I can say with absolute confidence that Satan does not want you to read this book.
Without a doubt, the enemy of your soul would do anything to keep you from discovering God’s principles governing financial stewardship, giving, and blessing. Why? Because once you do, it will transform your life for the better. It will bring you guaranteed financial results. But it will also do more than that: It will impact the kingdom of God.
You see, if every believer understood and applied the simple principles I am about to present, it would literally bring revival to the world. Every needed church facility could be built. Every missionary with a divine call and a willing heart could be sent and abundantly supplied. The gospel could saturate every culture on the planet.
Yes, as God’s people prospered, money would come into the kingdom; but much more importantly, our hearts would be changed!
That’s why I am so pleased (and the devil isn’t!) that you have picked up this book. Through these extraordinary truths, God will do an amazing work in your heart. He will change you forever. And, I promise, you will like it.
No one is a natural-born giver. We are all born takers. We enter this world with a fallen sin nature, and at the heart of that nature is a tendency toward selfishness.
In contrast, God is a giver. The most widely known verse in the bible tells us:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16).
God is generous beyond our ability to imagine. But it was selfishness and pride that caused Satan to be cast out of heaven.
Many people in our culture have that exactly backwards. They see God as stingy and the devil as the one who likes to pass out favors. So, if you are ever prone to getting confused about this issue, remember it this way: God and generous both begin with the letter G. Satan and selfish both begin with S. That should help you keep it straight!
To be serious for a moment, I am very excited for you. You are about to being a journey of discovery. I can tell you from personal experience, there is no greater adventure on Earth than simply living the life of generosity and abundance that is available to all of God’s people – but that so few ever dare to live. It is a journey of reward. It is the blessed life.
What exactly do I mean by “the blessed life”? What does a life filled with blessing look like?
Being “blessed” means having supernatural power working for you. By contrast, being “cursed” means having supernatural power working against you.
The days of the blessed person are filled with divine “coincidences” and heavenly meaning. A blessed man may or may not be wealthy by the world’s standards, but he enjoys a quality of life that most billionaires would envy.
At four separate points in the book of Deuteronomy, God tells those who will obey Him that He will bless everything to which they put their hands (see 14:29; 15:10; 23:20; 28:8, 12). That’s what the blessed life is like. Everything you touch does well.
Blessing permeates every aspect of a person’s life – health, relationships, work, family, emotions, and thoughts.
Sound good? Then read on, and let the adventure begin!
The Blessed Life 52-Week Devotional | Copyright © 2006 by Robert Morris. | Published by the J. Countryman® division of the Thomas Nelson Book Group, Nashville, Tennessee
Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God.
The odometer on our “highly experienced” station wagon showed upward of 130,000 miles as I rolled up to the pump at a little gas station in Oklahoma.
It was 1984, and I was a young evangelist. In those days, my wife, Debbie, and I would gladly drive to just about any place that would offer me an opportunity to preach.
We were on a journey that day in two senses of the word. Yes, we were on our way to minister the gospel. But this little filling station was also a stop on a voyage of discovery – one we had embarked upon about a month earlier. It was a journey into the power and joy of Spirit-led giving.
As I walked into the station to pay for my gasoline, the lady behind the counter said, “It’s taken care of.”
“Excuse me?” I asked, a little confused.
“It’s taken care of,” she repeated. “You don’t owe anything for the gas.”
Now I was genuinely confused. “Why is that?”
Very matter-of-factly, she said, “When you pulled up, God told me that you were an evangelist and that I was to pay for your gas. So it’s taken care of.”
Grateful and still a little startled, I thanked her warmly and went on my way.
That stop was a small but significant milestone on this journey I mentioned. The idea that the Spirit of God would speak to someone and instruct them to give wasn’t a new concept for me. In fact, this incident was a perfect example of the very thing God had begun to make a centerpiece of my ministry and my walk as a Christian.
THE NEXT LEVEL
As a traveling evangelist, all of my income came from the love offerings I received from the churches in which I preached. In those years, my income from offerings might be $800 one week and $200 the next. Debbie and I just never knew. But early in our marriage, we had learned to trust God where our finances were concerned.
We were diligent tithers. God had spoken clearly to us about the principle of the tithe several years earlier. And ever since we began honoring the Lord by giving the first tenth of everything that came in, our needs have always been met – sometimes miraculously. What we didn’t know was that God was about to take us to the next level.
As I mentioned, about a month before the surprise blessing at the gas station, God did something remarkable to get my attention where the matter of giving was concerned.
I was scheduled to preach at a church for only one night, and as it turned out, it was the only meeting I was scheduled to preach at all month. From a financial standpoint, that meant having only one opportunity to receive an offering instead of the usual four, five, or six. Although Debbie and I had grown in our ability to trust and rest in God, This represented a major budgeting challenge in the making.
At the close of the service, the church received a love offering on my behalf. Shortly thereafter, the pastor approached me with an envelope.
He said, “Robert, I’m pleased and amazed to tell you that this is the largest love offering this little church has ever given. God used you to bless us tonight, and I’m so happy to be able to give this to you.”
When I opened the envelope, I found a check for roughly the same amount as our entire monthly budget. In one meeting, God had miraculously provided what it normally took several meetings to produce. It was quite a lesson for us. But the lesson wasn’t over yet.
As I stood there holding that check, basking in the warm glow of gratitude and wonder, something happened to me that forever changed the course and quality of my life.
Earlier in that evening’s service, a missionary had given a brief testimony and update for the congregation. Now, as I looked across the nearly empty sanctuary, I caught sight of him. As I did, the unmistakable voice of the Lord spoke in my heart: “I want you to give him your offering – all of it.”
In an instant, I went from euphoria to something approximating panic. “Lord, that can’t be Your voice! I mean … after all … I … You … You just did a miracle here to meet our needs!”
Once again, the instruction came through, gently but clearly: “I want you to give him your offering.”
Like a kid who doesn’t want to hear what his brother is saying, I wanted to stick my fingers in my ears and sing loudly, “La, La, La, La, La …! What? I can’t hear you!”
“Give him the whole offering. Trust Me.”
I couldn’t shake it off. I tried to rationalize. I tried bargaining. I tried begging. The impression only grew stronger.
Ultimately, I waved the white flag and said, “Okay, Father, I trust You.” I endorsed the back of the check, folded it in half, and took a quick glance around the room to make sure no one was watching.
Walking up to the missionary, I said something like, “I really appreciated your testimony tonight. Please, don’t tell anyone about this, but I would like you to have this offering. The check is made out to me, but I have signed it over to you.” I handed him the check and walked away.
An hour later, I found myself seated with about twenty members of the church at a pizza place. Across from me sat a well-dressed man I barely knew. (We had met briefly on one other occasion.)
After a while, he leaned across the table toward me, looked me straight in the eye, and asked me a shockingly personal question. “How much was your offering tonight?”
Naturally, his question flustered me. I had never had anyone ask me that before, especially a near stranger! His boldness so caught me off guard that I didn’t know what else to do but answer him. So I told him the amount of the offering. I remember hoping that was the end of it. It wasn’t.
In the same authoritative manner, he asked me another question. “Where is the check?” What never! I remember thinking, What is he up to?
Of course, I no longer had the check, but I wasn’t about to tell him that. So, I am proud to tell you, this preacher lied through his teeth.
“Uh … my wife has it,” I said nervously. She was sitting at the other end of the long table – a nice, safe distance away. Now can we change the subject?!
“Go get it. I want to see it.” The man was relentless! Not knowing what else to do, I made a pretense of getting up to go ask her for the check. Bending down close to her ear, I asked, “How’s your pizza?” “Good,” she replied, giving me a perplexed look. “Great. Glad to hear it. Just checking,” I muttered and headed back down the table to my seat.
My ears heard another lie floating past my lips. “She left it out in the car,” I said, trying to make the car sound as if it was very, very far away. (At this point, not only was I trying to hide the fact that I had given my whole love offering away, but I was also covering the fact that this evangelist, who had just spent the evening proclaiming that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, had just lied!)
As tiny beads of perspiration began to pop out on my face, the gentleman leaned across the table and got uncomfortably close. “The check’s not in the car, Robert,” he stated in a low voice.
“How do you know that?” I responded, trying to sound a little offended.
“Because God told me – and He told me something else.”
At that point, the man spoke words that have rolled like thunder through my life ever since.
“God is about to teach you about giving so that you can teach the Body of Christ.” With that, he slid a folded piece of paper across the table. It was a check. The amount – to the penny was ten times the amount of the one I had given away only an hour or so earlier.
Ten times – to the penny.
That was the night this journey started.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Read Deuteronomy 28:8-13
Being”blessed” means having supernatural power working for you. But for that power to be accessed, you must be obedient to God’s instruction. Are you willing to carry out a specific task when He leads you? If the answer is sometimes or it depends, take time to reflect on why it’s not a resounding yes! Go to the “next level” and believe Him when He says, “The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand” (Deuteronomy 28:12).
The Blessed Life 52-Week Devotional | Copyright © 2006 by Robert Morris. | Published by the J. Countryman® division of the Thomas Nelson Book Group, Nashville, Tennessee
So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them.
“God wants to teach you about giving so that you can teach the Body of Christ.” Those words stayed at the forefront of our minds in the amazing months that followed that night at the pizza parlor. Debbie and I were wide open to anything God wanted to teach us. And, as a result, we saw God work wonders of provision over and over.
Sometimes He would prompt us to trust Him and give. Other times, He would use someone else to bless us unexpectedly.
For example, not long after that life-changing night, Debbie and I were at an in-home Bible study where we spoke with a couple who was about to leave on a missionary trip. They had asked us to pray for them before they left. They particularly requested prayer for their finances. “We don’t quite have all the money this trip will require,” they told us. They did not mention the amount needed but, as we prayed, I had a strong impression that the amount was $800.
At that point in our lives, $800 sounded like a very large sum of money. But we had it, because of the amazing tenfold blessing we had received at the pizza place.
That night, we were able to walk out to our car after the meeting and write a check. We caught them before they drove away and handed it to them. Of course, it was the precise amount they needed to be able to take that mission trip.
Frankly, it was the most exciting thing I had ever done. We were quickly beginning to discover how thrilling it is to be able to give when God tells you to do so.
Within the next few weeks, we had the encounter at the gas station I related last week.
Shortly after that, we went out to eat with a man who had just purchased a new van. We all rode in it to the restaurant and were talking about how nice the van was and how excited for him we were. When we returned to his home, he said, “Help me get my stuff out of my van,” so I began to gather up his cassette tapes and other items he pointed out. After several trips, I asked, “Do you even want that umbrella out of there? And, by the way, why are you moving all this stuff inside?”
His response was, “Because I’m giving you the van. But I need my umbrella!” “Excuse me?” I asked. He repeated, “I’m giving you this van. God told us to.”
Naturally, we were awestruck, grateful, and thrilled. The brand-new van had a value of more than $25,000!
Of course, that blessing raised another question. Now that we have this van, what do we do with the station wagon? It wasn’t much to look at, but it was good, reliable transportation.
After some prayer, we felt the Lord instructing us to give the station wagon to a family that we knew didn’t have a vehicle.
Almost immediately, someone we didn’t even know gave us another vehicle! “God told us to” was the familiar explanation.
After more prayer, we gave that vehicle away as well. Son, another one arrived to replace it. And then another one. And another one. Each time a vehicle landed in our driveway, we would give it away. And each time, another one would show up to take its place.
In the middle of this amazing sequence, God did something that, at first, puzzles us. In the case of one of the cars we were given, our prayer for direction brought this instruction from the Lord: “Don’t give this vehicle away. Sell it.”
At first, we weren’t’ sure we had heard God accurately. Seeking confirmation, we said, “Lord, are You sure You want us to sell this vehicle? We certainly have enjoyed giving them away.”
The clear reply came back, “No, I want you to sell the vehicle. I want you to sell it for $12,000.”
At church that weekend, a man walked up to me and said, “Hey Robert, would you like to sell that van?” Somewhat startled, I said, “Yes, as a matter of fact, I believe I’m supposed to sell it.” The man then said, “I think the Lord wants me to give you $12,000 for it. Is that acceptable?” Of course I sold him the vehicle.
The very next week we were scheduled to go on a mission trip to Costa Rica, so we put the $12,000 in the bank, awaiting instructions from the Lord on what to do with it.
A few days later, we found ourselves in Costa Rica riding in a dilapidated old van owned by the missionary we were there to assist. I was genuinely concerned about whether we were going to make it to our destination.
At one point, I asked the missionary, “Why don’t you buy a new van? I think this one is about to die and go to be with the Lord!”
“As a matter of fact, I am about to get a new van!” the missionary said very excitedly, “Last week, I was driving by a car lot, and the Lord told me to stop. Then He pointed out a van to me and said, ‘I want to give you that van, so I want you to pray over it’; so I did! I don’t know how the Lord is going to give me that van,” he continued, “but I know He will!”
Sensing the hand of God, I asked him, “How much do they want for it?” I’m sure you have already guessed the answer: $12,000. With great joy, my wife and I were able to write the check for $12,000 as soon as we got home.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The days of the blessed person are filled with divine coincidences and heavenly meaning. In other words, God is constantly showing His divine hand in situations so there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that there’s a higher power at work. And there’s no greater joy than being right in the center of it all! In story after story, I relate the joy of giving vehicles, special missionary offerings, and other gifts. What is the most joy you have ever experienced from giving a gift?
The Blessed Life 52-Week Devotional | Copyright © 2006 by Robert Morris. | Published by the J. Countryman® division of the Thomas Nelson Book Group, Nashville, Tennessee
The Lord will open up his heavenly storehouse so that the skies send rain on your land at the right time and he will bless everything you do.
DEUTERONOMY 28:12 , NCV
Throughout this remarkable season of giving, Debbie and I experienced tremendous blessing. Our income skyrocketed. It seemed the more we gave, the more God gave to us. It was as if we were truly living out the saying: You can’t outgive God.
Over the course of those eighteen months, it was our privilege to give away nine vehicles. What’s more, we were able to increase our giving to 70 percent of our gross income. We found ourselves living more comfortably on 30 percent that we previously had on 90 percent.
We simply encountered God’s blessings everywhere we turned. And around each corner, we learned new lessons in the power of Spirit-led giving. Just when we thought we were as radical about giving as we could possibly be, God would stretch us a little bit more.
For example, toward the end of that eighteen-month period, the Lord spoke to us about giving both of our vehicles away. He said, “Iwant you to give them both away. I’ll show you the couple to whom you are to give them; and another thing, I also want you to take every bit of money that you have in the bank and give it away, too.”
Needless to say, we wrestled with this one. When we prayed, we said, “Lord, You’re asking us to give everything away that we own. Are You sure this is what You’re saying?” And the Lord kept saying, “I’m sure, I’m sure.”
So we did. As the Lord showed us the recipients, we gave the vehicles away. We gave away all the money in our bank accounts. And we looked and listened diligently for instructions about giving away the house. In our hearts, we had already given the house away. We had fully released it. We just needed to know to what family we were to hand the title and the keys.
There we were – without transportation and without a dollar with which to buy any. As I sat in my house (which I no longer considered to be mind), I have to admit, I was having some carnal thoughts.
I remember thinking to myself, Aha! I’ve got Him. This time I’ve outgiven the Lord!
I recall having a very frank and honest discussion with God, saying, “Lord, You know, I think I’ve outgiven You this time. Yes, every time we gave a car away, You gave us another car. Well, this time I’ve given both my vehicles and all my money away! This time I think I’ve got You, Lord. I’ve outgiven You.”
Even as I said that, I sensed in my heart the Lord saying, “Oh, really!” At that moment, the telephone rang. On the other end of the line was a man who said, “Robert, God has spoken to me about helping you with your transportation.” (You need to know that, besides the recipients, no one on Earth knew of what Debbie and I had given. This man did not know we had given our vehicles away.)
My immediate thought was, Well, that’s a blessing. This man is going to give us a car. My assumption was that the pattern we had seen repeat itself so many times was about to play out once more. I must also admit that I thought, Well, Lord, even if he gives us a car, the fact remains that we gave away two cars, all of our money, and, in effect, our house. So I think I’ve still got You.
So I asked the man on the phone, “What did the Lord tell you to do?” He answered, “The Lord told me to buy you an airplane.” I was speechless.
He continued, “As a matter of fact, I bought the plane today; and I’ve parked it at the airport; and I’m going to pay for the hangar; and I’m going to pay for the fuel; and I’m going to pay for the insurance and maintenance on the airplane; and I’ve hired a pilot. I’m going to pay his salary, so anytime you want to go somewhere, just call him and he’ll fly you there. I’ll take care of all the expenses!”
As I stood there stammering and stunned, I heard the still, small voice of the Lord whisper in my spirit, “Gotcha.”
My friend, you can’t outgive God.
God only offers the only true guaranteed financial results available on Earth. There are principles, however, that we have to follow in order to experience God’s highest rewards.
They are the keys to living the blessed life.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I imagine your mind is reeling with thoughts about all the possibilities for your life if you were to change the way you handled your finances and possessions – at least I hope it is! If you begin taking steps outside your comfort zone in the area of giving, what do you think your life would look like? Bleak? Full of hardship? Poverty-ridden? Or would it look great, filled with blessing, joy, and provision?
And when the LORD takes you into the land of the Canaanites, the land he promised to give you and your ancestors, you must give him every firstborn male. Also every firstborn male animal must be given to the LORD.
EXODUS 13:11-12, NCV
We’ve heard the old saying many times: First things first.
There is a heap of biblical truth in that little cliché. So what are the “first things” where living the blessed life is concerned? Well, consider this: There are more than 500 verses in the Bible concerning prayer and nearly 500 verses concerning faith, but more than 2,000 verses on the subject of money and possessions.
Jesus talked about money in sixteen of His thirty-eight parables. Clearly, from the Bible’s standpoint, we need to understand money and how to handle it. Why? Because money is actually a test from God.
How you handle money reveals volumes about your priorities, loyalties, and affections. In fact, it directly dictates many of the blessings you will (or won’t) experience in life.
The very first principle you must grasp, if you are to understand giving, is the principle of firstfruits. It can also be called the principle of the firstborn or the tithe.
Frankly, far too many Christians are confused about tithing and the principle of firstfruits. (Please don’t tune me out, turn me off, or skip these pages, thinking, I’ve heard all that tithing stuff before. There is life-giving, liberating truth in what I am about to present to you. Don’t miss it!)
SACRIFICED OR REDEEMED
We find an important financial precedent established in the thirteenth chapter of Exodus. In this passage, God says, “Consecrate to Me all the first born, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine” (v.2).
Here, God plainly declares that the firstborn “is Mine.” It belongs to Him. In fact, you’ll find God declaring that the firstborn is His 16 times in Scripture! For example, Exodus 13:12-13 says, “That you shall set apart to the LORD all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the LORD’s. But every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.”
It is vital that you understand something about the principle of the firstborn. According to Old Testament law, the firstborn was to be either sacrificed or redeemed. There was no third option. Every time one of your livestock animals delivered its firstborn, you were to sacrifice it, or if it was designated unclean, you had to redeem it with a clean, spotless lamb. To summarize, the clean firstborn had to be sacrificed and the unclean firstborn had to be redeemed.
With that in mind, think about the account in the New Testament in which John the Baptist meets Jesus on the banks of the Jordan River.
John was baptizing one day and looked up to see Jesus walking toward him. At that point, John cried out, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
With that inspired declaration, John perfectly defined the role Jesus had come to fulfill. Jesus was God’s firstborn. Jesus was clean – perfect and unblemished in every way. On the other hand, every one of us was born unclean. We were all born sinners with a fully active sin nature.
Now think back to the principle of the firstborn in Exodus. Remember, the Law stated that if the firstborn animal was clean, it was to be sacrificed. But if the firstborn was unclean, it was to be redeemed with a clean animal.
Do you see the symbolic parallel? Jesus Christ was God’s firstborn Son, and He was born clean. He was born a pure, spotless lamb. But every one of us was born unclean; therefore, Jesus was sacrificed to redeem us.
When He redeemed us by His sacrifice, He bought us back for God. He was literally a firstfruits offering. In a very real sense, Jesus was God’s tithe.
