god of my money. god of my heart.
The past two months have been particularly busy for me. I have started a small business that has led to long hours of working alone designing and building furniture and other home furnishings – I am actually almost at the top of Google and am one of the only providers of the lights I offer, God is very good – and so I fill my time listening to music and sermons from different churches to touch on my calling in ministry: spiritual formation – the growth and development of the church.
I’ve been thinking about money and how to best honor God with it. I want to be more intentional about pushing my income to gospel-centered missions in other place. This has faltered against my heart for several reasons: the practical teaching is to first give to your local assembly, and the second is where we insert thoughts on tithing. The call to look after those who minister lands against the grow of the emergent church with specific church assemblies that can grow across 9 campuses and have thousands of members. Should we buy into this? There are large churches because they are well marketed and watered down, and there are large churches because God has trusted the church assembly; but do we determine between a church that is growing and one that is gluttonous?
I have listened to several sermons from several churches that approach generosity differently. The Village Church in Dallas, TX is my go-to favorite – their goal is minimalism, strongly biblical, and growth to the end of planting autonomous churches and making much of Jesus. But I was recommended a church in Arizona and stumbled into their sermon on giving and was opened to this statement preached from Malachi when God is upset about the blind sacrifices they were bringing.
“We don’t bring a lamb to sacrifice any more because Jesus was the perfect Lamb who died to take away our sins. We bring to God ourselves… and often this… our money.”
“God measures generosity based on a percentage not an amount.”
When people mishandle the word of God, take it from context, or try to manipulate it, it makes me angry. I couldn’t believe that this was taught, or that it is so easily believed, or that the men who have sworn to protect the church and proclaim the gospel are so quickly betraying both. I’m going to tear this band-aid off quickly. Tithing is not a New testament principle. It isn’t a standard that carried over from one to the other. It was in the Old Testament for the sacrificial system – we are not required to give a certain anything. The New Testament is even better.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” – Galatians 2:20
Paul calls himself a ‘bond-slave’ of Jesus as He recognized that freedom in Christ is not autonomous freedom. Rather, so compelled by the sacrifice of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14), we offer our lives in service to the One who holds all things in order. This does not free us up to pursue ourselves, but actually pushes us to engage the world and get involved in other people’s lives (John 15:12-17; 1 John 4:20). Freedom in Christ is to recognize that we are image bearer’s of God and walk in the liberty of our acceptance to grow in this sanctification.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your comfort” – Luke 6:24
The sinking feeling is a curse against wealth, but this isn’t. But this also isn’t the gospel saying: this doesn’t apply to you. I know several wealthy men who are generous and very godly. The answer is in our relationship to God. Following Jesus means becoming His servant, being so compelled by this love. Nothing we have is ours. Everything belongs to the Lord. In Christ, we are not wealthy. We are only managers with which we have been entrusted. Our resources are given to make much of His name – we are image bearers. It is no longer a blanket “give 10% to the church”, but it is an issue, as the servants in Matthew, where you sit and think, how am I sowing into the Kingdom. Friends, when I stand before God I think He will be far more upset with all the other resources I have wasted under the umbrella of dropping tithes.
Should you support your local assembly? Yes and no.
Your local church is not your church. it is not its programs. It’s you. It’s the body of Jesus that gathers in that building. The instructions of the New Testament are far more individualistic than we’d like to believe; when we are called to support the one who is struggling or give to the one who has need, these are individual callings because the church is believers, the specific church is where they gather. The New Testament says that it was in joy the church grew and they shared all things in common. We don’t take on the role of offering things to God as the Old testament, but as Believers we are stewards of what He has given us and so everything is His.
How does this effect the church? Don’t rely on the church to fulfill what you are called to do, but rather engage your calling in that context. It is has always been a simple Biblical idea to give to the church; however, we have many churches who are not honest with what has been given them. I’m typically leery of those who only preach from Malachi only when they want to talk about offerings: as though they don’t know what the rest of the book is about. The idea is typically “give to get a blessed life”, which means give to God to get from God, which is not the currency of the New Testament which causes us to worship because we are compelled as His servants. The fall of man is that we prefer the creation over the Creator.
You are a steward of what you have been given. keep that in mind. I think giving to a church that engages the gospel, it’s assembly, and the world around is a church to grow in and support with your money and service. If possible, give in the area of the church you feel a passion in your life. Then give your time there as well. I am passionate about missions; specifically, the poor, more specifically, children. I’ve not been obedient in my calling and realize I must do a good deal of repenting as I see the depravity in my heart and realize that I don’t love like I should. I want to begin by sponsoring children through Compassion International and to them I am rich; I have not been generous. In the same, I want to engage to make much of Jesus, not of myself.
It’s always about motives. God doesn’t want your money. He wants your heart.