My pastor Kevin Larson recommended reading Scott Sauls’ book, “Jesus Outside The Lines.” So far it has been nothing but an awesome and challenging read. Today I was deeply convicted and encouraged concerning the way I view money and giving. I wanted to share an excerpt that I hope you find as stirring and freeing as I did.
According to a recent study reported in Relevant magazine, only 10 to 25 percent of the typical American congregation tithes (that is, gives the biblical starting point of 10 percent) to the church, the poor, and Kingdom causes. The same report concluded that if the remaining 75 to 90 percent of American Christians began to tithe regularly, the global hunger, starvation, and death from preventable diseases could be relieved within five years. Additionally, illiteracy could be eliminated, the world’s water and sanitation issues could be solved, all over seas mission work could be fully funded, and over 100 billion per year would be left for additional ministry.
But because 75 to 90 percent of American Christians are reluctant to give wealth away in biblical proportions, the generosity crisis remains. Put starkly, this means that 75 to 90 percent of American Christians – those who collectively represent the wealthiest Christians in the world- are money sick.
Should this drive us to guilt and shame? Of course not. Jesus took care of our shame on the cross. But the epidemic of hoarding money when God says to give it away, and spending money disproportionately on ourselves when God says we should also be sharing is liberally, should drive us toward something, or someone. It should make us hungry for a money-sickness cure.
God has give us a way to start: the tithe. Just as the Sabbath command reminds us that God grants seven days of provision as we put in six days of work and one day of rest, the tithe reminds us that God is going to meet 100 percent of our needs as we return 10 percent of our regular income back to him. The tithe reminds us that God is our provider, that he is sufficient to meet our needs, and the he, not money is the ultimate answer to our soul-thirst for safety and validation.
Did you know that tithing is the single act in which God invites to test him?
Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse…And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need…Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:8-12 ESV)
These are sharp words, but with promises attached. God’s sharpness is compelled by an eagerness to demonstrate that he, not money, is our answer to feeling safe and care for.
The clear message of Scripture is that when our net worth gets below our comfort level, whether through tithing or through circumstances that God decides are best for us, we, too, are given an opportunity, counterintuitive though it may be, to find joy in needing Jesus more. A shrinking net worth can be one of God’s greatest hidden blessings. True freedom is found in the realization that “everything minus Jesus equals nothing” and “Jesus plus nothing equals everything.” But sometimes, especially for those of us who have been given much, it takes having less material wealth to realize that the true wealth is found in Jesus.
Trusting God to care for us dress us to give to others and enjoy what God has given. Trusting God for our present and future security frees us to move toward him and others with open hearts and open hands.
How do we know that true riches are found in Jesus? The answer to this question is found in how committed Jesus is to take care of us. On the cross he gave up all of his wealth-not just 10 percent but 100 percent of it-so he could have us. He became poor so that we, through his poverty might become rich. Jesus was liquidated of his assets-literally!-as he bled out for us on the cross. Because of his generosity, we have been validated, and have been made safe in the deepest, truest sense.
When we begin to see this, our hearts become full. As our hearts become full, mirroring God’s generous heart will be a natural outcome.
And we will have joy…because we will need him more.