God gave His tithe (Jesus) in faith before we ever believed.
Notice that God gave Him to us before we believed. Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
We have to give our firstfruits offering – our tithes – in much the same way. Before we see the blessing of God, we give it in faith.
God gave Jesus in faith “that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). In this sense, Jesus is God’s tithe. God gave jesus first, in faith, even when we were sinners – even as we were mocking Him and spitting in His face while He was dying.
God didn’t wait to see if we would first change or repent or make ourselves worthy. God knew the principle of first things first.
Have you ever wondered how God could justify taking the lives of Egypt’s firstborn in the final plague described in Exodus? It is because the firstborn belogs to God. God had a legal right to take every firstborn because every one of them in Egypt and in Israel belonged to Him!
But the firstborn in Israel didn’t die that night, did they? Why not? Because a lamb was sacrificed to redeem them. A spotless, perfect Lamb took their place!
You’ll recall that God instructed Moses to apply the blood of the sacrificed lamb to the doorposts of each home. They were to apply the blood to the mantle (the top of the door frame) and on the posts (the sides of the door frame) (see Exodus 12:7).
Imagine yourself standing outside one of those doors, dipping a hyssop branch in that lamb’s blood. See yourself applying the blood, first on the left side of the door frame, then going across and applying it on the right side and then reaching up and applying the blood in the middle of the mantle, on the top, so the blood would drip down.
Did you notice that, in following those steps, you created the form of a cross in blood? The Israelites were saved by the blood of the lamb in the form of a cross? And that’s precisely how we’re saved. God redeemed us in the same way – by giving His firstborn Son as a sacrifice.
The principle of the firstfruits is very, very powerful. I have heard it said that any first thing given is never lost, and any first thing not given is always lost. In other word, what we give to God we don’t lose, because God redeems it for us. But what we withhold from God, we will lose. Jesus echoed this principle when He said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25, NIV).
The first belongs to God. We find this principle all through God’s Word. We can give God the first of our time. We can give Him the first of our finances. That’s what tithing really is – giving our first to God. It’s saying, “God, I’m going to give to You first and trust You to redeem the rest.”
Put another way, when a firstborn lamb is born in a flock, it is not possible to know how many more lambs that ewe might produce. Nevertheless, God didn’t say, “Let your ewe produce nine lambs first and then give Me the next one.” No, God says, “Give Me the first one.”
It always requires faith to give the first. That’s why so few Christians experience the blessings of tithing. It means giving to God before you see if you’re going to have enough. By tithing, it is as if we are saying to God, “I recognize You first. I am putting You first in my life, and I trust You to take care of the rest of the things in my life.”
That’s why tithing is so important. It is the primary was we acknowledge that God is first.
The first portion is the redemptive portion. In other words, when the first portion is given to God, the rest is redeemed. In the same way, coming to church at the first of the week is a way of giving the Lord the first of your time.
Sadly, some people view Monday as the beginning of their week. They think, I have to get this week started right. I have to put some deals together and get some money in the bank. Thus, they give the first part of their week to money.
Other people think their week begins on Friday. They say, “Man, this weekend I’m really going to party and have a good time.” These people give the firstfruits of their time to recreation.
As God’s people, we need to give the first part of our week to Jesus. The reason the New Testament church met on Sunday was because they were celebrating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. They gave the first of their time to God in worship.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Tithing means giving to God before you see if you’re going to have enough – enough money and enough time. Do you agree that the firstfruits principle should be applied to both our money and time? Think of an example of how applying that principle would change how you prioritize and use both.
The first belongs to God. Not only the firstborn, but the firstfruits belong to Him as well.
In Exodus 23, we read, “The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God” (v. 19).
This verse goes even further and says it’s the first of your firstfruits that God wants. That means the last of your firstfruits isn’t acceptable. It’s not the tenth portion of your firstfruits; it’s the first portion of your firstfruits. Read the verse again: “The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God.”
Notice that the Scripture designates “the house of the LORD” as the proper place to give firstfruits. It doesn’t say to give them to a television ministry, although I believe strongly in supporting missionary work is near and dear to God’s heart (and mine!). It doesn’t say to give the first of your firstfruits wherever you want. It says to bring them “into the house of the LORD your God.”
We must always give to the Lord’s house first. This is an aspect of the principle of firstfruits that we need to understand. That’s why Proverbs 3 says, “Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine” (vv. 9-10).
As this passage suggests, tithing to the Lord’s house involves honoring the Lord with our possessions and with the firstfruits of all of our increase.
Now, in Old Testament times, most people were farmers. They raised animals and grew crops for their living. “Increase” came as crops were harvested and livestock reproduced. Today, you might be a banker or a lawyer or a teacher or a construction worker. Your increase comes in that way.
No matter how it comes, the Word makes it clear that we are to honor the Lord with the firstfruits of all of our increase. When we do, according to these verses, our “barns will be filled with plenty, and [our] vats will overflow” (v. 10).
Do you remember the account of the fall of Jericho in the book of Joshua? You’ll recall that the Lord gave strict instructions that the Israelites were not to keep any of the spoils from Jericho. All of it belonged to Him, the Lord declared.
Why did the Lord say that all of the silver and gold from Jericho had to be given to the Lord’s house? Because it was the first city conquered in the Promised Land. It was the firstfruits.
God was saying, “Bring all the silver and the gold from Jericho into My house and then you can have all of the rest.” He didn’t say, “Conquer ten cities and give Me all the spoils from the tenth one.” He essentially said, “Give Me the first and you can have the rest.” That took faith, of course – and so does tithing.
You’ll also remember that one person among the Israelites disregarded God’s clear instructions. The Israelites were told that the silver and gold were consecrated to the Lord (see Joshua 6:19), but a man named Achan took some for himself and became “accursed” (Joshua 6:18).
Thank about that. When the spoils were give to God, they were “consecrated” or set apart for God’s house; but after a man took some for himself, it was actually cursing Israel’s efforts to take the Promised Land.
Consecrated or cursed – that’s exactly what the tithe is all through the Bible. The tithe is consecrated to the Lord and for the Lord’s house. But if we take it for ourselves, it becomes a curse because it’s stolen.
In Malachi 3, God makes it clear that if we keep the tithe to ourselves, we are robbing God. What a sobering thing it is to consider that one can steal from God and, therefore, be under a curse: “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation” (Malachi 3:8-9).
It is amazing to me how many people try to overlook this Scripture or explain it away. Some say, “well, that’s in the Old Testament.” But in the very same chapter of Malachi, God says, “For I am the LORD, I do not change” (v.6).
We have already seen that the Lord clearly says that the firstborn belongs to Him (See Exodus 13:2) and the firstfruits are His (see Exodus 23:19). We also just heard Him say that the tithe belongs to Him (see Malachi 3:8-9).
Here is my question to those who contend that the principle of the tithe is no longer active: If God declares, “I do not change” (Malachi 3:6), then when did those things supposedly change? When did God change?
The tithe, the firstborn, and the firstfruits all belong to the Lord. This isn’t a law! It’s an unchanging principle established by an unchanging God.
Many people say, “Well, tithing was under the Law, so I don’t have to do it. We’re under grace now.” They need to know that there are many things that were under the Law that continue to be principles with God.
Would you believe anyone who asserted that because adultery was forbidden under the Law, it is now acceptable under grace? Would you accept an argument that stated that because stealing was forbidden under the Old Testament law, it is now acceptable under New Covenant grace? Of course not.
There are eternal principles throughout the Word of God, and tithing is clearly one of them. It is a principle that runs from Genesis to Revelation.
The tithe belongs to God. The firstborn belongs to God. And firstfruits belong to God.
Throughout my life as an evangelist and pastor, I have been amazed at the consistency of the testimonies I hear about tithing. In more than twenty-five years of ministry, every tither I have spoken with has given me a similar testimony; every nontither has also given me a similar testimony, but one that is different from those who tithe. (And keep in mind the biblical exhortation to let everything be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses [2 Corinthians 13:1].)
Without exception, tithers say, “I’m blessed,” or “God has blessed me.” They all give the testimony that God is blessing them. In contrast, every nontither I have ever spoken with gives this testimony: “I can’t afford to tithe.”
Now, I want you to think about these two statements and the two types of people they come from: All tithers give the testimony that they are blessed, and all nontithers give the testimony that they can’t afford to tithe.
I think Forrest Gump could discern the pattern on this one. He would probably say, “I’m not a smart man, but I’m going to tithe. And that’s all I have to say about that.”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Proverbs 3:9 commands us to “honor the Lord with [our] possessions.” I teach that the primary way we use our possessions to hone God is through our gifts of tithes and offerings. In what other ways can we use our possessions to honor God?
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.”
The principles of tithing, the firstborn, and firstfruits are biblical and eternal. Aligning you life and actions with them can’t help but bring God’s blessing.
We find a great example of this in Genesis 4: “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell” (vv. 3-5).
Many people have wondered for years, Why did God respect Abel’s offering but not Cain and his offering? The Word makes it a point to tell us very clearly that the offering Abel brought was the firstborn of his flock. But it doesn’t say that Cain brought of the firstfruits of his crops.
Notice that the passage says, “and in the process of time.” In other words, Cain grew his crops and the, “in the process of time,” got around to bringing an offering to the Lord. The implication is that he didn’t bring his firstfruits to the Lord. Could that be why God did not respect Cain’s offering? I believe so.
Abel, on the other hand, brought the firstborn of his flock to the Lord, and God accepted his offering.
There is a lesson in this for us. God is looking at our hearts when we give. And when we give of the first of our firstfruits or our tithe, God receives and respects that offering. The tithe is your first fruit. The tithe must be first! The Bible is clear on this matter: “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’s. It is holy to the LORD” (Leviticus 27:30)
I once heard Mike Hayes, pastor of Covenant Church in Carrollton, Texas, use an excellent illustration of this truth.
Now, if I had ten one-dollar bills to give away and asked two specific questions about them, I suspect most Christians would get the first one right but would scratch their heads at the second one.
Imagine, I’ve given you ten one-dollar bills and have laid them out on a table in front of you. Now, my first question is, “How much is the tithe on this money?” I think everyone would get that one right. The tithe on $10 is, obviously, $1. But here’s the more difficult question. Which one is the tithe? “Obviously, the first one,” you might say. But which one is the first one? Is it the one on your left or is it the one on your right?
Let’s say you get paid on Thursday and immediately pay all your bills, then buy groceries, and then write your tithe check before going to church. Have you tithed the first of your increase? No. Is it possible to give a full 10 percent and still not be tithing in accordance with God’s principle? Absolutely.
For understanding, let’s go back to the one-dollar bills. Which dollar is the tithe? Let me tell you how to decide that. The tithe is the first one spent or given. The first money that you spend represents your firstfruits. In other words, when you get paid, the first check you write should be the tithe check.
Is it really an act of faith to give 10 percent after all your other bills are paid? What does it say about our priorities when we willingly pay everybody else first and then see if there is enough left to give God His portion?
The first portion we spend should be the tithe. That is the firstfruit. And according to Exodus 13, that first portion is the redemptive portion. The first portion has the power to redeem the rest. This is the essence of Paul’s message in Romans 11:16: “For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.”
There are so many blessing that go along with tithing, but it is the principle of putting God first and the principle of faith that initiates the blessing. It is the trigger.
The first portion is the portion that redeems the rest. The first portion carries the blessing. That’s why you don’t want to give the first portion to the mortgage company. Unfortunately, it seems that many Christians fear the IRS and the mortgage company more than they fear God.
Another way to say that is, we respect them more that we respect the Lord. The tither say, “Yes, I have a stack of bills here, but I’m going to give to God first and trust Him to bless the rest of the ‘lump.’”
There was much more at stake than money when Abraham offered his firstborn son, Isaac. You’ll notice that Abraham didn’t wait to see if he had ten sons before he gave his first one. Nor did God go to Abraham when he only had Isaac and say, “After you have had four or five more sons, I’m going to come to you and ask you for one of them.”
No, God asked for the first when one was all he had! Abraham had only the promise of having more sons. It took faith for Abraham to offer Isaac. And faith is precisely what tithing requires. It is giving God the first, in faith.
When God asked for the firstborn lamb, you had to give it in faith, with only the promise and hope that the ewe would produce more. Many people say they’re putting God first, but true tithing is where the rubber meets the road. It is where we walk what we talk.
If you tell me that God is first in your life, then let me see your checkbook. Then we’ll really see who’s first in your life. Will it say the mortgage company is first in your life? Does it say the car company takes a higher place on your list of priorities? Or is it the clear testimony of your spending patterns that God is first?
When Satan comes against you with fear and says, “You’re going to go broke your marriage is going to fail, you’re going to get a disease,” you can firmly reply, “No, I’m a tither, and because I tithe, The Bible says that God will rebuke the devourer for my sake. Yes, for my sake! God is first in my life, and God is going to redeem and protect everything else in my life!”
Would you rather try to make it through life with 100 percent of your income – but all of it cursed? Or would you rather try to make it through life with 90 percent of your income and all of it blessed, redeemed, and protected by God?
Please keep in mind, I’m not proclaiming the truth about tithing because God needs money; I’m delivering these truths for you sake. God doesn’t need you to give – you need to be blessed.
My heart is broken for the Body of Christ because of our lack of understanding of these principles and our failure to walk in God’s blessings. My heart breaks because much of the Body of Christ is living under a curse as a direct result of stealing from God. I counsel people all the time who are struggling, having conflict in their marriages and strife in their homes for this very reason. They don’t understand that the firstborn, the firstfruits, and the tithe belong to God.
In 1 Corinthians 16, we read, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (vv. 1-2).
Paul is telling us we should give every week, on the first day of the week, as we prosper. The Amplified Bible says, “Put aside something and save it up as he has prospered [in proportion to what he is given].”) In other words, we should give to God in direct proportion to the size of our paychecks.
Notice that Paul began by saying for no collections to be taken when he comes (see v. 2). In other words: no special offerings. I long to see the day when we don’t have to have candy sales in the foyers of our churches or Saturday car washes, because every member of the church is tithing.
Of course, the reason churches have so many special offerings is that only 1.7 percent of our income is being given to God.
Imagine what God’s people could accomplish on the earth if His people faithfully gave Him the first 10 percent so that the remaining 90 percent is redeemed and blessed? Imagine the plans and purposes of God that could be advanced in this world if the church would wake up to the blessings that come as a result of having the faith to give the firstfruits! Oh, if only God’s people would put Him first in their lives!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The opposite of faith is fear. Satan uses fear to keep us from being financially faithful. And when he attacks you with fear regarding tithing, it is important to have a plan of action to abolish his attempts. What can you do so that faith will overcome? What Scripture can you memorize and recite? What song of blessing and praise can you sing? Is there an accountability partner you can call to pray for you?
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you life and down and when you rise up.
Last week we looked at Exodus 13:12-13. Now let’s examine the next two verses of that important passage:
So it shall be, when your son asks you in time to come, saying, “What is this?” that you shall say to him, “By strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. And it came to pass, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all males that open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem” (vv. 14-15).
Here God is instructing the Israelites on how to pass down the principle of the firstborn to future generations. He is saying, “When your child asks, ‘Why are we sacrificing this firstborn lam, Daddy?’ you are to sit him down on your knee and say, ‘Son, let me tell you about when we were in Egypt. Let me show you the scars on my back. Let me describe to you what it’s like to be a slave. We were in bondage. We were slaves, but God delivered us with a mighty hand. Because He set us free, this is the sacred covenant that we have made with God – to keep Him first in our lives. That’s why we gladly give Him the first of all our increase.’”
I can tell you that I have had the New Covenant version of this happen with my own family.
At some time or another in the lives of each of my children, they have come to me when I was writing out the tithe check and asked me if they could be the one to give the check in the offering that day. Invariably, when I would give them the tithe check, they would look at the amount and say something like, “Wow! That’s a huge amount of money, Dad. Why do we give this much to the church?”
And to each child I’ve been able to say, “You see, Daddy wasn’t always a Christian. I didn’t come to know Christ until I was nineteen years old, and before I met Him, my life was a total wreck. Let me describe to you what it was like being in bondage – a slave to sin – and how God delivered me with a mighty hand. That’s why I gladly give God the first of everything He blesses us with – not out of duty or compulsion. No, I gladly give my tithe to God because I want to let Him know that He is first in my life. And because we give our first to the Lord, He blesses us, protects us and provides for us.”
We must live out these truths, and we must pass them down to our children.
A life of blessing begins with a clear understanding and acceptance of the principle of the firstborn, firstfruits, and the tithe. Without that understanding, it is impossible to move on to the greater adventures God has in store for those who will put Him first.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Children are never too young to learn the principles of giving. And there’s nothing more powerful than a living example for them to observe. Let them witness your giving. Encourage them to give also. They will see much more than money going into a plate; they will see someone they love and trust committing their way to God, and they will want to do the same. Ask God to show you ways to pass down this principle in your family.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!
Tithing is life, not law.
I feel the need to make that statement right up front because of the strong dose of truth I’ve presented in the last few weeks. Over the years, I’ve had too many well-meaning but misguided Christians react to the message about tithing by telling me they don’t tithe because “tithing is part of ‘the Law.’”
With all my heart, I want you to understand something: Tithing is now law to me – it is life!
Let me say that again. I don’t tithe because tithing was a part of the Old Testament law; I tithe because it’s life to me and to my family. Moreover, as we began to see in the previous weeks, it is a principle that runs throughout the Word of God. In fact, we saw that it predates the law of Moses by thousands of years.
The principle of the tithe (or firstfruits or firstborn) was in operation as Abraham was asked to offer Isaac and when he gave a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedek – a representation of Jesus Christ (see Genesis 14:18-20; Hebrews 5:6-8).
This principle goes all the way back to the opening chapters of Genesis, where we see Abel’s offering accepted and Cain’s rejected. In a sense, it even goes back further than that! We can see the principle of the tithe in God’s instructions to Adam and Eve about the trees in the Garden of Eden.
“Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of knowledge of and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (Genesis 2:15-17).
Notice that in giving Adam and Eve stewardship of the Garden, God gave them every tree from which they could eat freely except for one. Exercising faithful stewardship of the Garden meant leaving that one tree alone. They were not to take that fruit for themselves and consume it. Being faithful stewards meant life to Adam and Eve. By choosing to eat of the fruit of the tree, they were acting like owners rather than stewards.
Isn’t that precisely how the principle of the tithe operates for us? God gives us stewardship responsibility over our lives. Though it all belongs to Him, He richly gives us all things to enjoy (see 1 Timothy 6:17). But He has asked us not to touch the first fruits. “The tithe and the firstfruits are mine,” says the LORD.
We demonstrate faithful stewardship – we show God that we realize that we are stewards, not owners – when we give Him the tithe.
As each of the previous examples shows, the tithe completely transcends the Old Testament law. But that shouldn’t surprise us, because so do many other eternal principles.
Imagine what you would think if, one Sunday morning you visited the church I pastor, and as I was preaching, I suddenly pulled out a gun and shot someone in the congregation. What if, when asked, “Why did you do that? The Bible says you’re not supposed to murder,” my response was, “Well, ‘Thou shalt not kill’ was part of the Law. I’m not under the Law. I’m under grace.
What would you think about that? You would probably point out to me that respecting human life and not murdering are principles that run all through the Bible.
I am using a very absurd illustration to make an important point. Just because something was mentioned in the law of Moses doesn’t mean that we can throw it out now.
Let me address this issue in another way. If something was wrong under the Law, can it be right under grace? In other words, since murder was wrong under the Law, is it now right under grace? Of course not.
Now let me turn the question around. If something was right under the Law, is it now wrong under grace? Specifically, tithing was clearly the right thing to do under the Law. The Old Testament makes that clear. But is it now the wrong thing to do under grace? Certainly not.
We can’t afford to throw out any vital principles in the Word of God – and tithing is a principle that runs all through Scripture.
What most Christians fail to comprehend is that tithing is a test.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Tithing is no law – it is life. From the Sermon on the Mount, we see that Jesus uses the Old Testament law to set a higher standard. Instead of “Thou shalt not kill” (Matthew 5:21), Jesus tells us to not even be angry with someone (vs. 22). How does this principle apply to the tithe?
