Monday, July 23, 2012

The other 90%

One of the biggest complaints that I hear from people who leave churches or refuse to attend a local church is they feel like pastor's talk too much about money.  I recently had a wealthy businessman tell me that he was tired of being treated like an ATM, called on to build another man's kingdom.  As a result, he and his wife spent the better part of the last two years worshiping in their home with a handful of other believers. Please understand that this man is someone who has given generously and is someone that I respect as a mature follower of Jesus.

I think it is sad to see how many pastors focus on trying to get people to "tithe" to their church.  In my humble opinion, ministers spend way too much time talking about something that Jesus basically never talked about.  Jesus only mentions the tithe one time and that is when He is rebuking some religious leaders for "tithing."  That's right, Jesus wasn't impressed with their tithe.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." Matthew 23:23

Apparently these individuals were giving as a religious act or duty, but their hearts were not engaged.  Giving should be something that is an act of worship.  It is the response of someone who understands that all he or she has is a gift given to them by God.

"You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today."  - Deuteronomy 8:17-18

"Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand."  - 1 Chronicles 29:13-14

The truth is that we only have what has been given to us from God.  All that we have is a gift.

The question that should be asked of all of us is "What are we doing with what has been given to us?"

People often ask questions like "how could God allow so much suffering in the world?"  "How could God allow children to starve to death?"  "Why doesn't God do something about the fact that almost a billion people live without access to clean drinking water?"  "Where is God?"

Sometimes I am tempted to ask those same questions as well.  The problem is that I am pretty sure that God is looking at us with those same questions in mind.  "Vic, how could you allow so many children to starve?" "Where are you and what are you doing with what I have entrusted to your hands?"

You see, God has the resources to take care of all of the needs that we see around us.  The only problem is that in His infinite wisdom, He has decided to give those resource to each of us and He has left it up to us to be stewards of His resources.

So to me the question is not whether or not you are "tithing" to a local church.  The question is whether or not you understand that all you have has been given to you by God and that you are responsible as a steward of those resources?

Don't get me wrong, I think it is a good thing for people to tithe to a local church.  But don't be like the religious leaders who thought that was the extent of their religious duty.  God cares about the other 90%.  God cares about the people that are in need all around us.  God has blessed us so that we can be a blessing.

I am reminded of the words of Paul:

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, 
so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to 
God.  - 2 Corinthians 9:6-11

If you live in America, you are rich.  You have been made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.  We are blessed so that we can be a blessing.

This morning I received a phone call that left me sitting in my chair in Panera, weeping. I don't know what it is about Panera but God often meets me here  :)

I have a friend in Guatemala named Cesar.  Some of you know him or may have read some of his story in my book. Cesar is suffering from degenerative disease and is in the last days of his life.  Well, the doctors have been saying that for more than 5 years, but now it does seem like he is getting close to going home.  Though Cesar is suffering greatly, the love of God radiates from him. Every time I see him, he is encouraging me in some way.  He quotes Scripture and always reminds me that one day we will be together and he will no longer be confined to his bed.  "We will be with Jesus running on streets of gold, playing soccer and enjoying His presence, " he says.  Whenever we have taken a team to Guatemala, we always take time to visit Cesar and his family.

This morning I received a phone call from a friend who met Cesar on one of those trips. He was calling to let me know that he and his wife have been thinking about Cesar.  He went on to say that in response to how much Cesar had blessed their lives, they wanted to be a blessing to him and his family. Knowing that I will be in Guatemala later this week, my friend asked me to communicate to Cesar that he need not worry about his family.  He said that he wanted him to know that they have decided to start a fund that would be established to be sure that his children are well fed and that all their medical needs would be taken care of. He said that he didn't want his brother to carry the burden of worrying about his children as he prepared to leave this world and be with Jesus.

Wow, what a blessing!  

What you need to know is that my friend is not a millionaire.  He is middle class American who has come to the understanding that all he has is a gift given to him by the Father.  He realizes that he has the responsibility of stewarding those resources and I would say that today His Father is well pleased.

May we all be challenged to rethink what we do with the resources entrusted to us. There is a lot that God wants to do in the world and we are His chosen vessels to accomplish this.

"The earth is His and everything in it." 

What we do with His resources matters.

We matter.

We are blessed to be a blessing.

The world waits.


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