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Archive for January, 2007

I’m going to start out with a very controversial statement: God wants you to be rich.  Yes, you read that right.  God’s desire for you, is for you to have money well beyond your current means.  I’ll explain why in a moment.

 

Let me give you an easier statement first.  God wants you to be financially free.  When we started talking to you about God’s perspectives on finance, we started with the tithe.  The tithe is the foundation for everything involving money and resources, because it is God’s first evaluation of our obedience.  Until your giving is in line with God’s call on your life, you are living in sin and preventing yourself from receiving God’s full blessings.  Giving is the first step to becoming financially free.

 

God wants you to be financially free.  Debt keeps you from being financially free, because you are in bondage to the people or companies you owe money to.  Debt keeps you from giving your resources to God.  Debt causes health problems.  Debt causes fear.  Debt hurts your family, and debt keeps you from hearing from God.  Becoming debt-free is the next step to becoming financially free.

 

Today, we’re going to talk about God’s Provision for Your Family’s Future and What He Expects You to Contribute.  God wants you to be financially free.  The Scriptures say that He provides for His children.  His first provision for you is right in front of you.  God has provided for you the means to earn money.  And He expects you to work.  Paul told the Thessalonians, “we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’  We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.  Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.”  Yes, there are some people who are unable to work.  However, if you are able to work, God requires you to.  God expects us to work as if we were laboring for Him.

 

Likewise, you should teach your children to work when they are of a responsible age.  Work is God’s first provision for you and your family.

 

Our response to that provision should be gratitude.  Gratitude that leads to personal responsibility.  I told you before that the tithe is never mentioned in the New Testament.  In fact, the writer of Hebrews does mention the tithe.  That letter was written to the Jewish Christians.  Christians who were wondering what parts of the Jewish Law they should obey.  In Hebrew 7, the Apostle Paul explains that in Jewish history, recorded in the book of Genesis,  Abraham offered a tenth of his spoils from war to Melchizedek.  Melchizedek was a priest-king, and Paul suggests that Melchizedek is, in fact, Christ.  So by offering Melchizedek a tenth of his resources, Abraham fulfilled the law before it became the law.  The point made in Hebrews is that the tithe was voluntarily given, not because of a rule or requirement.  Giving back to God is a voluntary response to God’s blessings.

 

And that response does not stop or change simply because you are in retirement.  I do not believe God intends for us to work for money our entire lives.  I believe that at some point, God plans a different work for us.  A lot of Christians hold a hope for heaven in the next life.  I believe that God wants us to bring heaven into existence here on earth.  This is not a new age idea.  Read Revelations 21 & 22.  Jesus comes back and takes up residence here, on earth.   A new earth – an earth renewed by His people working as He has called them to.  God wants you to be financially free so that you can devote more of your time, money and energy to bringing about His kingdom on earth.

 

When we talked about a spending plan, 10% was to be dedicated to saving for your family’s future needs.  In practical terms, there are four areas you need to be saving for.  The first is an Emergency Fund.  We don’t know what the future holds.  Regardless of your health or work situation at this point.  There is always a chance you could lose your job or become disabled.  How would your family cope if your income stopped?  Having an Emergency Fund protects them and gives you time to recover.

 

Next, you should save for your short term goals.  These include vacations, appliances or a new vehicle.  Saving now eliminates the need for debt later.

 

The third area you should save for is your child’s college education.  Some people believe that they should pay all of that expense.  Others feel that the child should work to pay for school.  Either way, there is one thing to consider.  If you have the capability to help your children, you should.  It is irresponsible to allow your child to go into debt, when you have the ability to help them avoid it.

 

Second Corinthians 12 points out that, “children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.”  That’s not to say they shouldn’t earn the help – with good grades or even repaying a non-interest loan.  But until they are no longer under your care, they are your responsibility – and part of that is educating them properly – in word and deed.

