Here is my premise for this blog series – making small intentional changes will bring about a huge impact over the long haul.
People who study such things, generally say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in a field of study or a new skill. While the debate rages concerning how accurate that may be, I know I will never become an expert in anything unless I make small, incremental decisions to become one. In fact, my day to day decisions have a major impact on where I will be when I get old…or older. We are where we are today because of our previous decisions.
At 57, I can look back and see major forks in the road of life. Choices made have led to where I am today. Each day we face choices and many times it will be years before we see the full ramifications of the ones we make. Good or bad.
God says we are sheep. Sheep need to have a relationship with the Shepherd and to listen to His voice. We have been given the Word of God to have our minds and our spiritual senses trained, and we must make time in our lives to be quiet to listen. This is a daily decision that will have a major impact over the course of our life.
If we are walking the wrong direction in some aspect of our life, we must repent and turn around if we ever hope to change this.
Since we are looking at incremental change towards spiritual growth, I want to delve into an arena that I would normally avoid. My assumption is that you desire to grow, you want to please the Lord and you are open to learning, or you would not be reading my blog. If you do not want to be challenged, then please stop reading now. You have been warned.
I want to discuss the realm of obedience. We do not have to guess at most of what our Lord requires of us. The issue most of the time is not lack of understanding when we fall short, but lack of obedience.
Obedience is expected. Jesus put it this way:
- Luke 6:46 – Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, but do not do what I tell you?
- John 14:15 – If you love Me, you will keep My commandments
- John 15:10 – if you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
Jesus sets the standard of obedience and He gives us commands to obey. We have looked at some already in previous blogs – love one another beginning with those closest to us. Embrace the cross and die to ourselves. Do good to everyone we meet, especially those of the household of faith. These are not a suggestion, but a command.
Day by day we build upon the foundation of Christ. We are saved, and we fill each day with the choices we make. The truth is that we rarely will see the full outcome of our decisions until a great deal of time has passed. We probably will never understand all of the “why’s” of God’s commands because we are trapped in this time space world of ours. Perhaps in eternity all will become clear.
Walking in obedience is required in every area of our life. One area I have not shared much on is stewardship; however, how we handle the resources we receive from God is very important.
Every dime we have come from the One who owns everything. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Every provision in our life is the result of God’s grace -including our finances.
Barna the pollster and others, state that a very small percentage of Christians tithe. These studies report that 5% of Christians tithe, and even in the born again/evangelical groups, the number only rises to 12%. My question is why is this number not 100%?
The Scripture is not vague about this:
- Proverbs 3:9 – Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce
- Numbers 18:21 – To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting
Abraham tithed to Melchizedek hundreds of years before the Law was given to the Children of Israel. The Law simply formalized the process, but the intent for His people to be generous givers was always there in the heart of God.
In Matthew 23, Jesus pronounced the seven woes upon the Pharisees. There are some pretty harsh words towards this group of men. In one place, Vs. 23, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees not about their tithing, but about their neglect of the weightier issues of the Law, like justice, mercy and faithfulness. In fact, what Jesus actually said was, “you should tithe,” but this fact is often lost in the midst of the rebuke.
I won’t print it out here, but go read Malachi 3:9-11. Most Christians have no problem agreeing with this prophet when he addresses divorce, the pursuit of godly children, returning the hearts of the fathers back home, and the wonderful truths regarding the Messiah, but we balk at the tithing section. Why?
God doesn’t need the money, so what’s the big deal? While I don’t pretend to know all of the answers, here are some thoughts to think about why believers are not the most generous givers on the planet.
Perhaps it is a lack of knowledge. I didn’t know you should be a generous giver to the work of the Lord until someone told me about it.
Perhaps the reason people do not give is they have an obedience problem. The Scriptures are clear; God’s people should be givers.
Perhaps people really do not understand that they are stewards and not owners. No matter how much we may have here on earth, we will leave all of it behind when we die. We are not owners, but we manage whatever we have at the Lord’s bidding, and we will give an account to Him of how we did after this life.
If you don’t like any of those reasons, try this one on. Perhaps we have an idolatry issue. Jesus said:
- No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13
Money is placed in direct contrast and conflict with the Lord as a potential master. An interesting choice. Jesus did not pick lust, pride or any other sinful failure, but money. Why?
Apparently, money and God both want to be served. We must make a choice. Will we honor the Lord or will we honor the idol of money…not necessarily the picture of dead presidents, but what money does for us – security, provision, status, gratification of our flesh, etc. We can’t serve both for one will rule, and one will receive our trust.
People argue and debate over whether we should tithe as a New Testament Christian. One thing is clear, most people are not doing anything, and that is a real shame.
Like most arenas, the New Testament standard far exceeds the Old Testament one. Money is no different. Consider Paul’s words:
2 Corinthians 9:7 – Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
One reason God loves a cheerful giver is because it demonstrates a proper understanding of faith, our Source of provision, the temporary nature of our lives, and it is a part of our worship.
It has been said, and I have not verified it, that Jesus spoke more on money than heaven, hell, and a host of other subjects. I don’t know if that is true, but my point is that if we want to grow in our walk with the Lord this year, it may very well begin with obedience – and, specifically in this arena of money.
Study it out for yourself. Ask the Lord to show you what your attitude towards money and giving really is.
Giving is one of the few areas where we are challenged to test God.
- Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. And thereby put Me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. Malachi 2:10
I have over the last forty years and I have always found that God is faithful. God does not need the money. It’s not our need that is in question; it’s our spiritual growth and development. Will we make a decision today to begin to walk in obedience regarding this aspect of stewardship? If not, why not?
If we never start we will never arrive at our destination. We are stewards of Another’s resources, and He expects us to handle them properly. Change begins with a decision, and since God loves a cheerful giver, why wouldn’t we want that?