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.”
In Matthew 6, we find the familiar words, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (v. 21).
I want you to notice that it doesn’t say where your heart is, there your treasure will be also (even though many people quote and apply it as if it did). It basically says that your heart follows your treasure. That is why tithing represents a test for every Christian. Keep reading and you’ll see what I mean.
The word translated “tithe” in the Bible Literally means “tenth” or “a tenth part”. And do you know what the number ten represents all through the Bible? It represents testing.
Let me give you a few examples. How many plagues were there in Egypt? In other words, how many times did God test Pharaoh’s heart? The answer is ten.
How many commandments are there? In other words, in how many ways is our obedience tested? The answer is ten.
How many times did God test Israel while they were wandering in the wilderness? And how many time did God test Jacob’s heart (by allowing his wages to be changed) when he was working for Laban? Or how many days was Daniel tested in the first chapter of the book of Daniel? In each case, the answer is, of course, ten.
The pattern continues in the New Testament. In Matthew 25, ten virgins had their preparedness tested. Ten days of testing are mentioned in Revelation 2:10. And, of course, Jesus had ten disciples. (Actually, He had twelve, but I was just testing you!)
What is true is that the number ten is associated with testing throughout the Bible. And the tithe represents the ultimate “heart test” for the believer. But, more significantly, tithing is also the only area in which the Christian is invited to test God:
“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, NIV, emphasis added).
I remember having a conversation with God about this passage. I said something like, “God, why did You put those verses in the Old Testament? I mean, they only missed the New Testament by just a page or two. Why couldn’t You have waited and put those verses in the New Testament? Didn’t You know that everybody would try to explain these away because they are in the Old Testament?”
To that question, I felt as if the Lord spoke to my heart and answered, “I put those verses exactly where I want them. You see, tithing is a test of the heart. If I had put them in the New Testament, it wouldn’t be as much of a test as it must be.” Then the Lord said, “However, I did put verse 6 in there for you.”
At that point, I remembered what the Lord says in Malachi 3:6. As I pointed out in the previous chapter, in this verse He says, “For I am the LORD, I do not change.”
Tithing truly is a test. The truth of this passage seems so simple to me. If I tithe, I’m blessed; if I don’t, I’m cursed. Hmm, that’s a touch decision. Let me think about that. Tithe – I’m bless. Don’t tithe – I’m cursed. Blessing? Or curses? For me, that one really isn’t that hard to figure out.
Still unsure about this tithing business? Then take God up on the offer He makes in Malachi 3:10. Test Him on it!
“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, NIV, emphasis added).
God is essentially saying, “Test me in this, I dare you, I double-dog dare you!” (Excuse my East Texas paraphrasing.) But clearly, God is saying, “Test Me.”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I want to extend a friendly challenge to you. Do the test! Begin to honor the Lord diligently with your firstfruits – the tithe – and see what happens.
“Don’t think that I have come to destroy the law of Moses or the teaching of the prophets. I have not come to destroy them but to bring about what they said.”
MATTHEW 5:17, NCV
In response to my teaching on tithing, I have heard some people say, “This curses thing doesn’t apply to me. As a believer, I can’t experience any curses because Jesus bore the curse of the Law for me on the cross.” This does bring up an important issue. Let’s examine it.
The Bible does clearly state that Jesus bore our sins, sicknesses, sorrows, pains, and shame on the cross. It is difficult to read Isaiah 53 without becoming overwhelmed with awe and gratitude for what Jesus did for us on the cross.
In Galatians 3, we also find a wonderful passage about the work of redemption that Jesus performed for us: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (vv. 13-14).
Without a doubt, Jesus bore all of these things – and more than we can imagine – on the cross. Now, let me ask you to consider something. As we just noted, Jesus bore your sin on the cross. First Peter 2:24 says, “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might life for righteousness – by whose striped you were healed.” But have you sinned since you became a believer?
I’m sure the answer to that is yes. So think about that. Even though Jesus bore your sins on the cross, you have, nevertheless, sinned since you believed.
In a similar vein, we have also noted that Jesus bore our sicknesses as well. That is wonderfully, gloriously true. Yet have you ever been sick since you became a Christian? I know I have.
Even though Matthew 8:17 says, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet saying, ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses,’” we still battle the curse of sickness from time to time.
We must all appropriate, by faith, what Jesus did for us on the cross. And when we don’t, we continue to experience some of the effects of the curse.
As believers, if we disobey the Word of God, we can still experience the effects of the curse. That applies to our finances just as surely as it does to our physical bodies. Can we, if we are in willful violation of God’s principles of firstfruits, see our finances come under a curse? Yes, we can.
Malachi 3, in which God promises to “rebuke the devourer” (v. 11) on our behalf if only we will dare to trust Him and obey.
LAW AND GRACE
As I have noted previously, a common excuse for failing to tithe is, “I’m under grace, not the Law.”
The grace of God really is amazing. Yet far too few Christians truly understand what grace is or how it operates. For one thing, the righteousness of grace always exceeds the righteousness of the Law. This is the essence of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will be no means enter the kingdom of heaven (vv. 17-20, emphasis added).
In this passage, we see an important truth – the righteousness of grace always exceeds the righteousness of the Law. Notice that each time Jesus points to an Old Covenant law, He then sets a higher standard under New Covenant grace.
For example, the Law said not to commit murder (see Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17), but Jesus said not even to be angry with your brother (see matthew 5:22). A higher standard! The Law said not to commit adultery (see Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18), but Jesus said not even to look at a woman lustfully (see Matthew 5:28). Once again, a higher standard.
In other words, the righteousness that grace demands (and Jesus is grace) goes further than that which the Law demands.
That’s why I smile when someone says to me, “I don’t tithe because I’m not under the Law. I’m under grace.” I respond by saying, “Oh, so you give according to grace?” “Yes, that’s right.” Then I say, “Great! That means you give much more than 10 percent, because the righteousness of grace always exceeds the righteousness of the Law. It’s a higher standard.”
The point is that there are certain principles that permeate the Word of God, and tithing is one of them.
Yes, when we give according to grace, we will give more than the tithe, but we start with tithing. The first 10 percent should be given as a firstfruits offering because it is a bedrock principle in the Word of God.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Tithing should come from the heart – not from a legalistic mind. It should come from a desire to trust, obey, and please God – not from a sense of obligation, guilt, or duty. True tithing from the heart does not leave you resentful or needy – it leaves you surrounded in the abundance of blessing, joy, and satisfaction that no other source can provide. Does the standard of giving that you practice meet, exceed, or fall short of the principle of the tithe?
But Melchizedek, who received a tenth from Abraham, continues living, as the Scripture says.
HEBREWS 7:8, NCV
I suspect many believers think that the only Scripture on tithing is the one we read earlier in Malachi. Let me show you just a few of the other places in the Word where the principle of the tithe is established. In Genesis 14, we find a passage I have already mentioned: “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ And he gave him a tithe of all” (vv.18-20).
A full 430 years before tithing was a part of the Mosaic law, Abraham tithed to Melchizedek. According to the book of Galatians, Abraham is our spiritual father and Melchizedek is a type of Jesus Christ (some prominent Bible teachers think he might even have been Jesus Christ Himself!). Melchizedek’s titles were “king of righteousness” and “king of peace” – and, of course, Jesus is the true King of righteousness and peace.
We also know that Melchizedek is a type of Christ because the Bible explicitly says so. In Hebrews 5, the inspired writer says of Jesus: “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest ‘according to the order of Melchizedek’” (vv. 9-10, emphasis added).
Likewise, the entire seventh chapter of Hebrews is devoted to showing how Jesus is the fulfillment of all the types and shadows embodied in Melchizedek. It gives particular attention to the fact that Abraham tithed to Melchizedek.
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Sond of God, remains a priest continually (vv. 1-3, emphasis added).
So Abraham, our spiritual father, tithed to Melchizedek, who was either Jesus Christ Himself or a symbolic representation of Christ. Moreover, all this occurred 430 years before the Law.
There is one other important thing mentioned later in this passage that I want you to see: “Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he [Jesus] receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives” (Hebrews 7:8).
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
According to this remarkable verse, Jesus receives tithes in heaven. When you write your tithe check, you may think you’re giving it to your local church, but in a very real, spiritual sense, true tithers have their offerings received by the Lord Jesus Himself.
What a privilege! What a holy thing! And what a loss for those who never take the step of faith and tithe. Ask God to give you the revelation that you are tithing to Jesus and meditate on giving to Christ Himself this week!
They started out in service to Christ, and they have been accepting nothing from nonbelievers. So we should help such people; when we do, we share in their work for the truth.
3 JOHN 1:7-8, NCV
In Genesis 28, we find the patriarch Jacob having his famous encounter with God in a dream, with a rock as his pillow. His life and heart having been changed, he rises and says, “And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to you” (v. 22, emphasis added).
Jacob’s vow to tithe came straight from his grateful heart. That’s what I want you to see. True tithing comes from the heart – not from a legalistic mind. I also want you to note that this promise came four hundred years before the Law.
Llike his grandfather Abraham, Jacob wanted to give God the first of his firstfruits – the first 10 percent. Having experienced the sweetness of God’s presence and the goodness of His favor, Jacob wanted to bless Him. It was a heart thing.
That’s why tithing is life to me, not law. And when it becomes life to you, it will be one of the greatest joys of your life.
We see another insight into the power of tithing in Leviticus 27. We find God giving instructions to the Israelites about how to prosper in the land of promise:
“And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’s. It is holy to the LORD” (v. 30).
God considers the tithe holy. The word holy means “separated” and “set apart”. In other words, the first 10 percent is to be separated and set apart for the Lord. It is not for me to determine what to do with it. It is God’s tithe.
In Deuteronomy 26, God says, “And it shall be, when you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide” (vv. 1-2).
A little further down in this chapter, God says:
Then you shall say before the LORD your God: “I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. I have not eaten any of it when in mourning, nor have I removed any of it for an unclean use, nor given any of it for the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the LORD my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded me” (vv. 13-14).
Notice the key phrase, “I have removed the holy tithe from my house.”
When you understand that the tithe is holy, you don’t want it in your house. You want to get it to the house of God where it belongs. You don’t use part of it for your vacation. You don’t use it to pay for your children’s school tuition. You know that holy means set apart.
THESE YOU OUGHT TO HAVE DONE
The New Testament isn’t silent about the principle of the tithe either. In fact, Jesus made a very plain statement on the subject in Matthew 23: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (v. 23).
Jesus is obviously scolding the Pharisees here. He points out that they are meticulous about tithing, but that they have “neglected the weightier matters of the law.”
But I want you to notice what He says at the end of this stinging indictment. He declares, “These [meticulous tithing] you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” In other words, He says to them, “Yes, tithe of all your increase, but don’t neglect the vitally important heart issues of justice, mercy, and faith.”
Think about it. What we just read is, in my opinion, one of the most amazing Scriptures on tithing. Jesus Himself affirmed the tithe. I don’t know how anyone with a soft heart toward God could get around this.
Of course, tithing isn’t a grim duty. It isn’t a dry religious exercise. And it isn’t a punishment. It is an amazing opportunity that brings tremendous benefits to the tither. We see this in action in 2 Chronicles. This is a long passage about a decree of King Hezekiah, but it is worth the time it takes to read:
Moreover he commanded the people who dwelt in Jerusalem to contribute support for the priests and the Levites, that they might devote themselves to the Law of the LORD. As soon as the commandment was circulated, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of grain and wine, oil and honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything. And the children of Israel and Judah, who dwelt in the cities of Judah, brought the tithe of oxen and sheep; also the tithe of holy things which were consecrated to the LORD their God they laid in heaps. In the third month they began laying them in heaps, and they finished in the seventh month. And when Hezekiah and the leaders came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD and HIS people Israel. Then Hezekiah questioned the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps. And Azariah the chief priest, from the house of Zadok, answered him and said, “Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat and have plenty left, for the LORD has blessed His people, and what is left is this great abundance” (31:4-10, emphasis added).
The gist of this passage is this: When God’s people began to tithe, God began to bless them even more. The more they were blessed, the larger their tithes grew. This upward cycle of blessing and abundance resulted in heaps of goods and food in God’s house.
When Hezekiah came and saw the heaps, he basically said, “Explain this to me; are the people doing okay? They have given so much!” And the priests said something like, “You need to understand something, King. Since the people began to tithe, God has blessed them. What you see here is the tithe of the abundance with which God has blessed them.”
This passage illustrates the two parallel results of tithing. It blesses God’s people, but it also brings provision into God’s house. Remember what God said in Malachi: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house” (3:10, emphasis added). King Hezekiah commanded the people to bring in the tithe so that the priests might devote themselves to studying the Word of God.
Can you imagine what the body of Christ could accomplish if every believer tithed? What kind of impact could the Church have on our culture and on cultures around the world if the heaps would begin to accumulate in our houses of worship? How much more effective could your pastor be if he had a support staff that liberated him to devote his time to the Word and prayer?
I am so blessed and grateful to pastor a congregation of people who have embraced God’s life-giving truth about tithing. As the senior pastor, I see my main responsibility as leading and feeding the congregation. As a result, I spend most of my time studying, praying, and seeking the Lord.
Why am I able to do so? Because I have a gifted executive senior pastor who takes care of all the details of church administration and management. Because we have so many tithers, we also are able to provide numerous other pastors and ministers with specialized areas of responsibility.
In contrast, most pastors have to do everything themselves because the resources to hire support staff simply aren’t available. They have to do all the hospital visitation, all the counseling, and all the administration of the church business.
These pastors are still expected to bring fresh, relevant, powerful sermons each Sunday. They are still expected to be God’s man of anointing and power.
Oh, how I wish every pastor had the time and the staff that I have so that they could spend more time with the Lord. This will happen as god’s people come to understand the power of tithing and the benefits they will receive when their pastors are able to study, pray, and bring them messages from the throne room of God every week.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Have you been part of a fund-raising effort that not only reached its goal but also went over it? What psychological effect did that success and abundance have on the members of the organization? Imagine how your pastor would feel if the offering this Sunday were well above the weekly budget. What impact would it have on his attitude as a minister the following week?
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
Our perspective on tithing will change when we begin to see the local church as a visible manifestation of God’s bride.
Consider this illustration:
I have to go on an extended journey, and I choose three men for a special responsibility. I say to those three men, “I’m going to send you each $10,000 every month. You may keep $9,000 of the money and spend it as you please. But I want you to give $1,000 each month to my wife for the meeting of her needs.”
As promised, I send each of these men $10,000 monthly. After a few months, I call my wife and ask her if she is receiving the support I had arranged. Her reply is, “Well, the first one is sending $1,000 each month, just as you instructed him. The second one is actually sending $2,000 a month. I don’t know why, but he is. But the third one sent $800 the first month, $300 the second month, and nothing the third month.”
Now, as a husband who loves his wife with all his heart, what do you think I’m going to do? I am the one providing the money to these men. I’ve told them they can keep $9,000 for themselves. All I wanted them to do was give a mere 10 percent so that there could be food in my house? (See Malachi 3:10.)
Well with the first man who was being faithful to follow my instructions, I am going to continue sending him that $10,000. But for the third man – the one who wasn’t satisfied with the 90 percent I graciously gave him – I am going to quit sending him $10,000 a month and send it to the most generous man instead. Why? Because I can trust the second man. He has demonstrated that he cares about what I care about. He is a good steward.
What the third man was doing was the same as stealing from me. (Remember the verse, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed you?’ In tithes and offerings” [Malachi 3:8].)
Now let me bring this illustration home. Jesus has gone away for a season of time. He has said to each of us, “I want you to take care of My bride (the church) while I am away by giving 10 percent to My house. You can spend the remaining 90 percent as you desire.”
Those who obey will be blessed. Those who go above and beyond will be blessed even more. But from those who refuse to do even the minimum. He’s going to take what they have and give it to someone who will be a good steward with it.
Matthew 25:29 says, “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” The rewards of good stewardship are great.
God doesn’t change. Tithing remains an extraordinary opportunity for blessing and abundance for those with the faith to trust Him.
It is also the foundation upon which all the other principles I’m going to share with you in the weeks ahead are built. The blessed life awaits you. However, it begins with a heart commitment to honor, obey, and bless the Lord with your tithe.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Tithing shows we care about what matters to God. It shows we care about His bride – the church. Tithing blesses God, and in return, He blesses the one who tithes, creating an upward cycle of blessing and abundance. What is your giving telling god about how much you love and care for His bride?
Some people are like land that gets plenty of rain. The land produces a good crop for those who work it, and it receives God’s blessings.
HEBREWS 6:7, NCV
Have you ever wished you could multiply your money? Well, I have wonderful news for you: God is able to do it.
Of course, that shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. He multiplied oil and meal for a poor widow and her son. He multiplied the strength of outnumbered Israelite soldiers in battle after battle. And He multiplied fish and loaves on a couple of Galilean hillsides. Clearly, God is a Master of multiplication.
In Luke 9 we find the account of one of those miraculous multiplications – the feeding of the 5,000:
When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. Then He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.” And they did so, and made them all sit down. The He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude. So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them (vv. 12-17).
You are probably very familiar with this story, but let’s modernize and personalize it a bit. You may see some things you have never noticed before.
Put yourself in the place of the disciples. See yourself as one of the Twelve – you’re basically a member of the official Messiah search committee. That means you’re trying to determine whether or not Jesus is the true Messiah. You’ve left your fishing boats and begun traveling with Him on a nationwide speaking tour.
One day, an enormous crowd gathers. You are very excited because this is the most people ever to attend one of these traveling seminars. Counting the heads of households, you come up with a figure of about 5,000 men plus women and children. That means there are probably 15,000 to 20,000 people gathered on the hillsides listening to Jesus. (You are amazed at how far a voice can carry from the tops of these hills.)
He preaches all morning, and you expect Him to wrap up around noon (the time everyone is used to getting out of church so that they can get to the cafeteria ahead of the Essenes and the Sadducees). But He doesn’t. He keeps right on teaching.
You think, Well, He’s preaching well and everyone seems to be enjoying it. We’ll let Him go a little bit longer today. Then 12:30 p.m. comes and goes, and He is still preaching. One o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock, and four o’clock all come and go, and still the prophet continues expounding on the Scriptures!
By five o’clock, you are beginning to hear from your associates. “The people are hungry, and all the restaurants are going to close soon!” The fact is, you’re not sure whether it’s really the people who are hungry or just your associates. But, being pretty famished yourself, you go to Jesus.
“Lord, please excuse the interruption, but uh … some of the other disciples and I were starting to, uh … You know … get concerned about the people …. You know how people are. I mean, uh … they haven’t eaten all day, and now the restaurants are going to close. So, we were thinking that You might want to … You know, uh … dismiss the service.”
And so the Lord turns to you and matter-of-factly says, “You give them something to eat,” and then returns to His teaching.
You let the implications of His words sink in. There are 15,000 to 20,000 hungry people scattered across those hillsides, and the Lord tells you to give them something to eat.
So, you go back to the committee. “Did you tell Him that the people were hungry?” they ask. You nod. “Did you tell Him that He needs to dismiss the service?” You nod again.
“Well, is He going to dismiss the service?”
“Not exactly,” you tell them sheepishly.
“Not exactly? What does that mean? Didn’t you tell Him that the people need to eat?!”
“And what did He say?”
“He said we should give them something to eat.”
“Come again? For a minute there, I thought you said we were supposed to give them something to eat.”
“That’s what the Master said.”
So you all fan out to see how much food you can scrounge up. Thirty minutes later, you meet back up and take inventory.
“Let’s see,” you announce to the committee, “altogether we have … two fish sticks, five hushpuppies, a Long John Silver’s kid’s meal sack, and a SpongeBob SquarePants action figure. Perfect!”
You, of course, draw the short straw, so you have to report back to Jesus. “Excuse me, Lord. Sorry to interrupt You again,” and you go on to give Him the exciting news about your food collection efforts. Now, surely, He will dismiss the service, you say to yourself. (Looking nervously at your watch, you try to calculate how fast you’ll have to walk in order to make it to the Bethsaida Pizza Hut before it closes.)
