Posts Tagged ‘tithing’

Luke 20:45-47 — Why are we at church? What are we doing here? What is our purpose? Are we here to make political connections? Are we here to be at the trendy new place so we can be considered cutting edge? Are we here to be seen? Why do you serve? Will you go to men’s bible study in May this year because the pastor is leading it but will go no other time? Do you serve at community events because everybody else is going to be there? Do we serve at the soup kitchen because my life group is there or do you do it because you have a genuine concern for the poor? Do you give God the first 10% or more of your income, or do you give what you happen to have left in your wallet but yet count yourself among those who tithe when such things are mentioned? What are we here for? Why do we do this thing called church?

This was the question that Jesus asked of the religious leaders. In most of Luke 20, the religious leaders have been trying to trap Jesus into saying something that would discredit his popularity among the people or get Him in trouble with the Romans. Jesus, being God in the flesh and possessing all knowledge, skillfully and perfectly answered all their questions and did so in ways that could not be disputed or used against Him. Now, it was His turn to turn the tables on the puffery of the religious leaders. He warns anyone who will listen about the hypocrisy of the leaders. They love their position. They enjoy all the benefits that accrue to these leaders. The finest seats at public festivals and banquets. They pontificate great public prayers. They say all the right things. They do all the right public displays. However, at the same time, they compromise their beliefs to ensure that the Romans do not remove their ability to run Israel. They live lavishly off the contributions and taxes of the temple. They manipulate temple revenue to make sure that they have everything that they want. If there was a choice of providing for the poor and providing for or increasing their already lavish wealth, they would cheat the poor in a skinny minute. They had the appearance of holiness and respectability but inside they were deceit and greed.

As we read this passage here in the 21st century, we sit and say, “Yeah, what Jesus said! Go get ’em Jesus. Rip ’em a new one! Those hypocrites!” Before we arrogantly and piously condemn the religious leaders of Jesus’ day when we was physically here on earth, what would Jesus say if he walked into our churches today? Would he find anything different than in this scene from the Temple some 21 centuries ago?

Jesus would probably find a lot of the same things. Many of us pick our churches for what they can do for us and our kids rather picking a church because it speaks the truth of the gospel and lives it out. Many of us choose our churches because of the political or business connections that we can make there. Many of us clamor for the preacher’s favor because it somehow gives us greater stature within the church when we get it. Many of us increase our giving only when the pastor mentions it because it is important to be seen responding to what the preacher says but when the spotlight is off, we return to our normal anemic giving, the leftover 20 dollar bill in our wallet. Many of us serve on Sunday to be seen serving. Many of us won’t serve in any kind of continuing ministry during the week because it is only serving on Sunday that people see us serving. Are we any different when we choose to live off 110% of what we make so that we can have the appearance of “having it all” rather than giving God the glory by living off of 90% or less than what we make? Are we any different when we attend church on Sunday but walk right by the homeless man on the corner? Are we any different when we drive to church in our BMW but fail to help out the single mother that we know is struggling? Are we any different when we choose a fancy vacation and use the excuse that we don’t have the money to go on a mission trip to help spread the gospel? Do you love going to life group because of the fellowship and the Bible study but are conveniently absent when it is time for the “off the couch” project at the orphanage, the soup kitchen, or sharing the gospel? Do we spend time studying and writing about the gospel in life group but yet never tell a soul at work about Jesus Christ? Do we say we want to serve the Lord but miss the opportunity because it would involve giving up the house, the boat and the cars? Where are our hearts? Where are our hearts? Where are our hearts, oh God? We are a shameful generation. Are we any different than the religious leaders of the first century that Jesus condemned for their puffed up pride and greed?

Let us examine ourselves. Help us to be real. Help us Father to have real and honest hearts. Help us to see that we are here to give you praise and glory. Help us to see that we are here to serve you. Help us to see that we are here to make your name famous. Help us to see that we are here to tell others of the love that you have for them and the outright danger they face in rejecting you. Help us to have a heart for you. Help us to see that regardless of what we do and how much we serve in public displays no matter how much we try, we are just sinners. We are incapable of being perfect. We are indeed incapable of gaining access to heaven by our deeds. We are lost and always will be even we try to differentiate ourselves from others by our charitable acts and by our attendance at church. Nothing we can do is with merit in the face of our sins. We need Jesus. That is why we are here. Our service to Him is our thanksgiving to Him no matter who is looking. We give to the church because we know that it is God who gave us the talent to earn the money we make. We give 10% or more in thanksgiving and not caring who knows that we do. We do in thanksgiving for our salvation. We know who we are and that’s why we are here. We serve because it gives honor and glory to our Savior and we do it out of the overflow of thanksgiving in our hearts. That’s why we are here. We want to give Him glory for saving us. We serve Him because we are just so interested in others being drawn to the same Savior that we know. We witness because we can’t help it – others need to know the same joy that we know in our salvation. We serve when no one is watching because it is in our DNA to want to serve our Lord. Let our service to you oh Lord be real and not for show. Let us serve you when the job is thankless and no one will ever know we served you. Let us serve you because we love you, Jesus. Let us give you glory in everything that we do. Let us give you our all. Let us be all-in all the time even when no one is looking. Amen. And Amen.

