Sunday, October 02, 2011

Abundance

I have a story for you.

When Brent and I were first married, we moved into an on-campus apartment that had cinderblock walls, green industrial tile, centipedes, and no air conditioning. The day we moved in, it was a bazillion degrees. I remember that night we had the door and all the windows (all four of them) thrown open in an effort to breathe.

I was a house cleaner.
He had a work study job.
We were both full time students.

At the time, we were also involved in an MLM and were apparently making money (my overall impression of the MLM is negative in my mind, but that must have come later as we were clearly waiting on a check at the time), because we decided that, broke as we were (all we need is love and air...), if the check was at least XX dollars (maybe $350?) we would buy a window ac unit. The check comes, it is, let's say, $349.90. It was really close to whatever the magic number was. That I remember.

We must have had $250 worth of bills and the cheapest AC unit we could buy was $100.

But we'd forgotten to figure in the tithe.

Can you hear the conversation?

The Lord had really worked on  my heart regarding the tithe just the year prior. This was a non-negotiable. I mean, I'd been raised to tithe, but I'm not sure I was very consistent until late high school and maybe well enough into college. Though I DO remember the summer before my Sophomore year it really hitting home.

And, remember, we are talking about something like $35. Or, as I was in college, $34.99. And yes, I was that specific. I was a broke, letter of the law, kind of girl.

I don't remember the conversation. All I remember is that both of us knew we had to do it. We were establishing our giving as a married couple and it felt like an all or nothing moment. We either believed the tithe, or we didn't. But I still remember standing at the offering box, check in hand, and verifying over my shoulder with my sweating husband that we were going to drop that $34.99 in. He nodded, I dropped, and we walked out of church...

...and came home to not one, but two air conditioning units. (one for the front room, one for the back)

I kid you not.

See, some people believe that we should "give out of our abundance," but the thing they seem to be missing is that when we give, abundance follows.

It isn't always cash. Sometimes it is two air conditioning units that were sitting in someone's garage and they heard third hand that someone's kids were sweltering in cinderblock military barracks and offered their use. Sometimes it is a Pell grant that arrives just in time. Sometimes it is the sale of half your stock at the top of the market, just in case, the week before the market unexpectedly crashes. Sometimes it is milk and bread hanging on your doorknob when you leave your house in the morning. Sometimes it is a year after year hand-me-down wardrobe from a friend with excellent taste. Sometimes it is a pristine crib/cradle combo or deep freeze for a steal at a garage sale just when you need it. Sometime it is cars that go long after they should have given up the ghost. Sometimes it is five amazing, beautiful children. And sometimes it is your dream house at a Groupon price.

Selah.

I know a lot of people want to argue the tithe. They want to argue that the church misuses funds. And in many (dare I say, most?) churches, they would be right. The people were to tithe to the storehouse and out of the storehouse, the priests were to feed themselves and the poor. God didn't tell His people to tithe only when the priests were doing their jobs right. He told them to tithe, pure and simple. What the priests did with the tithe was between them and God. The tithe isn't about money, it is about obedience.

In 58: Fast Living, he brings up the tithe. He even brings up the fact that churches spend too much on buildings and other things. But he also brought up the fact that only a small portion (like 20%, maybe fewer) of professing Christians tithe. (Brent's reading the book now, so it is AWOL and I can't give exact numbers, but I think I'm close.) And 8-10% don't give AT ALL. NOTHING. But if all professing American believers would tithe, that is give 10% of their POST-tax income, it would produce something like $133,000,000,000. I'm not even going to delve into the pre-tax tithe debate today.

Oh. My. Word. Can you imagine if we freed up 133 billion dollars in giving? It would certainly out give the government and WE would have a say about where it went. We want to complain that our churches are spending all their money on salaries and buildings, but they are working on a budget sliced by, what, 70%? I don't know about your priest/pastor/minister, but I have enough faith in mine that if our giving went up by 400% (? I am so much not a quick thinking math person and this is my math and nothing I got from the book), I'm relatively certain building a larger, fancier building wouldn't be on the docket. I'm guessing that the church's giving outside its walls would increase exponentially and proportionally.

But let me back up and even let the 10% not go to a church. If all professing Christians would give 10% somewhere? Mercy. What a difference we could make.

Do you make $350 a month? 10% would sponsor a hungry child.

I'm just sayin'.

Lately I've heard a lot about people who believe we need to sell it all off and give it all away. That we can't be Christ followers if we don't. But, what's next? Frankly, I wonder who funds those people after that happens. Someone has to make the money to donate to the programs that are started by the people who give it all away and live under a bridge feeding the poor--which they are now. I'm not saying that some people aren't called to that, but I don't believe that ALL people are called to that. If we are all living under a bridge, I don't see a whole lot of incentive to join us and I'm not sure who is providing the food for us to give away.

Maybe that's just me.



Let's think along lines that people can actually buy into, like, I have been blessed, let me share in the blessing. Because I think before people can see Giving it All Away, they might get Share A Portion.

Don't trust a church? Find someone you can trust. Live 58 has done a lot of research into groups you can trust with your funds. It wouldn't be a bad idea to start there. I like World Vision. I like Victory Christian Children's Home. I like Stillwater life Services. I like Main Street Ministries food bank. There are lots of programs that would happily provide a start to your giving. Shoot, start with donating 10% of your grocery cart to a food bank.

In Malachai 3, it says:
 8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
   “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
   “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 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 there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty. 

I can attest that God's word is true.

Quit waiting for the abundance to come so that you can give. Give. And see if abundance doesn't follow.

6 comments:

The Woods said...

THIS IS PERFECTly worded in a way I wish I could express. You are so talented.

The Brew Crew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Brew Crew said...

You continually convict me. Thanks for quietly saying what I often need to hear.

Anonymous said...

Jamie, My first memorable tithe was in high school too. I was broke and Christmas was coming and I was struggling with my tithe that week too. I gave and my rich coffee drinker tipped me $100 TWICE the next week! Big Sis

Aray said...

Oh what we as the church could do with that....my heart aches for God's perfect will!

Mrs. D said...

LOVE this. I never thought of that in all my unsaid comeback lines :). I really do want to read that book!