We have all heard that we should store up treasures in heaven and that it is better to give than to receive. If you are a church-goer in America, the concept of giving is well-known to you. Our nation is a very generous nation and we are a very generous people. It is not uncommon for us, in the United States, to send money to far-away places to help strangers who have been struck by natural disasters or national tragedies. But how much should we give? To whom? And how often? These are more difficult questions with which we all wrestle.
Although the Bible has a lot to say about money management, most preachers shy away from the topic. It is rare to hear a sermon on tithing or giving because the pastors are afraid to turn off parishioners who might perceive this teaching as meant to squeeze more money out of their pockets. Those who think tithing is an important part of stewardship wrestle with questions such as whether to tithe on the gross or on the net? Recently, I read “God and Money”, published by Rose Publishing. The authors conclude that tithing is not required of us because we live under grace; but their rationale will surprise you. It sure surprised me. I have come to think that this concept of grace has been taken to the extreme and has resulted in people becoming cheap and stingy with their money; inoculating them against the genuine needs around them, as if all that is required is that you give cheerfully, not generously.
I enjoyed that the authors of this book delved into old testament history to show us how the ancient patriarchs practiced their giving, as well as into the new testament to tell us what Jesus and Paul had to say about it. One important fact revealed by the authors is that the tithe ended up not just being 10% of their income, but actually amounted to about 23 %.There were three kinds of tithes that were required: the Levitical tithe, given every year for the support of the temple; the Festival tithe which was used to ensure each Israelite could participate in the Feast of Tabernacles; and the Charity tithe which was 10% given in years 3 and 6 (budgeted annually at 3%) of Israel’s’ yearly social cycle for the benefit of the orphans, widows and foreigners.
Although I have been familiar with the concept of living within your means and trying to live debt-free through ministries like Dave Ramsey’s, this book expanded my vision of good stewardship and the privilege God has given us to live with an open hand and not a closed fist. The authors helped me to understand that the concept of stewardship goes beyond how much to give of our God-given time, talent, and treasure. They enlarged my vision to think in terms of how much to keep, to think about giving away the rest; the importance of discerning true need and of investing in worthy causes that will honor God. It also means that we are responsible to GOD for ensuring we earn our living honestly, distribute and manage the resources He has entrusted to us FOR HIS purpose. Ensuring that our spending, saving, and giving should be well-planned and intentional is also part of honoring and worshipping our God.
Acknowledging that EVERYTHING we have belongs to God, frees us to GIVE generously. The plan outlined in this book makes it simple to put these principles into practice. Take your after-tax income and put it into three buckets: 1) spending (for your family’s current needs); 2) savings (investing in the future), and 3) serving (investing in eternity).
Every Christian should read this book as part of their spiritual growth. The authors have graciously provided a free copy of the God and Money Study Guide and a list of over 2000 bible verses dealing with money on their website for anyone interested in gaining in-depth knowledge of this material. These resources are intended for individual or small group study. I challenge you to get a copy of this book and a copy of the study guide. Expand your vision and share it with friends!