Is writing about money and giving and generosity and stewardship for two months in a row too much? I don’t think so. Jesus spoke more about money than any other subject. The Bible speaks about it in many places. “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s.” “The root of all evil is the love of money.” Do you remember the story of the widow who gave her last two coins to God and how Jesus praised her faith? “Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor.” “To whom much is given, much is expected.” “The Lord loves a cheerful giver.” Jesus spoke many messages about the ways a follower of Jesus is to think about money and use it for the building of God’s kingdom here on earth. So will I, especially at this time of the year when next year’s budget is being prepared, ministries are being planned, and power bills continue to arrive in the mail.
My understanding of giving to God has grown in measure as to how much my faith has grown through the years. Early in life, I knew I was supposed to put something in those gold plates as they were passed around in church. I wasn’t sure how much was enough but I did know that I was giving to God because God had given so much to me. Later, I was taught that the Bible says that 10% of all I
received was what God expected of me. 10% seemed very fair to give to the God who saved my life (over and over again). I was, however, a pastor with a salary that qualified me for food stamps. I had to start at far less than 10% and work my way up to it.
My faith grew some more and I realized that I felt a yearning to give God more. 10% was the tithe that God expected but the other 90% also belonged to God. The other 90% taught me that I had to think of God in every financial choice I made. When I spend money on my family, I am living up to my
responsibility as a Christian father. When we spend money on a vacation, am I mindful that I am blessed with a beautiful Creation? School supplies, health and retirement plans, meals to provide nourishment for a miraculously made body, gas in the truck, everything from books to birthday presents, are a way to honor God as I spend the money I’ve been given with God in my heart and on my mind. In the United Methodist Church, pastors do not receive salaries. We receive “financial support,” recognizing that our lives and 100% of everything in them belong to God and are for support of ministry and service, to God, to church, to family, and to the world.
For the longest time, I could not imagine a higher level of giving or better way of honoring our God. Then my faith grew. I learned about second-mile giving and next-step giving. On top of that, I heard a pastor say that we should not give what our checkbooks tell us we can afford but should look at our blessings and give accordingly. And I thought to myself, “What a joyful way of giving to God, out of our blessings!” And I knew this had to be the highest possible level of giving for any Christian.
And then my faith grew. I encountered a man in a magazine article who said, “Jesus suffered on a cross for me so I give an amount every year that causes me to suffer. It is a sacrifice I make willingly and joyfully to show God my love and gratitude.” This person knew that God does not need our money but that our lives are changed when we give. I can’t wait to see what the next level of giving will be!
Money and giving are the only places in our lives where the Bible tells us to test God, even
commands us to test God? Give, and watch what happens. I guarantee that you will be amazed. I am sure of it, because my faith has grown. Pastor Steve