel led to tend to such as natural disasters or someone whose company closed and they can't make rent.
Here's an experiment: Give everyone in your family or cell group $25 from your accumulated offerings. Direct each of them to give that money away as the Spirit leads between now and the next time you meet and return with their testimonies. I guarantee, you'll have a lively discussion! It's called “meeting them were they're at." As the CNN/Money article revealed, we're all strapped for cash. A missionary to Italy described to me how he grew his church there after nearly a year of unsuccessful attempts. They planted purses from Goodwill all over the neighborhood one night. Each purse contained an invitation to his services. The church grew as a result. He said, “An Italian man told me that Italians will ALWAYS pick up a purse." Different bait for different fish.
We live a seed-time to harvest existence, folks. Are you planting? Remember, as you go about “making a giving" each day, Jesus said, “Give and it will be given unto you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap," (Luke 6:38).
How will the blessings come? You may be allowed to keep your job.You may be awarded an inheritance. You may get more hours at work. You may get a pay raise. You may never miss work unless you WANT to. You will be given more to give IF God sees you as a channel of blessing.
Be content with your wages, Jesus taught. And Trust in God for He knows your needs well in advance. Give to others in every way you can. Practice self-control (for example, wait 24-hrs before making any purchase on an item over “X" amount), and make your bread-winning efforts a means of making a GIVING, not merely a living.
Do tough times lie ahead for America? Perhaps you live in a place where tough times have been the norm for quite a while. Personally, I contend that we, The Church, are the answer to the Recession. As Kingdom citizens, we do NOT have to participate.
WATCH THIS YouTube Video from me where I talk about YOU and YOUR FINANCES!
READ ‘EM & REAP!
Luke 6:39; Prov 4:20-22; John 8:31-32; 1 Cor 9:13-19; 2 Cor 9:6-15
Founder of The Church @ Work (TCAW)
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