This past Sunday, at Jubilee Church in St. Louis City, I spoke on Greed as a part of our Money Myth$ series. To spare you the suspense, I voted against greed and showed us how we can rid ourselves of it. We get rid of greed by first understanding God's grace and realizing that it is His good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. We don't buy it or borrow it. We don't even have to beg for it. He gives it to us when we trust Jesus to save us from our sin and be the leader of our life. When we see that we possess the Kingdom, being generous is easy. In fact, it's quite natural to be generous.
To give us practical help on giving, I gave us these three principles:
Make it a priority: I Cor 16:1-2, “1Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income...” This appears to be Paul's command not just for one church, but for all the churches (at the very minimum two)...to make giving a priority ("first day of every week"). This idea was demonstrated in the OT as the people of Israel gave their "first fruits" to proclaim who was truly God. Practically speaking in 2009, this means your decision to give is made prior to making any other financial decision. It means it's the number one line item on your budget (you do have a budet, right?). Rachel and I make our giving decisions at the beginning of the year as to what we'll give, keeping our eyes open to more opportunities to give throughout the year.
Make it a percentage: You'll notice in that passage above that Paul says to set aside a sum of money "in keeping with his (or her) income..." Paul is communicating to us the idea of making our giving a percentage. Making it a priority and making it a percentage...not just giving out of a knee jerk reaction, but making a decision to give regularly in proportion to our income. What percentage should you choose? I think 10% is a good place to start. I'm not saying that 10% is a rule, but it's a good place to start. Here's why. God asked the Israelites to return to Him 10% (a tithe) of the money He gave to them (they also gave an additional 10% to the festivals and 3.33% to the poor). When Jesus came on the scene, He didn't abolish the tithe, but called for something more. In Matthew 23, he gets on the Pharisees's case not for tithing, but for ONLY tithing (he actually commends them for tithing). Jesus' gripe was that they were fulfilling their religious duty, but they were not generous to the poor. It makes no sense that now that we are in the new covenant with greater revelation that somehow we should give less. Luke 12:48 says to whom much is given, much is required. So 10% I think is a good place to start. But whatever the percentage, the NT guide is that it's generous and sacrificial (read 2 Cor 8:1-7).
Make it progressive: The more we experience God's grace, the more we'll want to give. Luke 7:47 says he who is forgive much loves much and he who is forgiven little loves little. Jesus said this after a "woman of the city" (probably a prostitute) just poured out a year's worth of income in the form of perfume all over Jesus' feet. The point here is that the more we realize how merciful God has been to us in light of His righteousness and our sin, we will naturally give more. Progressive giving flows out of the assumption that you are growing day by day in your relationship with God and in your understanding of His grace in your life.
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