The other day, after a long and strenuous ride, one of my cycling buddies, Dave, a Christian, asked me what I have been preaching on recently. I replied, “The platform.” As we were chuggin’ down our protein drinks, I told him that we have been doing a summer long “Love God” series and that the last few weeks we were really getting jiggy with it. “How so” he asked? I said, “We are talking about how to love God practically with the 3 Big Ts of life: Our Time, Talent, and Treasure” a.k.a. Whole Life Stewardship. Dave agreed that we love God by spending TIME with him in prayer. He also liked that we love God by deploying our TALENTS to help Jesus build his church.
However, he was not so excited when I told him that we love God by investing 10% of our treasure to support his mission and ministry though the local church. With a chagrined look on his face he launched into a well-worn, albeit very weak argument that there is no tithing/giving command in the NT. Honestly, I was taken back by his emotional objection given that he is a leader in his church and that he should absolutely know better.
With all my heart I wanted to go all “Sermonator” on him and hit him with every “THAT” that I know of:
1. That generosity is just as assumed in the New Testament as tithing is commanded in the Old Testament. BUT before someone shouts “Hallelujah” please remember that NT generosity is defined as giving over and above the tithe, i.e., “offerings and alms.”
2. That Paul felt it necessary to tell the leadership of the church of Ephesus, “Remember the words of our Lord Jesus, ‘It is better to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35).
3. That God is looking for tithers, not tippers, and the only time God tells us to test him is over the tithe. And if we practice the tithe he promises to, “open up the windows of heaven” and bless us so much we will always have abundance (Malachi 3:8-10).
4. That Jesus taught more on giving than he did on heaven and hell combined, and that ¾ of his parables deal with the topic of giving. All of which, culminate in the mammoth question, “What does it profit a person to gain the entire world but lose his soul?” (Mark 8:36).
5. That the reason Jesus spoke so much on the topic of money was he knew that our possessions easily end-up possessing us, that giving is a spiritual challenge especially for hard-boiled materialists like us, and that we will have massive rewards in heaven along with great satisfaction on earth if we give to his mission and ministry through the local church.
6. That Jesus also said it was impossible to, “Serve both God and Mammon,” (Assyrian god of prosperity) because money is Gods’ chief competitor for our souls (Matthew 6:24).
7. That the famous French philosopher Jacque Ellul, was spot on when he said, “Giving breaks the power of the world.”
8. That lack of giving comes from one of four sources (or all): fear, doubt, selfishness, and/or disobedience.
9. That the discipleship axiom, “If you ain’t giving, you ain’t growing” is irrefutable because giving is the most God-like thing we can do.
10. That the more we give, the more the church can do in terms of assisting the poor.
11. That tithing, even during the tough times, demonstrates how much we trust God.
12. That my fellow preachers and I lose people every time we teach on tithing, no matter how graciously we put it. Why?
13. That only when God possesses our treasure does he really possesses us!
14. That money is a very powerful and very spiritual thing. It simultaneously has the ability to destroy our faith OR get us massive rewards in heaven. If we get money right we will get our faith right!
15. God’s grace is free but his ministry is not.
Love and Giving Principle
Instead of sermonating Dave to death I just asked, “How much do you love God?” He wondered what that question had to do with tithing of our treasure? I answered,
Everything, because we naturally give to what we love, and the more we love someone the more we give to them. Think of these things you love. Do you have any problem giving to your family? Of course not. You’ll spare no expense to get them what they need because you love them so much.
I continued, “Think about your recent purchases.” I knew that he had just bought a puppy for several thousands of dollars and a new bike for at least three times as much as his puppy. “Why did you spend so much on those two things,” I inquired? “Because I really love puppies and I really, really love bikes.” “Bingo!” I said. “So if the principle, ‘We give to what we love’ holds true then how much do you give to Jesus and to what he really loves, his church?” He thought about it for a moment then replied, “I flip in a $20 every once and awhile.” And at that moment it hit him, “Whoa! I guess I don’t love God nearly as much as I thought.”
Love and Giving
Because he is a bright fellow I was expecting Dave to rebut, “By that principle then, if we loved God the most then shouldn’t we give him everything we have?” To really help his case he could have added the quote of Edward Bulwer Lytton, “Love sacrifices all things to bless the thing it love.” I responded, “If God wants us to.” I went on to explain,
When the corrupt tax collector Zacchaeus got saved he promised Jesus to tithe a whopping 50% of his treasure (Luke 19:10). In Acts 4:37 Barnabas tithed an entire field to help finance the operations of the early church. The Macedonian churches, the poorest of all the churches in the NT, tithed way more than was expected when asked to donate to the Jerusalem famine relief fund. Because of the wild success of his “Purpose Driven Life” books, Rick Warren practices what he calls “reverse tithing.” He tithes 90% of his income and lives on 10%. Although God could have made tithing a much higher percentage he did not. He generally only wants 10%. What a great deal for us!
Time + Talent = Treasure. Tithing = Practical Love. Tithing then, is not only a profound and worshipful act but also shows that we are “all in” in what God is doing in the world through his church How so? Because we invest in what we believe in. At the end of the day however, tithing is a demonstration of our love for God.
Now I know we are all growing in our love for God and his church and as your pastor that just blesses my heart. However, if we checked our checkbook, would it reveal that we are practically loving God with 10% of our treasure? If not, try one of two things:
(1) Fearlessly trust God with your personal economy and go all Nike on it; just do it.
(2) Now if that seems a “bridge too far” for you right now then just grow into it “according to your faith.” Some of the most generous tithers I’ve gotten to know over the years started out with 1% and as God has blessed them financially they increased 1% per month until they hit the full tithe.