It Pays To Give

About eight and a half years ago I was a mess. I was separated, soon to be divorced, and my finances looked desperate. We’d built up a lot of debt during the marriage, and now I found myself owing tens of thousands of pounds on credit cards and personal loans. I looked at all the monthly payments, added those to the money I needed to spend to live, and realised that even though I was on a decent salary the sums just didn’t add up.

After receiving some debt advice and doing difficult calculations, I managed to agree payment arrangements with banks and credit card companies. I found that if I carefully watched my spending from week to week. I was able to get by.

Shortly after I’d made these arrangements I realised that God was speaking to me about money. He didn’t speak audibly, but instead through several different sources: yes, a message in Church, and also through podcasts I listened to, and Christian articles I received in my email. It was like a coordinated attack! I felt convicted in my heart that He wanted me to tithe.

I struggled to accept His instruction, because I couldn’t see where I could possibly find ten percent of my income to give away. But I examined my budget carefully and figured that if I cut all my spending right to the bone then maybe I could just about make it. Moreover, I felt compelled to give because I love Jesus, and this was something I wanted so much to do for Him.

So I prayed, and said to God, “Okay, I hear you, and I’ll do as you ask, but please help me because I’m going to struggle.” I decided to give it a try for six months, I set up a standing order so I was committed to the sacrifice, and then I waited to see what happened.

What happened was that from that day onward the amount of spare money I had at the end of each month just grew and grew. I couldn’t explain why. My salary stayed the same, all my major spending commitments stayed the same, and yet I was able to start saving money for a rainy day and soon I was able to lend money to friends and family. In the years since then I’ve increased my giving. On top of my tithe I make monthly donations to charities, which I add to from time to time as the Spirit leads me.

I had a rocky season when I felt it was wise to reduce my giving for a while, but I didn’t feel guilty about that because I knew God understood, and He knew my heart. Now I’m back to what I would call “full strength” tithing, and I don’t feel proud about that, just grateful and blessed that I’m able to respond to God in this way. I can see the day coming in the not-too-distant future when my debts to financial institutions will finally be cleared. My debt to Christ, for what He did for me on the cross, I can never repay. But God showed me a way to say “Thank You” and I’m so glad that listened to Him.

So I really feel that God has rewarded me for my obedience. I didn’t do it expecting a reward, in fact I didn’t expect anything. I just hoped that things would work out. But when I stepped out in faith, God made amazing things happen. And I’m convinced that He’ll do that for all of us, not just financially, but in every area of our lives if we just learn to put our trust in Him.

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. 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. ‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the Lord Almighty.

Malachi 3:10-12

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Giving It All Away

I thought I would share the notes I prepared before leading my small group meeting last week. As usual we only made it a fraction of the way through the content I’d prepared. I’d much rather that happened than we ran out of things to say! This is not much more than some passages of scripture and some questions to discuss. Maybe you’ll find it useful in thinking through the subject yourself, or sharing with others.

It’s sometimes difficult to talk about money, even amongst friends. Why that should be is an interesting question in itself. To help us see things in a slightly different light, and to break the ice somewhat, a couple of days before we met I asked my friends to take a look at this web site: http://www.globalrichlist.com/

Does this put your financial situation into perspective?

Matthew 19:16-22 (NIVUK)

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’ ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.’ ‘Which ones?’ he enquired. Jesus replied, ‘“You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honour your father and mother,” and “love your neighbour as yourself.”’ ‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’ Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

How would you react if God said these words to you?

Then I played a podcast called “Rejecting Riches” from the BBC World Service radio show “The Why Factor” – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02jhfpp which can also be downloaded from this page: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/whyfactor (See 14 February 2015).

We spent the rest of the evening discussing issues raised by this programme. Some bullet points to comment on:

Alan Large – Lottery Winner

  • Didn’t need the money
  • It was too much – a curse – people calling from all over the world asking for handouts
  • Gave it all away to family and charities

Chen Shuchu – Taiwanese Vegetable Seller

  • Grateful for help given by others when she was young
  • Only spends a few dollars on herself
  • Gives the rest away

Chuck Feeney – Duty Free Shopping

  • “All you can really do is count it”
  • Will give away all his fortune before he dies (within 10 years)

John Pedley – Businessman / Christian

  • St Augustine “Find out what God has given you. Take what you need. The rest is required by others.”
  • Sold everything, moved to Uganda, built a health centre
  • Now runs a fruit farm, gives away 90% of profits to health and education projects
  • The futility of his rich life
  • Why does he do it? Not to redeem himself. Not to make himself feel better. Believes in a God of justice.

Other thoughts

  • The drowning child analogy (mosquito nets)
  • What are the rights and wrongs of playing the lottery? Do they change if you resolve to give away all your winnings to charity?
  • Tithing – is 10% too little, just right, or too much? What is in your heart when (if) you tithe?
  • How is your attitude to money affected by personal factors such as your age, work, and family situation?
  • Where does altruism come from? Biological imperatives? God? Both?

Acts 4:32-37 (NIVUK)

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there was no needy person among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Would you like to live like this? Is it even possible in modern society?

Acts 5:1-11 (NIVUK)

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.’ When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, ‘Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?’ ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘that is the price.’ Peter said to her, ‘How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.’ At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

What is your response to this passage?

Ananias and Sapphira tried to deceive the apostles. How would events have turned out if they had been honest about what they were keeping?

A final thought:

1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NIVUK)

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For 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.