May 19, 2007

it's not easy seeing green

Money is a tricky thing... especially when we think it's ours.

A little while ago we started doing an allowance with our oldest boy, giving him a to-do list of things each week that would allow him a chance to earn money. When he got his first "paycheck," we instilled the principle of giving 10% right away to God, taking another 10% and putting it into the bank, and then praying about God might have him spend the rest of that money - 10/10/80.

This is a structure I think any of us struggle with, primarily because the backward world we live in keeps telling us we need more stuff.

What I'm learning more and more is how touchy an issue this might be for people, especially when as a pastor I teach on it. We all bring baggage into this, from "a church that once told me I need to..." to "this sermon I heard that totally turned me off to..." and so on. Throw in some TV big hair people with on gold couches, building projects that seem credible but have lots of zeroes next to them, missionaries talking about people you may never meet on this side of heaven, global pandemics, local needs, and then our own mail that kindly reminds us we have to pay some bills soon... and it's no wonder why our hands start gripping tighter around the money in our pocket.

Money is a tricky thing... especially when we think it's ours.

The Scriptures communicate that God is less concerned about the amount that we give and more about but the place we put Him in our lives.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on." (Matthew 12:41-44)
Obviously, it doesn't matter how many zeroes are in your bank account - this isn't a passage on who has more and who has less. What Jesus is hitting on is that if it's a matter of giving when we can afford to, then this becomes an issue of money... if it's a matter of giving because of our relationship with God, then this becomes an expression of worship.

Tipping versus tithing, so to speak.

This hasn't always been easy for me, especially since I didn't grow up in the church. What I"ve found, though, is that whenever I can withdraw myself from a consumer oriented culture that says "buy this now!" and instead choose to honor God in the process, it's always a good thing.
While some say 10% is the goal, I've found it's just a healthy bare minimum benchmark for me... God owns it all so whatever we give should always be under His leadership, especially when it helps me keep my heart healthy and His church resourced to be all that it can be. Even when my wife and I were broke college students making $10 a week, we'd tithe at least 10% - and that was a hard dollar to let go of.

Money is a tricky thing... especially when we think it's ours.

Some times we spend some money on the ice cream man... maybe not the most sound, financial plan - but when we do it is an investment into our family who takes great joy in dropping whatever is going on and chasing down the jingle-jangle of "Do Your Ears Hang Low." However, there's this other thing we prayed about recenlt where we were able to help kids in Africa impacted by the AIDS pandemic... and so hopefully we're always making this a matter of ongoing dialogue with God, wherever it leads.

As irony would have it, as I write this my son is taking care of one of his jobs right now without my wife or I asking him. It feels good watching this as his father, knowing that he is working hard and has a plan on how he'll spend his allowance. Granted, sometimes he finds its easier to buy a toy than to give to kids in Africa... but I can't say I don't often feel the same way.

Money is a tricky thing... especially when we think it's ours.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

1 comment:

Cindy Woods said...

I wish more Pastors would teach more often on this topic. I believe we are commanded to tithe, and tithe means 10% not whatever "makes you joyful" to give, if ya know what I mean.

After all...like you said it all belongs to God anyway! I've heard it said many times, how you hold on to your pocket book reflects what kind of relationship you really have with the Lord.