Beyond Tithing - Living The Abundant
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John
We don't solicit contributions here, so that's not what this is about. What it's about is the incredible gap between
the Bible's promises and believers' experiences. In spite of passages like John 10:10,
the average Christian lives no better than his unbelieving counterpart,
and in the opinion of many he's really worse off. Simple observation would indicate that those
who exceed the average do so more because of their worldly skills than their
piety. (Thankfully, some are gracious enough to give God the credit
anyway.) And we don't want to even
mention the portion of our "abundant life" that's made possible through
the acquisition of debt rather than wealth.
And yet, as the advocates of the so-called "prosperity gospel" are
quick to point out, the Bible is full of promises of material blessing for the
faithful. It turns out that they might have the right idea but are appealing to
the wrong motives. And as you know, with the Lord, motive is what it's all
about. Here's what I mean.
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my
house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will
not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you
will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:10)
In the financial area there are two Biblical principles that Christians
routinely violate. Doing so prevents us
from living the abundant life the Bible promises here on Earth, and will
deprive us of treasure in Heaven. The first is the law of tithing. As a group
we're so far below expectations that it's no wonder we're not being
Its a simple matter. The Lord views 10% of our increase as
belonging to Him. (Leviticus 27:30) When we give it back, we're only
doing what's required. But very few of
us do this. The average is less than 3%, and nearly half of all born again
believers never give the first penny back.
New Testament Christians who've fooled themselves into believing that
the tithing law was canceled at the cross have cost themselves the loss of
untold blessings in exchange for withholding the paltry amount the Lord asks as
an expression of our gratitude for what He's given us.
Before I started tithing I couldn't imagine anyone doing it. But I was a
brand new Christian and wanted to be obedient, so I bit the bullet and took the
first 10% of each paycheck and gave it to the Lord. I didn't worry about pre-tax or post-tax or
deductions because I was taught that you can't out give the Lord. Financial problems don't occur because we
give too much, but because we give too little.
Then I prayed that He would stretch the other 90% to do everything
required. It took some adjustment on my
part but He was faithful to His promise.
Now I would never consider holding back any of my tithe.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good
measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into
your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke
It's The Least I Can Do
Then I learned that the tithe is only the minimum
requirement. It's what you do with the
rest of your money that really counts. They say that it isn't how much you earn
that matters, but how much you get to keep.
For believers, that's not quite true.
It should go like this. It isn't
how much you earn that matters, but how much you get to give. That's because with the measure you use, it
will be measured to you.
Like I said, you can't out give the Lord.
It becomes a game to see how much you can give. You begin looking for ways to trim your
expenses so you can give more, and as you do the Lord makes more available for
you to give. As it is with everything the Lord gives us, there's an endless
supply of wealth and we're meant to be a channel, not a reservoir.
And that brings me to the second principle. It's a matter of two little
words we've ignored. The words are
"so that" and they're found in 2 Cor
9:11. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on
every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to
The Lord didn't promise us wealth so that we could spoil and pamper
ourselves with obscene amounts of luxuries and toys. He promised that we would be rich in every
way so that we could be generous on every occasion. There's a cause and effect
relationship at work here. Being made
rich is for the purpose of being generous.
This is the Divine Law of Reciprocity. The Lord is generous with us and
we repay Him by being generous with others.
This prompts Him to be more generous with us, allowing us to be more
generous with others and so on. In
failing to be generous, we violate the Law of Reciprocity and impede the flow
of resources. And remember, tithing is
not being generous. It's meeting the
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and
rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves
treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do
not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be
also." (Matt. 6:19-21)
"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be
demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for
himself but is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:20-21)
You see the idea is not to accumulate wealth for ourselves here where we're
only going to spend 70-80 years. The
idea is to trade the earthly wealth we're given for treasures in Heaven where
we're going to spend eternity.
Now before you say, "OK, Lord, make me wealthy so I can start being
generous," remember He said that those who are faithful with a little will
be given more, and those who are not, even what little they have will be taken
from them. So it's progressive, and we have to start where we are. Not so the Lord can see how we'll respond. He already knows. It's so we can see how we'll respond. When we see that we're naturally selfish and
self-centered, we're supposed to ask Him to help us change. If we don't, the process breaks down and
eventually comes to a halt. Maybe this
is the reason that having been given so much, we wind up with so little.
Sacrifice? What sacrifice?
I've noticed that those who trade earthly wealth for
treasure in Heaven don't talk about the sacrifices they're making, nor of their
heavenly treasure, but
of the joy that comes from giving. They
have learned that the reason God is making them richer is so that they can be
more generous. Instead of pleading with
God for the money to meet the payment on their second mortgage that they took
out so they could remodel their kitchen again, they're asking Him for the money
to help the missionary they just met, because they're excited to be a part of
God's work and want to help wherever they can.
My recent emphasis on Eternal Security has shown me that there are a lot of
Christians going around trying to lower the population in Heaven by excluding
all those whose behavior they don't like. But where are those who should be
exhorting us to increase the quality of our eternal experience, to not settle
for the free gift of salvation but instead to press on toward the goal to
win the prize for which God has called us heavenward? (Phil. 3:14)
In our earthbound mentality, we've made salvation the goal, not the means to
achieving the goal, which is eternal life. Because of that most of us never
give a minute's thought to the Biblical principle of working here to accumulate
But with so much End Times talk around us that even the secular press is
beginning to take note, it's long past time for us to be developing an eternal
perspective. After all, it's going to happen soon. We have to get past our immature view of the
abundant life as being a hedonistic flow of creature comforts and leisure
activities. Instead we need to view it
as experiencing the joy of giving, with the Lord increasing our capacity as we
increase our desire, living truly rewarding and meaningful lives here, while
accumulating vast treasures for ourselves in eternity.
This is where the prosperity gospel preachers miss the point. Preaching their "give to get"
philosophy from an Earthly perspective is misleading at best, and serves to
enrich only the preachers. Instead,
they should be preaching about giving on Earth to accumulate treasure in
Heaven, where it counts, enriching both the giver and the recipient.
Give Us An
I know an American couple here in Mexico that I wish you could all
meet. They came here in their late
twenties about 12 years ago to re-open a defunct orphanage. They had never run
an orphanage and weren't (and still aren't) being sponsored by any group or
denomination. They just heard the Lord's
call and responded.
Since then they've raised and educated nearly 500 children through high
school in a country where the average kid quits after the 6th grade.
At the same time they've increased the size of the orphanage by a factor of 4,
with 120 kids currently in residence, built and given away a dozen free houses
to needy residents of the community and are one of its biggest employers. All with cash the Lord sent them because they
learned the Law of Reciprocity. And
because of them, thousands of Americans from church groups all over the country
visit our little town each year to help out at the orphanage, do community
projects, and share the gospel. When you ask them about sacrifices they've
made, they'll tell you about the abundant life they're living.
Can you imagine a life more rewarding? Or the treasure in Heaven they're
accumulating? It's not too late for you
to develop an eternal perspective and begin living your version of the abundant
life. But it soon will be. Don't miss out. Selah 10-28-06