by: Staci Stallings
Giving. We hear a lot about it at church. ”Tithing” is the usual term, and with some variation in how it’s preached and presented, it is generally acknowledged to be 10% to God of the “first fruits.” In other words, you don’t spend whatever you want and give the last to God. You give the first to God and then the last 90% is yours.
There are many different interpretations of this, and I’m not really going to get into those here. What I want you to explore today is what are your default settings when it comes to giving?
I remember watching “Flywheel,” the first movie by the guys who then did “Fireproof” and “Facing the Giants.” In “Flywheel,” the main character is a car dealer who is at first stingy, greedy, and frankly dishonest. There is a scene in the movie where he, his wife, and his child go to church. We see the collection plate coming, and he pulls out his donation envelope, opens it up, sees there is nothing in it, and then puts it into the collection plate and passes it on.
His wife afterward confronts him about it, ashamed of what he did. He tells her that they don’t have enough for themselves, how can they be expected to give to the church.
I have no statistics on this at all, but I’ve always wondered how many “empty souls” are putting “empty envelopes” into the collection plate to save themselves the embarrassment of not putting anything in.
Now before I get too judgmental here, I want to take a breath and remind myself what my mother always says… “I hate it when they preach about being in the back of church. How everyone should be coming up front. What they don’t know is how much effort it took that person in the back to BE there. Next time, they might figure if they’re going to get yelled at by coming and sitting in the back, maybe next time they won’t bother to come at all!”
So, the very fact that the guy was IN church with his family was a major step in the right direction. However, I still wonder how many bankrupt souls are sitting out in those pews, going through the motions, putting in time because it’s required, not really interested or excited about being there. And yes, I understand how and why that happens. If you’re sitting in the pews because it’s a duty, because you feel you have to, because you are made to, yep, you’re going to be disconnected too.
And if you are disconnected, when the preacher starts to talk about money matters, especially about giving, it’s going to climb all over you. I’m talking flipping triggers like maybe nothing else in the world can or does. You are going to get defensive and in your spirit, you’re going to start saying, “He doesn’t know my situation. We don’t have the money to give. Who is he to judge me?”
All of those are right. He doesn’t know your situation. Maybe you really don’t have the money to give. And judging is left to God.
Please re-read that last sentence.
Judging is left to God.
1 Samuel 16:7 should give us pause in this moment:
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
“The Lord looks at the heart.”
Today, on this topic, I want you to do something I have not asked of you yet in this series. I want you to LOOK AT YOUR OWN HEART.
Your heart tells you what is really important to you. It tells you where your priorities are and why. It tells you what your default settings are in the realm of giving, spending, saving, and finances.
My church teaches that the 10% tithe is not just about money. They have a phrase… time, talent, treasure.
Maybe you don’t have the money to give 10%. Okay, then start with time. Do you volunteer at church or in your community? Do you actively work to make things better for those around you by giving of your time–even to your family?
When you give, you teach your spirit that there is “more than enough,” and as you do that, your spirit will relax and there really will be more than enough.
Now I have also seen people who go overboard on this time thing… being at the church for every conceivable meeting and organization. I think there too, you have to look at your heart. Are you neglecting things that are important in giving your time to the church? Are you trying to get a sense of worth and value from being at church (only God can give you these, not men)? I know a woman who as a teenager went off the rails because her parents were never home. They weren’t out at the bar. They were at church. She made her own decisions, but neglecting parental responsibilities to always be at church helped nothing. Be careful. Know what your HEART is doing this for. Be in good balance with your other God-given responsibilities.
Talent. I have many talents. That’s not a boast, it’s just a fact. I can do computers, teach, sing, play the guitar and the piano. I’m a good leader, a good organizer. I follow through with things I commit myself to. I can write, direct, and put on plays. In short, I can be a good asset to any organization I join.
So one of the things I have had to be very careful about is committing and over-committing my talents at church and for our schools. It would be really easy to chase after people’s approval through my talent in these areas. Therefore, when I talk about giving 10% of your talent, be careful that you’re doing it as a gift, not to be thought of highly or for people’s praise and thanks.
On the other side of the coin, you have talents that the church can use. If you’re good with kids, have you ever volunteered for nursery, children’s church, or Sunday school? Look at your talent and see what God may be calling on you to give.
And treasure. Money.
God asks you to give, yes. But He doesn’t expect you to go into debt to do that. One of the things I cringe with now is that our church accepts credit cards as payment during certain funding drives. That’s fine if the person puts it on their card and can pay it off. Not so fine if giving to the church puts one deeper into debt.
All in all, look closely at your defaults when giving is the issue. Do you “give” but then expect a thanks in return? Do you pick out a cheap gift just so you have something in your hands? Do you put more value on the gift or the giver? Do you accept gifts graciously? Can you accept a gift without feeling the need to reciprocate? Can you give a gift without thinking the other person now “owes you”?
With God, do you “give” with the heart that now He “owes you” something in return? Do you, can you cheerfully give thinking nothing of what the result or outcome of that gift should be?
Check your heart. It will tell you a lot about your defaults in this area.