Friday, February 10, 2006

February 8, 2006

I trust that you are doing well and enjoying God today. Remember, He is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him.[1] What another tremendous weekend at PCC. I am fascinated and still reeling from all the PCC and Congo connections.

Today I would like to follow up from Sunday and see how to interpret the Old Testament standard of giving, the tithe, through the lens of the New Testament. Please bear with me as I share some insights, and remember, I don’t want anything from you, I only want something for you....

It seems to me that Jesus believed that the tithe was a Biblical benchmark for giving. He never spoke directly against the OT standard of tithing by saying he was altering our Prioritized Percentage Giving to a lower percentage! On the contrary in Luke 11:42, when rebuking the Pharisees, he states that their tithe was and is appropriate! But how terrible it will be for you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income, but you completely forget about justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things.
The Apostle Paul was an advocate of Prioritized Percentage Giving! In 1 Corinthians 16:2 he states On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.
The New Testament emphasis on giving seems to prioritize an attitude of eagerness rather that restraint. In 2 Cor 9:7 Paul states: You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully. God wants you and I to view all our “stuff” through the eyes of gratitude and to give joyfully in gratitude for all that has been given to us.
The New Testament emphasis on giving seems to prioritize bounteousness rather than restriction. In 2 Cor 9:6 Paul states: Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Throughout the New Testament, the concern isn’t giving to meet minimum limit; it seems, rather, that the emphasis of teaching is on how to create one’s maximum generosity.

You and I have a choice to make with our financial margin as well as with every other area where margin is called for: Will we follow the culture’s push to the limit, and live off of 100% of our income, or more (by creating consumer debt![2]) or will we follow God’s leading to a life of financial margin, living off of well below 100% of our income?

The more I ponder the issue of giving, the more I am convinced that there is a direct correlation between generosity and joy. The most joyful people I know are generous people; some of the most bitter, defeated people I know are self-centered and self-consumed.

Sisters and brothers, what I want for us is to be free from the control of stuff. I want us to actualize our potential to resource the Great Commission, and I desire for us the freedom, joy and Christlikeness that comes from generous giving.

[1] This is a phrase I picked up from the book Desiring God by John Piper.
[2] Just this week, a report came out that for the third time in American history, Americans consumed more than they earned (in our vernacular, they lived off of over 100% of their income), having to dip into savings to live. The only other two years this happened was in the early 1930’s, during the depression.