 

The fourth area you should save for is retirement.  In the old days, you could rely on your employer.  That’s no longer the case.  Between 1983 and 1998, two-thirds of the defined benefit or traditional pension plans in the US were terminated.  Most of us don’t remember a time without Social Security.  But the government can’t help much anymore, either.  The Social Security Administration has even told us, “Social Security was never intended to be your only source of income when you retire.”  But people aren’t saving.  USA Today reports that, “10.6 million people live on social security alone.”

 

God wants you to be financially free.  And He expects you to know what it will require of you.  Lack of proper retirement planning leads to the same stress as debt – and the same consequences.  Yet, almost three-quarters of workers surveyed had not done a calculation, but only guessed to determine how much money they would need at retirement.

 

USA Today found that “54% of people in the workforce think they’ll still be working at 65 or older.”  Not because they want to.  Because they don’t have a choice.  40-percent will need to work, but won’t be able to, for health reasons.  And one-third of workers did not save anything for retirement last year.

 

God teaches us that we should be saving money for the future.  In Proverbs, King Solomon wrote a lot about our financial future.  “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.”  “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its way and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”  “A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.”

 

The biggest challenge for most families is getting started.  Procrastination kills the future and leaves us a double burden to bear tomorrow.  Take for example a plan to save $500,000.  If you start at age 25, you need to only save $78 a month.  Wait 10 years and you have to save 3 times as much.  Wait until you’re age 45, and you need to save $653 a month.  And waiting until you’re 55 is a serious expense.  You have to save almost $2500 a month – 31 times as much as you could have saved 30 years sooner.

 

But where do you put your money?  I recommend that everyone puts their long term savings into the global economy, in the form of mutual funds.  Although some funds existed in the late 1800’s, the concept of mutual funds was expanded in the 1930’s following the stock market crash.  Mutual Funds protect their owners by spreading the risk of the stock market out across hundreds of companies.  They also increase the benefit to their owners by allowing them invest, even if they start small.  I believe that the use of mutual funds is supported by the Scriptures.  Solomon wrote in Proverbs that “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.”  And in Ecclesiastes, he encourages his readers to “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.  Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.”

 

Rule of 72

 

I started off tonight by telling you that God wants you to be rich.  As I said, that is a controversial statement.  But it shouldn’t be.  As you know, greed is a sin.  But once you get adjust your perspectives on finance to agree with God’s principles, you are on the road to financial freedom.  And we know that God wants us to be financially free.  But for a Christian, that freedom comes with a price.  God wants you to be financially free – not so you can sit back and relax, line your pockets, or hoard wealth.  No, God wants you to be financially free, so that you have the freedom to serve Him in everything you do.

 

God wants you to have enough money that it no longer dominates your life.  God wants you to have so much that your family is cared for.  So much that you can give it away without worrying that you are going to run out.  So much that you can move to a higher level of obedience and trust.

 

Bill Orender says that, “You should earn as much as you are capable of… not necessarily to make your standard of living higher, but to have the freedom to help others when God calls on you.  Rather than saying, ‘someone should do something,’ you can be the one glorifying God in the doing.”

 

The King Solomon agrees: “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?  and “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.”

 

A man named Larry Stewart, from Kansas City, recently died of cancer.  Shortly before his untimely death, he admitted to the world that he had been giving away money for 26 years, as a “Secret Santa.”  In all, he personally handed out more than 1-million-dollars, anonymously.  In addition, he publically gave thousands of dollars to various charities.  His story is even more interesting.  In December of 1979, he had lost his job – for the second year in a row – the week before Christmas.  He was feeling sorry for himself while eating at a drive up restaurant.  Then he noticed that the girl who was bringing him his food was wearing a thin coat and shivering from the cold.  He tipped her $20.00.  Every year after that, every December, he would give away money to people he felt needed it.  When he died, he was a millionaire.  But when he started giving money away, he was out of a job and close to broke.  What lesson can we learn from this?

