For centuries, people have longed to “meet with God.” But they were constantly on the move! So the LORD instructed them to build a “tabernacle,” or a mobile tent, in which God would dwell among them. You heard it right — God lived in a mobile home. But the time eventually came to build a permanent temple, and King David prayed to God about it in 1 Chronicles 29: 10-16. David’s prayer is an inspiration for how to think about what it means to give back to God. This week, Pastor Aaron outlined eight reasons why he and his family make a point to give a full tithe and offerings.
- We give because it is a reflection of our hearts. It can be hard or even impossible to see what’s really going on in someone’s heart. Now, giving gifts is actually some people’s love language. It might come easier for some than others. But the reason it is a love language is because it expresses the love that otherwise is hidden in one’s heart. And despite the ease with which we might be giving people, giving is part of our most elemental design as the only creatures on earth which are made in God’s very image. Our biological life may be the result of our natural birth, but our holistic being as creations of the Most High reflects God’s own being. So we have hearts that are wired to give.
- We give because it honors God’s name. Pastor Aaron mentioned that even though some people have been called to work as pastors, they’re no different than anyone else. That’s the truth! A person’s calling, even into vocational ministry, doesn’t automatically make that person do or feel things. We still have to make choices — hard choices, sometimes — in order to grow more and more like Christ, which is what we’re all called to. Aaron shared a story about a particularly wealthy friend who couldn’t imagine that God would ask him to give ten percent of his income (because it was so much money!) This friend seemed to think that there was a reasonable ceiling to the amount of “his” wealth with which he should honor God. Unfortunately, that friend passed away at a young age and wasn’t able to enjoy the wealth he had saved for himself. Consider what it means to honor God first with the wealth God has allowed us to enjoy.
- We give to God because God owns everything. Galations 2:20 reminds us that when we give our lives to Christ, we no longer live to ourselves, but we live to Christ. That is, our lives are so caught up in Him that we are, in a sense, lost into Christ. In fact, Paul’s favorite description for someone who followed Jesus was not to call them a “Christian,” but rather was to describe them as existing “in Christ” (the phrase appears 165 in Paul’s letters!)* And when we are “in Christ,” we can’t exclude certain parts of our life. To be “in Christ” means that our assets are also “in Christ.” And of course, Jesus knew that such a choice wouldn’t feel natural to us, so he promises most clearly that when we lose our lives for his sake we will find our lives — our true lives — even more abundantly!
- We give because it allows God to show up. God is at work in our world, and in your personal life. And giving allows us to see that work more clearly and even to participate in it! The fact is that God’s hands are the ones with power and authority, not ours. So why do we clutch so tightly to what we think is ours, when we’re hardly able to even use it in a way that has significant, not to mention eternal, impact? Now, some of you are gifted with making money. It comes naturally, you have ideas that tend to generate revenue, and/or you’re naturally interested in money-making ventures. That’s a gift! Even in the Bible, we know there were wealthy benefactors who supported the work of the apostles. So why not use the gift God gave you to create wealth and offer it back to God? Then you (and so many others) can see God transform it from mere dollars to lasting impact and changed lives.
- We give because we believe in the “we” over the “me.” Of the several ministries of the church that move us to communal thinking, the Cherish Ministry to Meru Kenya is one of the most visible. A family from Kenya became part of the UPPC community almost 20 years ago, and they brought their love for their home community with them. Thanks to them, Cherish has always been a partnership and its ministry relational. The dollars and cents simply help make it happen. But the communal nature of the ministry is the point, and the result has been hundreds of children who have been given an education and hope for the future.
- We give because we don’t want to be “takers” only. The Dead Sea is a strange place. It receives beautiful water from the north, but it has no outlet. So the water collects and becomes stagnant, gross, muddy, and of course salty. Its lack of outlet makes it lifeless. We all know the occasional “mooch” who doesn’t give but always finds a way to take. Do you want to be like that in the Kingdom of God? When I diagnose my life in terms of giving, if I find that I’m taking more than I’m giving (don’t worry about the math, think of it in qualitative terms) then I might find myself feeling lifeless. NOTE: There are seasons in life when we truly have need! And God knows it, and God is more than willing to give! The principle of not “being a taker” applies to the whole of our lives, even though sometimes we need to be “takers” of God’s grace.
- We give a tithe (10% of income) because the needs in our church are bigger than our personal preferences. If I gave only to ministries that I “like” then I’ve reverse the proper order of things. Am I, after all, the creator of the church, or its sustainer? More than that, other people in the congregation prefer ministries that I don’t. So preferential giving also sets us up for competition with our sisters and brothers, and that never ends well. Finally, Pastor Aaron mentioned that in 25 years of ministry, he has never seen anyone prefer the ministry of toilet paper or electric bill! But think about it — without those unattractive but necessary expenses, would we be able to welcome the stranger, show love to kids, and so on? Instead of placing conditions on our giving, are you willing to challenge yourself to entrust your gift to God, and then be active in nominating and electing elders from the congregation to prayerfully discern how to use the collected tithes of the people? (For more info about Presbyterian leadership and polity, email Aaron or Mike — it’s more interesting than it initally sounds!)
- We give because the real treasure is coming. Don’t miss Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, because you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as reward.” This is no pie-in-the-sky hope for heaven only. Nor is it a sneaky gnostic view of the world, disdaining the material here-and-now for the sake of a heavenly then-and-there. Rather, it is reminder of the Biblical view of the world’s destiny — that the God who created it and has sustained it will also bring it to completion, without sin or death. There is a glorious day coming. And all our giving throughout our life will pay off when the living God makes all things new.
– Do you find yourself still fighting skepticism about how the Church uses the funds people entrust to it? What will you do to respond to your skepticism?
– Do you find yourself needing more reasons than we’ve given in the last three weeks to understand the spiritual nature of giving? What questions remain?
– Are you willing to engage Pastors Aaron or Mike with your questions? We’re just an email away.
– If you have challenged yourself to give sacrificially and experienced God’s generosity and freedom as a result, WE WANT TO HEAR YOUR STORY! Please email Pastor Mike at email@example.com or comment below to share.
*Figure taken from Julie Canlis, “The Bible’s Description of Salvation is a Phrase We Rarely Use,” Christianity Today, January 2019.