Another sermon on giving and tithing…

Another Sunday where I feel like crap.  I want to give, I want to be obedient.  But we simply don’t have the money to pay tithe and our basic bills.  And I do mean BASIC BILLS.  Rent, daycare, electricity, natural gas, water, gasoline, groceries, phone, clothes…there is simply nothing left.  We are still a month behind on rent.  I paid our water bill on Thursday-about an hour before it would have been shut off-we still have a garnishment against my check.  And we are still behind and way, deep in debt.

We are in a season of financial difficulty and rebuilding.  I believe it is just for a time.  We are coming out of a very long season (10 plus years) where we made continuous bad decisions with our finances.  We were not good stewards with what had been given to us.  We repeatedly acted reactively and whimsical.  HOWEVER, NOW, we are planning, we have been following Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and we have been making and sticking to a budget.  We are making better decisions, we are pro-actively budgeting and paying bills on time and communicating with debtors.

So the real issue today is do I heed the words of my pastor and act in obedience.  Or do I continue with The Plan?  This financial plan that we have is in an “emergency” mode that addresses the basics.  The next phases will include giving, saving and getting out of debt.  I keep telling myself that by not giving now we will be in a better position later to give-to be obedient and faithful and consistent with tithe.

But today Pastor is pleading with us to be obedient-TODAY and to give.  The thing is we simply don’t have money to give.

And so it goes back and forth.  On one hand there is a plan that gives us peace and security-a plan that we are being faithful to.  A plan that we are confident will lead us to a place where we have a healthy balance with our finances-a place where we can happily and fairly easily pay tithe.  It is a plan that we have entered into with prayer, faith and obedience.  It is a good plan.  It is a plan that works.  It is proven.  And right now it includes the absence of a full tithe.
On the other hand is a blind leap of faith to be obedient in my relationship with God.   It involves sacrifice.

I keep telling myself that we were not obedient before, work the plan and then we can be obedient in the future.  But sacrifice is not supposed to be easy nor affordable.

I don’t know what the answer is.  Part of that obedience is simply choosing to NOT pay a bill that can lead to not having daycare, no electricity, no water, no phone, an angry (er) landlord, no heat, no a/c (hey this IS Kansas), no hot water, no water at all, no gas, and the list goes on and on.

I don’t subscribe to a “prosperity gospel”.  I don’t believe that if I give all of my money away that God will bless me with loads of money.  The truth is I can sacrifice a basic bill to pay tithe and then NOT have the money to pay that bill.  I am behind on daycare, but have been paying on time since on the plan.  I have had my electricity shut off more than once in the past year-in the cold winter and in the hot summer.  The water has been shut off.  The phone has been shut off.

And on that one hand we are vowing to pay our bills on time.  And on the other hand we are not paying a tithe to God.  Not today.  But soon.  And freely-in obedience and consistently and faithfully.

-Durk-

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7 responses to “Another sermon on giving and tithing…

  1. I’ve been struggling with the concept of tithing lately. I mean Jesus only mentioned it once, and that wasn’t even a time that he was teaching it. He was just showing how the Pharisees were obeying the rules but not following the spirit of the law. Also, Jesus seemed to take the rules or laws from the OT and point to the principle behind it and force people to look at it. Sometimes tithing 10% seems like a rule when the principle is being generous. I wonder if Jesus would have said anything about tithing in the Sermon on the Mount if it would have sounded like this: You have heard it said that you are to tithe the first 10% of your income, but I say to you, all of your money is from God, so be generous. I think when we focus on the 10%, it is easy to meet that number and than feel like we’ve checked something off our list. I feel like that a lot. Perhaps the number is not important, but what is important is that we are generous people.

    We tithe, but I sometimes wonder if we should take our tithe and pay off our debt with it. I mean it may not be God honoring to not give to the church, but I don’t feel like it’s God honoring to have a mound of debt either. So it’s like what do I do? We tithe mostly because if we didn’t we may end up just using that money to do something else with it other than pay off debt, and it is good practice to set aside money like that.

    I’m with you in that I just want to get rid of our debt so we can give more and more, not just to church, but to people who need it. Actually, if I remember right, there was a set period of time in the OT every so often when the tithe was to be given all to the poor! that sounds good to me.