 

There is a popular misconception that many Christians labor under.  It’s called the ‘scarcity mentality.’  They believe that there are limits to God’s generosity.  They believe that there is not quite enough to go around, so they have to hold onto what they have.  I’ve even heard one person say that they were careful not to be too generous.  There is an old saying that is still true today.  You cannot out-give God.

 

Bishop Larry Goodpaster puts it this way: “This abundant outpouring of God’s Spirit is not to be wasted, hoarded, protected, guarded, or saved.  It is to be shared, believing that there will be more than enough for any and every good work undertaken in the name of Jesus.”  And Jesus himself is quoted by Luke, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

 

Which measure would you like for God to use when He blesses you?  A measure of fullness and generosity or one of greed and stinginess?

 

In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes, “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.”

 

Your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  How would you feel, knowing that God was praised as a result of your giving?  Wouldn’t that be a legacy to leave behind?  Imagine not being remembered as a man who earned millions of dollars in his lifetime.  But instead, as a man or woman or family or church who gave away millions of dollars?  This is a spiritual law we can depend on.  “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.  A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”

 

You see the greatest legacy you can leave behind is your example to others.  If you have no debt, there is nothing monetarily keeping you from obeying God’s commands.  If you give at the level you are called to give, God will bless you in many ways.  And if you do your part to preserve your family’s future.  If you save what you can when you can so that at some point your life can change.  If you dedicate yourself to becoming the man or woman of God that He has called you to be.  If you do all these things, your life will change.  Your children’s and grandchildren’s lives will change.  Your church, your neighborhoods, your cities, your states, your world will see the glory of God reflected in hearts that are truly devoted to Him.

 

God wants you to be financially free.  God wants you to be rich.  He wants to be able to bless you far beyond what you can imagine.  He wants to do all this so you will be free to serve.  He wants to use you to enact His will upon this world.  His good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

I work everyday with families that want to get on that road to financial freedom. 

 

Are you ready to begin?  Are you ready to take the first steps towards financial freedom?  Are you willing to do whatever it takes to open the doors and allow Christ to influence the way you think, feel and act about money?

 

I hope you have learned something along the past three weeks.  But knowledge is pointless without action.  If you truly want to make a change…  you must put your beliefs into action.

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Thank you for joining us again this week. Last week, we talked about bringing our tithes and offerings to the Lord. We also looked at a spending plan. A way to live within your means, follow God’s plan and care for your family. But there’s one major thing that prevents most Christians in America from following God’s plan for their lives. That’s overbearing debt.

Rob BellI was reading about a pastor who took a trip to Turkey. While there, he noticed there were houses in various stages of being built all around the cities. They appeared as if someone had started to work and then just stopped in halfway through and abandoned it. He asked his friend, a missionary there, what was going on. The missionary explained that the Koran has admonitions against having debt or offering loans. Because the government is Muslim, they have strict laws against lending and borrowing. So the people save their money until they can begin to build. When they run out of money, they stop building and go back to work until they can afford to continue.

Imagine if we took our Biblical admonitions against debt so seriously…

90 Days Same As Ca$hInstead, we have the “American Dream.” Except that dream looks more and more like a nightmare every day. “Buy now and pay later…” “90 Days, Same as Cash…”

We spend money we don’t have. To buy things we can’t afford. To pay for it, we work longer hours. We sacrifice time with the people we care about. We leave our families, our churches and our communities with less than they deserve. All to impress people who couldn’t care less. Just “Keeping up with the Jones”

Stressed by DebtDebt is an “American” Problem. Despite changing laws, 1.8 million people filed for bankruptcy in 2005, a new record. In January 2006, U.S. households overspent their incomes by $575. Almost one out of every five people make only the minimum monthly payment on their credit card. 40% of American families spend more than they earn every month. Newsweek reported that seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes, are carrying an average of over $4,000 in credit-card debt.