Then Jesus looks at you, smiles, and says, “That’s great! Have the people sit down in groups of fifty.” Stunned, you head back to the committee.
“Is He going to dismiss the service?” they ask when they see you coming. They’re sounding a little irritable. Low blood sugar, you think.
“He wants us to have the people sit in groups of fifty.”
“Didn’t you tell Him that all we have to feed 20,000 people is a Long John Silver’s kid’s meal?”
“Yep. Groups of fifty.”
What follows would be funny if you weren’t so hungry and exasperated. Have you ever watched twelve guys try to organize 20,000 men, women, and children into groups of fifty? Herding cats across Texas would be a breeze by comparison.
Ultimately, you and the committee have everyone grouped as instructed (that’s the first miracle of the afternoon).
As you return to Jesus, you can’t help but try to figure out how He’s going to provide for this group. (That’s the tendency for all of us. We want to figure out in advance how God is going to provide for our needs. We’re usually wrong.)
At that point, Jesus takes the fish and hushpuppies, looks up toward heaven, and blesses them.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
We must be obedient to God’s instruction for the principle of multiplication to set into action. This is especially hard when we can’t figure out in advance how God is going to provide for our needs. What situation in your life are you facing right now that you can’t see how God is going to provide? Will you choose to trust Him this week? What can you do to help yourself stand strong in your faith and belief that He will do as He’s promised?
And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes.
Read Luke 9:12-17 once again. I took some creative liberties with this story in last week’s devotion in hopes of encouraging you to put yourself in the shoes of the disciples that day. I want you to see, in your mind’s eye, what happened out there on that hillside.
After He blessed the food, Jesus began breaking it in half and handing it to the disciples. Can you imagine what someone like Peter was thinking as he looked down at that half piece of bread? He had handed Jesus a whole piece and only got back half!
I just wonder if Peter, looking down at that little fragment, might have said to the Lord, “Uh, are You sure You’re through praying? Wouldn’t You like to pray a little more?” The Lord might have said, “No, I’ve blessed it. Now go give it away.”
Peter walked away with that half piece of bread in His hand and obediently broke it in half the same way he had seen Jesus do. Handing out chunks of bread, he broke it in half again and again and again. This is what we’ve missed in this remarkable story. The miracle didn’t happen in the Master’s hands – it happened in the disciples’ hands. You know the outcome. With each of the disciples duplicating this pattern, the result was twelve big baskets of leftovers.
Embodied in this real-life account, there are two very important principles for us. They are the two keys to multiplication in the kingdom of God.
The first principle is this: Something must be blessed before it can multiply. What many Christians fail to understand is that before your money can multiply, it has to be blessed. In other words, it has to be given to the Lord first.
As we have seen in previous chapters, when we give the first of our increase, the tithe, to the Lord, the rest of it is blessed. Remember the words of Romans 11, “For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches” (v. 16).
I know many sweet Christians who have never seen their finances multiply. And often the reason is that the money hasn’t been blessed. When you it to the Lord first and the Lord puts His blessing on it, then, and only then, does it have the ability to multiply.
Jesus, the One who receives our tithes, is the only One who has the power to bless it so that it can multiply. That’s the first principle of multiplication.
There is a second principle of multiplication: Only what is given away can multiply.
In the example we were just exploring, the disciples had the bread and the fish. It had been blessed, and so it had the potential to multiply. But if they had just eaten it themselves, it would have remained five loaves and two fish. It would never have multiplied. They would have had a couple of bites of food each instead of full stomachs and twelve baskets of leftovers. They had to give it away so that it could multiply.
This is another thing I have observed in those who have said to me, “I’ve never seen my finances multiply.” Sometimes those who are tithing give little or nothing over and above the tithe. They don’t realize that only that which is given away can multiply. “But isn’t tithing a form of giving?” you may be asking.
I believe there is a difference between tithing and giving. I believe that tithing is simply returning to God that which He has said is His. Giving our firstfruits, our first 10 percent to the Lord via a local church, is what causes that which is ours to be blessed.
You can’t give that which doesn’t really belong to you. The firstfruits are the Lord’s. The rest is yours to keep or give as you choose. It is from this account that you give what the Bible often refers to as offerings.
Tithing isn’t really giving – it’s returning. It is bringing back to the Lord what is already His. Thus, the second principle of multiplication is that finances over and above the tithe must be shared if they are to multiply.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Key #1: Something must be blessed before it can multiply.
Key #2: Only what is given away can multiply.
These truths are straightforward and simple, so why are they difficult for us to apply? Would you agree that when you rely on how God is going to provide, it’s easier to fall into state of worry than it is to be obedient? Would you say that God is part of the equation when you worry? Decide this week that you’re going to give first to the Lord and then to others also so your finances can be blessed and multiplied!
He will make you rich in every way so that you can always give freely… This service you do not only helps the needs of God’s people, it also brings many more thanks to God. It is a proof of your faith.
2 Corinthians 9:11-12, NCV
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a story of three stewards. One steward was entrusted with five talents. When accounting time came around, he returned those five talents to the Lord, plus five more. And the Lord said, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (v. 21).
There was another steward who was entrusted with two talents, and, likewise, he returned to the Lord more than He had given him.
But then there was the third steward – the one who was entrusted with one talent. He said to the Lord, “There you have what is yours” (v. 25). He only returned to the Lord what was already His. And the Lord called him a wicked and lazy servant.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that anyone who only tithes is wicked and lzy. I am saying, however, that there is a principle of faithful stewardship that teaches that we should give more to God than just the tithe because tithing is simply returning to Him what is already His.
If you’re not currently tithing, that is certainly the place to start. Tithing is where we remove the curse. Tithing is what brings the blessing on the balance of our finances. Tithing is what causes God to rebuke the devourer and open the windows of heaven. It is the foundation on which our giving is built.
But if you look closely at Malachi 3, God mentions more than the tithe there. He mentions “tithes and offerings” (v. 8).
In other words, it’s tithes and offerings that remove the curse. It’s tithes and offerings that bring the blessings. It’s tithes and offerings that rebuke the devourer.
I’m convinced that God wants to bless and multiply our finances – just as He blessed and multiplied the two fish and the five loaves.
The truth is that God can cause our finances to go further than we could ever cause them to go through our own cleverness or diligence. I know this is true, because I’ve seen it operate in my own life over and over.
God wants your finances to be blessed, and He wants your finances to be multiplied. But it is vital to understand that you will never see the multiplication of your finances until you understand these two principles.
We give to the Lord first so that our finances are blessed.
We give over and above our tithes because only that which is shared can be multiplied.
These are the principles of multiplication. And they are as powerful today as they were on the Galilean hillside.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
2 Corinthians 9:10 says, “Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness. …” Consider how this passage applies to a mind-set of multiplication and abundance. What can you do to help yourself maintain a mind-set of multiplication and abundance throughout the week?
Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
In less politically correct times, before all things remotely Christian were purged from public schools, many high school students were required to read John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost.”
If you were one of them, you know this poem painted a pretty detailed portrait of hell. In it, Milton showed Satan as a fallen commander in chief surrounded by his demon generals. Among them are Moloch, Dagon, Astarte, Osiris, and Belial.
Each of these, of course, was the god of an idol-worshiping culture in ancient times and is mentioned in the Bible. But Milton’s poem depicts another demon standing at Satan’s side. That demon’s name is Mammon.
You may recognize “mammon” as a New Testament word. Jesus mentions it in a couple of places. For example, in Matthew 6, Jesus declares, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (v. 24).
After reading this verse, you can see why Milton would lump a demon named Mammon in with all those Old Testament idols. Jesus clearly suggests that it is possible to serve mammon instead of serving God, but He goes even farther; Jesus states it is impossible to serve both at the same time.
He says that you will love the one and hate the other. You will be loyal to one and despise the other. According to Jesus, there is no middle ground – no half-and-half. But just as our God is a jealous God, Mammon is a jealous god too.
Jesus certainly makes a striking contrast between the Spirit of God and the spirit of mammon. But just what is mammon?
“Mammon” is an Aramaic word that essentially means “riches.” And, apparently, the Assyrians got the concept of a god of wealth from their neighbors, the Babylonians.
Babylon was a city founded on pride and arrogance (remember the account of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11). At its heart is an attitude that says: Man doesn’t need God. We’re self-sufficient. This is what the spirit of mammon tries to tell us: You don’t need God. Trust in riches!
In the biblical sense of the word, mammon is the spirit that rests on money. Did you know that all money has a spirit on it? It either has the Spirit of God on it or the spirit of mammon.
Money that is submitted to God and His purposes has the Spirit of God on it – which is why it multiplies and cannot be consumed by the devourer. I’m convinced that money that has been submitted to God – wealth that is devoted to serving Him rather than trying to replace Him – is blessed by God. In a very real sense, God’s Spirit blesses it.
On the other hand, money that is not submitted to God has the spirit of mammon on it by default. That’s why people so often try to use money to control or manipulate others. It’s why people think money can bring them happiness or fulfillment.
Mammon is basically the spirit of the world – and that spirit is a liar.
THE RULE OF MAMMON
I have noticed that the people most under the influence of the spirit of mammon tend to have the most fear about their money.
That’s why Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). Mammon wants to rule. The spirit of mammon is looking for servants. It is seeking worshipers. It will promise you everything but deliver nothing.
As Jesus clearly suggests, mammon tries to take the very place of God. Pastor Jimmy Evans, senior pastor or Trinity Fellowship Church in Amarillo, Texas, said, “Mammon promises us those things that only God can give – security, significance, identity, independence, power, and freedom. Mammon tells us that it can insulate us from life’s problems and that money is the answer to every situation.”
When you think about it, mammon is nothing more that the system of this fallen world that stands in sharp opposition to God and His ways. For example, mammon says to buy sell; God says to sow and reap. Mammon says to cheat and steal; God says to give and receive. But more than anything, mammon wants to rule.
It’s no coincidence that in the book of Revelation, the Antichrist attempts to dominate people through the use of economics – preventing people from buying or selling unless they submit to him (see 13:17). In this way, the brief rule of the Antichrist will be through the spirit of mammon.
It’s no wonder Jesus said you cannot serve both God and mammon. Why? Because the spirit of mammon stands in direct opposition to the Spirit of God.
Now, don’t get the wrong idea – money and mammon are not synonymous. Money is not inherently evil. One of the most frequently misquoted verses in all the Bible is in 1 Timothy 6, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (v. 10).
Notice, the bible doesn’t say that money is the root of all kinds of evil. It says that the love of [or the worship of] money is a root of all kinds of evil. It is the idolatrous love of the spirit of mammon that is evil. In other words, greed, covetousness, and selfishness are all manifestations of the spirit of mammon.
The reason we cannot serve both God and mammon is that the spirit of mammon is the opposite of the Spirit of God. Mammon says to take; God says to give. Mammon is selfish; God is generous. And so on.
Mammon is a spirit and, as such, talks to us all the time. Mammon says, “If you have the right credit cards, the right clothes, and the right car, and you live in the right neighborhood and know the right people, you’ll be happy and fulfilled.”
Mammon tells you that if you had more money, people would listen to you, your relationship problems would go away, and life would be sweet – you could do what you want, go where you want, and live the way you want.
Sadly, people in the world aren’t the only ones susceptible to this kind of deception. Mammon sometimes engages in creative lying to ensnare Christians as well. The spirit of mammon can get religious when it has to. For example, sometimes mammon says, “If you just had more money, you could really start helping people.” (Keep in mind, Jesus never told anyone the answer was more money. Money is not the answer to problems – God is.)
Many times, when we’re under pressure, the thought will come to us (and it’s actually mammon speaking to us) that we need one of two things to happen: we either need God to miraculously change our circumstances or we need someone to drop a truckload of money on us. This daydream usually involves winning the lottery, a contest, or sweepstakes, or the death of a wealthy relative we didn’t know about.
Notice how the spirit of mammon tries to position itself as a substitute for God. “You either need God to work a miracle right now or you need more money.” That’s simply a lie. We need God, period.
This is precisely why I am very cautious of multilevel business opportunities. I have been invited many times to meetings where these opportunities are shared. I am usually invited because someone has observed my God-given ability to communicate, and he or she wants to harness that gift for building the business. Of course, I’m not going to do that. God has given me this gift to get lost people saved and to teach His people His Word.
On the occasions I have attended these meetings, I have seen the spirit of mammon working in very subtle ways where Christians are concerned. Often, the pitch is this: if you were rich, just think of all the people you could help; or, your church or favorite ministry will have everything it needs after you become a millionaire!”
My friend, God can help people without money. When we start thinking that most of our problems can be solved by having more money, it’s a sign we’re under the influence of the spirit of mammon.
Don’t misunderstand. Jesus is not telling us to hate money. He is saying that if we love God, we will hate mammon – the greedy, selfish, lying, deceiving, Antichrist-like spirit that operates through money worship.
As Jesus proclaimed, either we will love one and hate the other or we will be loyal to one and despise the other (see Matthew 6:24). We are to despise the spirit of mammon that lies to people, promises everything but delivers nothing, and dares to try to take the place of God.
Both God and mammon are always talking to us. Every time we’re praying about giving sacrificially to our local church or to a ministry, mammon is there whispering to us (or occasionally shouting).
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The spirit of mammon says, “You don’t need God. Trust in riches.” Mammon tells us that money is the answer to our problems. We often talk about throwing money at a problem to indicate that it will be the easy solution. Can you think of a time when making more money available to solve a problem led to disappointing results? Allow God to show you the areas of your life this week where Mammon is trying to deceive you and rule your life.
Many people will praise God because you obey the Good News of Christ – the gospel you say you believe – and because you freely share with them and with all others.
2 CORINTHIANS 9:13, NCV
This week, let’s look at another passage in the New Testament in which Jesus talks about choosing between God and mammon. Here is the passage from Luke 16:
And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (vv. 9-13).
Here Jesus calls mammon unrighteous, but note that He wasn’t calling money unrighteous. Mammon and money aren’t synonymous. Jesus was calling the spirit that can rest on money unrighteous.
Money can be used for either unrighteous or righteous purposes. It can be used for temporal or eternal purposes. Money that has been submitted to God (as opposed to being used in an attempt to replace Him) is blessed. And that’s why blessed money multiplies and is not consumed by the devourer. It’s money that can be used for good and to bless others.
What else does this passage tell us? It says that we are to use our money for that which is eternal. And what in our lives is eternal? People! The only lasting things you will encounter today are people. The human soul is eternal.
If I use my money to bring people to Christ, they will welcome me into heaven when I die. Use your money to affect people – to help them hear the gospel – and they will form part of your welcoming committee when you got to heaven.
Notice, Jesus doesn’t say that money will welcome you. He says that the friends you make will receive you into an everlasting home. I know one day I am going to be greeted by people who are in heaven because I gave to churches, ministries, and missionaries that are bringing people to Christ.
Just as He turned water into wine, God can turn money into souls. He is the only One who can transform unrighteous mammon into true riches.
In a similar vein, in Matthew 6 Jesus says: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (vv. 19-21).
When we use money for righteous purposes, we are laying up treasure in heaven. That’s why I want to be a wise steward of money. I want to use it to invest in churches and ministries that are investing in people. I want my money to be used in helping people, loving people, feeding people, and caring for people.
This is one of the reasons, as a family and as a church, we give consistently to James Robison’s ministry, Life Outreach International. It is a ministry that is affecting people in powerful and positive ways – both physically and spiritually. At this writing, the ministry feeds and clothes more than 375,000 hungry children each month around the world. They also share Christ with them, and, and of course, the people listen because they have seen a tangible demonstration of God’s love in the form of life-saving aid.
I know that one day in heaven some people from Africa are going to greet me and say, “I’m in the kingdom because you supported Life Outreach International. Thank you for letting God turn unrighteous mammon into heavenly treasure.”
This is why I keep emphasizing that money is not inherently evil. God uses money to feed and clothe people. He uses it to facilitate and spread the gospel to the unreached parts of the earth.
This explains why the enemy of our souls works so hard to corrupt and distort our thoughts about money. The devil knows that God can take temporal money and turn it into eternal souls. He knows that the more money we give to the church, the more souls are going to be saved, the more the kingdom of God is going to be advanced and the kingdom of darkness is going to fail.
Hell is being plundered by our offerings, and Satan knows it! The devil hates Spirit-led giving because it simultaneously diminishes his kingdom and makes us more like our heavenly Father.
That’s why I stated in the opening words of the introduction that the devil doesn’t want you to read this book. He doesn’t want you to get free financially; therefore, he doesn’t want you to tithe and give offerings so that your money can be blessed and multiplied.
At this point, you might be thinking, Well, to be honest, I don’t have enough of this “unrighteous mammon” to make any of this relevant to me. I don’t need to know about stewardship and giving because I don’t have any money!
To that, I would lovingly but frankly say, “And you never will if you don’t embrace this principle.” In verse 10 of the passage we previously read, Jesus says, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16).
The Bible says that we must be faithful with a little before we will be entrusted with much. If you have just a little bit of money, you are a perfect candidate for blessing because if you will be faithful with that little, God will give you more.
God is looking for people He can entrust with much. He also knows that a person who is unjust with a little will be unjust with more as well. Christians who will cheat with a little won’t suddenly become faithful if they are given a lot. That is why Jesus says, “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?” (Luke 16:11-12).
What I’m trying to help us see is that it is not how much we have that matter – it is whose it is. If we belong to God, then it’s His money, not ours.
That is why Jesus tells me I need to be faithful with what is someone else’s. It’s not mine; it’s His. And each new day brings a test of my stewardship.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
In the story of the widow’s mites (Luke 21:1-4), the poor widow put in only two mites, but they were given out of a poverty-stricken state; it was all the livelihood she had.
Yet Jesus said she gave more than all the wealthy people who went before her. Would you agree, then, that it is possible for small gifts from people who are giving a greater portion of their income to benefit the person and the church more, than large gifts from wealthy people who are giving proportionately less? In proportion to your income, are you a generous giver?
We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings every greater glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 CORINTHIANS 3:18, NCV
I must tell you that I grew up a very selfish, proud, and materialistic individual. My parents were certainly not that way. They are, and always have been, great givers. To this day, they help people buy houses that they could not afford on their own.
My mother and father are both very, very generous people. But whatever reason, I was quite materialistic as I was growing up.
But when, at the age of nineteen, I got saved, the first thing I wanted to do was give. I wanted to give to everyone I could. I wanted to bless others and help them know what I had found.
When God finally got hold of me and changed my heart, my wife and I had a combined gross income of about $600 per month. In those early days, we had a budget that would allow us to out to eat one time per month.
I distinctly remember the first time we ever went out to eat after I had accepted Christ. I found myself wanting somehow to share Jesus with the waitress who was serving us. Then an idea came to me. If I didn’t order a meal, I could take that money and leave it as an extra-generous tip along with an evangelistic tract. Maybe the tip would encourage her to read the tract and come to know the Lord. So that’s what we did. Before we left, we said a few words to her about how much God cared about her.
About a month later, we were back in that restaurant for our monthly “splurge.” Through the month, I had prayed that God would bless us with enough extra money to be able to leave an even bigger tip along with another tract.
Just as I had asked, our faithful God had allows us to accumulate an extra $50 that we could leave along with a booklet about salvation. That night we requested that same waitress and left her a $50 tip on a $10 meal.
We returned to the restaurant one month later, very eager to see if that waitress was still working there. She was, indeed.
When she saw us, she said, “I read that little booklet you left last time you were here.” We tried not to show how excited we were to hear that. She continued, “And I prayed that prayer to receive Christ at the end of it.” Of course, we were thrilled to hear that. But she wasn’t finished. “Then I called my husband on the phone and read the whole booklet to him, and he prayed that prayer, too.”
At that point, I said, “That’s wonderful! But what do you mean, you called your husband? Does he travel for a living?”
Looking embarrassed she said, “No, my husband is in prison. He will get out in two or three years. We both want to thank you for leaving me that booklet and being so generous. Money has been pretty scarce since he went to prison.”
