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Why Do I Give?
Malachi 3:10

 
 

"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

Lately, I've been humming the lyrics to the "Three Dog Night song" that goes, "prices are rising, and the Devil's to blame." Well, I'm not so sure the Devil's to blame, but it sure seems to cost a lot to live these days. Two month's rent today would pay an entire year's rent in our first apartment we rented as newlyweds. 

A couple of weeks ago I was listening as my Dad talked about what it is like to live on a fixed income, now that he is retired. "Fixed income," I said, "I'd love for my income to be fixed, lately I've been thinking it was broken."

Personally, we've never made more money than we are making now. The Church pays me very well, I make a good income writing and Susan has a great job. But you can't tell it by our bank balance. I've come to the conclusion that living on the Monterey Peninsula is something like launching out to sea in a luxury yacht only to discover it has a hole drilled in the side and it won't be long until it begins to sink. Is it just me, or does everybody's paycheck seem to run out long before the month does?

I know that some in our congregation are just starting out and are struggling to put enough money together to buy some decent furniture, while others feel the pinch of kids in private school and the need to help their parents some. Whether you are a single person trying to make ends meet or whether you have newborns, or your kids are college bound, we all can say with equal conviction, "I don't have enough."

Then I have a question for you. If you don't have enough for yourself and your family, what business do you have giving your hard earned money to the church? Shouldn't you take care of yourself first, before you worry about others?

I took some time this week to think about that question. Why do I give?

The first thing that popped into my head was that I don't want to be a free loader. I know that it costs money to run a church. On average it takes 40 square foot of building space per person that attends church. Multiply that times $100.00 to $150.00 a foot to build and it doesn't take me long to figure out that someone had to pay $16,000.00 to $20,000.00 just to provide a place for my family to worship today. The church pays commercial rates for utilities and high interest on our building loans. Literature costs money, landscaping costs money, salaries cost money--everything costs money. I'm just not the kind of person that wants to get something for nothing. I want to pay my way. 

But really, can I ever pay my way? Oh, I might be able to reimburse the church for my share of the expenses, but that doesn't even start to repay what the Lord does for me through the church. How can I ever repay the church that loves my family unconditionally? How can I repay those who guided my children into Salvation? Or the people who encourage me when I'm disappointed? I can never repay the Church for what she does for me. How can I ever repay God? He is the great giver, anything I give back to Him is dwarfed by what He's given to me. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16 KJV )

The second reason I thought of for why I give is because I want His blessing. Malachi 3:10 says, "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

The phrase "that there may be meat in mine house," kind of goes along with my first thought, you know, the bills have to be paid. But I like the last part of that verse the most, "prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." 

I remember hearing testimonies when I was younger of people who would say, "God is going to get his tithe from you, either you will give it or He will take it, but He will get His tithe." One man I heard testify that he had a blow out on his car the day after he failed to put in his tithe in the offering plate. It cost him more to replace the tire than his tithe would have been. He concluded that God was "exacting" His tithe out of his hide, so he never tried to cheat God again.

It's not that I want to argue with this man's interpretation of why he had a blow out, but I have a hard time thinking God "exacts" His tithe out of people's hide. I'd come closer to saying the tire was old so it blew.

It may be true that God promises to supply the needs of those who put His Kingdom first, but I just have a hard time thinking of God collecting His tithe with our misfortune.

Then there are scriptures like, Luke 6:38 that say, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again."

Does this verse mean that if I give some money to the Lord, he will give more money back to me? Is tithing a chance to "strike it rich?"

Culture is making us drunk on the dream of becoming rich. Magazine readers hope for the prize patrol to drop by their house with a multi-million dollar prize. Game Show contestants compete for ever increasing sums of money. The trip for a gallon of milk includes an extra dollar for a chance to win big in the lottery. When will it stop?

As I was drinking a bottle of diet ice tea recently, I noticed some writing on the inside of the bottle cap. It said, "You haven't won anything, but if you put water in this cap and put it in the freezer you can make an ice skating rink for fleas." (Fresh Illustrations http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html .)

Very few people get something for nothing. Most of us feel lucky if we get a quality bottle of ice tea for our dollar, whether it comes with a skating rink for fleas or not. The bottom line is, if you write a check for $200.00 to the church today, the bank is going to deduct $200.00 from your checking account when we deposit it. 

Besides, why do we necessarily have to interpret the word "blessings" as money? Mother Theresa was a blessed woman, but she wasn't rich.

After I eliminated the first couple of things that came to mind, I thought, "I give because I was taught to give." When I was a boy, my parents gave us a quarter for an allowance. When they gave it to us, they taught us to set aside a nickel of it to give in the offering. And I did. Susan and I have never talked about whether or not we would tithe, we've just done it. Our parents taught us to and its always come natural to us.

Just like my parents taught me, and I've taught my children, Dean Rucker, the pastor of the Sunset Point Baptist Church in Clearwater, FL is teaching his four-year-old son to tithe. 

Part of Dean's Sunday morning ritual is preparing Blaze's offering. He gives Blaze a dollar to put into an offering envelope with his name on it to give during his Sunday School class. Last Sunday, Blaze put the dollar in the envelope, licked and sealed it, and turned to his Dad and asked, "Is God going to open it?"  (Fresh Illustrations http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html .)

My prayer is that when we give to the Lord as an act of worship, we would do so with the mind-set that, indeed, God is going to open it! 

That's it! That's the reason I give. Not just because I want to pay my part or because I'm afraid that God is going to zap me if I don't, or because I want something in return. I don't just give because I was taught to give or because it is my habit, I give because I love God and I know that I'm not really giving to the Church, I'm giving to God! God will use my gifts for His Kingdom's work-here and abroad. When I give I am expressing my faith in a loving God that cares for me and meets my needs. But most of all, when I give I am saying, "I love you Lord, I love you enough to obey you and to trust you-I love you enough to give."

I suppose there are people in the world with the attitude, "I don't have enough for myself, what business do I have giving my hard earned money to the church?" But not me. I understand that everything I have comes from God, and with a heart of gratitude and love, it is easy for me to give back at least a tenth to Him. How about you?

 

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