Beyond Tithing - Living The Abundant Life
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
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 blessed.
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 6:38)
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 God.
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 minimum.
"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 treasure there.
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 Example
I know an American couple here in
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. Mexico
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