Luke 12:22-34 — Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Charles Lea Center in Spartanburg, SC with a group from our church. It is a former school that has been converted into an activity center for mentally challenged people of all ages. We visited on a Saturday morning and at the end of the visit, we sang Christian songs with them. The passion with which these folks sang (not caring about whether they were in tune or who heard them) reminded me of this passage. These folks just had an unadulterated love of their Father in heaven. It was a simple faith that they were displaying. They just loved Jesus and that’s it. No high minded theological discussions just a simple love of Jesus.

It was not long after that visit that I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Haiti. While there, I got to visit a Tuesday night prayer meeting at the church that was the center of activity for our mission trip, Restoration Church. In this prayer meeting, people just came to the church to pray. There was no order of service. There was no preaching. People just came to the church on Tuesday nights to pray. There was no organized service. At that prayer service, as people came in and the church filled up with people, they were all praying out loud in French Creole, the language of Haiti. As the evening drew deeper into the night, the passion of their prayers became more intense until the air was filled with the passionate words of prayer. Just think of about 150 people all praying out loud, all with passionate pleas to the Father. I felt the Holy Spirit that night. I tasted the power literally of the Holy Spirit in mouth. It was the most awesome church service I had ever been to. I could not understand a word they were saying but I knew they were intimately reaching out to their Father in heaven. Never seen anything like it before or since. These people live in the poorest country in the western hemisphere, one of the poorest countries in the world, but these saved souls pour out their praise on their Savior more deeply and intensely than any American Christians would ever dream of doing.

These stories are the first thing I think of when I consider what Jesus says, “Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and He will give you everything you need.” Some translations say “seek the kingdom of God first, and all else will be added.” Seek the kingdom of God first. Everything else is secondary to that. We must make Jesus the King of our lives. He must be put first in every area of our lives. When we seek to honor God first as the clients at the Charles Lea Center do, as the worshipers at Restoration Church in Jacmel, Haiti do, everything else gets put into perspective.

Since I don’t have time to write a book this morning about all the areas of life where we should put God first, I am going to concentrate this blog on one thing. The one area that most of us give to the Lord last is our finances. We think we are the owners of the money we make rather than seeing that God gave us the talent to earn it. We often put God last in our finances. He is an afterthought. We do not put God first. God is a leftover God when it comes to our finances.

My passion about putting God first in our finances leads me to teach and write about it often. I don’t teach it without experience. I have lived life of trying to keep up with the Jones. Divorces and other events of life led me to a life of financial burden. My credit report was awful looking. It was not til I met Elena that I began to see that debt, debt, and more debt was not the answer. Getting out of debt was. Although she did not see the eternal perspective of what getting out of debt was at the time. She just taught me that it made sense to have a good credit score. God was working through her toward me. When she became saved and as I matured as a Christian myself, we began to raise God to the place He should be in our finances. First.

When we put God first in our finances, we honor God with the money we make. We give to Him first and live off the rest. We no longer buy in to the American dream rat race. When we honor Him in our finances, we honestly do not care about the latest, greatest cars or houses. As long as we have what we need to survive in the culture we live in, then everything else is just gravy. When you put God first in your finances, the debt, debt and more debt merry-go-round that most of us live on, you finally decide to get off it and start paying off debts, keeping assets longer, and work your way to being debt free some day. When you do not live off of 105% of what you make (as most Americans do), you are capable of now honoring God by giving when there is a need, seeing the importance of tithing because God commands us to give Him our firstfruits and not our leftovers. Imagine if all American Christians truly tithed their first ten percent of their income to their local churches. Average giving in American churches is $20 per person per Sunday. I dare say that if that were a tithe we Americans average making $200 per week, or $10,400 per year. True average American income is now $53,000 per year or a little over a $1,000 per week. Average giving should then be $100 per week per person. Thus it is obvious most that we are not putting God first in our finances. We put things ahead of God.

If we do not honor God with our finances, we miss opportunities to participate in Christ’s ministry in the world. When we do put God first there, we cannot help a friend in need, we have to pay for that car we cannot afford nor really need. When we do not put God first in our finances, we cannot go on a mission trip to help save victims of the sex trafficking trade in Asia escape that lifestyle with no hope, we have to pay for that jet ski. When we see the single mom struggling with medical bills and she is about to be kicked out of her home, we cannot help because we have to pay for all the money we spent on that cruise that we went on last summer. Can’t you see my friends, how much is enough? We miss the opportunities to serve the kingdom and teach people about agape love of Christ when we do not put God first in our finances. Instead this being the last area we bring under submission to Christ, it should be the first.

Trust God with your finances and all the things you NEED you will have. He will provide for you. Just let Him have your first fruits. Trust Him to provide for you. All else will be added unto.

Just as the clients at the Charles Lea Center and the worshipers at Resotration Church give God great praise with unbridled joy. God is everything to them. He is first in their praise. He is first in their life. May we take example from them and put God first in everything. God should not be a compartment to our lives. He is not a box that we pull out and play with and then put back up making sure that it does not touch the other boxes. He should be our lives. He should permeate every area. We should put Him first in every area of life including our finances. When we put Him first over every aspect of our lives, we will finally find peace and rest and most of all joy. Joy at trusting that God has our back just as the people in my illustrations do. That is joy. Joy is knowing that we are secure in God when we give all areas of life over to His Lordship.