Tag Archives: giving

Generous Living

Sympathy doesn’t exist anymore.  Instead, a “quit your whining” attitude is prevalent.

What happens when somebody vents about school?  About work? About taxes?  About their kids?  We don’t offer encouragement anymore.  Instead, we criticize.

Phrases like Oh, you just wait until… and You have no idea how easy you have it… or That’s the real world for you… are inserted into the conversation when they weren’t even asking for input.

Grandfather:  When I was your age, we had to walk to school bare-footed, uphill both ways in the snow!

Grandson:  …I said I was hungry…

One time I was searching online for any possible way to make $200.  In a hurry.  I was desperate.  I knew my parents didn’t have it, and even if they did, I was adamantly not taking that route.  I didn’t have a job, I was in school, and my refund check was a few weeks away.

The feeling that I recall the most is one of hopelessness.  I tried not to think myself pitiful, but pity overwhelmed me.  I didn’t like it, I certainly didn’t want anyone to know or feel sorry for me, and I was constantly questioning why God wouldn’t just help me and get me out of a hole.  I prayed the whole How long will You hide Your face from me? prayer.

What lesson could I possibly learn from this?  Patience?  I can’t tell the landlord to be patient.  I can’t tell the power company to be patient.  I can’t tell my car to hang on just another second before running out of gas.  What are You telling me?  I need money yesterday.

For the longest time I looked back on those days and wondered why in the world I had to deal with it.  And out of nowhere and all of a sudden, the purpose was revealed to me:

sympathy

Or empathy.  I don’t really know the difference.  I think sympathy means that I can relate because I’ve been there.  And empathy means to imagine yourself in a certain situation.  Both are good.  But the one I’m talking about is relating to a situation that you’ve been in before.

I hate looking back on those days.  I really do.  I do not like to dwell unless the moment was friendly, and I never want to be in such a situation again for as long as I live.

But someone else will be, regardless of how well-off I am.

Why, especially if I am able to relate to these guys, would I speak to them in a way that suggests they’re alone and weak for not pulling themselves together and just dealing with it?

Why, if I have been through the same crap, would I not offer up encouragement?

Why, if I have the proper resources available, would I not offer some relief?

People have either forgotten, or never knew, how to mourn with those who mourn, how to sympathize!

We all need to take a lesson from my grandmother.  I’m from Alabama, so she’s actually Grandmama.  And she believes that I and my brothers and cousins can do no wrong.  We are perfect “sweet angel boys” in her eyes (and one girl).

Rarely am I able to spend time one-on-one with Grandmama, but when I do I tend to whine and complain about whatever’s going on in my little world.  And she just soaks it all up.  Not once does she say you need to get over it.  Not once does she say just wait until this happens.  Not once does she try to compare her hard times with mine, even though hers were way worse.  Why?  Because she’s been there.  She knows how to sympathize.

Now, I want to take a stand against this apathetic world and present a solution.  We’ve all been through some stuff.  There’s no need to use that stuff to compare and accuse and say You think that’s bad?  You have no idea what I had to deal with.  Instead, offer up your advice.  Offer up your wisdom, your knowledge, your solutions and results.

I know there are many circumstances out there that I don’t know about and I’ll never know about and I’m just an idiot for treading where I’m completely ignorant.

Fine.  I’ll stick with what I know, and since this is a money blog and I’m the author…

Offer up your money.

Why?  Because your feelings, your heart, your intent, and your words mean nothing unless they’re backed by your actions.  And while there are many different resources that we possess that can be useful, money tends to be high on the charts.

CHURCH

In recent years, I hated church.  I got so sick and tired of pastors and preachers asking for money and using it on themselves.  Churches wanted to spend on junk that I thought was a waste of time and money.  They also didn’t have the funds necessary to pay for such nonsense.  They were all in debt and relied on the people of their congregations to “do their part.”  I couldn’t handle it.

I actually studied the tithe myself so that I could get a better Biblical picture of how it was supposed to be used.  Malachi 3:10 was all that churches would use to justify their seduction, and I knew there had to be more to it than that.

I searched for and found significant information that I didn’t know existed.  I used it to form my own opinions about how the church should go about asking for, receiving, and spending money.

I’m not a Bible scholar by any means.  I have no training in Greek or Hebrew or exegetical methods.  I am a simple-minded dingbat with very little knowledge of things beyond the written English translations.  I don’t know anything.

I used the Law of First Mention (what I thought was Abram and Melchizidek), I read all about the Levitical Priests (all throughout Numbers and Leviticus), and I knew all about how Jesus was supposed to have taken the place of those priests in all areas (somewhere in Hebrews).

For these reasons,

Malachi 3:10 just raised too many questions for me.

For starters, what is the storehouse?  Does it apply now?  Are these church buildings the storehouse?  Surely not.  Would the storehouse today be anything that could further the Kingdom of God?