Only 9% of evangelicals say they are “in serious debt.” The fact is, they have just as much debt – in some cases more – than non-Christians. In fact, 37% of Christians believe they’ll never be out of debt. And many churches don’t help the problem by underpaying their most important people – or expecting more service for less money.

So why is debt such a huge problem? We have been taught to ask three questions when considering a credit purchase. What is the interest rate? What is my payment? What you should ask is completely different. What you should ask is, “What is the ACTUAL total cost?” and “When will it be paid off?”

If I asked you to tell me the difference between 5% and 10% could you tell me? Most would agree that 5% is probably better. But what if I told you that the 5% loan will take 50 years to pay off? And the interest you’ll pay is about 5 times as much as the original price? Meanwhile the 10% loan is paid off in 15 years. And the total interest is one-fourth of that.

Also, the world teaches us to ask, “Do I want it?” Those living Godly lives need to be more responsible. They should be asking, do I really need it? And is it worth the extra cost? What if I told that the $2.00 cup of coffee you’re buying with a credit card will cost you almost $1000 when you finally pay it off 7 years from now? Would you still “need” it that badly?

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to completely avoid debt in today’s world. If you must have debt, you should know which debts are better than others.

You used to be able to depend on mortgages. However, in the past few years, some loans that were designed to help investors were re-worked and misapplied to help families buy homes they can’t afford. Homes that 10-percent of them will lose this year. In fact, Florida ranks as the number 2 state for foreclosures. The Miami Herald reports that last month alone, 3.3 million mortgages in Florida were more than 30 days past due.

Really, the only mortgage debt that most families can afford is fixed-rate mortgages. The state of Texas has outlawed interest only mortgages and adjustable-rate mortgages. I personally believe that the same should happen in every state. Until the government sees it my way, avoid them like the plague.

Another popular loan available these days is the Home Equity Line of Credit. The banks promise you no closing costs and access to cash whenever you need it. But what you get is another credit card. And if you miss a payment, your house is the collateral.

There are other debts you should avoid, but which do have some benefit. These include Student loans, fixed-rate vehicle loans and fixed rate consumer loans. It is better to save for these expenses ahead of time. But if all else fails, these debts are at least reasonable.

Of course, the worst debt is credit card debt.

You’ve probably heard that compound interest is a good thing. When you’re saving, it is. But what happens when compound interest works against you?

Consider Maria. She has a balance of $500. on her credit cards. She makes the minimum payment every month. She only charges an extra $150 a year.

Five years later, she owes $780.

Ten years later, she owes $2,050. She’s only spending an extra $150.00 per year.

Fifteen years later, she owes $3,720. Still making the minimum monthly payment on time, every month.

Twenty years later, she owes $5,720.

Twenty-five years later, she’s ready to retire. But she owes $7,970. Almost $8000.

She’s charged less than $5000 in that time. And she’s paid almost $5000 back.

Does that sound like a good deal to you?

National statistics show that Maria is unusual. She only charged an extra $150 a year.

Even if they pay them off every month, the average consumer will spend 35% more when shopping with credit cards.

Let me ask you, how do you think God views debt? Do you believe that owing money to someone else reflects God’s best for you and yours?

In Proverbs, Solomon writes, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

When someone borrowed money, in Old Testament times, they became the servant of the lender until they paid the debt pay off.

When you borrow money today, you enter into a binding contract promising to pay back the money. You have basically given up your financial freedom to get things you can’t afford to pay for. That results in the financial gain of the lender at your expense.

You are their slave until you have fulfilled your obligation to repay. Maybe that’s why it’s called “Master Card”?

Often people who are in debt feel the financial pressure caused by debt repayment and conclude that they just can’t give the way they would like to because of debt pressure. How does that glorify God?

