If you are anything like me growing up in church, I learned at a very young age to give. It was just expected that a portion of anything I earned, usually about 10%, was given back to the church. Similarly, we regularly went through dolls and toys to donate to those who were not as blessed as we were.
For most of my life, I’ve honored this childhood teaching. I’ve even tried to instill these same principles into my girls. But it wasn’t until a few short years ago that I began to see this teaching in a new light.
I always thought God was smiling down on me as I gave my tenth back to Him, pleased that I was following His commandments to a tee. Now, I can’t help but wonder if He was sadly shaking His head at my misguided attempts at obedience.
“But woe to you, Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God.” (Luke 11:42)
The Pharisees followed the law, giving a tithe (10%) of EVERYTHING they had…crops, livestock, even down to the herbs they kept in their pantry. But that’s not really what God wanted. They were missing the big picture. He wanted their hearts!
When God mandated that the Israelites give their best to Him, He didn’t do it because He needed their crops. He didn’t need more grains or animals to be given to Him. They were already His. God already owned it all.
“For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine.” (Psalm 50:10) Wow. Gut check.
Can you just imagine the Pharisees bringing their burnt offerings to be sacrificed, dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s, “giving” their best to God as they seek to follow the letter of the law. And then there’s God, slapping them in the face with Psalm 50…
“Thanks for the sacrifice! Too bad I created the cow you just ‘gave’ me. Your burnt offering? Yeah, I made that too. As for your grain offerings, I made the grains grow! The ground they sprouted in? I brought it into being with one word. The rain that helped it survive? It falls when I say it falls.”
It is similar to when I pass back a Happy Meal to my daughter and she tells me, “Mommy, I love you so much, I want to give you one of my french fries.” Awwww, thanks hon! Thanks so much for “giving” me one fry.
We all know I bought the stinkin’ Happy Meal. Technically, I “own” it. It’s my Happy Meal. I could eat the whole thing if I wanted to. But I’m giving it to her to use, to enjoy, to eat. And the fact that she thinks she’s giving me my own french fry is comical – sweet, since she REALLY loves you if she shares her food, but still comical.
How many times have I done this exact same thing to God? How many times have I given “my” money back to the church to help further the Kingdom of God? It’s not even really my money. All this time I was missing it!
He doesn’t need my little weekly donation. He doesn’t need my money. It’s already His! And as soon as I realized that? It was a game changer. You see, I realized that EVERYTHING I have is not mine; it’s his. My bank account, my home, my time, my talents. He has entrusted these things to me for a time, for a purpose, to use for His glory.
Not only that, but He doesn’t want just a percentage. He wants it all. We see that with the widow who gave her two coins. Her offering was the smallest in number, but the largest in value to God. (Read Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4.)
We see it with the widow and son who gave all of their food to Elisha. They knew they needed to be obedient, even if it meant starving to death. (Read 1 Kings 17:7-16 and 2 Kings 4:1-7.)
We see it with Hannah, who gave her firstborn son to the Lord. She promised if God gave her a child, she would give him back to God. And she did. At the ripe old age of three (about the age Hebrew children were weaned), she took him to the temple to serve God for his whole life. (Read 1 Samuel 1.)
We especially see it in His disgust of the Pharisees…He didn’t just want their 10%, their sacrifices and their burnt offerings. He wanted their hearts.
He wanted what was important to them, not because He needed those things, but because there is something sacred in sacrificing what is most important to you in order to honor Him. There is something holy about giving sacrificially because you know He will meet your needs. Because He has called you to steward everything you have as a means of living the gospel out loud, and spreading His love and provision to others.
Maybe you are a single mom barely making ends meet. Maybe you are barely scraping by with enough food to put on the table. Maybe giving even just 10% is a stretch for you!
Please don’t miss what I’m saying…Don’t get caught up in the percentages that we give, and don’t think giving is confined to our finances. Maybe you can pick one Saturday a month to serve at a women’s shelter or volunteer at a local soup kitchen. Maybe you can commit to hosting a bi-weekly Bible study for a group of women who can encourage each other in this crazy thing called life.
At the end of the day, it is not about a dollar amount. It’s about constantly evaluating what you have (time, talent, belongings, money) and how you can strategically use these things to further the gospel. How can we steward what we are blessed with to encourage others in the faith, and to be a light to those who are not?
When we live life with an open hand, it opens our hearts to realize how blessed we truly are! When we make it a point to give more, we are freed from the mentality that life is about newer, nicer, bigger, and better. When we put others’ needs before our own, we can see that God is the Ultimate Provider and He will meet all of our needs.
Giving more brings more blessings, more peace, more humility. You are given the truest “wealth,” treasures in heaven. Fancy houses will one day be old and dilapidated. Expensive clothes and shiny cars will always need to be replaced as they eventually wear out.
But by investing in people, in ministry, in The Church, the returns will be immeasurable. Small seeds of obedience will start a ripple effect that reach far beyond what you can see.
When we see what we have as His, not ours, it is easier to give away.
So, what have you been given to steward? And how can you use it to bring Him glory?