One of the highest ways you can love someone is to remove the obstacles in their path to following Jesus.
The highest way I can love you is to remove anything that stands between you and growing in Christ. If sin is in the way, I want to allow God to remove it by sharing truth. If worshipping a human like a child or a lover or a boss is in the way, I want to allow God to remove them in your heart by sharing Scripture.
And if money is in the way of your spiritual growth, I desire strongly to show you from Scripture, that you will be free when you stop serving money and start serving God with your money. It’s not about using people to make money. It’s about using money to help people.
Is money in the way between you and following Jesus more obediently?
I met with a newly married guy in the church for over a year. We met every other week when both schedules allowed it. We would catch up and go through the Bible. We met at Panera and were the only males in there every single time.
For the first 6 months, it was great learning Scripture together. The next couple of months we cranked it up a bit and not just held the other accountable to reading the Bible daily, but to also living out the Bible on a daily basis.
I asked this question each time we got together, Is there sacrifice in your life?
This is a good, needed, consistent question for the follower of Christ. To be Christ-like is to sacrifice, and if there’s no sacrifice in one’s life, then whatever area that comes to mind that isn’t being sacrificed, that area is still not like Jesus and it’s got to change.
One time I asked him is, Is there sacrifice in your life – in terms of generosity and giving to God and others and the needy – is there sacrifice?
After thinking about it and wondering if we were close enough to share some vulnerable things like money and giving, he said, No. Honestly, there’s not. God’s has blessed me and I’ve been putting $20 a month in the offering bag at church. but it’s no sacrifice. I spend more on golf balls than what I do to give back.
He then went home, talked to his wife about their casual, sporadic giving, and when we met again he said, Zach, for the sake of accountability, I want you to know I wrote a check that hurt. Since then he has been open about giving 10% of their income to their church as God continues to provide for them and since then they have chosen to support two sibling children in Haiti, and since then they have been more Christ-like than ever before.
He sent me a text a couple weeks ago that said, Zach, will you hold be accountable to consistent, sacrificial giving? Will you continue to ask me how our giving is going? And will you pray that God continues to provide as we continue to sacrifice? In a later text, he said, Will you pray I fully grasp the gift of sacrificial living?
And I pray that for him. I pray that for my home. I pray it for you, that we understand the beauty and freedom and responsibility and gift of sacrificial living and giving.
Giving away your money is part of following Jesus.
Chances are, there are some individuals and family units who give a good percentage of what God has given them, back to church or non-profits or those in need, but it’s not sacrificial. It doesn’t hurt. It’s easy. They barely think about it because it’s not a stretch.
Maybe it’s time to evaluate and increase the amount and watch your faith grow.
Christian Smith wrote a book entitled, Passing the Plate in 2008. Up to today it’s the most comprehensive, eye-opening work that’s ever been done on Christians who give to the church. It’s a sociological work that set out to answer this question: Why are Christians in the U.S. so stingy?
Smith shares a stat that says, More than 36% of American Christians give less than 2% of their income in each year.
That’s got me shaking my head.
Over 1/3 of the Christians in this country –people who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and that every word is true, who have made Jesus their Lord and Savior, Christians who agree that they will stand before God and give an account of how they used what He gave them – are giving less than 2% of all God has graciously given to them?
A Christian’s focus should be on how to raise their standard of giving, not their standard of living.
I know you can’t send Jesus an angry email, so please feel free to send me one if that really irks your tater. Jesus says this in His Sermon on the Mount:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).
Meaning: The only things you can keep forever are the things you have given away.
Here are some practical steps you need to take if you call yourself a Christ-follower:
If you are not tithing consistently, begin today.
To tithe means to give the first 10% of everything you make, to God.
You may be sponsoring needy children and supporting missionaries and non-profits, helping friends in need, good, but God gets the first 10%, and then if you want to be generous to others, it’s out of the 90% you have remaining after giving to God.
I’ll let God be stark about it:
Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions……Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need (Malachi 3:8, 10).
God says when we don’t give to Him first, we’re stealing from Him. But since this Malachi text says tithe, if we give God our first 10% – it’s a clear statement that we are showing God we truly worship Him. Simple sentence, huge life change.
Maybe that forces you to have an honest conversation with your spouse or with your children or with God today, where you get out the budget and say, From this point forward, nothing will mean more to us, nothing will get more of our attention than giving back to God.
If you’re not tithing, begin today. Be sure you give to a church that has a godly leadership and is trustworthy.
If you are giving God 10%, move towards sacrificial generosity.
Tithing is a great place to begin. For some of you, you need to begin at 3%, test drive it a few months, move it up to 7%, see if God still provides, and He will if you are wise. Once you get up to giving 10%, it’s not over. In the Old Testament, 10% was the minimum standard expected, you had to at least give 10% (most families in the Old Testament gave 20-25%). But in the New Testament, the word tithe isn’t mentioned, instead, giving in the early church is referred to as sacrificial generosity.
The New Testament isn’t satisfied with just 10%. The New Testament is only satisfied when our giving to God reflects the cross. When it hurts. When it’s generous. When it’s sacrificial.
Mother Theresa said, We are to give until there is pain in the giving.
For some, less than 10% hurts, or more than 10% hurts.
Sacrifice is not measured by how much you give, but by how much you keep for yourself.
In every area of my life I want to be sacrificial because in every area of my life I want to look like Jesus.
Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe.
If Jesus is the most generous Person to ever live, then growth in Christ would mean we would need to be generous, right?
If you’ve been tithing for a while and it’s been a bit routine, pray about increasing your generous lifestyle until there’s sacrifice.
Richard Foster writes, God’s ownership of everything changes the kind of question we ask in giving. Rather than, ‘How much of my money should I give to God?’ we learn to ask, ‘How much of God’s money should I keep for myself?
I have a friend who has been open about giving with me and he’s been tithing since his marriage began. When he lost his job and had to take a new job that was half his previous income, his wife and him have up’ed their giving 4 different times.
I know a Christian family who gave away a very nice SUV to a single, needy college student who never got a break in her life. I know a family who wants to provide money out of their savings so an infertile couple they know can adopt a beautiful little Chinese girl across the world.
If we see everything as God’s, that it’s all his, then we’ll freely give it away. It’s those who refuse, those who hoard, those who are stingy, they still see what they hold as theirs. But it’s God’s.
I hope you have someone close enough to you where you can show them your tax-return or year end giving, what you gave and how you lived, ask them if they see the cross of Christ demonstrated through your spending, saving, and giving.
If you’re not tithing, get there.
If you’ve tithed for a while, move to sacrificial generosity.
One more applicable challenge:
Ask Jesus to expose and eliminate any idols in your life.
An idol is anything, if Jesus said, Give it all to me – leave your job, all your money, I want your children, I want your health – if Jesus asked for it all, whatever you’d be reluctant to give Him – that’s an idol.
C.S. Lewis wrote that, History is the long, terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
Kyle Idleman writes in his book, Not a Fan, “Followers are willing to deny themselves and say, ‘I choose Jesus. I choose Jesus over my family. I choose Jesus over money. I choose Jesus over my career. I am his completely. I choose Jesus over alcohol and partying. I choose Jesus over pornography. I choose Jesus over a remodeled house. I choose Jesus over my freedom. I choose Jesus over what people think about me. A follower makes a decision every day to deny himself and choose Jesus, even if it costs everything.”
If there is anything standing between you and Jesus (and it’s probably money) just give it to Jesus in a sacrificial, consistent, cheerful way. You’ll grow your standard of living by increasing your standard of giving.
Thanks for reading. You are loved.