Over the next few years, my wife and I disciple this sweet waitress and saw great spiritual growth. We also began to mentor her husband in prison. When he was released, he joined the church with his wife, and they were baptized together. I had the privilege of knowing that the lives and eternal destinies of this couple had been changed because I gave.
And I gave because Christ had changed my life.
EXPERIENCING THE BLESSING
I mentioned earlier that when Debbie and I got married, our combined gross income was $600 per month. That is an annual income of $7,200.
After a few months of tithing and giving extravagantly to the Lord, Debbie got a different job that paid $18,000 per year. About that same time, I began preaching and doing revivals. That first year, my income from offerings was $32,000. Thus, together our annual income went from $7,200 to $50,000.
In our second year of marriage, as we continued to tithe and give whenever and wherever the Holy Spirit directed, Debbie quit her job in order to stay at home, while my income increased to $72,000. Our income had now risen from $7,200 to $72,000 – a tenfold increase.
Within three years, our income had risen to more than $100,000, and by God’s grace we were giving 70 percent of it away (and having time of our lives doing it!).
There is something significant to God about tenfold and hundredfold returns. I’ve seen it throughout my whole life. (Remember the story I related earlier about the man at the pizza place who gave me ten times the amount I had just given away to the missionary?)
I remember one occasion in which I was at a ministry conference in the large Dallas Convention Center arena. We were sitting way up in one of the balcony sections toward the back of a crowd numbering around 10,000. We didn’t have very much money at that point, but at offering time, I felt strongly that the Lord wanted me to give $100. It was going to be a step of faith to give that amount.
The minister who was receiving the offering said, “I want you to pray and ask God to bless the offering you’re giving.” When he said that, I felt impressed to hold the offering up over my head as we prayed. Just as I did, a thought came to me, so I just prayed it. I said, “Lord, I ask You for a hundredfold return of this offering so that I can give even more to the kingdom of God.”
I didn’t know it at the time, but there was a man sitting on the arena floor up near the platform. At the moment I lifted my offering to the Lord with a heart full of gratitude, God spoke to him and told him to turn around and look. As he turned around, he noticed, way back in the upper reaches of that arena, the tiny figure of a man with his hands raised to the Lord. The Spirit of God spoke to him and said, “I want you to go give that man $10,000.”
Later, the man found me and gave me a check for $10,000 – exactly 100 times the amount I had just given.
Please understand what I’m saying. The money is not the point. It’s the joy that we receive from giving. It’s the power that comes from obedience. I’m not presenting giving as a get-rich-scheme. On the contrary, I’m presenting it as a lay-down-your-life challenge.
But as we give, God blesses. And the greatest blessing of all is being able to see God’s kingdom enlarge, to see ministries advance, to see churches grow and to see broken people become whole – all because of our obedience in giving.
That’s what I’m excited about. It’s what I want you to understand. I was lost and without hope. I didn’t know Christ. Jesus gave His all to save an arrogant, prideful nobody. So I can do no less than give my all for Him.
God speaks to us about our money, and so does the spirit of mammon. Who is your master? To whom are you listening?
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I say that being a giver will result in blessing, but it’s also important to remember that blessings are a matter of perspective. Read Hebrews 11:13, then consider this: Would you continue to give tithes and offerings even if your only reward was salvation through Christ Jesus? Will you commit this week to live the life of a giver regardless of the rewards?
Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right.
ROMANS 14:22b NLT
MAMMON HAS FRIENDS
Over the years, I have observed a couple of other spirits that tend to run in the same circles, especially when it comes to wealth and giving. Just as a spirit of mammon will keep you from living the blessed life, so will a spirit of poverty or a spirit of pride.
A spirit of poverty will cause you to be ashamed of the blessings of God. If you are a faithful, generous steward, you will be blessed. There is no avoiding it. As we have seen over and over in this book, the more you give away, the more God bestows.
Being a giver will result in blessings. The devil can’t stop it, but he can try to make you ashamed of it. This is the job of the spirit of poverty, and I’ve seen it afflect both the poor and the wealthy. In fact, it is more common in the rich than in any other group! It manifests itself as a sense of shame and guilt about being blessed by God. Thank about this for a moment: Is there anything God could do in your life for which you should feel ashamed? Of course not. However, by simply doing things God’s way, many believers receive blessings and somehow feel as if they have to apologize for them. Don’t ever do that. Don’t ever allow the enemy to make you ashamed of God’s blessings.
Now, if you’re not susceptible to the trap of a poverty mentality, the enemy will try the opposite approach – a spirit of pride. Pride says, “You’ve earned this stuff. Your hard work, ingenuity, and talent have made it happen. Thus, you should be proud of the blessings you have received.”
These spirits work from opposite ends of the spectrum but have a common root – they get us to focus on “stuff” rather than God. We become centered on the blessing rather than on the Blessor.
The spirit of pride says, “Wealth comes from hard work.” The spirit of poverty says, “Wealth comes from the devil.” The spirit of pride says, “You should be proud of what you have.” The spirit of poverty says, “You should be ashamed of what you have.” They are both traps because they are things-focused rather than God-focused.
Let me give you some real-world examples of how these spirits manifest themselves so that you can discern their attacks in your life.
How do you respond when someone compliments you on your watch or your outfit? Pride says, “It’s imported from Europe.” Poverty says, “This old thing? I got it at Target.”
The spirit of pride tries to make people think we paid more for things than we did. The spirit of poverty wants people to think we paid less. Poverty feels the need to justify purchases and possessions because it equates blessing with evil. It causes you to say, “I can’t let you think I spent very much money on anything because that would mean I’m not spiritual.”
Do you see the trap?
EXPOSING A POVERTY MENTALITY
Let me say it again: If you have been blessed by God because you’ve done things His way, stop feeling guilty. Don’t be ashamed of having a heart God can bless!
I speak from experience here. There was a time in which God had to show me just how prevalent the poverty mentality was in my thinking. It was especially strong because I have been in the ministry all my adult life (and everyone knows that preachers are supposed to be poor).
I remember purchasing a very nice jacket once and then returning it because I felt guilty about wearing it. It was a golf jacket that was just what I had wanted and needed for some time. I found it at a golf shop at half price. I called Debbie from the pro shop to get her opinion, and she said, “It’s a great deal. Buy it!”
I wore it directly out onto the golf course and proceeded to play some of the worst golf of my life. Of course, the spirit of poverty was quick to place the blame for my horrible score on the new jacket. God didn’t want you to have the nice jacket. You’ve missed God, and now your golf game is cursed!
Believe it or not, as soon as the round was over, I returned the jacket and got my money back. But that wasn’t the end of it. In the days that followed, I began to grieve over “having” to return that jacket. I stewed about it, and I actually found myself resenting God. I can’t believe I can’t even have a nice jacket. Other people get to have nice things, and I can’t even buy a coat without my golf game being cursed. It’s not fair, God!
After putting up with this nonsense for about three days, God eventually got my attention and spoke very clearly: “Quit blaming Me for your not having that jacket! I didn’t tell you to take that jacket back.”
Then He said something I’ve never forgotten. The Lord said, “Son, I never speak to you through guilt or condemnation.” He also added, “And, by the way, don’t blame Me for your lousy golf game. You’ve never needed any help from Me to play badly.”
Isn’t it amazing that so many of God’s people feel as if they must explain away the presence of anything good or nice in their lives; or if anyone compliments them on something, they feel compelled to justify it?
My friend, you don’t have to justify your purchases to anyone but God. If God gives you peace about buying something, don’t worry about what anyone else thinks about it!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Take time this week to identify your true thoughts and attitudes when you make a purchase or when someone pays you a compliment. Is there a spirit of poverty or a spirit of pride? The most important thing to remember is to focus on the Giver of all things, and not just things themselves.
But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hears.
1 THESSALONIANS 2:4
As I have pointed out previously, God uses things to test our hearts and reveal what’s inside. The truth is that God not only uses our stuff to test us, but He uses other people’s stuff as well. In other words, how we respond to someone else begin blessed says a lot about the condition of our hearts.
It is no coincidence that the tenth commandment essentially says that you shall not covert your neighbor’s stuff. The Greek word translated “covet” in the Bible is epithumeo, and it means “to set the heart upon.” It is very similar to the Greek work for “lust,” which is epithumia.
To covet something is to set your heart upon it. This is a problem, because we are to set our hearts upon nothing and no one but God. God doesn’t care if we have stuff; He cares if stuff has us!
Have you noticed that in the movies all materialistic people are wealthy? But in real life, some of the most materialistic people don’t have very much.
A person’s net worth doesn’t tell you anything about his heart. Some of the most materialistic people I have ever encountered were poor. By the same token, some of the most heavenly minded, sold-out-to-God, nonmaterialistic people I know are quite wealthy.
God wants us to go after Him. It is the theme of this book: It’s the heart that matters.
How can you know where you heart is? First, ask yourself these questions: Am I looking to God or to people to meet my needs? Do I get angry or resentful with people who don’t help me as I want them to? Do I blame others for my circumstances?
These are all warning indicators of looking to men rather than to God as our source of provision. When people have been looking to men rather than God to meet their needs, they are ultimately disappointed. Then they become bitter. We must also discern the presence of a spirit of pride or poverty in our lives. It is vital to our spiritual health and effectiveness in God’s kingdom that those spirits be replaced by a heart of gratitude. Here are some tests to help you discern the difference:
When you think about your situation in life . . . pride says, “I deserve more!” Poverty says, “I should feel guilty.” Gratitude says, “Thank you!” (Gratitude is an attitude of thankfulness that always acknowledges God’s provision.)
When someone says, “Wow, you have a nice house!” pride says, “We were going to build a bigger one.” Poverty says, “It was a foreclosure.” Gratitude says, “Thank you. The Lord has blessed us!”
Pride wants people to think that we paid more. Poverty wants people to think we paid less. Gratitude doesn’t care what people think; it only cares what God thinks! How about just telling the truth? When someone remarks about something you exercise stewardship over, just tell the truth and be grateful.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
You’ve just learned several warning signs that show whether you are looking to men rather than God as a source of provision. Share your reaction to the following situations:
It’s been a tough month financially, and to top it off, your car needs repair.
You’ve worked extra hard for the last six months expecting a bonus, but a downturn in the economy makes it impossible.
You learn from the news that mismanagement of your retirement fund has resulted in its losing more than half its value.
When these kinds of financial setbacks occur, how can we look to God rather than men for provision?
For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
2 CORINTHIANS 10:12
Pride causes us to compare ourselves with others. Poverty causes us to compare others with ourselves.
When someone pulls up beside you in a less expensive car, pride says, “Mine’s better!” When someone pulls up beside you in a more expensive car, poverty says, “That’s a waste! He’s probably a crook.”
Pride and poverty do have this in common – they both always get us to compare ourselves with others!
In sharp contrast, a person with a heart of gratitude compares himself with God and says, “Thank you!” Why? Because when I compare what I have done for God (which is nothing) with what God has done for me (which is everything,) my heart naturally overflows with gratitude.
Don’t fall into the comparison trap. Pride says, “I earned it.” Poverty says, “I shouldn’t have it.” Gratitude says, “I received it by grace.”
As we have seen, the key to resisting the spirits of mammon, pride, and poverty is to remember. We must remember that we were slaves to sin, the work God has done in us by grace and that although we have worked hard, it has been God’s blessing on our lives that has produced anything good.
This is the message God gave the Israelites before they entered the land of promise: “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 8:18, emphasis added).
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
If you have discerned signs of mammon, pride, or poverty in your life, whether toward yourself or toward others, you may want to pray a prayer like this:
Dear God, please forgive me for being selfish, prideful, and covetous. Please forgive me for listening to the unholy spirits of mammon, pride, and poverty. Lord, I ask You to break them off of me, off of my family, and off of my descendants. Help me to remember that all that I have is from You. And help me, from this day forward, to be a generous, extravagant giver to the kingdom of God. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.
I think Luke 6:38 is a wonderful verse of Scripture. But I’m also convinced it’s one of the most frequently misapplied and misunderstood verses in the Bible.
Its words are very familiar to most Christians. You can probably quote it from memory: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
One of the most common mistakes people make about this verse is assuming that Jesus is speaking only of money. In truth, He’s revealing a principle that applies to every area of our lives.
This becomes crystal clear if you look at the larger context of the verse. For instance, back up a couple of verses and look at verses 36 and 37: “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
It is only then that Jesus says, “Give, and it will be given to you” (v. 38). Yes, this principle applies to money, but you can also give forgiveness. You can give mercy. You can give understanding. You can give patience.
Jesus is simply talking about the broad principle of giving. Whatever you give is going to be given back to you in “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over” (Luke 6:38).
To capture the full meaning of this truth, you need to know a little more about what the terms, “good measure,” “pressed down,” shaken together,” and “running over” refer to. In reality, these were farming terms.
According to instructions in the Old Testament, farmers in Israel were to leave the grain in the corners of their fields for the poor. Thus, each year at harvest time there were two sets of harvesters in the field: the primary harvesters in the middle of the field who were being paid to bring in the crop, and the poor people in the corners who were harvesting the crop in order to feed themselves and their families.
Primary harvesters out in the middle of the field would fill up a basket then carry it over to the barn or wagon. They would then dump it out and go back to the field to begin filling the basket once again. To these workers, it didn’t really matter how full their baskets were. They were being paid by the hour, so they didn’t care. They just needed to stay busy and keep working until all the grain was in the barn.
This was not the case, however, for the poor people working in the corner of the field. That field was probably nowhere near their homes. They had probably walked several miles to get there. However much food they could get in their baskets would be the amount of food available to their families. They had life-and-death incentive to get as much into that basket as possible.
If you were in that position, you would first make sure you had put in a good measure – not just a partial measure or a half measure. Then you would press it down to compress the grains together to create more room. After topping the basket off again, you would then shake it to eliminate any air spaces between the grains. Having done all that, you would then pour in as much grain as you possibly could, heaping it up above the rim until it began to spill over the sides.
It is one thing to receive a basket of free grain. It is a far better thing to receive a good-measure, pressed-down, shaken-together, and running-over basket of free grain.
That’s why the Lord chose to use these terms. He knew His listeners in Israel would instantly connect with the point He was trying to make. What He communicated was that whatever you give, you’re going to get a lot more of the same in return. This is a universal principle with God. You always receive back more than you give.
Think about it this way. When you give away an apple seed by planting it, you don’t just get back an apple seed. In time, you actually get back a whole apple tree, and on that tree are many apples, and each apple has many seeds. You get back so much more than you actually give.
Yet this is precisely where so many people go wrong regarding this passage of Scripture. Once you understand the wonderful truth of it, there is a tremendous temptation to make it your motivation for giving.
Many well-meaning preachers and Bible teachers actually fall into this trap and thus encourage others to do the same. The “give and it shall be given to you” principle is to be our reward, not our motivation.
That’s why Jesus preceded this promise by saying, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).
This context puts the promise in a very sobering light. If you give judgment, judgment will be given back to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. If you give condemnation, condemnation will be given back to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. It works both ways!
The good news is, if you give forgiveness, an abundance of forgiveness will be given back to you. If you sow love, you will receive an overflowing harvest of love.
This is a fundamental principle in the kingdom of God. It is a truth I have heard called the law of reciprocity. But approaching it in a balanced way is very much a matter of the heart.
The basic problem I have with most of the teaching I’ve heard on Luke 6:38 is that material gain is presented as the motive for giving. How do you think God feels when a preacher gets up and essentially says, “Come on! Give to God, and you’ll get back more! This is a great deal!”?
As I have pointed out, it is true that you can’t outgive God. The principle of reciprocity applies just as fully to money as it does to judgment and forgiveness. But there is nothing in Scripture that says we should make personal gain our motive for giving.
How must God feel when His people only get excited about giving toward His kingdom purposes when they are whipped into a frenzy through get-rich-quick promises? Do you think God ever says, “Boy, if only My people could catch the vision of having a lot more stuff”?
God doesn’t want us to catch the vision of getting. He wants us to catch the vision of giving.
Yes, as we do, we will receive much more in return. And, no, God is not against our having nice things. On the contrary, He loves to see His people blessed. But motives are everything!
As Proverbs 16 tells us, “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord” (v. 2, NIV, emphasis added).
And James confronts the issue directly: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (4:3, NIV, emphasis added).
When it comes to pleasing God and operating in line with His kingdom principles, heart motivation is what matters.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
God doesn’t want us to catch the vision of getting. He wants us to catch the vision of giving. A properly focused heart is more excited about the giving part than the receiving part. Stop to examine your motives the next time you give someone a gift or ask God for something. Depending on what you discover, reconsider how and why you might give or receive differently.
For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.
1 CORINTHIANS 4:5, NLT
Last week we discovered that if we back up a few verses from Luke 6:38, we begin to see its message in a little different light. Well, if we back up a little further, we get even more context and perspective. Let’s begin with verse 30:
Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil (Luke 6:30-35).
Now we have the greater context of the familiar, “Give, and it will be given to you” (v. 38). Not coincidentally, this passage begins with the words, “Give to everyone who asks of you” (v. 30). Both verses, beginning with the word “give,” can go a long way toward helping us catch the revelation of giving.
As I have suggested, the thing that bothers me about the way people have preached Luke 6:38 is with material gain presented as the motive for giving rather than a by-product of it.
The message of Jesus’ sermon is “Give!” Give to those who ask of you. Give to those who can’t pay you back. Give love to those who don’t deserve it. Give mercy to those who wrong you. Give the kind of treatment you would hope to receive from others. Give, give, give! Oh, and by the way, when you do, your heavenly Father will make sure you get much more in return.
Do you see the subtle but important distinction in emphasis? When you give with what looks to the world like reckless abandon, you are following God’s example.
He is kind to the unthankful and the evil (see v. 35) – that was you and me at one time. God extended ultimate kindness to us by sending His Son when we were unthankful and evil people.
God is a giver. And, yes, it’s true that when we give, God will give back to us, but that should not be our motive for giving. We should give for the pure joy of imitating our wonderful Father.
It’s our hearts the Lord is concerned about. And a properly focused heart is more excited about the giving part than the receiving part.
In other words, God is saying, “when you give just to give, I’m going to reward you by giving back to you in much greater measure.” The reward comes because we have allowed God to do a work in our hearts in the area of giving – not in the area of getting.
There is an Old Testament glimpse of this truth in Deuteronomy 15. There God says:
If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “the seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,” and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you. You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, “You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.” If your rother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the LORD has blessed you with, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today (vv. 7-15, emphasis added).
Here is a clear view of God’s heart for helping people. It is also more evidence that God looks at the heart attitude of the giver. He makes it a point to tell the Israelites not to let their hearts “be grieved” (v. 10) when they give. All the way back then, God loved a “cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
It’s not hard to understand why this is so. Aren’t you proud of your children when they are unselfish? Are you blessed when you have to bribe or threaten them to get them to be generous?
We’re pleased when our children help and prefer one another in love. And what is true for us as earthly parents is infinitely true for God.
Furthermore, when we grow to become cheerful, willing givers, we become more and more like our heavenly Father. God is trying to do a work in us. He wants to purify our hearts.
But, as the passage we just read points out, there are some things about ourselves we are going to have to confront if we are to become pure-hearted givers.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
1 Timothy 6:5 says, “They think that serving God is a way to get rich.” How does this apply to my earlier points on motives and giving? Ask God to help you become a giver for the sheer joy of giving and helping others and not what’s in it for you!
Our purpose is to please God, not people. He is one who examines the motives of our hearts.
1 THESSALONIANS 2:4
According to Deuteronomy 15:9, we’re going to have to deal with the wicked thoughts that would keep us from having compassion on others. Here God clearly labels selfish thoughts as wicked. Selfishness whispers that we won’t have enough or that God won’t be faithful to meet our needs if we give. God says, “Don’t allow your heart to think that way.”
Obviously, greed and selfishness are not proper motives for giving. God wants to change us from greedy, selfish takers into grateful, generous givers.
In Joshua 1, we read, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (v. 8).
Many people read that verse and come away thinking that the key to being prosperous and having good success is to meditate on the Word. Take another look and you’ll see that they are only half right. This verse actually says that we are to meditate day and night on the Word so that we can do everything it says to do! It’s doing the Word that brings success and blessing.
