Summary: The tithe is not about giving because God needs the money. It is about giving because we need to give.
Give Until It Feels Good
November 4, 2007
There is a risk in telling you this story. It is a risk of sounding like I am bragging. There is a risk of sounding arrogant. I hope you won’t take it that way because I think there are certain things about a pastor that people need to know. I have come to believe over the years that a leader cannot lead where he or she has not been or is not willing to go. That includes our financial support of the church. So Toni and I are tithers.
This is the fourth year in a row that you are going to hear me talk about financial giving to the local church. Like the other years, I am going to hold up the tithe as the minimum level of giving required by God. If you have trouble with that, take it up with God, because it is his plan clearly spelled out in the Bible.
One of the things that many people complain about in the church is that we are always talking about money. We honestly don’t do that very often around here, but we are going to do it today because it’s important. Jesus was never shy about talking about money, so we need to get over our own reluctance to tackle the subject.
I have also tried to be honest with you when I have told you how Toni and I struggled with our giving for a long time. Especially when our family was young and growing, when Toni was a full-time seminary student, and when I was a young pastor who really didn’t make that much. Tithing was something we didn’t do very well for awhile. But together, she and I finally came to the conclusion that if we wanted the folks in our congregations to tithe, we had to lead the way.
Consecration Sunday for the Leo congregation was last Sunday. So the night before that, Toni and I sat in our living room to fill out our own Estimate of Giving cards for 2008. Our Pacesetters for this year have already received their Estimate of Giving cards which we will present in a few moments. The rest of you will be receiving yours in a couple of weeks. So Toni and I had a calculator in front of us as we discussed our giving to the church and to a couple of special projects Toni supports. It struck me at that moment that our giving now is greater than the total salary I received during my first year following seminary.
I stopped, looked at Toni, and said, “Do you know what we could do with that money?” I was thinking “Bass Boat” and she was thinking “Down payment on a retirement condo.” But we knew that giving to the church was more important than those things. A couple of years ago, we set up a plan so that the bank sends our giving directly to the church. Therefore we never see the money and really don’t miss it. Our giving to the church has become the first thing that gets paid. Before the bills, before gas for the cars, before another pair of shoes for Toni, before another book for me, before everything else, the church gets our tithe.
We have been talking about the flowing grace of God that spreads over all of us. We have to acknowledge – even the skeptical among us – that God has been very generous to us. The implication of that acknowledgement is that God expects us to pass on those blessings to others. God doesn’t give to us just so we might keep it all for our own use, but rather gives with the understanding that we will pass it on.
Stewardship is the recognition that we don’t own anything. We don’t earn anything. We don’t even deserve anything. But God gives to us anyway so that we can give to others. In Matthew 10:8, Jesus says “Give as freely as you have received.” In II Corinthians 9:8, the Apostle Paul says, “God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”
We may believe that we have earned everything we have. We may believe that we deserve everything we have. We may believe that we are able to accumulate our possessions because we put in the time on our jobs, because we are diligent, because we are thrifty, and because we work hard to provide for our families. We have a tendency to thin, “Wow, look at all that I have accomplished.” But it was God who gave us the ability in the first place to produce our wealth. It is not our accomplishments, but God’s.