Question from a Site Viewer
I was just wondering about the whole finances thing. I believe in God and I pray as much as I remember but I just don’t get the tithes and offerings of the church. Also, I would like to know how to be able to know and talk to God more. Can you please help me?
Thanks for your email. The issue before God is never about giving tithes and offerings to the church. The issue before God is always our hearts. If our hearts are focused on loving God and loving others, as Jesus teaches, then we will give; not just to the church, but we will be known as generous people towards all. Scripture certainly affirms that there is a place for supporting the work of the church (1 Corinthians 9:7-14; 1 Timothy 5:18). But there are other works to be supported by the resources God entrusts to us. We should take care of our needs (2 Thessalonians 3:12). We should take care of the needs of our families (1 Timothy 5:8). We should provide for the needs of others (2 Corinthians 8:-9; Ephesians 4:28; 1 John 3:17-18). And, as stated above, we should provide for the church (tithes and offerings).
But the idea of giving to others and to the church is not that the poor should make the wealthy more wealthy. Rather, the idea always is to do what we are able with the resources God has given to us to minister to the poor and needy, to show love to others in tangible ways with our resources, and to provide for the needs of those who serve us and others in spiritual ways. It is our privilege to take what we have and lay up riches in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).
So tithes and offerings (giving in general) should always be a privilege and a joy, not a duty and drudgery. We make a priority of giving because such a priority models Jesus’ life and because such priority leads us to lay up true riches in heaven.
I note that for some it is a huge struggle to give. They struggle simply to get their basics for the day. I believe Jesus is very clear that we should not give to the church if it means that we are not able to take care of our families (Mark 7:9-13). The teaching that if you give of what you cannot afford then God will provide abundantly for your needs is not what I find taught in Scripture. What Scripture teaches is that those who have abundance should support those in need; not those in need should support those in abundance (2 Corinthians 8:12-15; 9:12). I have often objected to churches that appeal for money to those who are struggling to care for themselves. It is wrong to give to the church and starve one’s children. It is wrong to give to the church and not care for one’s parents. These things we know from Scripture. And I believe God would not have us defraud our creditors so that we can give to the church.
But I also know that many of us live far beyond our basic needs. We make choices of a certain lifestyle that may be more costly than we can afford. We live in such a way that every cent of our money is needed just to keep us going. And we do not think that perhaps we could live with less and have funds whereby we might be able to give. I have observed people who are not able to care for their families, and yet they have cable televisions, cell phones, and they eat out or purchase more expensive prepared foods in the grocery store, have video games, and possess or purchase all sorts of things that are not necessities. I am not saying that these things, in and of themselves, are bad. And perhaps at times there is a need for some of these things. But we tend to excuse our indulgences and use our resources on them and then state that we have no funds to help others, or help to further the kingdom. Nor are children necessarily deprived because they do not have television or the latest gadgets or clothes that their friends have. I grew up without a TV and have never owned one. I was not deprived. I was blessed to be taught that Christians do not share the same values as the world, and that the calling of Christ was a calling to live differently and intentionally. Even many secular people are calling people to learn to live more simply and not consume so many resources.
I am reminded of Justice Brandeis, who served several years on the United States Supreme Court. He gave away a great amount of money for good causes. His clerks who worked for him were often embarrassed when they went to the Justice’s home because they had nicer furniture, better furnishings, and a nicer place than he had. He lived frugally in order that he might have more to give to others.
We often do not realize how much money we waste on non-essentials. We buy nicer cars, justifying them on the basis that they will not break down as much. But then we are saddled with monthly payments of several hundred dollars and more payments for increased insurance coverage. We purchase gadgets that individually may not be that much but together they all add up. We have cable TV. Yet, $40 a month equals $480 each year, $4,800 in 10 years, and over $20,000 over 50 years. And many have premium channels that even add to that cost. We have cell phone plans that may cost $60 each month. Again, we may not think this is much, but there is another $720/year, $7,200 in 10 years, and over $35,000 in 50 years. We have health club monthly payments, and daily or weekly coffee purchases, and many other similar things that people for centuries never had. Each drains away our ability to give to help others.
I am not saying any of these things are wrong to have. But I continue to challenge people to think about their commitments and purchases in light of eternity. God gives more to some and less to others. There is not one rule that applies to all. But there is the goal of living in such a way that we have the ability to help others and to give our tithes and offerings for the furtherance of the kingdom. I believe this is the call of Christ.
If you want more information on our view of tithes and offerings and giving, you might check out the following articles:
As for a great way to know and talk to God more, I encourage you to start in Luke and take five or 10 minutes each day to read a short segment of the book. As you read, ask yourself the question: “What is this passage teaching me about God, about His character or His actions?” For some passages it may require a little bit of thinking. But generally some aspect of God is found in every part of Scripture. As you study through the book, jot down what you are finding. You can do this for any book of Scripture, but Luke is a great place to start because it contains a lot of the teachings of Christ. A second question to ask is: “What does it teach me about humanity and what I should do?”
As you discover about God and about yourself, you can then stop and thank God for what He has revealed about Himself and seek to do what He has revealed that He wants you to do. Thankfulness is a great entrance into prayer and a great catalyst to developing a deep prayer life with God. And when you make your requests to God, pray with perseverance. This is the teaching of Christ in Luke 11:5-13 and 18:1-8. Have faith and keep praying. If you seek to learn about Him, to do what He says, and to be thankful to Him, you will find God’s Spirit an eager teacher and you will be surprised what you learn and the relationship you develop. But avoid learning for learning’s sake. The purpose of learning is so that we may imitate God and live out His will before Him and others. If we fail to live out what we are learning, we will deaden our own souls (James 1:23-27).
May the Lord guide you as you discover the joy of His presence with and in you,
a fellow servant,