Posts Tagged ‘tithing’

Advent Devotional Day 15: “Giving and Gratitude”

December 16, 2018

During the month of December, I’ve prepared a series of daily devotionals to help my church get ready for and celebrate Christmas. I created a booklet (if you’d like a copy, let me know), but I’ll also post devotionals each day on my blog.

Devotional Text: 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…”[1]

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—they were more than a tithe.[2] Remember the Rich Young Ruler? Jesus asked him to give everything he had—more than a tithe.[3] Remember Zacchaeus? He gave half of his money and possessions—more than a tithe.[4] 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.[5] 

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!

Do you tithe? Why or why not? When you give your gifts to Jesus, do you do so grudgingly, because you’re “supposed” to? Or do you give out of gratitude and love? Pray that the Lord will make you more faithful in your financial giving.

1. Deuteronomy 8:17-18 ESV

2. Luke 21:1-4

3. Mark 10:17-27

4. Luke 19:1-10

5. Acts 4:34 ESV

Sermon 11-20-16: “Generosity, Part 6: Giving and Grace”

November 24, 2016

generosity-sermon-series-graphic

The following is the sermon I delivered on our church’s annual Stewardship Commitment Sunday. In it, I challenge the church to give a tithe, ten percent of our income. This is by far the most explicit appeal I’ve ever made for tithing. If we understand that the most important mission of our church is to save people from hell, and the money we give is used by God to support that mission, how can we not be generous? Besides, as I argue in this sermon, our money isn’t our own to do with as we please: it comes from God and belongs to God.

Sermon Text: Luke 16:1-14

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

Yesterday, Joe Thomas Sr., a running back for South Carolina State University, set a new NCAA record for Division I football with his performance. He rushed—are you ready for this? He rushed for three… yards against Savannah State University, on his only carry of the day. It doesn’t seem like three yards should be such a big deal, much less a new college football record.

joe_thomas_sr

But it was. And when I read about it yesterday, his great accomplishment made me want to cry.

Why? Because Joe Thomas Sr. is 55 years old! Fifty-five! How could that not bring a tear to my eye! He gives me hope! It means I still have nine years to get ready and get in shape and get on the field!

Joe Sr. has been on the team for the past four years—at least on the practice squad. A part of that time included playing—or at least practicing—alongside his son, Joe Thomas Jr., who now plays for the Green Bay Packers. But Joe Sr. himself had never realized his dream of playing big-boy college football in an actual game—until yesterday. Which was literally his last opportunity. It was senior day, the last game of the season. And Joe Sr. is also, well, a senior, graduating soon with an engineering degree.

I read the article about him last week, which discussed how badly he wanted to play in a game—to earn his varsity letter, to make history as the oldest player. It seemed unlikely. His coaches didn’t think it would happen. This was his last chance. Time was running out. 

Time was running out… That’s a theme in today’s scripture.

Time is running out for the manager about whom Jesus tells this parable. This manager was the equivalent of a CFO who was hired by a wealthy man to keep his books, to run his businesses, to run his estate. This manager made all the financial decisions, and he apparently made some foolish or dishonest ones. His master finds out about his mismanagement and tells him he’s going to fire him—but first he asks him to bring in the books or ledgers—to give an account for how well or how poorly he’s managed his master’s estate. Read the rest of this entry »

Warning: if you run for president, people will know how much you give to church!

August 10, 2011

I feel sorry for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He is flirting with a bid to run for president, and, predictably, the press has gotten hold of his tax returns. His rate of charitable giving—which includes church-giving—is one-half of one percent over ten years. That’s pretty anemic, especially for someone who has been outspoken about his Christian faith.

First, a word of grace. While I don’t like hypocrisy, I like sanctimoniousness even less. Often, we direct phony outrage at public citizens for sins that private citizens commit with impunity. The truth is that there are plenty of freeloaders—or close to it—filling our church pews all over the country. And Rick Perry, we now know, is one of them. But keep in mind that the average rate of church-giving among churchgoers is around two percent of income.

I don’t like this at all. I tithe, which means I give 10 percent of my income to church. I tell prospective church members that the church wants and expects its members to tithe—or, should that prove too difficult right now, to take a step of faith in the direction of a tithe. And to have a plan for getting there. As I’ve said in plenty of sermons, we don’t tithe because God needs the money; we tithe because we need to give.

When you think about it, giving money is perhaps the most tangible expression of faith: Will I trust God enough to take care of me if I sacrifice this 10 percent of my income? Or was Jesus wrong when he asked us to consider the lilies and to seek first God’s kingdom? I don’t understand how most Christians in America have so easily divorced their financial giving from the strength or sincerity of their faith. Do they not think that one is strongly related to the other?

So, if you are a Christian, don’t risk embarrassing yourself. You might want to run for office some day. Be on the safe side: tithe.