I just finished watching I.O.U.S.A. on CNN. It was a two-hour special that addressed the fiscal issues facing Americans and our government. I wonder how many Americans watched it.
I wonder how many of those who watched actually comprehended the issues that were being presented. And most importantly, I wonder how many Americans know what needs to be known about their finances. I suspect that American Christians could lead the way, set the example and be "salt and light" on this subject. What would it take for us to do that?
Leviticus 27:30 tells us, "And all the tithe ... is the Lord's; it is holy unto the Lord." Most of us know what a tithe is (10% of gross household income - as defined in the Old Testament). But many modern-day Christians seem to think the tithe is an Old Testament concept that doesn't have to be honored. Leviticus 27:30 says it is God's and it is holy. Do you really think it could get to a place in time when it would no longer matter?
Jesus talked a lot about the Old Testament. One of the most important things He said was, "I didn't come to abolish the law of Moses ... until heaven and earth disappear, even the smallest detail of God's law will remain until its purposes are achieved." (Matthew 5:17-18). Jesus later said, in Matthew 23:23, "You should tithe, yes ..." So it is clear that we cannot throw away the concept of tithing. It was God-ordained in the Old Testament, and Jesus affirmed it in the New Testament.
So why is this thing called tithe so special to God? What's the big deal? Isn't it just money? Malachi 3:10 says, "Bring all your tithes into the storehouse, so there will be enough ... in my temple." Enough what? Enough to meet the needs of the poor, the sick, etc. Enough to pay for the expenses of running the temple and answering God's call to ministry. Here's the thing, folks: Effective churches are supposed to have expensive ministries.
And tithing empowers effective churches. It has been God's plan all along, since the beginning of time, that His people would provide for the needs of the poor, do ministry, evangelize the world, and more. He never intended government to do it. He never intended para-church ministries to do it. The tithe has always been meant for the church. And the point is that it is supposed to empower the church. Did you know that?
So what are today's Christians doing with the tithe? George Barna (http://www.barna.org/) has done a number of surveys. A recent survey revealed the following statistics:
~ 76% of Americans identify themselves as "born-again Christians"
~ 16% of them don't give anything at all to any church ... not a penny
~ Less than 3% of them claim that they are tithing (the full 10%)
~ Only 5% of the wealthiest say they are tithingIf you talk to people who aren't tithing, many of them will tell you they know they should, even if they've tried to justify their disobedience. Even in the sincerest conversations, they'll tell you that they can't afford to tithe. They'll tell you that stewardship is hard.
But Jesus said, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:30) Doing what God requires of us is not difficult. In fact, it makes life work. So even if I think I can't afford it, it's only my perception. The truth is that what God requires of me is easy and light - not difficult and unbearable.
So if I'm going to be a good Christian steward, how do I get from here to there? If I admit that I'm not a good steward now, how can I begin to change? There are some pretty logical steps actually. They don't include attending a seminar, buying a book, clipping coupons or doing anything else that's stupid. In fact, they are part of the spiritual journey. So in closing, let's see what these eight things you can do are.Larry's Path To Christian Stewardship - 8 Simple Steps
1. Yield myself to God. Let Him change me His way. Pray and ask Him to lead me to this state in life - where I am a good steward and can tithe comfortably.
2. Admit that everything that I am, everything that I have --- it all belongs to Him. Start practicing that mindset. Start living that truth.
3. Understand that God blesses me for a purpose. His purpose! My job, my wealth, my ability, my things --- He gave all of them to me with an expectation of me.
4. Look and see where God is working. Can I join Him there? I don't have to save the world. I can simply employ my stewardship with other Christians --- and together we can accomplish much.
5. Ask God how to start. Sit down with your checkbook and say, "Okay God, how much?" Then write the check for whatever His Holy Spirit tells you. Do NOT add up all your bills to see what's left and assume that's how much you'll give.
6. Expect to become generous. If you're letting God lead you, He will take you there. He will make you a generous person. (Can't you just wait!)
7. Look past the risks. Christ-followers are risk-takers. God knows you have bills. He knows you might get laid off. He's aware of the cost of health care. Trust Him with your risks.
8. Listen to God when He says, "No." Sometimes men (or women) will ask you for money. You'll hear impassioned pleas to fund this ministry or that mission trip. You are not called to fund everything. Remember, it is God's money. Ask Him if He wants you to give it. He's already told you to give 10% to your church. Beyond that, be very discriminating - and only give to the things God truly calls you to give to. (Don't worry, you'll still be generous.)