Then, what do I tithe now?  Didn’t it mean crops and produce of the field back in Old Testament times?  What if I don’t have money?  What if I can’t afford to tithe?

And I sought council with men I trusted who I still do believe were in no way trying to lead me astray.

The response was always the same:

Whatever you give up that is over 10% is considered an offering.  Not a tithe.  And your tithe needs to go to your church where you are fed the most.

Well, what if I didn’t have a church?  And even if I do, where is that money going?  It seems like it needs to go to Jesus.  Will it go to pay a person’s salary?  To the new gym they want to build?  What about to missions?  What about to the family down the street who has no running water?  How much money is this church giving away?  10%?  10% of the 10% I gave you would be 1%.  I want 100% of the 10% I gave to make a difference somewhere.

However, I listened.

The first time I decided to tithe was in 2009 when I had a summer job making $7.25 an hour as pretty much a janitor at a middle school working about 20 hours a week.

I didn’t decide until after my first few checks that I should probably be setting aside some money for tithing, so I had to backtrack and figure up what I should have given to begin with.  I added it all up and gave it.  I did this purely out of a sense of obligation.

Then, I realized I messed up and had given way more than 10 percent and I was back to broke when I didn’t need to be.

Before I got married I didn’t want to tithe or give money at all because we seriously did not have a lot of it.  But Smokin’ Hot Wife didn’t like that idea and said we would always give at least 10%.

You got it, Babe.

But the “compromise” was that we would rarely, if ever, give to a church due the reasons listed above.  We would give it to whoever and wherever we thought could make the biggest impact for the Kingdom of God.  Truly, my intentions were pure.  And I really believe God honored it.

THE SPIRIT OF GIVING

I never thought I was wrong in my studies.  I still don’t think I’m completely wrong.  I mean, I’m a below-average nobody and made a Biblical argument.

But the reasons I went about it were wrong; my heart was wrong, and that, I fear, is more harmful than anything.  The best way to sum it up is this:

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

I sought information about tithing only and failed to focus on the heart of why God was asking for it in the first place.  Ten percent, I thought, was the Biblical theme.  But as I learned much later than I wanted to, the true theme is of our first-fruits and cheerfulness.

This was a point I was missing terribly.

I was giving ten percent of my horrendous income to a church I didn’t even like, who brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars every year with nothing to show for it but a large, cathedral, family-owned and operated business.  I didn’t give because I thought it would please God.  I gave because I thought I could be scolded by men I respected if I didn’t, or because I thought I had to in order to ever be financially stable, or simply because I thought it was just supposed to be done.

Months — maybe years — later, when I learned of the true joy of giving, did I learn what Jesus really wanted us to do:  give freely.

And, sure, I think He did ask that we give up that first portion so that we can declare that God is more than all the riches we could ever hope to gain.  Can it be both?  Obligatory giving does not please God, but setting aside the first-fruits of our labor, knowing that the days of our vaporous specks of life are numbered, will fan into flame a joy-filled way of giving that was intended from the start of all things.

SPIRIT OF MAMMON

When Jesus said You cannot serve both God and money, what he actually said was God and Mammon.  Mammon is the love of money or the spirit of money.  Many read this and think money is evil, but it wasn’t meant that way.

I hate that we need money.  Really.  I wish it wasn’t a thing.  But it isn’t evil.  The whole concept of trading and bartering would exist whether we had a special currency or not.  It isn’t money that is evil but the spirit that rests on it that most (all) of us have experienced at one point or another.

This is what we cannot serve while serving God.  It is impossible.  We either consciously or subconsciously denounce one and serve the other.  The pull of Mammon manifests itself in many ways and will do so in any way to keep our eyes from being fixed on Christ.  This spirit is the opposite of how Paul described how we should give, freely and cheerfully.

Personally, I feel the pull of Mammon pretty regularly.  If work is slow or someone in my family is sick, I completely forget about the Sole Provider, and I focus on ways that can make things right.  I seek monetary solutions.  I even find security in my bank account.  If I could just have this much money, we’d never had to worry.

In doing so, I do not serve God;  I serve Mammon.

PERCENTAGE GIVING

Each one must give what he has decided in his heart.

This means that we should not be irresponsible in giving!  Crazy turn of events, right?  Now, I’m telling some not to give?

Well, in a way, yes.  The Spirit will nudge you now and again to give where you hadn’t planned, but as far as your first-fruits of labor are concerned, plan ahead as to what percentage you will give.

Honestly, I think it’s important that we do not dwell too heavily on 10%.  It is a good marker, and it is, in most cases, very doable.  But I do understand that it isn’t always possible.  I know a wonderful older couple, the same guy who told me Life is hard, then you die, who did not tithe in their young marriage because they couldn’t afford it.  They kept up with all that they owed and gave it when they got it.  The most important thing to understand is that God does not call down curses on the non-givers.  He is gracious, slow to anger, perfect in mercy, all that good stuff.