That’s precisely why selfishness is your enemy. Selfishness tries to manipulate and make deals with God. We were born selfish.
At the risk of offending you if you’re a brand-new parent, I must tell you that your precious angel sprang from the womb completely and utterly self-absorbed.
Every baby’s first verbal expression isn’t “mama” or “dada.” It’s “waaaaaah!,” which can be roughly translated as, “Feed me! Change me! Hold me – now!”
And have you also noticed that the favorite word of very English-speaking two-year-old on the planet is “Mine!”?
Clearly, selfishness is deeply rooted in all of our hearts, and this doesn’t change just because our bodies grow up. If you doubt this, just try helping yourself to a pork rib or chicken wing on a man’s plate sometime. It’s a good way to lose a hand. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but most men do not like to share food.
Most women, on the other hand, are happy to share their food. Watch a group of women at a restaurant and you’ll witness more food swapping than you’ll find in the commodities pit at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. This explains why a woman assumes her man will be more than happy to share from his plate. She is wrong.
This dynamic plays out thousands of times each day in fast-food drive-throughs across this great land of ours.
A husband and wife drive up to the menu speaker and hear, “Welcome to Burger Circus. May I take your order?” The husband leans out the window and, talking quite a bit louder than necessary, says, “Yeah, I’d like a double cheeseburger and some French fries and a coke.”
He then turns to his wife and asks, “What would you like, dear?” And what does she say? “Oh, I don’t want anything. I’ll just have some of yours.” Some of mine, the man thinks. Doesn’t she understand that “mine is … well … mine? I ordered the amount of food that I wanted to eat!
Of course, the man doesn’t actually say any of this. Instead, he says sweetly, “Honey, if you want something, I’ll order it for you. If you want some fries, I’ll get you some fries.” “No, no,” she says, I’m not really hungry.” Of course, the husband knows that at least half of his fries are as good as gone.
My point is we are all selfish. The default condition of the human heart is to hoard and avoid sharing with anyone. Then a loving heavenly Father comes to us and says, “I want to deal with this wicked, selfish heart and make you a giver. I want to make you like Me.”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Think of a time when you lost some money. Maybe it was in the stock market, maybe it was in a misplaced wallet, or maybe you made a bad purchase. What did that experience tell you about the importance of money in your life? Ask God to deal a death blow to the root selfishness in your life and to continue to transform you into His image – an extravagant, generous giver.
So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity….
2 CORINTHIANS 9:7
“And your heart should not be grieved when you give to him.”
That’s what the Lord said in the passage we read earlier from Deuteronomy 15. After addressing the fact that we have a selfish heart, the seond thing we have to deal with when it comes to giving is a grieving heart.
Take a look at the whole verse: “You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand” (v. 10).
Notice that the reward for being a giver is a blessed life. God says He will bless you in everything you put your hand to and in all your works.
But He instructs us not to grieve in our hearts after we have been obedient in giving. It’s important not to let yourself start grieving over what you could have done with the money if you had kept it for yourself. Selfishness can attack us before we give, but grief can attack us after we give.
People who sell big-ticket items for a living know about something called buyer’s remorse. The term refers to something that frequently happens to people who spend a lot of money on an item, such as a car or house. After the excitement of the moment wears off, they can experience a panicky what-have-I-done feeling. Many items purchased on impulse are returned the following day as a result of this phenomenon.
Something similar may happen when you have been obedient to give as the Holy Spirit prompts. That means you have to guard your heart not only before you give but afterward as well.
Here’s another problem: Many people give because they feel they have to rather than because they want to. They feel pressured to give, and afterward they grieve over that gift. They grieve over the money they no longer have.
God is trying to do something deeper in our hearts. If we are filled with regret after being a blessing, does it please God? Has He accomplished the work in our hearts He wants to perform? Not at all.
So how do you combat grief? You do it with a proper perspective regarding “your” money.
To illustrate this perspective, I once stopped right in the middle of a sermon and said, “You know what? I need someone to give me $100.” Immediately, a man jumped up, came to the front, and handed me a one-hundred-dollar bill. I stuck the bill in my pocket and continued right on with my sermon.
I am sure every person in the congregation was thinking, What was that all about? Why did he ask for $100? And why was that man so quick to get up and give him $100? (I suspect the person who was thinking it the most was the man’s wife!)
After letting everyone stew on it for several minutes, I interrupted my message once again to explain. “Let me tell you why that gentleman was so quick to bring me $100 without knowing why I needed it. Before the service, I gave him the one-hundred-dollar bill and told him I would ask for it during the service. I asked him to bring it up quickly when I asked for it.”
I went on to explain that I was trying to illustrate a point for them. The reaons the man gave the money promptly when I asked for it was that it was mine in the first place. He experienced no grief, remorse, or emotional conflict about giving me the money. Why? Because he knew it wasn’t his.
As we saws in a previous chapter, the same is true of everything we have. It is all God’s, and we merely exercise stewardship over it. When we get God’s perspective on money – when we understand that God owns it all – it is easy to give it when He asks for it. We give it to Him freely, and we don’t grieve over it. We understand that it wasn’t ours in the first place.
Whenever I observe a Christian operating selfishly, I know I’m looking at a person who either doesn’t know or has forgotten that it all belongs to God. They are acting like an owner, not a steward.
The man who gave me the money during my sermon really didn’t give it to me, did he? He simply returned it. Maybe we have a problem with giving because we don’t understand stewardship. Perhaps we’ve forgotten that God is the owner, and that in sharing, we are actually just returning to God what is His in the first place.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Selfishness can attach us before we give, but grief can attack us after we give. So let me ask you: Does your heart ever grieve over giving money? Do you ever find yourself feeling sorrow over money lost? You can stop those feelings by remembering it wasn’t yours in the first place! Develop three strategies you can do in advance of making a gift or offering, to prevent giver’s remorse.
Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
2 CORINTHIANS 8:1-4
Beyond overcoming a selfish heart, beyond avoiding a grieving heart – there is a third heart adjustment that we must make in the area of giving. With god’s help, we must develop a liberal or generous heart.
Now, I am not using the term “liberal” in the political sense. I’m talking about liberality – the practice of being generous and free with our material possessions.
Look once again at this verse about giving to the poor from the passage in Deuteronomy 15: “You shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the LORD has blessed you with, you shall give to him” (v. 14, emphasis added).
We may not have threshing floors or winepresses nowadays, but we are still called to give liberally from that which God has blessed us. We are not to be stingy in our giving; we are to be generous. That’s why we must cultivate a liberal heart.
This goes against the grain of our fallen natures, but it is perfectly consistent with the new natures we received when we gave our lives to Jesus. Often I say, “I was born selfish, but I was born again generous.”
The key to walking in the new nature, rather than the old one, is simply a matter of renewing the mind. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Mind renewal brings transformation.
My new nature – the spirit man inside of me – wants to be generous, but I must learn to renew my mind in this area. I must come to trust that God will take care of me if I’m a generous giver.
My old nature used to try to figure out how I could manipulate circumstances in my favor. Of course, that’s the attitude of a taker, not a giver. Selfishness tries to manipulate God or “make deals” with Him where giving is concerned. But a liberal-hearted person gives quickly and generously because he knows it all belongs to God, and he trusts in God to take care of him and bless him.
To no credit of my own, this is a work God has done in my heart. And I am writing this book to testify to you that it works. God is faithful.
Some time ago, Debbie was talking with a pastor and his wife who were staying in our home. They could clearly see that we were living the blessed life, so the pastor asked my wife, “Why do you think God has blessed you so much?”
Debbie thought about it a moment and answered, “I think it has to do with Robert’s heart. When Robert got saved, God so changed his heart that he would give away everything we owned if he sensed God telling Him to do it. As a matter of fact, he’s done it several times because he loves god and he loves people. The Lord has given him a heart that wants to give generously to God’s people and God’s work.”
I can’t begin to tell you how much joy giving has brought to our lives. Being givers in God’s kingdom is the most fun we have ever had. It has resulted in a more exciting life than we could ever have imagined.
A FINAL WORK OF THE HEART
When we allow God to change us in this area, there is one more work He must do in our hearts. We have to develop a grateful heart.
Look back at Deuteronomy 15 one last time: “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today” (v. 15).
Why did God instruct the Israelites to remember that they had been slaves? Because it would fill their hearts with gratitude for what He had done for them.
From time to time, in worship or in my quiet time, God reminds me of my past. He doesn’t do it to produce guilt or condemnation. He knows it produces deep gratitude. I was such a mess. I was on a road of heartache and self-destruction, and then He saved me and put me on the road of life and blessing. When I think about that, my heart overflows with thankfulness.
When we allow God to remind us that we used to be slaves and that everything we have is by His gracious hand, it will help us to be grateful. And when we’re grateful, we’re generous. Genuine gratitude to God is a rare and powerful thing.
One time when I was preaching in a very small church on the subject of giving, a friend of mine, a liberal giver, came along to support me in prayer as I preached. He also was praying for the people who were hearing the message – that God would do a work in their hearts in the area of giving.
At the end of the message, I said, “I want each of you to pray and ask the Lord what He wants you to give tonight.” At that point, as my friend began thinking about what God might want him to give, he realized he hadn’t brought his wallet or checkbook with him. To his dismay, he discovered that he had nothing at all to give in the offering.
He prayed, Lord, what can I give? I don’t have any money with me! Immediately, the Lord reminded him that he had on a brand-new pair of very expensive shoes. The Lord said, I want you to give those shoes to the pastor of this church.
The pastor of that little church would probably have never purchased such a nice pair of shoes for himself, even if he could have afforded them, which he probably could not.
At that point, my friend began going through all those mental gymnastics one goes through when God asks you to do something unusual. What if they’re not the right size? Will he be offended? What will people think? Am I just going to walk out of here in my socks?
Finally, he made a decision. The Lord spoke to me, so I’m going tod o it whether or not it makes sense.
He went over to the pastor’s wife and asked, “What size shoes does your husband wear?” It was the very same size he was wearing. Needless to say, my friend rode home with me in his stocking feet. But he was blessed and full of joy – and so was that pastor.
Several years later, I heard the story of a man who was in the congregation that very same night. He had just recently come to know Christ. Prior to being born again, he had squandered all of his money and was essentially broke. At offering time, he said, Lord, what can I give? I have so little money, but my heart is so full of gratitude for what You have done for me.
As he told it, the Lord gave him the idea of taking out a life insurance policy and making the church the beneficiary. So he arranged for a $100,000 policy. Just a few years later, he passed away, and the church received that money – a larger gift than he could possibly have given any other way.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
In Genesis 28, God speaks to Jacob in a dream and details how He plans to bless him. Jacob’s response is to worship God and vow to give him a tenth of all he is given. Make a list of ways God has blessed you. Take time to worship Him for what He has done and is going to do in your life. How do thankfulness and worship prepare our hearts for giving?
They knew God, but they did not give glory to God or thank him. Their thinking became useless. Their foolish minds were filled with darkness. They said they were wise, but they became fools.
ROMANS 1:21-22, NCV
As I have said before, a heart of true gratitude is a rare and precious thing. Over the years, I have gotten a little glimpse of how God must feel as Debbie and I have been involved in blessing and giving to other people.
The fact is that any time we have ever given something to someone, we have encountered one of two attitudes. People respond to a blessing with either gratitude or greed. Let me explain what I mean.
This second response is most common when we have chosen to give to someone on several occasions. When you give to someone once, they may be surprised and grateful. But after you have been generous several times, there is a tendency for the person to start seeing the gift as an entitlement.
We respond to God in the same manner all the time. God repeatedly blesses and gives and, before long, it is expected. If it stops showing up, we are offended and mad.
It’s greed or gratitude. I had an experience that beautifully illustrates the difference.
In one of the instances in which Debbie and I were giving a vehicle away, we were standing in our driveway with the couple we were about to bless. There happened to be two vehicles in the driveway at the time – the one we were giving away and ours.
The wife responded to our gift with gratitude. She was very excited and very expressive in her thanks. The husband, on the other hand, was not. As we talked, he kept commenting on how nice my car was.
When we stepped into the house a little later, he finally came right our and asked, “Do you think you will ever give that other car away?” I remember thinking, Not to you!
We need to be aware that our attitudes toward possessions have a powerful ability to expose the true nature of our hearts. Whether it is greed or gratitude, money and material things will bring it out.
If you are a parent, ask yourself this question: Which attitude am I most motivated to reward in my children – greed or gratitude? Obviously, every good parent wants to reward gratitude – and God is no different.
When God does a work in our hearts, we give simply to give, not to get. The resulting blessing we receive is the by-product, not the goal.
I saw a beautiful example of this on a trip to Costa Rica to preach at a Bible school. I discovered that every Friday at this Bible school, they have what the call Bless Another Day – a day in which students were encouraged to give to others.
I heard about a student in the school who had no money and worked in the fields of a peanut farmer to pay his tuition. He went to the farmer and said, “I’m wondering if you would withhold from my wages the price of one peanut so that I may have it to give to someone on Bless Another Day.” (Keep in mind how easy it would have been for this young man simply to pocket a peanut or two as he worked in the fields. God will bless people integrity.) The farmer agreed. So every Friday this student would bring one peanut to school and give it to a student in his class.
Not surprisingly, God began to bless this young man who had an unselfish, liberal heart. Before long, he wasn’t giving peanuts on Bless Another Day; he was giving money. By the end of the semester, he was also buying pencils and other school supplies for the poorest students.
By the end of that year, God had blessed him so much that he was able to pay a year’s tuition for another student. And by the time he graduated, he was paying the tuition of ten other students besides himself.
Within a few years of graduating from Bible school, he bought the peanut farm where he used to work and was covering the cost of tuition for scores of students who otherwise would not have been able to afford to go.
And it all started because God did a work in his heart. He gave when all he could give was a peanut. The issue is not the amount we give. The issue is the motive behind our giving.
Does God bless givers? Absolutely! But those promises of blessing are given, not to entice us, but to free us from the fear and grief that keeps so many believers from turning loose and giving.
Yes, when you give, “It will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom” (Luke 6:38_.
God pours blessings on givers, and He does it so they can continue to give even more to His kingdom – but it takes a heart transplant.
When we come to the place where we give simply because we have an unselfish, liberal heart of gratitude toward God, we will be well on the road to the bless life.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Have you ever hesitated to give because you felt it was such a small amount and probably insignificant in the overall scheme of things? Let me reassure you; it matters a lot! No amount is too small when your heart is in the right place. Ask God to help you respond to all of His blessings with gratitude and not to develop a greedy heart.
But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
Do you remember that old station wagon of ours I mentioned back in week 1? Well, there was a reason we were driving such a “vintage” vehicle. It’s not that by the world’s way of thinking we could afford anything better. We had purchased an older car because God had instructed us to do three things concerning our finances:
Get out of debt.
Never manipulate others.
For us, these three very important financial principles have been the foundation stones of living the blessed life. And I think they represent keys to living in God’s financial Promised Land for you as well.
So in the next few weeks, I want to elaborate on these three principles and share some testimonies I believe you’ll find both inspiring and instructive.
GET OUT OF DEBT
We purchased that 1973 station wagon with 130,000 miles for a very simple reason. It was the only running vehicle I could find for which we could pay cash. We bought it for $750.
Just prior to that purchase, we had been driving a one-year-old, fully loaded Oldsmobile. It was a big nice car with a big fat payment - $370 per month, to be exact. By way of comparison, our house payment at that time was $320 per month. (Keep in mind, these were early 1980s dollars.) It didn’t take long for the Lord to show us how absurd this was from a stewardship standpoint. In fact, it was ridiculous!
God had told us to sell it and work toward getting out of debt, so we did. We then bought that old wagon for $750. We prayed over it. We anointed it with oil (about a quart a week). And we loved it because, though it wasn’t much to look at, we knew we were in the center of God’s will.
It took us one year to get completely out of debt. I know you may be thinking that it would take you much longer, but let me tell you what we did to make it a reality.
During that season of time, we didn’t buy anything that wasn’t a true necessity. We didn’t go out to eat. We didn’t go to the movies. We didn’t buy any new clothes. We didn’t even buy a new microwave over when our broke midway through that year.
We bought nothing during that time because we had made a solemn commitment to get out of debt – no matter how long it took. We said to the Lord, We are serious about this, and we showed it.
I’ve had many people tell me they want to get out of debt, yet they never change their lifestyle. They still eat out all the time. They still spend freely on entertainment and vacations. They still buy new clothes. They even continue to make large purchases on credit, such as new homes and new cars.
I remember one couple in our church who were in serious financial trouble and came to us for counseling. In contrast to most, they actually did what we counseled them to do. (It’s amazing to me how many people come to a pastor asking for his or her counsel and then proceed to ignore it after it’s given. I don’t know why they ask in the first place!)
This couple, however, asked us for counsel, and then they followed through. We told them lovingly but candidly, “You can’t afford the house in which you are living. You’re going to have to sell it and downsize. You’re going to have to take some other radical steps as well.”
Amazingly, they actually did it. They followed godly, Spirit-led counsel. The result? God has so blessed that family. As a matter of fact, the couple was recently able to give a car to a young man in our church who needed one.
They went from crushing financial pressure to having the freedom to give a car away. By downsizing, their true standard of living (their levels of joy, peace, and fulfillment) has gone up immeasurably.
The truth is that if you’re going to live the lifestyle of a giver, you’re going to have to make the lifestyle adjustments that allow you to have something to give. One of the first ways to do that is to get out of debt.
When God saw that we were serious about our commitment to get out of debt, He began to bless us tremendously. That is why we were able to become debt free in only one year.
That’s the great thing about this principle. You’re never on your own. God stands ready and willing to provide all of heaven’s help if only you will take a step of faith and begin.
So let me ask you, How serious are you about obeying God in your finances?
Debbie and I have come to understand that all of our money belongs to Him. Thus, we need to ask Him before we spend any of it. A valuable practice is to pray about every significant financial purchase and wait overnight before you commit.
I’m obviously not talking about praying overnight about whether to go with corn flakes or raisin bran at the grocery store. I am, however, talking about taking almost every purchase – large and small – to the Lord and waiting overnight before making a decision.
You see, I’ve discovered that about 80 percent of our purchases are made on impulse. A little prayer and a brief cooling-off period can keep us from making countless spending mistakes.
This commitment is especially helpful when you’re being pressured by a salesman to make an immediate decision. When a prospect says, “I need to pray about it,” many salesmen of big-ticket items have been trained to tell you they respect that desire and that they’ll leave for a little while and come back in a few minutes. But they don’t have an answer when you tell them you don’t make any purchases without praying about it overnight.
One of the biggest rewards of obeying God and getting out of debt is the freedom to do the right thing when God speaks to you about it. Let me give you a few examples.
I once had a disgruntled former employee who accused me of cheating him out of $2,500. Now, I had financial records to show that he was wrong. He was owed no money at all, and I could prove it! But I believe in the principle of going the extra mile, and I know God always blesses me for it.
So we sold a vehicle that we had at the time (we had paid cash, of course, so we owned it outright), bought a less expensive vehicle, and took $2,500 out of the proceeds and sent it to him.
We didn’t owe him the money. But we just felt God saying, “Go the extra mile.” The next week, someone sent us a van that cost $25,000.
On another occasion, I had a former employer accuse me of owing him $400. He was wrong. I didn’t own him $400, and I could have proven it. But again, we wanted to go the extra mile. Romans 12 tells us, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (v.18).
Frankly, I would much rather be cheated by men and blessed by God than to insist on fairness from men but forfeit God’s blessing. Every time I’ve done the right thing, God has always blessed me.
So I sent my former employer the $400. The next week, I received an unexpected offering of $5,000. God always honors doing the right thing.
God is looking for good stewards. He’s looking for people who “render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). This also means that we shouldn’t cheat on our taxes or scrimp on our giving.
Think about it. If God really has done a work in our hearts, why would we be trying to figure out how to diminish the amount of our tithe? Why would we even be trying to rationalize tithing on the net of our income rather than the gross?
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Read Deuteronomy 15:5 and 28:12. In both passages God reveals His will that the people of Israel be lenders, not borrowers. Some believers think it is always wrong to borrow money, even for a mortgage. What, in your view, is the balanced biblical position? How serious are you about obeying God in the area of debt? Make a fresh commitment this week to live out what God has spoken to you regarding debt.
Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.
TITUS 2:7b, NLT
The second principle that god laid in our lives for living the blessed life came in the form of clear instructions from Him: “Don’t manipulate.”
When I was a traveling minister, I had a mailing list of people who had donated to my ministry at one time or another. I would periodically send letters to the folks on that list, letting them know what was going on with the ministry and making them aware of the needs we had.
Let me emphasize right now that there is nothing wrong with that. It is appropriate for ministries to maintain a list of donors and to use it to let people know about needs. But I discovered that I had begun to view that mailing list as my source.
For instance, there was a man in Houston, Texas, on that list who faithfully sent us $300 every time he got a letter from us. When the Lord began to deal with me about my heart attitude toward that list, I remember thinking, But, Lord, if I don’t mail to that list, people like that man in Houston might not send the money. And the Lord responded, “If I want him to give, I’ll speak to him.”
In obedience, I stopped the mailing list that I had begun to view as my source of provision. And sure enough, the man in Houston stopped sending his $300 donations.
I remember saying to the Lord, “Lord, I thought You said if you wanted him to give, You would speak to him.” And the lord replied by saying, “Well, I’m obviously not speaking to him, am I?”
Thus the Lord began to show me some things about where I was placing my trust and expectancy for provision. He corrected my focus regarding who my source was.
Obviously, doing the right thing means walking in integrity – no hidden agendas and no hidden motives. Again, there is nothing unethical about a ministry maintaining a mailing list. What is wrong is starting to view the people on that list as your source rather than God. When you fall into that trap, it becomes very easy to move over into manipulation in order to get people to give.
In my case, I had slowly stopped looking to God to meet our needs and had begun to look to people instead.
If you’re in vocational ministry as a pastor, missionary, or evangelist, or in some other type of ministry in which your support comes from offerings and donations, this is an area in which you must always be on your guard. But this is really a trap anyone can fall into.
Whom are you viewing as your source? To whom are you looking for provision? Do you ever drop hints when you’re around people who are in a position to help you?
I’ll tell you right now that people who operate in the gift of giving have the ability to discern manipulation in others quite quickly. And the Lord will not allow them to reward manipulation.
To be blunt, manipulation is a form of witchcraft. It’s relying on our ability to speak and persuade rather than on God’s ability to speak and persuade. God can get provision to you without your manipulative help!
For example, in a recent elders’ meeting at the church I pastor, we all felt lead to send a financial gift to a particular church for their building fund. This is not a church with which we have a close relationship. In fact, we had never even met with their leadership. All we knew was, the Holy Spirit was speaking to us about helping them. They were probably praying for provision, and God found some willing ears in our elders.
God is able to meet all of our needs, but He will not do so if we are relying on manipulation. As with everything else we’ve discussed in this book thus far, it’s all a matter of the heart.
I go out of my way to avoid even the appearance of manipulation. For example, in almost twenty-five years of teaching and preaching on giving, I have never once received an offering for our ministry after I have taught on giving. Instead, I’ve always encouraged the listeners to give first to their local churches and to the material needs in the church body and to other ministries.
I will not have a traveling minister in my pulpit who is willing to receive offerings for himself after he preaches on giving. Sadly, there are plenty who not only are willing but insist on it.
I have a pastor friend whose church was struggling financially. On someone else’s recommendation, he called a well-known minister who is known for preaching about money. He was simply seeking some counsel and some ideas for communicating truths to his people about giving.
This minister told him that he wanted to come and help him personally. He offered to come preach for him on the subject of giving. My pastor friend accepted this offer.
This minister came and taught the people the concept of paying back tithes (the idea is that if you have gotten behind on tithing, you need to catch up). I personally don’t see that concept taught anywhere in Scripture. On the contrary, as with any other area of our lives in which we fall short, the answer is repentance, not restitution. Jesus has paid the price in full for all of our sins, and we can never repay Him.
Nevertheless, the people responded to that minister’s message and gave more than $60,000 in the offering. Following the service, this minister told the pastor that the entire offering should go to him, not the church. “You’ll be blessed by sowing this offering into my ministry,” the pastor was told.
That was pure manipulation. That preacher left that church no better off than he found it. I’m convinced those kinds of things are an abomination to the Lord.
At the risk of sounding as if I’m boasting (Believe me, I’m not. This is all due to the grace of God.), I must tell you that in every church in which I’ve ever preached on giving, the pastor has always told me later how much healthier the church was afterward.
Several churches have seen their resources double, and some have even tripled, once the people caught a revelation of the joy of tithing and giving. And it isn’t just the finances that increase in these cases. Peace and joy in the church increase. Attendance increases. And the numbers of people serving and volunteering increase. The intensity of their worship increases. All of these are vital signs of church health. They all happen when people allow God to do a work in their hearts through giving.
Why is this so? I think the answer lies in Matthew 6:21. Remember that in this verse, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When people begin to invest their treasure in God through the local church, their hearts follow.
It’s the same dynamic you see when someone invests in the stock market for the first time. When you invest in a stock, you start keeping up with it. You begin checking on it in the newspaper or on the Internet every few days. You start listening for news about the company on television. Why? Because wherever your treasure is, your heart’s going to go there also.
If you want your heart to follow after the things that god’s heart is after – the local church and reaching the lost – put your treasure there. Your heart will follow.
When God’s people catch a revelation of giving – when God does a work in their hearts – they begin to want to serve in their churches. They want to help the children’s ministry grow. They want the church to have a good youth ministry, a powerful choir and a blessed staff. They want to be generous in missionary giving.
The whole atmosphere in a church changes when people catch the revelation of generosity, tithing, and giving.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Can you recall a time when you thought you were being manipulated, and worse yet, by someone in the church? If so, I imagine you also had feelings of anger and distrust afterward. These are times when we must remember to forgive, and know that God will deal with them in His time and His way. “In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping” (2 Peter 2:3, NLT). So, knowing this, don’t let the experience inhibit you from giving as God leads you in the future!
On another note, can you think of a time when you have been manipulative? Ask God’s forgiveness and help to trust him and not manipulate for His provision.
I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Yes, God had said to me “Get out of debt.” He had said to me, “Never manipulate people.” And the third thing God instructed me (and Debbie) to do in the area of our finances was “Give.” We were to begin giving generously – not just tithing, but giving well above our tithes.
I remember the first time Debbie and I began to give over and above our tithe on a regular basis. God immediately began to bless and multiply our income. After some prayer, we had committed to give 10 percent of our gross income as our tithe to our local church and an additional 10 percent of gross to missions. That year, as we doubled our giving, God doubled our income.
Thus far, I’ve shared many testimonies with you about our own giving. Now let me relate a few amazing testimonies that have developed as I have preached this message to others.
There was a family in a church at which I was scheduled to preach that had borrowed $1,200 from another family in the church during a personal crisis in their lives. The other family didn’t need the money back and had even told them not to worry about repaying it.
But the family that had borrowed the money felt strongly that, in order to be good stewards, they needed to pay it back quickly. That became a focus of their prayer. They asked God for the ability to repay the loan.
On a certain night, I was preparing to preach on the subject of giving. That very afternoon, the family that had borrowed the money was watching Pat Robertson’s 700 Club. As they watched, Dr. Robertson shared a prophetic word about a family who owed a debt. He said God was about to provide a way for them to pay it back supernaturally. With excitement, they took hold of that word in faith.
That evening, I preached, as planned, on giving. I encouraged the people to give first to their church and then to wherever else the Holy Spirit prompted them to give. As I did, people began to spontaneously go to that family and put money in their pockets. When they got home, they pulled it out and put it on the kitchen table. They counted exactly $1,200. The next night, they were joyously able to pay the family back every cent they had borrowed.
On another occasion, I was preaching on giving in a church in which one of the members had been severely injured in a car wreck and was temporarily in a wheelchair. Because of his injuries, the doctors had told him he would be in the wheelchair for about three months and then on crutches for another three months.
At the time when I preached there, it had only been about two weeks since the accident. The old truck he had been driving in the accident had been completely destroyed and was uninsured.
The night that I preached, many people went to him and gave him money at the prompting of the Lord. When he got home, he counted $2,000 – the exact amount of an old pickup he had found to replace the one that had been totaled.
As he prayed about it, however, the Lord showed him twenty people to whom he was supposed to give $100 each. God had done a work in his heart where giving was concerned, too.
The next night, he went to each person and gave him or her the money, just as the Lord had instructed him. A few days later, the Lord spoke to another man in the church to buy him a brand-new pickup truck. The man was to take it over to the injured man and to pray for him to be healed.
The man prayed for him, and God miraculously healed him on the spot. The next morning, he drove his new truck to work!
Giving touches at the core of so much of what God wants to do in our lives. God wants to work miracles in our lives, and many times He starts by working miracles in our hearts regarding financial obedience.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
God always honors doing the right thing. If you’re going to live the lifestyle of a giver, you may have to make lifestyle adjustments to make it possible. What are steps you can take to get out of debt? What are steps you can take to budget and manage your finances better? Write them down; pray over them. And remember, you’re not on your own! “commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5).
The LORD leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all those who keep his covenant and obey his decrees.
PSALM 25:10, NLT
Once I was teaching the principles of giving in a church, and we were seeing a tremendous move of God’s Spirit among the people. People were responding and giving to the church and to one another as the Lord led them.
One night, a couple who were seemingly broken before the Lord came up to me. They were weeping almost uncontrollably. They said that the Lord had spoken to them about giving away every penny they had. I learned that they had written a check for all the money they had in the world. Now they were bringing me the check, saying, “We’re supposed to give this to you. Do whatever you feel you’re supposed to do with it.”
Immediately, I knew what the Lord wanted me to do. When they handed me the check, I ask them, “Are you saying this is mine now, and I can do anything that I want with it?” Through their tears they nodded and answered yes. So I said, “Well, I know exactly what the Lord would have me do with this check.” Then I tore it up in front of them. Immediately, they fell to the floor and began to weep uncontrollably.
God did a wondrous work in their hearts that night – one that changed them for the rest of their lives. They were never the same. They had passed a major test of obedience.
To this day, I don’t know how much money it was, nor do I care. I do know it was enormous in their eyes and precious in the eyes of God. I also know that no amount of money in the world could purchase what God did in that couple’s lives that night.
That incident reminds me of a spiritual principle that my wife and I have come to call the I. O. Principle. I. O. stands for Instant Obedience. We have come to understand the importance of responding instantly when we hear god’s voice.
With that couple, I could have waited to see how much the check was for. I could have pocketed it, prayed about it further, and torn it up later. But that would have been dangerous.
Sometimes in giving, if you wait, Satan is given time to come up with all kinds of good reasons not to do what God has told you to do. The longer you wait, the more time there is for your mind and emotions to cloud the message.
If god speaks, do it. Trust and obey. And do it now! Don’t give Satan an opportunity to help you rationalize another course of action. Follow the I. O. Principle.
And remember that the three elements I have outlined in the past few weeks – (1) getting out of debt, (2) avoiding manipulation of others and (3) giving as God leads you to give – represent the foundation of the blessed life. I’m convinced of it.
Lay the foundation and watch miracles begin to happen in your finances.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The spiritual gift of giving is developed by our willingness to do what God’s Word says, and to hear and respond to the voice of the Holy Spirit leading us. Can you think of a time when God recently tested you regarding your finances? What was the outcome?
Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.
1 CORINTHIANS 14:12
Many people are surprised to discover that there is a spiritual gift of giving that is every bit as valid as the gifts of prophecy and teaching.
We tend to hear and read a lot about various spiritual gifts. But for some reason, we hear very little about the gift of giving. The fact is, it is mentioned prominently in Romans 12, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (vv. 6-8, emphasis added).
This passage outlines seven motivational gifts. They are often called motivational gifts because they tend to identify what most motivates the one who has the gift. I believe every Christian has one of these as his or her primary gifting. Of course, a fully functioning Spirit-filled Christian should have all of these gifts in operation to various degrees. Jesus walked in all of the gifts in full measure.
We, on the other hand, might have two or three of these gifts that are very prevalent in our lives, but one in particular will be the main motivating gift for us. That’s why it takes all of us working together to comprise the Body of Christ.
In the verses we just read, we found prophecy, ministry (or serving), teaching, exhortation, giving, leading (or administration), and mercy. These are the seven motivational gifts of the Spirit. Here’s a quick definition of each of these:
Prophecy – reveals the motives of man and seeks conformity to God’s Word and ways.
Ministry (or serving) – meets needs on a practical basis.
Teaching – searches out and presents scriptural truths.
Exhortation – admonishes or encourages others.
Giving – meets material needs, often through finances.
Leading (or administration) – organizes and leads.
Mercy – empathizes and shows compassion to others.
Many people are also unaware of the verses that immediately follow the ones we just read. Romans 12:9-15 provides information that correlates with each gift.
For example, verse 9 speaks to those with the gift of prophecy: “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” That is what someone with the motivation of prophecy does; they abhor things that are evil, and they cling to what is good. But the admonition to them from Scripture is to “let love be without hypocrisy.” In other words, love everyone – the good and the bad.
Verse 10 provides encouragement for those with the gift of serving: “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” That’s a great description of someone who serves with excellence.
Verse 11 correlates with the gift of teaching: “Not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” Teachers ten to be very diligent, but their admonition from Scripture is to be fervent when they teach the truths that the Lord has given them from Scripture.
The next verse, verse 12, offers instruction for those with the gift of exhortation: “Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer.” People who are exhorters know how to rejoice, but they also know how to be patient with people. They are also wonderful intercessors – praying for people in need.
And in verse 13, we find the job description of someone with the gift of giving: “Distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” The people I know who function in the gift of giving truly love to distribute to the needs of the saints. They are also very hospitable, always opening up their homes to others. Some givers I know have actually built extra rooms onto their homes so that missionaries can stay with them when they come in from the field.
Verse 14 correlates with leading or administrating. It says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” This is certainly something that those in places of authority must do all the time. People who lead are no strangers to having people speak against them.
Finally, verse 15 correlates with the gift of mercy: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” You don’t really have to tell people who have the gift of mercy to weep with those who weep; it comes naturally. But you do sometimes have to admonish them to rejoice with those who rejoice.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
What are some spiritual gifts God has given you? Look over the list once again and see which ones describe you the most. Ask God to show you ways to use your gifts to build His kingdom. And pray for His power to help you exercise the gifts that aren’t as developed.
How wonderful to be wise, to analyze and interpret things. Wisdom lights up a person’s face, softening its hardness.
ECCLESIASTES 8:1, NLT
As you know by now, my wife and I, by God’s grace, have been used in the area of giving for many years. I have shared about a remarkable season of time in which we were able to give nine vehicles away in eighteen months. As I write, we are now up to fourteen vehicles that we have given away, and counting. Blessing people is fun (and habit forming!).
Since those early days, we’ve been able to give our first house away. We’ve gone through seasons in our lives in which we’ve given 70 percent of our income away. And on three different occasions in our lives, we’ve had the privilege of giving everything that we own away. (I’ll share some details about the most recent of these times in the closing week of this book.)
Please understand, I’m not telling you any of this to brag. I’m not interested in patting myself on the back. I am interested, however, in letting you know that I have lived the principles I’m sharing with you. This isn’t theory with me – it’s real life.
Because we’ve been able to walk in the area of giving for many years, we’ve learned some things. We’ve learned a lot about those who operate in the gift of giving, and we’ve learned a lot about how people respond to those who have the gift of giving.
I remember, for instance, a time the Lord spoke to us about giving $1,000 to some acquaintances who had a need. When we gave them the money, their response to us was, “Of course, $1,000 to you guys is like only $100 to a lot of people.” The implication was that we had more money than we knew what to do with and that giving $1,000 away was not a sacrifice for us.
This hurt us, and we didn’t understand why they would make such a statement. We had just given them $1,000. Why wasn’t their response, “Thank you so much!”? Why would they say, “Of course, $1,000 to you guys is like only $100 to a lot of people”?
That wasn’t true, of course. A thousand dollars has the same purchasing power regardless of who is holding it. Yet often that’s exactly the way we think about people the Lord has blessed financially. Statements like the one that couple made reveal insensitivity, ingratitude, and wrong thinking about money.
It reminds me of another couple who was aware of our reputation as generous givers. Every time we were around them, they would start dropping hints about all their financial needs. When it seemed to them that we weren’t picking up their “subtle” hints, they got increasingly blatant. Of course, we were picking up their hints; we just had no intention of responding to manipulation.
I remember one occasion when one of them said, “Yeah, we were short this month on some of our bills, but, of course, you two wouldn’t know anything about that.” Of course, we knew quite well what it’s like to have too much month at the end of our money. We had experienced times in which we had to trust god for the meeting of our basic needs. Even people who have been blessed tremendously by God still know times in which they’ve had shortfalls.
The unfortunate truth is that if you operate in the spiritual gift of giving, you are almost certainly going to encounter the ungrateful, the insensitive, or the manipulative. It comes with the territory.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I teach that people who have the gift of giving should beware of people who are ungrateful, insensitive, and manipulative. Does that sound like anyone you know? How should we respond when people take advantage of us? Ask God to help your heart remain soft toward helping people and meeting needs even if you’ve had some bad experiences.
So now, brethren, I commend you go God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
I really have a heart to help pastors understand that people in their churches have the gift of giving, how to recognize it and how to cultivate it.
It’s kind of odd. Many pastors instinctively know that they need to nurture, train, and develop people in the church who have the gifts of leading, serving, or teaching. They will instruct them and help them learn to function better in their gifts. But many of the same pastors don’t even know how to recognize the gift of giving as a spiritual gift, and if they do, they don’t know how to help people grow in it. I suspect some pastors even think it is somehow inappropriate for them to develop those members who have the gift of giving.
Think about this. Since there are seven motivational gifts, it’s quite possible that one out of seven of those sitting around you in church has the motivational gift of giving. If you are one of those with the gift of giving, I want to help you. And I want to help the leaders who are reading this book to know better how to help people with this gift. They are too valuable to the Body of Christ not to have their gifts matured and developed.
If you have the motivational gift of giving, I want you to know it is a wonderful spiritual gift from God. You should be pleased and grateful that God has given you this gift. My hope is that you will see it as a spiritual gift that God wants to use to build the church and to build His kingdom.
If you’re a pastor or a leader, I want to challenge you to ask God to take you to a higher level of giving in your own life. It’s very difficult for a pastor to lead givers effectively if that pastor doesn’t have a heart for giving or an understanding of the biblical principles of stewardship.
I encourage pastors to preach on giving without apology. Money was the subject in 30 percent of the parables Jesus taught. I like to preach on giving because I know it helps people. I know that when people hear and embrace the truth about Spirit-led giving, God is going to bless them and change their lives for the better.
In all truth and sincerity, when I preach to my congregation about giving, my motive is to help them, not the church. I will say, however, that I personally don’t care for some of the phrases that are commonly used related to giving in church.
For instance, a vocational minister will often stand before the congregation and say, “I’m going to receive the offering now.” It suggests that the congregants are the givers and the pastor and staff are the receivers. I would very much prefer to hear. “We’re all going to give our offering now.” This indicates that the pastor in joining the people in giving to the Lord.
Oh, how I long to see pastors ask God to do a work in their hearts in the area of giving – then preach with passion and power out of that changed heart. Some don’t because they are afraid people will be offended. I have heard them say so. But the truth is that the only people who get offended when you preach on giving are the ones who don’t give – those who are in the grasp of the spirit of mammon. The people who have a revelation of giving will not get offended when you preach on it, and those in bondage to mammon can never taste freedom unless they hear the truth.
People who have the gift of giving are a wonderful asset to a church. A pastor can go to a genuine giver and directly share a need with them, and they will not be offended. As a matter of fact, they will appreciate it because of their strong desire to meet needs.
I had one man with the gift of giving describe how givers will frequently direct the majority of their above-the-tithe offerings toward ministries outside the church. Why? Because the church’s vision simply isn’t big enough to justify the funds they would like to give. In other words, the pastors either don’t have a big enough vision or big enough faith to be able to attract those funds.
