Archive for January 10th, 2007

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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