Ask any of us what the greatest commandment is and we could probably easily rattle off, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:34, Luke 10:27)But do our lives reflect that Jesus is Lord of our lives? Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” (Matt 6:21, Luke 12:34) Where is your treasure? One way to figure that out is to open your checkbook or look at your spending through on-line banking. Where do you spend the most money? Another way is to analyze how you spend your time. How much time is set aside for God either in devotion or service? And yet a third way is to analyze how you use the talents and abilities and influence God has loaned to you.
You see, everything we have is merely on loan to us from our good and gracious God. Some day we will have to return it to God and make an ac-counting for how we have spent God’s gifts while here on earth. Accord-ing to Martin Luther, there are three conversions a person goes through:
one of the head, heart, and of the pocketbook. Some think that if we give a
tithe or 10% of what we have, then we’ve done our duty and so once that goal is reached, stop growing in generosity. Giving comes from a thankful heart, in response to what we’ve already received in abundant life in Christ. Giving is not a duty; giving comes from an attitude of gratitude and is a privilege and a joy. The Bible tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7) And that means whatever amount we give, it’s the attitude with which we give it that is most important. That doesn’t mean that giving to God should be easy – it should mean something, or in other words, be sacrificial giving.
The idea is to grow in generosity throughout our lives. In fact, John Wesley, founder of Methodism, used to talk about the reverse tithe as a goal. The reverse tithe is working to give away 90% and live off 10%. The way we live our lives, spend our money, use our gifts, reflects our values.
Although I was brought up in the church and knew my parents pledged, the amount was never discussed. When I was confirmed, I received pledge envelopes too. But it wasn’t until I was married that I started giv-ing regularly when our pastor preached a sermon encouraging us to give regularly and systematically and off the top, rather than from what was left over after the bills were paid. Early in our marriage, when we were living on one income, we started by giving 1% and we increased that amount most every year. Today, we give through on-line banking. Just as we honor our promise to pay our monthly “pledge” for our mort-gage, we honor our monthly “pledge” to give to God’s church. Today, we pledge and give 10% of my sala-ry or $350 a month to the church. We increase our giving to the church each year, even when we had two children in college. And it was difficult at times. We also give to Louisville Presbyterian Theological Semi-nary (my alma matter), Bread to the World, the four PC(USA) offerings, and the Joy FM each month. We have a long way to go in growing in generosity, but we are committed to keep growing in our giving and strive to give more sacrificially.
Next year, we plan to increase our pledge by $50 a month. If you want to grow in your relationship with the Lord, increase your giving. Not only the money you give to the Lord, but also the amount of time you spend with the Lord in worship, devotion, and service and ask yourself how your talents might benefit God’s kingdom. Some seasons of life it is more difficult to give. For example, if you are on a fixed in-come, it may be difficult to increase your percentage of giving each year. So if that is your reality, than per-haps you increase the amount of your time that you give to the Lord in service to God and others or search your heart to determine if they way you are using your talents and influence is truly benefiting God’s king-dom.
Living in thankfulness results in generous living. Use your blessings of time, talent, treasure and influence to bless others. By blessing others with what God has shared with us, we build a throne in our lives, minds, and hearts for the Lord. What kind of throne are you building for the Lord to sit upon?
God doesn’t want the leftovers, God wants all of us. Giving to God should be sacrificial giving; it should hurt a little bit. Start somewhere, give regularly, systematically, and then each year try to grow in generosi-ty to increase your giving of all that you are and have each year.