I recently created a 31-day Advent/Christmas devotional booklet for my church called “Glory to God in the Highest.” I will be posting a devotional from it each day between now and the end of the year. Enjoy!
Scripture: Matthew 2:10-11
The Bible teaches us that every good thing that we have is ultimately a gift from God (James 1:17). By contrast, we Americans have been taught all our lives that we need to be “self-made” men and women, to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, and to earn everything we have!
Clearly, these two ideas are in conflict with one another.
But think about it: Our heavenly Father has given us the gift of life and breath; of time and health; of an amazing world which supports our lives; of this great nation; of our mothers, fathers, and family; of teachers and coaches, doctors and nurses—people who’ve cared for us, set an example for us, and sacrificed for us in order to shape us into the people we are today.
God has given us the gift of our talents and skills, which enable us to do meaningful work and create beautiful things. Yes, we must do something, but what we do is infinitesimally small compared to what God has done for us!
When the people of Israel were about to cross over the Jordan into the Promised Land, Moses warned them, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth…”
The point is, our Father gives and gives and gives. And he asks us, in return, to also give. In the Old Testament, God’s law said that God’s people, Israel, had to give a tithe, which means to give ten percent of their income. That’s a biblical standard of giving. Is that a law for us Christians? No, we’re no longer under the law; Christ has fulfilled the law for us—it’s as if Christ has given a tithe on our behalf.
But that hardly means the law is bad or wrong: it just means that we now follow God’s law for a different reason. And it’s the same reason for which the magi give their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus: out of love and gratitude, not compulsion.
Besides, the evidence from the New Testament is that the tithe may not be enough for many of us! Remember the widow’s mite. Her two copper coins were all she had, Jesus said—more than a tithe. Remember the Rich Young Ruler? Jesus asked him to give everything he had—more than a tithe. Remember Zacchaeus? He gave half of his money and possessions—more than a tithe. Remember Acts chapter 4? Luke tells us that in the early church, “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need”—more than a tithe.
I’m not saying that we’re supposed to do the exact same thing; only that there are many examples of New Testament Christians who are extraordinarily generous with their money—in ways that far exceed ten percent!