Then he said to the crowd, "Don't be greedy! Owning a lot of things won't make your life safe." So Jesus told them this story: A rich man's farm produced a big crop, and he said to himself, "What can I do? I don't have a place large enough to store everything." Later, he said, "Now I know what I'll do. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, where I can store all my grain and other goods. Then I'll say to myself, 'You have stored up enough good things to last for years to come. Live it up! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.' " But God said to him, "You fool! Tonight you will die. Then who will get what you have stored up?" "This is what happens to people who store up everything for themselves, but are poor in the sight of God." Jesus said to his disciples: I tell you not to worry about your life! Don't worry about having something to eat or wear. Life is more than food or clothing. Look at the crows! They don't plant or harvest, and they don't have storehouses or barns. But God takes care of them. You are much more important than any birds. Can worry make you live longer? If you don't have power over small things, why worry about everything else? Look how the wild flowers grow! They don't work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth wasn't as well clothed as one of these flowers. God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. Won't he do even more for you? You have such little faith! Don't keep worrying about having something to eat or drink. Only people who don't know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father knows what you need. But put God's work first, and these things will be yours as well. My little group of disciples, don't be afraid! Your Father wants to give you the kingdom.
I was sitting in church with my checkbook open, going over my bills in my mind and trying to figure out how much cash I had left to give to God that week when it hit me. I am not a rich man… never have been. But for some reason I had acquired a rich man’s attitude. Every Sunday I was asking myself, “How much of my money should I give to God?” How blind I had become. Jesus praises the poor widow in the Gospel of Mark:
And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
The Lord showed me that I was giving out of my abundance (“How much should I give to God?”) When I should have been giving out of my poverty. That is, I should have realized that nothing that I possess is mine. It all belongs to God. I am just managing it for Him. In reality, I am penniless…I possess nothing. The question I should have been asking is, “How much of God’s money does He want me to keep for myself?”
Tithing for me had become just another bill on my list. How sad. I had been depriving myself of the “joy of giving”. I suddenly realized that I no longer wanted to be like the Pharisee in scripture, patting myself on the back for throwing a few coins at God. I had turned the King of the Universe into a beggar…and myself into the ever-so-benevolent rich man tossing coins into His cup. What I really wanted to be, I was discovering, was to be like the Israelites in Exodus 36:
In fact, so much money was being given each morning, that finally everyone stopped working and said, "Moses, there is already more money than we need for what the LORD has assigned us to do." So Moses sent word for the people to stop giving, and they did. But there was already more than enough to do what needed to be done.
When the tabernacle was being built, the people were so caught up in the excitement they had to be told not to give anymore.
It has been said: The more time you spend with Christ…the more you give. And the more you give…the more you are like Christ. Jesus said:
I have told you this so that you will be as joyful as I am, and your joy will be in abundance.
This was to be the key to Christ’s joy: Giving in abundance. In reality, giving isn’t the luxury of the rich…it’s the privilege of the poor. And we are all of us poor except for the riches we have in Christ that were GIVEN to us.
So, God commands giving, we become like Christ when we give and our giving produces abundant joy. Then why don’t we give? There are many obstacles to giving: unbelief, insecurity, pride, idolatry, desire for power and control and the pressure of our culture to accumulate wealth and possessions. But for me I think the reason is far simpler…and completely delusional. Somewhere along the line I forgot where I lived. Somehow I got it into my head that this world is my home. The bible says the following about my citizenship:
All these people died having faith. They didn't receive the things that God had promised them, but they saw these things coming in the distant future and rejoiced. They acknowledged that they were living as strangers with no permanent home on earth.
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
But we are citizens of heaven and are eagerly waiting for our Savior to come from there. Our Lord Jesus Christ
But my giving had betrayed another belief. Because Christ also said:
Your heart will always be where your treasure is. (Mat 6:21)
My heart was hopelessly tied to this world, where I was doing all my investing. Imagine you are working overseas and staying in a hotel for the duration of your job. Because of customs, you know you can’t take anything home with you. But you can wire all the money you have earned on ahead. Would you spend all your earnings buying expensive furniture and fancy paintings for your hotel room? Of course not! You would wire the money on ahead. That is exactly what the Lord explains to us in His word: “You can’t take anything with you. But you can send it on ahead. And I will store it for you.”
Consider these facts:
1. The average American shops six hours a week while spending forty minutes playing with his children
2. By age twenty, we’ve seen one million commercials.
3. Recently, more Americans declared bankruptcy than graduated from college.
4. In 90% of divorce cases, arguments about money play a prominent role.
Now consider these quotes from some of histories wealthiest:
“The care of $200 million is enough to kill anyone. There is no pleasure in it.” W.H. Vanderbilt
“I am the most miserable man on earth.” John Jacob Astor
“I have made millions, but they have brought me no happiness.”