I want to say to pastors, “Get a large vision from God, because He has given the gift of giving to individuals in your church who have a desire to give large amounts if the vision is large and worthy.”
Of course, as I have already stated, if you begin looking to them as your source, rather than God, you won’t see much in the way of results. People with the gift of giving can sense manipulation from a mile away. If you start dropping hints around them instead of making a straightforward request, they will be offended and will not give. People who have the gift of giving can pick up on gimmicks and scams quicker than anyone else because they give by supernatural revelation. They give by the voice of the Spirit.
I remember one particular lunch meeting I had with a fairly new acquaintance. He was wealthy, and I could discern that he had the gift of giving – though at the time it was clearly undeveloped.
Soon after we sat down, he said, “Let’s get something straight right from the start. I will only give to your ministry if God tells me to.” A little startled at his bluntness, I said, “Great! I’d like to get something straight right from the start as well. Like you, I function in the gift of giving and I didn’t invite you to lunch to ask you for money. Frankly, God has blessed us tremendously, and we don’t need any of your money. I’m here because God has given me some insights about the gift of giving. The Lord told me that you don’t know these principles, even though you have this gift.”
At this point, he was the one who was startled. Now on a roll, I continued, “The Lord showed me that there are five things you have been praying about doing. I can help you apply your gift of giving in these areas if you’ll let me.”
I outlined the five issues the Lord had shown me, and in addition to being amazed at the accuracy, he admitted that he did indeed need help in those areas.
Since that occasion, we have become close friends. Today, he has surpassed me in his understanding in this area and frequently helps me teach others about the gift of giving.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
God has given the gift of giving to individuals in the church who have a desire to give large amounts, if the vision is large and worthy. If you’re a pastor reading this, consider what this really means in relation to the vision you now have for your own church. Ask God to help you share the vision of giving with others with a right heart and a pure motive.
For there is no partiality with God.
The Bible strongly discourages us from showing partiality, specifically toward the wealthy or prominent in society. “But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9).
I have observed that when it comes to relating to people who have the gift of giving, we frequently show partiality and that it manifests itself in two distinct ways.
To be sure, there are occasions in which a church goes out of its way to treat a wealthy visitor better than it should. But my personal observation has been that the rich are often treated much worse than others, usually because of envy, jealousy, or greed.
In my experience, people who have exercised the gift of giving faithfully – and have been blessed with finances as a result – don’t really want to be treated any differently than anyone else. But often, people who have great financial resources are some of the loneliest people in the world.
By and large, people of wealth have been badly treated by the church. They have sat in services as jokes were made about “the rich.” They’ve heard sermon illustrations from the pulpit that have portrayed success as if it were a sin or something about which to be ashamed. Then some pastors wonder why people of influence and money don’t come to their churches. In having this attitude, many pastors and Christians have been infected by the world’s way of thinking.
Resentment of success and excellence is a hallmark of the world’s system today. Think for a moment about any of the Hollywood movies or television programs you have seen lately. In how many of them was the “bad guy” a successful business person? The “evil rich person” and the “greedy corporation” have become Hollywood clichés.
Watch enough Hollywood entertainment, and you will soon find yourself thinking that everyone who does well in life must have lied, cheated, and backstabbed to achieve it. This lie resonates with people because it appeals to envy and jealous in the fallen human nature.
In reality, people who do well over the long haul tend to be people who do things God’s way (whether they know it or not!).
Consider the following Scriptures:
The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap (1 Samuel 2:7-8).
He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich (Proverbs 10:4).
The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it (Proverbs 10:22).
The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself (Proverbs 11:25).
According to these Scriptures, wealth is a blessing from God and a product of things such as diligence and generosity.
So let me ask you, why would we put down someone whom God has blessed? Why would we consider something that came from the hand of God to be evil or shameful? It borders on blasphemy.
I suggest we need to change our attitudes about money. We need to examine our hearts and see if we have any prejudices against people who have been blessed financially. Envy and jealousy are rampant in our culture and, sadly, in our churches. It is possible to have your thinking tainted by the spirit of this age.
Abram might not have been welcome in many churches today. Why? “Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:2).
Many of the men in the Bible whom we revere and respect as men of faith were blessed financially by God. They were blessed because they were good stewards, and God knew that He could trust them with wealth. He knew they would use their resources to bless others and carry out God’s purposes.
We need to examine our hearts, including our feelings toward those who seem to live extravagantly by our standards. For example, let me tell you about a friend of mine who is very well-to-do.
My friend made the foundation of his house with precious stones. His driveway is made of gold and his gates are made of pearls. Do you know who I’m talking about? I’m talking about God. Would you say that He is eccentric? Would you say that He has a problem in this area?
The problem, of course, is not money. The problem is how we think about money and those who have more of it than we do.
Like the rest of us, people with wealth are just looking for a place where they can be accepted. Unfortunately, I think we have treated them so badly in the church that much of their giving now goes to parachurch ministries and Christian charities rather than to a local church.
Please understand, I’m not opposed to people with the gift of giving donating to ministries other than a local church, but I would also like to see local churches get all the resources God wants them to have.
I have a passion to see churches financially able to hire the staff, build the buildings, and send the missionaries they need to fulfill god’s highest calling. That can only happen as churches quit ignoring (or even despising) one of the seven gifts the Spirit provides in the Body.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Wealth can be a blessing from God and a product of things such as diligence and generosity. But I believe many wealthy individuals often don’t feel welcome in churches. Why do you think that is? Can you give an example of how wealth has made it difficult to have a relationship with someone?
He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ….
EPHESIANS 4:11-12, NLT
For every truth of God, Satan tries to offer a distorted counterfeit.
For example, I believe God tried to restore the truth about giving to the church in the 1980s. But Satan distorted that truth; thus we saw many ministers exploit people and gather large sums of money for their own pleasure. The abuses were there for the whole world to see. Yes, God wants to bless His people, but for the right purposes.
As we’ve seen, the gift of giving is one of seven motivational gifts. If those gifts are evenly distributed among God’s people, then roughly 15 percent of believers have this gift. Yet surveys show that only 5 to 7 percent of Christians believe they have the gift of giving.
Why is this? Is it because we haven’t recognized it as a valid gift from our pulpits? Is it because we don’t honor people who have this gift, equipping them and encouraging them in it?
Let me describe the classic signs of a believer with the gift of giving and the way you can recognize them in your own heart and in others. I also want to help pastors recognize this give in their people and be better able to equip them to operate in that gift, to the building up of the Church.
People who have the gift of giving respond to strong vision with clear objectives. They want their money to count; they want to see ministries and ministers that operate by sound financial principles; they want to invest in ministries and ministers that are good stewards and are successful in utilizing the funds God is giving them. They are literally investors in the kingdom. And as good investors, they want to put their money in good ministries that are being effective with the funds entrusted to them. This is very important to them.
People who are givers can be men or women. I know a man in our church who is very successful financially, but his wife is the one who has the motivational gift of giving. Now, he loves to give too, but she is the one who hears the Lord by revelation in the area of giving. His motivational gift is that of leadership, which God uses to produce financial blessing. Then she is able to use her gift of giving to distribute those finances as the Lord speaks to both of them. Now, obviously they each have other gifts as well, but these are strong motivational gifts with them. They make a great team.
People who have the gift of giving have discernment that allows them to determine genuine needs. Remember, we’re talking about a spiritual gift that comes from God. Therefore, a person who has this gift picks up manipulation more quickly than anyone can by natural means. They are able to look at ministries and missionaries and determine where bona fide needs are and how money should be used. People who have the gift of giving are great at serving on mission committees and benevolence committees, because they have the ability to determine true needs that are worthy of investment by the church.
People who have the gift of giving are very fugal but also very generous. Let me explain. A while back, I had to counsel lovingly a man with the gift of giving who was out of balance in this way. He would joyously give away thousands of dollars as the Lord prompted but then turn around and pour over his wife’s grocery receipts to see if she had spent a few dollars needlessly. He wasn’t trying to be mean; he was just letting the frugality that comes naturally to a giver get way out of balance. Because he didn’t understand some things in the area of giving, he didn’t realize he was being generous toward strangers but stingy toward the most important person in his life. Nevertheless, people who have this gift tend to watch where their money goes. They like budgets, and they understand the principles of finance very well. Their greatest joy comes in meeting needs.
People who have the gift of giving desire to be appreciated but not recognized. They don’t want their name on anything; they don’t want to be praised in front of their church for their giving; they don’t want any recognition for their gift; but they do like to know that their obedience and sacrifices are appreciated. A heartfelt thank-you goes a long, long way.
People who have the gift of giving want to invest in a stable ship, not a sinking ship. When a television minister says, “If you don’t give, we’re going off the air,” People who have the gift of giving will tend to disqualify that ministry. When, on the other hand, a television ministry credibly shows that it is actually helping people, feeding people, taking care of people, and getting people saved – those who have the gift of giving will favor that ministry. A person who has the gift of giving doesn’t want to invest in a sinking ship or even one that is drifting aimlessly with the current. They want their money to be handled in a prudent manner, and they appreciate excellence and quality. One faithful giver told me that if the head of a ministry or organization has a poverty mentality or the wrong perspective about money, he doesn’t want to invest in that ministry. He chooses to invest in ministries where the leader has demonstrated the ability to handle large sums of money in a prudent and wise way.
Contrary to common belief, people who truly have the gift of giving don’t want to control their money after they have given it. If you encounter a person who attempts to assert control through the giving of their money, you can be sure they are not operating in the spiritual gift of giving. People who have the gift of giving want to give generously and, as I have stated, they need to know that their money will be handled correctly. But they never ever want to try to control or manipulate with their money. Most of the time, they will give to ministries that have strong leaders with a strong vision. (Just a note to pastors here: You obviously need to respect and appreciate people who have this gift. But you can’t minister to anyone with whom you are overly impressed or who intimidates you. As I’ve said, givers with wealth want to be treated like everyone else.)
People who have the gift of giving don’t want to be a Band-Aid – they want to be a cure. In other words, they don’t want their money just to provide a short-term fix of something that is going to break again. They want it to bring lasting solutions to situations.
People who have the gift of giving want to give more that money – they want to give their time, their talent, and their wisdom. Many givers are quite talented. Judson Cornwall calls them “Apostles in the business world.” In our church there is a man with the gift of giving who has saved us thousands of dollars on our land and building acquisitions. He has tremendous wisdom and discernment in this area, and his counsel is very valuable; but he also has tremendous wisdom in many other areas. For example, he is a very gifted Bible teacher and leader, in the church and on the mission field. In fact, he recently helped a new church in Odessa, Ukraine, pattern their church government after ours. I’ve discovered that people who have the gift of giving love to see their experience and expertise put to work for the kingdom. They want to offer wise counsel to the church they love and appreciate. By the same token, if you reject their wisdom, counsel, and experience, they will most likely find a ministry that wants it.
People who have the gift of giving are often gifted leaders. Their ability to lead is frequently the reason they have been so successful.
People who have the gift of giving don’t appreciate being put down or criticized for having a successful lifestyle. (Who does enjoy being resented or criticized unjustly?) If a wealthy believer has a large home, he most likely sees it as an investment – one that is actually building wealth that he will ultimately be able to use in the kingdom of God. The income that God has blessed them with may give them the ability to drive nice vehicles and have nice clothes. For them, it’s not about extravagance or being ostentatious; it’s about enjoying some of the fruits of God’s blessing. Nevertheless, on many occasions I have heard pastors deride, criticize, and generalize about people who have nice possessions, apparently unaware that they are ridiculing people whom God has blessed with the gift of giving. Often, the people being criticized are giving away a much higher percentage of their incomes than that preacher would ever dream of doing himself.
People with the gift of giving don’t want to talk about money all the time. I know many pastors who always want to talk about money when they get around people who have the gift of giving. I’ve discovered that’s not the subject they want to discuss. Money to them is a tool – not something to be worshiped, obsessed over, or analyzed all the time. Ask about their family. Find out what their kids are doing. Talk about what you’ve both been seeing in the Word lately. When you’re around someone with the gift of giving, talk about anything but money.
ADVICE FOR GIVERS
It is very possible that, as you’ve read this book, you have been stirred because you recognized in yourself the hallmarks of someone to who God has given the gift of giving.
If so, I would encourage you to learn more about that important gift. Do your own Bible study on the subject. And if you are not already tithing, begin to tithe at your local church and look for places where your money can be best invested in the kingdom. Look for opportunities to bless worthy ministries that are affecting and helping people.
Begin “distributing to the needs of the saints” as you are “given to hospitality” (Romans 12:13). Invest your money where it will make the largest possible impact for the kingdom of God.
If you have been mistreated or maligned by uninformed people in the church, forgive them. Don’t let it cause you to get bitter in your heart and stop the flow of giving and blessing in your life.
Remember, God has caused you to be a river, not a reservoir. The water in a river is pure and clean, but the water in a reservoir is contaminated. Make sure that you are continuing to give, as God leads you, to the church and to worthy ministries that are making an impact for the kingdom of God.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
According to the parable of the talents, God has “delivered His goods to us” (Matthew 25:14). He has given us natural abilities and spiritual gifts that we are to use for the kingdom. Make a list of the natural abilities and spiritual gifts God has given you. Are you using them for the kingdom? If not, what are the obstacles?
Give from what you have. If you want to give, your gift will be accepted. It will be judged by what you have, not by what you do not have.
2 CORINTHINAS 8:11-12, NCV
For most of us, summer camp holds a lot of interesting memories. For instance, I remember coming to the end of my first week of camp and hearing that there was going to be an awards ceremony. I remember thinking, An awards ceremony? Not fair! They should have told us at the first of the week that they were going to give out awards. If I had known, I would have tried harder!
I don’t want you to suffer a similar fate. Right now, while you have the rest of your life in front of you, I want to let you know that God is a rewarder.
Hebrews 11 says so in clear terms, “but without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (v. 6, emphasis added).
God is a rewarder. This is a truth about God of which many Christians don’t seem to be aware. He loves to reward us when we diligently seek His presence, His will, and His ways. He rewards good work, and He rewards good stewardship.
I’ve had some real-life experiences with this principle lately. As I wrote this book, my oldest son was away at college. He had always been a hard-working kid, but he took an accelerated degree program that was so concentrated, it made working a part-time job unfeasible. That meant that I provided nearly all of his support.
Right before he first went off to school, we sat down and drew up a budget for him based upon a set amount I would send him each month.
Two or three months later, we sat down and looked at his budget to see how he was doing. I was pleased to discover that he was doing a great job of living within his means. He wasn’t going out to eat or to see movies a lot. He wasn’t breaking his budget with new clothes. Essentially, he was being a good steward of the money I was sending him.
So what did a loving father do for his good-steward son? I rewarded him! I increased the amount of money I was sending him each month. I said, “Now, do anything you want with the extra money – go out to eat with your friends after church a few more times of buy a new shirt or two.”
A few months later, he called me and said, “Dad, I’ve been thinking. If I move into a different apartment, I can lower my living expenses and save you some money.” Of course, I was blessed to see that he was thinking of ways to help. He knew that his mother and I were sacrificing and economizing on our end to make college possible for him. He has a thankful heart.
We checked into his idea, worked out all the details, and helped him move into the less expensive apartment. Shortly thereafter, he called and said, “It’s working out like we thought; you can lower the amount you’re sending me now.”
Do you know what I did? I kept sending the same amount to him. I said, “Thanks, Son, but now you’ll just have more spending money. You’ve been a good steward, and I want you to be rewarded. You should enjoy the benefits of your good stewardship.”
Why don’t we expect God to be at least as gracious and responsive as I was to my own son? Why would we be surprised to learn that god rewards and blesses us for being good stewards?
According to Matthew 6, God rewards us when we pray or fast or give to the poor. And in 1 Corinthians, we find, “Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (3:8, emphasis added).
In Bruce Wilkinson’s wonderful book A Life God Rewards, he cites example after example of how God is going to reward us in heaven for all the good works that we have done on Earth. As he is careful to point out, we’re not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works – and those good works result in rewards.
The familiar words of Ephesians 2 tell us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for goo works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (vv. 8-10, emphasis added).
As Bruce points out in his book, we must distinguish between belief and behavior. Our belief determines where we will spend eternity, and our behavior determines how we will spend eternity.
Bruce is right. God is going to reward us one day for our behavior or our good works. But it is also true that God rewards us while we’re still here on Earth! The Bible makes this quite clear. Look, for example, at mark 10: “So Jesus answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions – and in the age to come, eternal life’” (vv. 29-30, emphasis added).
Jesus is speaking here. What He’s saying is, “God is going to reward us, not only in the age to come, but now in this time as well.”
As several of Jesus’ parables illustrate, the Lord rewards stewardship. For example, in Luke 19, Jesus relates the parable fifty shekels of silver.) Jesus tells of ten people who received one mina each from a master or lord who wanted to test their stewardship, faithfulness, and ability. As Jesus tells it, when the master returned for an accounting, he instantly rewarded the steward who had done well: “And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities’” (Luke 19:17).
God is not going to give us more money if we can’t even be faithful with the money that He has already given us. If a person can’t handle $500 per week, why would God give him $5,000 per week?
God is interested in building His kingdom. That’s why He is going to entrust funds to people who are proving to Him that they will be good stewards with those funds – giving when God tells them to give. They won’t squander their resources on useless things; they’ll budget their money and be accountable. They will also be good stewards of their time, relationships, and talents. This is the message in the parable of the minas. Jesus makes a similar point in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). God gives talents to each of us according to our ability, and He expects us to use those talents for Him and for His kingdom purposes. We will never see God’s miraculous power given to poor stewards!
In the parable of the minas, Jesus said to each man who had received a mina, “Do business till I come” (Luke 19:13). That is what God expects us to do. He expects us to do business – kingdom business – until He returns.
In Acts 2, we find the first Spirit-filled Christians so in love with God that they actually sold their possessions and goods – distributing freely to everyone who had need! In response to their generosity and selflessness, God was generous with miracles! They abandoned themselves to God’s plan and purpose, and god applauded from heaven by pouring out His power.
In Jesus’ parable of the minas, why did the master take the one mina from the bad steward and give it to the one who had ten? Because Jesus is into rewarding stewardship! Poor stewards lose resources; good stewards receive more. It’s a pretty simple concept!
Have you ever lamented the fact that it seems that the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer? We’d better get used to i. As the parables show, a version of that happens in the kingdom of God. The Lord gives more to those who demonstrate trustworthiness, as my son demonstrated to me when he went away to college. Conversely, God is not going to give more to someone who is irresponsible with money or who doesn’t know where his money is going.
Some believers think they are exempt from having to think about stewardship because they don’t make very much. They fail to comprehend that it is being faithful with the little that leads to being entrusted with more.
Whenever there is a new report about someone winning the lottery or inheriting a large sum of money, I hear people make statements like this: “Boy, if I inherited five million dollars, I’d give a million of it to my church. Yessiree!” Right! What makes them think they will give 20 percent of a windfall to the Lord if they are not even giving 10 percent of their income now? It’s because they think, I will still have plenty left over for myself. But the heart of stewardship says, “With what I have now, I’m going to honor God. I will find a way to give 20 percent (or whatever the Spirit directs) now.” It is the person with such a heart who is entrusted with more.
Look again at the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. It says the man “called his own servants and delivered his goods to them” (v. 14).
We’re like those servants. God has delivered His goods to us. Not only does He entrust us with a measure of material wealth, but He gives us much more precious things as well. He has delivered treasures to us: prayer, the good news of salvation, and the power to help people. These are His precious goods He has delivered to us, and He expects us to use and distribute them.
God expects us to be good stewards of His people whom He puts in our path. And as we’ve seen, He is a rewarder of good stewards.
You’ll remember that Jesus told us in Matthew 6 to lay up treasure for ourselves in heaven. So let me you: How much treasure are you laying up in heaven? When you get to heaven, will you look back on this earth and regret how much treasure you laid up here instead of sending it on ahead to heaven?
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Rewards come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re often given when we’re not “looking,” but rather when we’re in the process of doing kingdom work. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Do you feel that you are being a good steward of the money that god has entrusted to you? List some ways that you could be a better steward.