This is the chapter where the rubber meets the road. We have talked about God’s ownership of everything, our desire and love for money, and the difference between storing up our treasures on earth and storing up our treasures in Heaven. Here comes the big question, “So what? Or what can we do about these realities in our lives?” I hope that by now we can agree that the Christian life is inseparable from giving. Given this truth, how can we get started?
In this chapter, Alcorn addresses the dreaded “T” word, tithing.
Tithe means the “tenth part” or 10%, and it is basically an Old Testament covenant practice. While we are not bound by the tithe, I agree with Alcorn that the tithe is a good place to start giving. “Tithing isn’t the ceiling of giving; it’s the floor. It’s not the finish line of giving; it’s just the starting blocks. Tithes can be the training wheels to launch us into the mind-set, skills, and habits of grace giving (pg. 62).”
Isn’t gracious giving actually what we have been talking about throughout this book discussion? Isn’t grace giving where we want to grow? Grace giving is the place where our regular habits are changed to be more in line with God’s desires for us, and God’s desire is that we use the financial resources that he has entrusted to us to enhance his Heavenly kingdom (by financially supporting our local church and ministries, mission work, along with providing for the poor and needy).
Reference Haggai 1:7-9 where God passed judgment on those who failed to focus on building his Heavenly kingdom (this particular scripture references God’s “house” or what we would refer to today as the church building of God):
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,’ says the Lord. ‘You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?’ Declares the Lord Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.”
Haggai clearly corrects the people for taking resources that they should be using to build God’s church, but instead are using for the personal benefit of their own homes. Haggai is calling the displaced Israelites to refocus their efforts and making worshipping God their top priority. Like Haggai, I have learned that giving is an act of worship.
For those that have not previously been inclined to give, tithing is indeed a healthy spiritual discipline that creates an avenue for generous grace giving. I have seen this to be true in my own life. When I received my stipends of $50 as a freshman at the Naval Academy, I would give $5 to the church. I gave 10% of my monthly stipend for several years. I was not making much money at the time, but I had developed a spiritual discipline, a Godly habit which was quite easy to continue once I started making “real” money. It didn’t matter how much I earned or what bills were due, I wrote a check after pay day and placed it in the offering basket at church. I figured, “10% in the church offering was the least that I could do.” I started there, and God did change my heart to seek out opportunities to give above and beyond that amount.
If giving is a new concept for you, my first response would be, “Give to God your best offering (at least 10% of your salary at the start of each pay period) and commit to live on whatever is leftover.” (Note: This change may require a lifestyle change.). I can promise, if you wait to give God what is leftover, there will be nothing leftover. Alcorn summarizes the reality: many can’t afford to give precisely because they are not giving.
This is probably the most “meaty” chapter in the book. Everything that precedes this chapter is a set-up to challenge you to think about how to respond now. Alcorn covers several other important topics in this chapter (which I cannot adequately address in this one blog post). He challenges the thoughts of leaving an inheritance for children and the flaws associated with the prosperity gospel teachings. He also acknowledges that God gives some people less and others more, so that the latter has opportunities to help their neighbors and give to those in need. Giving is how we, as Christians, are supposed to live in community with each other. Our desire and passion for giving should be one of the things that set us apart from a person who is not a Christian.
If you are following along with the blog posts and have not purchased the book, I encourage you to get it or stop by a book store or library (if only to read this chapter). The premise of this chapter is that the principle of tithing is a good place to start giving. As New Testament believers, we are not bound by the tithe but should not use that “freedom” to give less, when Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” teaching clearly raised the spiritual standard of Old Testament covenants.
For people who are clearly blessed financially, we should all remember:
Treasure Principle Key # 6
God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.
Have your thoughts concerning money changed? How has The Treasure Principle challenged you?
© Natasha L. Robinson 2011
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