If He cursed those who didn’t give, why are there millionaires and billionaires around the world who publicly deny the existence of Him?!

Instead, He searches and knows the heart, and if your heart joyfully gives the only 2% that you can afford to give, how much more is your reward than that of the indignant giver of 10 percent!

(Now, if you can give 10%, give it.  Or more.  You’ll thank me one day)

When I got a new job, we bumped our giving percentage up to 11%.  When I finished my training months and started being paid on a per job basis, we went up to 12%.  When Smokin’ Hot Wife got a raise, 13%.  When we were out of debt, 14%.  Different situations allowed us to raise up the amount of money we were able to give.

As of this writing, we set aside 16% of our total income every month to be given in some way, and we really want to give more.

If you are adamant about 10% going to the church, that’s fine, but the best part about raising your percentage is that you now have  the ability to be creative with and help out families that are in need or are trying to make an impact across the world.

For the longest time, we gave to a family who spent all of their time helping children with cancer or to friends in Guatemala who started an orphanage from nothing!  If it wasn’t to them, we would search for a need and try to meet it.  It could be a family need, a friend need, or we’d have to search for a friend of a friend and keep it completely anonymous.

We always found someone or something to give to.

I don’t want you to follow my methods.  I want you to be convicted by the Holy Spirit and mediate on 2 Corinthians 9:7.

So raise it as you will.  Try not to ever lower it.  We haven’t lowered yet.  I hope we never do, but we have been able to avoid it by raising very gradually over time.  I wish I could just throw it on up to 30%, 50%, 80%, but that wouldn’t be wise at this time.

Remember, if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than the unbeliever.

Set a percentage, and make it your very first priority.

CHURCH OF THE HIGHLANDS

Let me be clear; I’m not telling you to shun the Church.  Good churches do exist, and there are leaders who are certainly capable of being responsible stewards.

It took 3 years for the likeness to grow into what it is now, but I LOVE Church of the Highlands, and I’ll promote them for as long as they continue in their ways.

The first characteristic that drew me in was the authenticity of Chris Hodges.  This is a 40,000 member church, so at this point in time, he doesn’t know me and I don’t know him personally.  But his demeanor screamed REAL from the very first time I attended.  And there isn’t much I appreciate more than an authentic person.

But the other thing that drew me in was the way that they deal with money.  Remember, I hated giving money to churches.  This church is not in debt.  AT ALL.  They are extremely cautious and they dream big, they do not purchase anything unless they have the cash readily available to do so, they disclose every single piece of financial information to the public, and they give MILLIONS of dollars away every year.

The 10% to your church is tithe + anything over that is a special offering method that I hated so much has even been used by us at times because of this church.  I don’t want them to change anything about what they do or how they do it.  They give away more money and impact more people than I could ever hope to dream of in a hundred lifetimes.  I have no problem with 10% of my income helping them function.

THE BENEFICIARY

1.  What do I gain from you giving?

Nothing.

That should make it at least a little bit more interesting for readers.  Why would I go through the trouble of advising you to live generously when I receive no benefit?

Exactly.  That’s the point.  Unless you give it to me, I don’t benefit.  And I’m not in need, so I couldn’t accept it from you.  Therefore, I don’t benefit!

2.  What does God benefit from you giving?

Throughout the scriptures, man and God are in conversation, and, in many cases, man pleads with God for mercy, forgiveness, guidance, deliverance, etc. all for His name’s sake (Psalms 23, 25, 31…. many more).

Obviously, God doesn’t need money.   What would he do with it?  Buy a boat?  An army?  A palace?  A gel pen?  He could at any moment do whatever he wanted to do and not need a single human hand included, not a finger lifted.  So why does he ask it of us?

Because He is a relational God who wants us to be His hands and feet.  No, He doesn’t need us.  He wants us.  He also wants us to live freely and to give freely.  He knows that once you give, you are the true beneficiary, which brings me to the next point.

3.  What do you benefit from giving?

It tends to be a tricky question, because the whole purpose of our giving is to be selfless.  But anyone who does it can tell you it’s just wonderful, and it goes well beyond a sense of accomplishment or a look at me attitude.

God asked for the first tenth in the law, yes.  But the pattern that I notice in the Bible is that He desires mercy, not sacrifice.

Now, when we take that first percentage and set it aside mercifully instead of sacrificially, the spirit of Mammon is bound and no longer has any hold on us.  A declaration is made that we trust in God for our provisions, and we do not need these worldly goods in order to receive peace and joy.  We are denouncing the hold of the love of money on our thoughts and minds.

We are free.  Do not conform.