    In the end, however, it comes down to, What do I feel like God is asking of me. Once we find that out, than we need to honor it. But we just need to be honest about it. Cause giving is important, but I’m not sure that God wants us giving out of feeling guilty.

    6Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

    7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9: 6-7)

    I’m trying to stop giving with a check. For one, I want to do something without people knowing how much I’m doing. I don’t want to be thinking in the back of my mind, “Pastor’s gonna like my check” or something like that.

    So yeah, a lot of rambling.

    -Ben-

    From Derin: I greatly appreciate your “ramblings” Ben. I especially like the “WWJ say” Sermon on the mount hypothetical. I think that 10% is merely a guideline. The real message is to give sacrificially, give it freely and give to the poor. One of the things I appreciate about the Church of the Nazarene is their compassionate ministry giving and their missions programs. I also very much liked our mother church-Christ Community’s-efforts of totally giving away 10% of tithes and offerings received to an outside (other than their normal budget and most of the time to a non-Nazarene) organization or recipient. The church was giving away money to the poor. Our short term plan is to not pay tithe so we can pay off debt. Our long term plan is to easily give 10% away for tithe and to sacrificially give above and beyond 10% to the poor, special financial needs of the church and to other worthy charities.

    -Derin-

  2. God loves a cheerful giver. If our giving isn’t done cheerfully, because we want to and there is nothing more that we would rather do, why would we give? To be obedient? Because it is our duty? Does God want our offerings to be given to Him out of duty or out of joy?

    How would your wife respond if she came to the door and you handed her a bouquet of flowers? Good, right? Well suppose she responded with the question, “Why did you do that?” Would it be wise to respond by saying “It is my duty”. Funny thought, huh? No, it would be much better to say “because nothing makes me happier than to demonstrate my love for you”.

    Derin Says: Thanks for reading and responding to my blog, you are welcome here anytime.

    The thing is I want to cheerfully give! And I would-even if I was taking away money from the basics, that tithe would be given cheerfully. For real…But it would be costly in other areas…like running water and electricity and a place to live.

    I also think there is an importance in the act of obedience-for the mere sake of being obedient. Going back to your scenario-there are times when my wife comes home to a clean kitchen-because I cleaned it. Not out of a special love for her that I was just yearning to display. But because the kitchen was dirty, it needed to be cleaned (especially if I wanted her to cook). I know, not very romantic. But it ultimately strengthens our relationship anyway-or at least keeps it from going south. Again, not very romantic. Disobedience is blatant sin. Ouch…that kinda hurt to re-read. Hmm. My children may want to play in the street and they may not like me for having to stay in the yard, but they are obedient anyway, and most of the time not so cheerful about it. They do it because it is the right thing to do, not because they want to or love me. Sometimes just because I am the dad and what I say goes. But I know what is best for them. Dang, that hurts too. I think I’ll shut up now. Nope, one more oucher-I understand that this can lead to legalism, but sometimes the action has to go before the heart is in it all the way.

    Because I just can’t stop talking… I come from a tradition that believes once a sin has been pointed out one should just not do that sin anymore-that it hurts or breaks your relationship with God. Example: gossiping: say you are a newer Christian and you gossip, but you just didn’t know it was wrong or how it hurt people. Then you hear a sermon on the sinfulness of gossiping. Now there is an understanding, an eye-opening, spirit-led prodding…Now you have a choice: Continue to blatantly sin, or be obedient and stop. Unfortunately the scripture doesn’t say that God loves a person who cheerfully does not gossip. So there is no “out” on one’s intentions. If you want to stop gossiping or not-if you do it is a sin. And worse, it is a willful act of intentionally doing the wrong thing-turning your back to God. And I suppose the same can be said of tithing-we are called to do it-it is the right thing to do, it is the obedient thing to do. And when we don’t-I guess we are living in sin. I should have shut up sentences ago. I think I need to go pray now-or just beat my head against the wall for awhile.
    -Derin-

  3. Baby steps…

    No one expects a nine month old to tear into a ribeye. The teeth aren’t there to cut it, and the stomache isn’t strong enough to digest it.

    I wouldn’t take the call that was made to be a call on you in the least, but instead a call to those that could, but weren’t.