Deliver Us From DebtIn “Deliver Us From Debt,” Dr. Charles Stanley writes,

First, debt creates stress, anxiety, worry, and deep frustration. The person who suffers under such a burden cannot have a heart fully focused on God. Debt can also become a mental preoccupation. Your first and last thoughts each day are about whom you owe, how much you owe, and what you can do about what you owe. You are not in a position to hear from God about His priorities for your money or your time and other resources.

Second, unpaid debt can lead to the fear that you will never be out of debt. That fear is the opposite of faith. Fear separates us from God . Fear becomes your focus. Debt takes the place of God.

Third, debt places a strain on family relationships. Money concerns are among the primary causes of family arguments. Money problems are responsible for 85% of divorces in America. Mismanagement of money can smother love. The more you struggle with money, the less time and attention you have to share with your loved ones.

Fourth, debt can cause you to become resentful of others. You begin to avoid those you owe. Sometimes, you may avoid people you think know about your indebtedness. Debt can cause you to distrust or look unkindly upon those who seem to have no money problems. It can cause you to become envious. These are not godly attitudes.

Fifth, debt hurts the testimony of a Christian. Actions speak louder than words. You can tell the world you are trusting God to meet all of your needs. But, if the truth is that you are relying on credit cards or loans, It is difficult to declare to the world that you are trusting God to meet all of your needs and to be deeply in debt at the same time. Your credibility is destroyed.

Finally, debt affects your spiritual life in a negative way because debt keeps you from listening totally to God’s directives for your daily life. If the only thing you can focus on is your creditors, God is given the second place in your life.

Focus is the key. The biggest problem with debt abuse is the focus on possessions. Materialism in any form is sin. We compound that sin when we allow that materialism to pull us down into debt. When debt is in the picture, we go from being the controllers to being controlled. Seeking peace outside of God is rebellion. A rebellion we pay for everyday. True peace only comes from God.

John 14:27 states, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Accountability is also important. God does not intend for you to do it alone. As Ron Blue notes, “To stay on track with your repayment plan, hold yourself accountable to someone whose judgment and integrity you trust.” To move from financial bondage to financial freedom, you need to have someone you can trust to watch your back.

A possible debt solution that works for some people is earning more money. That does work for some people. However, more money isn’t the answer for everyone. The truth is, unless you change your habits and attitudes that got you into debt in the first place, even an increase in income isn’t likely to resolve your problem. In fact, there’s a chance you could get even deeper into debt, thinking that you now have the ability to pay your old bills, as well as taking on new debt.

God wants to bless us. He is a loving father who delights in His children’s prosperity. He wants to serve our needs. So, when we move into debt due to wants and desires, we steal from the Lord. We steal His opportunity either to provide your needs or to show you they aren’t needs. And just because you can afford something, it doesn’t mean God wants you to get it. His desire is for you to engage in generosity, not greed.

It’s also important to note that while God does not want us in debt, bankruptcy is not an acceptable option for Christians, either. Psalm 37:21 points out, “The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives.” By God’s law, we have an obligation to pay our debts. And just like with the discipline of the tithe… We can trust God to provide for us the means to pay those debts. When we are obedient.

Resolve today to get out of debt. Make a decision that you will honor God with your money. Ask yourself, are you honoring God by being a responsible steward of what He’s provided you? Or are you spending based on negative motivators? Consider that if you can’t afford it now, perhaps it isn’t God’s will for you to have it. At least not yet.

Before purchasing anything… Stop for a moment and consider, do I really need this, can I afford it, and will it be worth the cost? Exercise self-control to move away from debt and towards financial freedom and a stronger faith in God. Then thank God for His help as you pay off each bill. Make the payment of your debts an opportunity for praise.

Once you are giving as God has called you, and brought your attitude on debt into alignment, you can continue to financial freedom by examining His provision for your family’s future. Which is what we’ll do next week.
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I want to thank you for reading and allowing me to serve my God-given purpose by educating you about God’s perspectives on your finances and for being willing to learn.

I also want to ask you for forgiveness, because after reading this, you will have no excuse for not applying these Biblical principles in your lives.

