Over the years, and on many occasions, I have had someone say to me, “All churches ever talk about is money! They are always trying to get into my pocket! That’s why I don’t go to church!” I used to counter these statements with, “I don’t talk about money much at all. I have no interest in being in your pocket. And you should come to my church.” But, I have come to realize that I was lying to the person to whom I was speaking! The fact is this, I talk about money a lot and Jesus would love to get into a person’s wallet because a person’s wallet represents their life, values, passions, and even their emotions.
People forget how much Jesus talked about money. We forget how much the Jews were required to bring into the storehouses of the Tabernacle and later the temple. We forget how much the early church gave to the ministry of the church. The fact is this, it requires us to intentionally go way out of our way to avoid talking about money if we intend to preach the whole counsel of scripture.
Terasue and I just finished going through Financial Peace University with Dave Ramsey and learned a lot about his commonsense approach to handling money. It was interesting, challenging, convicting, and motivating. We had to ask ourselves some serious questions about how we manage the resources entrusted to our care. The course reaffirmed our belief that we do with our money is all about worship. I am always worshiping – and money is a great indicator of what I worship.
We get so bent out of shape every time the pastor starts talking (or writing) about money is because money is an emotional issue. This is the reason why the act of placing money in an offering basket, plate, or box is such a powerful tool of worship. We are moved on a spiritual and emotional level when we see the money leave our control. And that is just it – we have the freedom to do with our money as we desire and it exposes our desires, values, and passions.
Have you noticed that we don’t use the word “tithe” at HarvestDowntown?
We decided several years ago that we were no longer going to emphasize the regulation of the tithe as described in the Old Testament – not because we didn’t believe in the basic principle of a tenth. We concluded that if we spoke, taught, and pounded the principle of a tenth, then the natural tendency of people is to meet that minimum as the baseline and leave it there. But does that capture the essence of generosity, grace, and giving? It actually creates religiosity and what I call “the older brother syndrome” – The Father owes me!
I don’t believe that the reason giving in the American church has declined to record lows is because we are not teaching on tithing. In fact, I spend a lot of time with those who are unchurched and de-churched, and virtually every single one of them understands the principle of the tithe. The issue is that we have disconnected giving from worship and made it about obligation and responsibility rather than a privilege, gift, and an opportunity to engage with Jesus’ primary agent of ministry in the world – the church.
God has no interest in getting a measly ten percent of your life, your money, your investments, your passions, your values, or your interests. He wants it ALL! Ten percent is really just a good starting point to discipline yourself to start thinking about the principle that God owns it all but we are merely the managers of His estate – our very lives. If you aren’t giving at least ten percent, then you have to ask yourself, “Do I really trust God with my life, my money, my investments, my passions, my values, and my interests?”
Some people have the gift of giving – others don’t. But, this does not mean that only those who have the gift of giving should give. To take that mentality is to say that only those with the gift of faith should have faith – the rest of us are doomed! We have several people in our church that have the gift of giving and give generously to support the ministry of the church as Jesus’ primary agent in the world. I am always motivated by these individual’s ability to give above and beyond what most people would see as reasonable and rational – but it seems that they can’t contain the blessings of God in their lives.
The Italian prophet says it well, “Test it for yourself. Bring the whole tenth into the storehouse and see if God won’t bless you so much that your own barns will be overflowing!” – Malachi (he was a Jewish prophet but we spell his name in such a way that makes me think he’s Italian.). Peter spoke these words, “You could have done what you wanted with the money, but you chose to lie to God!” Paul says, “Decide in your own heart what you should give, not because somebody made you feel guilty. Give out of the abundance of your heart, because God loves it when we give cheerfully.”
The real issue is one of worship – I like worshiping myself which is usually defined as narcissism.
An interesting thing happened at HarvestDowntown. When we stopped using the word, “tithe,” the giving of our church went up. HarvestDowntown is a generous church and I believe it is because we have come to view everything we do as worship; and when we do so, it becomes easier to be generous.
God wants it all. Are you always worshiping God?