Martin Luther once said that there are three conversions necessary in the Christian life: the conversion of the mind, the conversion of the heart, and the conversion of the purse. And he might have added—the purse often seems to lag behind! Even after entrusting other parts of our lives to God, we can find our purse strings to be resistant. And yet, there is something fundamentally backwards about a Christian who is not financially generous. Generosity reflects the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
After our recent sermon series on God and Money, you may sense a conversion of sorts happening in your wallet or pocketbook. I have heard a few such stories from you in the past month. Praise God! If the Holy Spirit is changing your attitude toward money, I would urge you to boldly follow his lead. As an aid in that direction, here is a summary of four things we learned through examining the Scriptures together this April and May.
The Power of Money: When Jesus addresses money in the Sermon on the Mount, he speaks of it as having a power unto itself (Matthew 6:19-24). He notes that we cannot serve both God and Money; rather, Money is a master that seeks to control us and demands our worship—it is a rival deity of sorts. Can you recognize the power of money over your own soul? If so, you would do well to be reminded of the one way to free yourself from its vise-grip: Give it away! If you wish to pursue these insights further, I recommend you pick up a copy of Jacques Ellul’s classic book, Money and Power.
The Concept of Divine Ownership: While we sometimes think of a certain portion of our assets (say, 10%) as belonging to God, and the rest belonging to us, the Scripture is clear that God is the owner of all things. God owns 100% of our financial resources. We serve as stewards (managers) entrusted with God’s wealth. David vividly expressed this reality when collecting money for the building of the temple (1 Chronicles 29:10-25). As he and the people gave generously to the temple project, David noted that their generosity was enabled by God himself: “Everything we have comes from you,” he told the Lord, “and we have given only what comes from your hand.” Have you remembered lately that God owns all your wealth? If so, you are likely experiencing the freedom and joy that come from giving.
The Benefits of Generosity: In our study of 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, we saw that there are many blessings that go along with giving. Generosity makes us rich in the things that matter—in particular, it draws us closer to God. Generosity pleases God. Generosity results in others thanking and praising Him. Most importantly, generosity points people to Jesus Christ. When we don’t give, we miss out on these wonderful benefits.
The Importance of Tithing: In Malachi 3, God’s people responded to hard times by holding back their tithes and offerings. This angered the LORD, who accused them of robbing Him and cursed them for their disobedience. God challenged Israel to test him by bringing the whole tithe into the storehouse, at which point he would pour out blessings. This passage indicates that tithing is a matter of trust. To give 10% of what we have to God is not always easy, particularly in hard times. Yet, when we trust God and tithe to him, we are to expect his blessing.
Some might ask: Malachi is an Old Testament passage. Is tithing (giving 10% to the Lord) a practice still required of believers today? Well, the New Testament does not explicitly command tithing, but a study of tithing does reveal it to be a practice to which Christians would do well to adhere, for various reasons. The practice of tithing preceded the giving of the Law (Genesis 14:20), was later commanded in the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 27:30-32), was endorsed by Jesus himself (Matthew 23:23), and is consistent with New Testament commands about proportional giving (e.g., 1 Corinthians 16:4 and 2 Corinthians 8:12). In light of the greater grace revealed in Jesus Christ to us post-resurrection believers, it would be strange if we gave less than the Old Testament saints, who saw in only in shadow form what has been so clearly shown to us. I would encourage us all to tithe, giving 10% of our gross income, off the top, to our local church. Beyond the tithe, let us give to missionaries, the poor, and other church needs, as the Lord leads.
Giving is not easy, but it is right. God has designed us to be generous, and when we are, we experience life as he intends. Let’s be praying that God would extend his grace into our purses and pockets, that we might give generously, and that we might be full of the joy and freedom for which we are made. I’ll pray for you in this regard. Please also pray for me.