Posted by: pastortomvabeach | December 31, 2013

Thought For The Week January 5, 2014

It’s hard to believe that Christmas has come and gone and we are actually beginning another New Year. I trust that Jesus was honored as you celebrated His coming into the world and that you ended 2013 on a glorious note and are ready to grow His Kingdom both in your personal life and as part of the church in 2014.

A few weeks ago, I began to review some of the giving insights that Jeff Anderson offers in his little book, Plastic Donuts. In case you missed these, they are available on my blog, Look for the “thoughts” for December 8 and 15. As a quick review, Jeff contends that the Bible shows us what gifts are acceptable to God and really delight His heart. He goes on to say that the amount of a gift actually matters to God and should matter to us since, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21).

That sets the stage for what he calls the rules of giving, the first of which is that there are no rules. What does that mean? Many want to know what the Biblical standard is for giving while others steadfastly resist the idea of any standard. Debates rage over whether the tithe is required, suggested, an enduring principle, or Old Testament law that is used today to hold Christians in bondage and make ministers rich.

Anderson asks why we want some standard for giving but are less concerned about a standard for prayer, fasting or church attendance. I think we want to find out what is the minimum so that we “make the cut” and don’t have to worry. But the instructions Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount, which included directions for prayer and fasting were not about the amount but about the heart. Now how does that work if, as mentioned above, the amount matters to God?

It’s in our nature to want a definite guideline, to be told what we must do, like the rich young ruler who asked Jesus, What must I do to get eternal life? (Matthew 19:16) If we’re honest, strict rules help push back a sense of guilt and Anderson says, “it’s always easier to follow rules than to follow a living God.” But God doesn’t want rule followers, He wants a relationship with us.

If you were to ask your spouse or boy/girlfriend, “What is the best gift I can give you?”, they might appreciate it if you give them exactly what they want, but they will sense your love much more if you choose a gift that comes from your heart and means something to you also. In most cases that is the way we function – the giver determines the gift and that makes it special.

By saying there are no rules, Anderson suggests that giving has always been what many people today call “freewill”. If you look through the many instances of giving recorded in both the Old and New Testaments you’ll find statements such as; every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 16:17) and from everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering (Exodus 25:1) or let each one give as he purposes in his heart…God loves a cheerful giver (I Corinthians 9:7). Notice that the amount is up to the giver but the act of giving is not. Everyone was responsible to give.

Anderson covers several more thoughts on this point but finishes with, “the bottom line is this: we determine the amount of our gifts. There is tremendous God-given freedom in that and responsibility too. As you take greater ownership of a relationship with your Father, you may be sensing that you have more responsibility. Giving is not a touchy-feely thing. You do not give only when you feel like it or wait until you’re prompted. Action is involved and personal standards should be set. Remember, the amount matters.”

Maybe with that kind of freedom, we will come to recognize that the tithe is simply a means of arriving at our personal standard. As we grow in relationship with God and as He blesses us, perhaps giving standards should be adjusted and the tithe may even be too small for the amount to matter.

I like how Anderson works through the debates today about how much because I believe that giving from our hearts will not be overly concerned with meeting some minimum requirement but will always want to find what is most pleasing to our Father. For me the tithe is just a starting point. When I see how much more God has blessed me than what ten percent represents, it makes me wonder how much I can give back. This little book has ignited my thoughts. How about yours?

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