    I am reading The Politics of Jesus, and the author (John Howard Yoder) makes the case that 10% is too much for some, but two little for others.

    I like to think that as good Torah observant Jew that fulfilled the spirit and letter of the law that Christ did pay tithe, and followed the laws pertaining to sacrifice as evidenced in the trip to the temple on His twelfth birthday, and in fact said as much in his admonition to give unto God what is God’s. I would dare say though, that living on the well fare of well-intentioned widows, and woodworking moved him very far up the economic ladder.

    God is working through you and your family, and you can be a point of hope and ministry that will lead far more people into relationship with Christ than a millionaire that lives a gluttonous lifestyle and only gives 100,000 to the church, as if that justifies it.

    Derin says: Thank your for the kind words David.

    -Derin-

  4. Derin,
    It is going to take a lot of work to heal the financial decisions you’ve made in the past. But you’ll be able to do it, I believe in you guys.

    Take that anger you feel about not being able to give, channel it toward paying off debt and getting financially healthy and then keep working toward the day you’ll be able to give like crazy! Don’t let guilt take you over, that doesn’t seem to me to be something that honors God, but let the Spirit keep pushing and motivating you toward financial health!

    You can do it!

    Derin says: Thanks for the kind words Pastor, I really appreciate them.

  5. Derin,

    You can’t change what has happened in the past, though your past decisions is hurting your present. But you can work to leave that behind and keep moving toward God’s best in your life. May Philippians 3:12-14 encourage you in your journey:
    Pressing toward the Goal
    12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,* but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

    Derin says: The “bad decisions” that I made in the past were at the prompting and with the blessing of many spiritual leaders in my life-Youth Pastor, Pastor, MNU recruiters (representing the Church’s college), etc. I still think they were bad decisions…but how could I have made it differently when I thought that was where God was leading me and others were confirming that? That is my beef, that is the source of tension, frustration and anger. I did what I thought was the right thing to do. I went where I felt I was being lead. I responded to what I thought were promptings. And the results of that were that I could no longer afford to follow down that path. I can’t afford to follow my calling!

    And because of that counsel and decision-making I now HAVE to work to leave it behind. All of it.

    And I was not alone. Many of the religion majors that I attended MNU with are now in a simmilar circumstance. Including a friend who was a pastor for years! He was bi-vocational. He is having his car re-possesed.

    I do appreciate the encouragement, I really do.

    -Derin-

  6. Derin – allow me to quote from the book of the Half-blood Prince:

    ‘So, when the prophecy says that I’ll have “power the Dark Lord knows not”, it just means — love?’ asked Harry, feeling a little let down.

    ‘Yes — just love,’ said Dumbledore. ‘But Harry, never forget that what the prophecy says is only significant because Voldemort made it so. I told you this at the end of last year. Voldemort singled you out as the person who would be most dangerous to him — and in doing so, he made you the person who would be most dangerous to him.’

    ‘But it comes to the same –‘

    ‘No, it doesn’t,’ said Dumbledore, sounding impatient now. Pointing at Harry with his black, withered hand, he said, ‘You are setting too much store by the prophecy!’

    It is during this time that Harry begins to realize that his battle with Voldemort is inevitable, not because of the prophecy, but because Voldemort murdered his parents and – prophecy or no – Harry is going after him!

    It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew – and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents – that there was all the difference in the world.

    You knew your battle with debt was coming and you resisted as long as you could! When I found you (or you me as it were), you were being dragged by your ankles into the ring to face your foe. Now, you’ve stood up and raised your fists! It’s a fine line, but as you fight this fight it will truly make “all the difference in the world”! Your opponent is very big and very strong, but not bigger or stronger than God!

    Remember what I said about the difference between a yearning to give and guilt over not giving. One of those emotions is positive and one is negative. A yearning to do good will create drive and energy in you. Guilt will steal your hope. This is going to be a long fight, but put up your dukes and get up round after round and you will conquer this!

    Derin says: Maybe I can figure out a way to file bankruptcy…Just kidding! Thanks for the kind words of wisdom and encouragement!!

  7. Bill,
    Wow, that was incredible. I think the wisdome of Paul was just trumped by the wisdom of Albus.

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