Just to let you know who I am, and what my qualifications are… I am a licensed Mortgage Broker in the state of Florida. I am licensed by the NASD and the SEC as an Investment Broker and to supervise other Investment Brokers. I am also licensed by the state of Florida to market Life and Health Insurance.

Centurion LogoMore importantly, I am commissioned by Crown Financial Ministries as a Centurion, dedicated to equipping the church with Godly Stewards.

As you can probably imagine, most people are concerned about money matters, but few truly understand how money works or what God’s purpose is for their finances. Whenever anyone talks about money in a church setting, a lot of people react badly. Often times pastors will avoid preaching on it because they are concerned people will question their motives.

But the Evangelist Billy Graham was quoted as saying, “If a person gets his attitude about money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in his life.” I firmly believe this, so I commend you for taking your spiritual health seriosuly enough to discuss this volatile issue.

Just to clarify, the Bible and Jesus himself speak often of finances. In fact, the subject is mentioned in the Bible twice as often as prayer and faith put together! Two-thirds of Jesus parables dealt with money, and the Scriptures make it clear that there is a fundamental connection between a person’s spiritual life and his attitudes and actions concerning money and possessions.

You didn’t see it on Television or in the newspapers, but last year there was a string of church robberies across the country. An undetermined amount of money was stolen, and the evidence suggests that it was an inside job. There were no visible signs of forced entry, and no destruction of property. None of the suspects has been apprehended… yet.

I have also come to announce, to all who will listen, that the Judge in the case is willing to suspend the sentences and pardon all who will make a vow never to commit the crime again. In case you haven’t guessed, the victim and the Judge are one in the same – the Lord. And none of us, including myself, unfortunately, is innocent. You see, today, we’re going to talk about the foundation of God-centered finances, the Tithe.

First, let’s talk about some of the popular misconceptions I’ve heard from people in the church about money & the Bible. See if you’ve heard any of these…

“Money is evil” or “Money is the root of all evil.”

What I Timothy 6:10 actually says is that, “…the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

You see, as Tom Hill points out, “Money makes you more of what you already are.”

The great 18th century theologian John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, wrote that money is an excellent gift of God, when it is properly applied, to bring food and drink to the hungry and thirsty, clothes for the naked, a source of shelter for the homeless, the fatherless and the widow, health for the sick, sight to the blind, feet to the lame… And as a result, those who fear God should learn how to manage that resource.

So how do you start managing money? Start with a vision. The writer of the proverbs noted that, “Without a vision the people perish,” and this is especially true when you’re dealing with money.

The vision should be clear and concise and you need to consult God to develop it properly. You must write it down and decide what you are willing to do to fulfill your God-given vision. Everyone’s situation and level of commitment is different. Once you have a vision, you begin by setting out a spending plan, based on your priorities.

Again, every individual is different, but a good rule of thumb for Christians is the 10-10-80 Rule.

10% of your Gross Income goes to your church.

10% of your Gross Income goes to save for your family’s future needs. We’ll talk more about that in a couple of weeks.

That leaves 80% as God’s provision for you to live on.

Of course, the government wants their portion, but if you’ve started off properly, that’s a fraction of the rest of your expenses.

Following the 10-10-80 Rule, here is a guideline for your personal financial situation. Again, 10% goes to tithes, and 10% to savings. The rest is broken up this way: 35% for housing, 20% for transportation, 15% for debt relief, and 10% for other expenses. And I would suggest that if one area of your finances is significantly outside of these percentages, then you need to spend some serious time in prayer to determine if you are truly following God’s plan.

Again, I’m going to emphasize that you need to write all this down. And I recommend that for the same reason that you write out your grocery list or balance your checkbook. If it’s not written down, it very difficult to follow. Having a written plan gives you a reference to turn to when you have a decision to make.