John D. Rockefeller
“Millionaires seldom smile.” Andrew Carnegie
“I was happier when doing a mechanic’s job.” Henry Ford
In light of these facts and quotes, what possible reason could I have for wanting to invest what the Lord has given me, into this world? Sam Houston, the soldier and politician, came to
Christ. After his baptism, Houston said he wanted to pay half the local minister’s salary. When someone asked him why, he responded, “My pocketbook was baptized, too.” How we spend and invest our money declares to the world where our allegiance lies.
So then, where does our giving begin? What guidelines has God left for us to follow? The Old Testament is clear that a tithe is 10% of “first fruits”. That is, we don’t give to the work of God what we have left…we give Him 10% off the top. “But wait,” you may say. “We no longer live under the Law of the Old Covenant…we live under the New Covenant.“ Let me ask you this: The Law and the Prophets in the Old Testament led the people of God. We, however, have been saved by the sacrificial death of the most perfect and loving person who ever walked this earth. As a result of that death we have the Holy Spirit of the most Holy God dwelling in our hearts. We have Jesus interceding on our behalf before the throne of God on a daily basis. Jesus has provided a home for us in heaven and He tells us not to worry because the Father is pleased to give us the kingdom. He gave us spiritual gifts to help us build the church and He promises to provide for all our needs. Now, would all of this compel you to give less or more than 10%? Okay then…let’s not hear any more talk about not being under the Law.
However, many believers do seem to be following another flag. Nearly every study indicates that American Christians give on average between 2 and 3 percent of their income. A Barna 2001 research report states:
Among born again adults, there was a 44% rise in those who gave nothing last year. Compared to 1999, the mean per capita donation to churches dropped by 19% in 2000. One-third of born again adults said they tithed in 2000, but a comparison of their actual giving and household incomes reveals that only one eighth did so.
Compare that report with this testimony from a businessman named Scott Lewis:
Scott Lewis attended a conference where Bill Bright challenged people to give one million dollars to help fulfill the great commission. This amount was laughable to Scott-far beyond anything he could imagine since his machinery business was generating an income of under $50,000 a year. Bill asked, “How much did you give last year?” Scott felt pretty good about his answer: “We gave $17.000, about 35% of our income.” Without blinking an eye, Bill responded, “Over the next year, why don’t you make it a goal of giving $50,000?” Scott though Bill hadn’t understood. This was more than he had made all year! But Scott and his wife decided to trust God with Bill’s challenge, asking Him to do the impossible. God provided in amazing ways. With a miraculous December 31st provision, they were able to give $50,000. The next year they set a goal of $100,000. Again God provided. And five years later they passed the $1,000,000 mark and are still going.
The Scott Lewis story clearly illustrates that when you trust God for His provision and give generously to the work of God, He will provide. He even tells us in Malachi:
I am the LORD All-Powerful, and I challenge you to put me to the test. Bring the entire ten percent into the storehouse, so there will be food in my house. Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing. I will also stop locusts from destroying your crops and keeping your vineyards from producing. Everyone of every nation will talk about how I have blessed you and about your wonderful land. I, the LORD All-Powerful, have spoken!
“Okay, I understand where you’re going with this,” you may say. “But that doesn’t describe me…I trust God.” Then let me ask you this: You have just received your paycheck of…let’s say $500. However, your mortgage payment of $495 is due. Would you still tithe and trust God for the balance? Believe me, I have asked myself the same question. And all too often I have ended up answering it by withholding my tithe out of fear. But I am more convinced than ever, that if I want to show God that I truly trust Him, I need to do so in these day to day boring little life decisions…and so do you!
And let’s not get stuck on money. God doesn’t need our money (which after all is His anyway). The tithe is for us…not Him. We give to demonstrate our obedience and trust. But God has given us much more than our treasure. He’s given us our very lives and our gifts and talents to operate in that life. Can we not give Him at least 10% of our time and talent as well.
When it comes to giving, there are only two groups: those who cheerfully give to God what is His and those who withhold from God what is His to take care of themselves. Of the first group, the bible says:
Each of you should give whatever you have decided. You shouldn't be sorry that you gave or feel forced to give, since God loves a cheerful giver.
Of the second group, the bible says this:
You expected much, but received only a little. And when you brought it home, I made that little disappear. Why have I done this? It's because you hurry off to build your own houses, while my temple is still in ruins. That's also why the dew doesn't fall and your harvest fails. And so, at my command everything will become barren--your farmland and pastures, your vineyards and olive trees, your animals and you yourselves. All your hard work will be for nothing.
So, which group would you like to belong to: cheerful giver or “God-robber”? And which location is home to you: heaven or earth? For me the choice is clear. God has asked me to test Him in his generosity and grace. He’s promised me a home in heaven. And He has told me that my giving will store up treasure in that new home. Will you join me? After all, we have a “tabernacle” of our own to build, don’t we? And like those Israelites of Exodus 36, let’s get excited about giving and God’s promises for joyful and abundant givers. Allow your heart to be filled with joy about your future home and the treasure Christ desires to fill it with on your behalf.
Come join me in building our “tabernacle” and God’s kingdom.
I’M THE ONE IN LINE BEHIND THE WIDOW
WITH THE TWO MITES!