Thanksgiving is over, and the season of Advent is upon us. Did you get to take some time to count your blessings over the weekend, to focus your heart and mind on Jesus? If you didn’t I would encourage you make some time to do so today. It’s important that we enter the season of Advent with a heart of gratitude. A heart of generosity flows from a heart of gratitude.
At Redemption Church we talk a lot about “increasingly submitting ALL areas of life to the empowering presence and Lordship of Jesus Christ,” which is a definition of discipleship that I believe we ripped off from Jeff Vanderstelt. It’s a good definition. The question is, how can we submit ANY area of life to Jesus if we don’t submit our finances to Him?
Money has always been a tough thing for people to submit to Jesus. It was a struggle for people throughout the Bible, and it is still a struggle today. I would say that our culture’s obsession with money and possessions identifies this particular area of life as one of the first that needs to be dealt with as you and I learn to increasingly submit all of life to Jesus. It just seems like it would be tough to skip it and move on to something else in most of our lives.
I believe we have to start talking about all areas of our finances. We have to be asking question not only about how and where we should give our money, but also of how and where we spend our money, save our money, and invest our money. Maybe we can get into more of those areas in the future. For now, let’s talk about generosity and giving.
Giving has to be the first part of active submission with our finances because, as Randy Alcorn says, “Giving breaks us out of orbit around our possessions. We escape their gravity, entering a new orbit around our treasures in heaven.” As Christians we know that we are suppose to give, many churchgoers feel the obligation to tithe, but I don’t think we talk enough about how giving is a blessing to the life of the giver. It sets us free from a slavery to money and possessions allowing us to savor the freedom of wholly trusting in God, who has given us everything and is in ultimate possession of all things. We won’t likely let Jesus into our spending, saving, and investing until we have experienced His empowering presence and Lordship in our giving.
Since creation it has been clear that God created everything, and that everything is His. God blessed us with everything that we have in order to steward it toward blessing His creation, and ultimately glorifying God in His creation. Throughout the Old Testament God calls on His people to give their first fruits to Him as an act of trust, obedience, and worship.
The act of giving the first ten percent, tithe, to God before any other spending took place was an act that served to remind a forgetful people of Whose they were, Whose hands they were in, and that God could be trusted. We too are a forgetful people today.
God actually called His people to give even more than the first ten percent. He often called for special offerings. These offerings were given over and above the ten percent tithe. One of my favorite examples is when God called Israel to give an offering while wandering in the wilderness. The offering was to go toward the construction of the Tabernacle, which was going to require some valuable materials. This people, slaves who fled overnight from Egypt, obeyed and gave all kinds of jewels, fine cloth, and other valuables. Where did a bunch of wandering slaves come up with all these goods? Before they fled Egypt, God told them to ask the Egyptian people for their valuables, and fearing the God of Israel the Egyptians granted the request. It just illustrates how God provides everything that He asks us to give.
Tithes and offerings is not all that God wanted His people to give. He also instructed Israel, as they settled and grew crops, to leave the edges of their fields at harvest for the passing sojourner who may need something to eat.
God was always shepherding His people to be givers because God is generous, and His people were called to show the world what God was like.
That’s all Old Testament times, I know. So what does the New Testament look like? In the New Testament it would be hard to put a percentage on what God requires, but He is still shepherding His people to be crazy generous.
In Acts 2:45 we see the early church “selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” In several of the letters of the New Testament it is evident that the Apostles called the church to give toward advancing the gospel in their cities and in the global mission field.
Paul refers to the example of Jesus in 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
Paul charges Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17-19, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
If anything, in the New Testament we see the followers of Jesus being called to become even more generous in their giving than the people of the Old Testament. Jesus asked the Rich Young Ruler and others to get rid of everything and follow Him as if submitting all of life to Jesus meant one hundred percent of everything, even one hundred percent of their money and possessions.
Certainly, we can’t just sign over the entirety of our paychecks to the church right? Let’s talk guidelines.
At Redemption Church we believe that it is best to give your tithes, your first ten percent, to the local church. Why give to the church first? Because it is the place of Christian community where we are going in together towards equipping and sending the body. We ask all our members to commit to give financially to the local church in this way for that purpose.
We also encourage you to give an offering beyond your tithe. Tithe would be that first ten percent given to the local church, and an offering would be what you give over and beyond that to special purposes such as specific missionary or ministry support.
We would also suggest you leave something at the “edge of the field,” so to speak, so that you can be generous towards those in need who come your way unexpectedly. We suggest building some margin into your budget for these occasions.
Listen, I know that not everybody can do all of this at one time, but what I want to encourage is that you make a plan towards giving as God has called you. How can you increasingly submit this area of life to the empowering presence and Lordship of Jesus Christ?
I would encourage you to pray through this with your family, with your DNA partners, and with your missional communities. If this is an area that is hard to submit, that is understandable. Please don’t be ashamed to seek counsel with your fellow church members, and leaders. No one wants anybody to feel ashamed or guilty. That is not the kind of giving God desires.
Paul says it well in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
I would encourage you to come up with a giving plan, and start giving immediately. The invitation is not to obligation, but to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” that He is exceedingly rich in riches beyond matters of money, and that He can be one hundred percent trusted.
Here is how you can give to Redemption Church.
Here is what we have going on in the way of supporting Global Missions