In the Old Testament, Habakkuk is told by the Lord to write the vision down for just this reason – that he may run who reads it. Solomon writes that wisdom and knowledge build a secure house, while Hosea laments that God’s people suffer for a lack of knowledge.

So what does Tithing mean? As I’ve already mentioned, there is a bit of a stigma when money is mentioned in a church setting, especially when the topic turns to the Tithes and Offerings. But the tithe is really *NOT* about money.

The word tithe, translated into English is one tenth. But the tithe is a resource standard, not an economic one. Only recently, in the last 100 years or so did money become the focus of the tithe. There is an old phrase I used to hear growing up in church – time, talent and treasury. You’ll note that the treasury is the last thing mentioned, because money is only a small part of the picture.

God wants you to sacrifice a portion of all of your blessings to Him, because He is the father of all blessings. The fact is, everything on earth is God’s – we are merely His stewards. All He requires of us – the bare minimum – is that we give back to Him a small fraction of the entirety He’s given us. He asks for the first fruits. He asks us to sacrifice the first of the blessings He has bestowed upon us, believing in faith that there are more blessings coming.

But, in fact, few people in the church are willing to trust God that much. A wise man once told me that people say a lot of things with their mouths that they don’t really mean, but when they speak with their wallets, you know they‘re telling the truth. The best judge of a man or woman’s character is where they spend their money.

Which do you think is better for you – living off of 90% of your income with God’s blessings – or trying to make do with 100% of your income on your own?

Now, I’ve heard some people claim that the tithe is an Old Testament Jewish law that has no bearing on our present day. I will agree, the tithe is never mentioned by Jesus or any of the apostles in the New Testament.

But consider this – did Jesus usually lower or raise the standard of obedience for His followers? In Matthew 5, He says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them… You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder… But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment… You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.‘ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

But why didn’t Paul, the Jewish scholar turned Christian theologian mention it? I believe that he didn’t bring it up because there was no need. Acts 4 explains that the early church shared all of their assets, with no one claiming anything as his own. There were no needy – but those who had resources would donate them to be distributed as there was need.

The Barna Group, which is a company that follows Christian trends, found that the average American Christian gives only 6% to any ministry, and only 9% of born again Christians tithed their income to churches in 2004. What’s worse, one out of every six born again Christians (16%) gave no money to his or her church in 1999.

OfferingSadly, if the active members of Christian churches simply tithed – only gave a mere 10% of their income – an additional $139 billion – that’s a B – a year would be available for ministry. Do you see why God might consider us thieves?

I mentioned earlier that the Lord’s house was robbed. What I didn’t explain is that the thieves also stole from themselves. You see, the tithe is a spiritual discipline. God does not need your money – not for Himself or to fund any church. But when He created this world, He set certain laws into place – and one of those laws that He follows is tied to the tithe.

Our attitude and obedience are benchmarks for the magnitude of blessings God bestows upon us – financial or otherwise. So by not bringing in the whole tithe, by placing other wants and needs ahead of God and by refusing to talk about money, we are robbing ourselves of the greater blessings God wishes to bestow upon us.

Let me go one step further and point out that the first ministry that should benefit from the tithe, monetarily and in service, should be your home church. Any outside ministries should be funded by personal offerings outside the tithe, or from the church’s surplus. In fact, I highly recommend that churches and business also participate in the tithing process.

When I began writing, I apologized to you for what I had to teach, because the Word says that once you know what you are supposed to do, to not do it is to choose to sin. The first key is self-control. You choose what, when and how you spend now.

The hard part is making the choice to place God’s priorities ahead of what the world tells us we should want and need. The key to finding financial balance is in the understanding that giving is completely contrary to the thought that happiness can be found in accumulating money and possessions. Rather, joy is acquired by surrendering the material, and embracing the eternal. Then, once you begin to make the proper decisions with your own money, pass the knowledge onto others.

Next week, we’ll take a look at the one thing most responsible for keeping Christians from living as God intended… Overbearing Debt.
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