Archives For June 2012

       Today, a reader named Melissa shared this comment on my summary of tithing in the Bible. (I’ve edited it a little for clarity, but I did not make any drastic changes.)

       “I have been a faithful ‘tither’ for years, raised by parents who were faithful tithers. And there has been something about ‘tithing’ that has always had this ‘check’ within me, even when I was adamant about ‘wanting to tithe’ and knowing ‘God’s promises’ about tithing. I began researching about tithing to basically find out where the 10% of all my gross income should be going. Let me tell you it has led down a completely different path!!!! It has led me closer and closer to who Jesus is: GRACE. Jesus IS grace personified. Grace presented giving over and over and over!!!!! I WAS a cheerful and faithful tither…now I will allow grace to lead me to be a cheerful and faithful giver!!!! I appreciate the revelation that the Holy Spirit has given you and others about giving from the heart and not tithing from a pocketbook. God is NOT about numbers!!!”

– Melissa

       In my response, I thanked Melissa for her comment because it’s exactly for people like her that I wrote those articles on tithing. You see, some people accuse me of being greedy, stingy, or just trying to make excuses not to give because of what I’ve written about tithing. Because I don’t teach tithing, they assume that I don’t want to give – or that if I do then I don’t want to do it generously.

       Nothing could be further from the truth! If anyone spends just a little bit more time reading what I’ve written about New Covenant giving and generosity, they’ll see that I am actually trying to teach us to be even more generous than what those who teach tithing demand.

       The difference is that I’m trying to point us to the ultimate example of giving: Jesus Christ. He is the full revelation of God’s will for us in all things, including giving. And while looking at Him and trying to follow Him, no one will be making excuses not to give. You can’t help but want to give to those in need in response to His grace, mercy, and generosity.

       We don’t need demands and obligations and curses to urge us to give if we will only look to Jesus and follow His example. Those who follow Jesus and abide in Him will have such overflowing love for God and others that you won’t be able to hold back their generosity. You don’t need to tell them to give 10% or be cursed and you don’t need to promise them riches and blessings to get them to give. They want to give because they have God’s love living in them!

       This is the real purpose of my articles about tithing. It’s not to excuse us from giving. It’s not to find a way to give less. And it’s not to destroy churches and make them go bankrupt (yes, I’ve been accused of that). The real purpose of these articles is to open our eyes to the truth about giving. And that truth is found only in Jesus Christ – not in the Law.

       I want people to see that tithing as it is taught today is far from Biblically accurate. I want them to understand the grace we have received from and in Jesus. I want them to experience both the freedom and the joy that comes from giving with a pure heart motivated by love for God and love for others. I want them to get past this letter of the Law stuff and focus on the Spirit. It’s about a transformation of going from “What’s the least I must do to fulfill my obligation to God?” to “How can I more fully express my love for God and for people? How can I please and serve God completely?”. I want us to let go of the shadow and take hold of the the One who came. I want us to let Jesus be our example for giving and fully follow in His steps.

       I pray that all who read what I’ve written about tithing will realize that it’s not just about arguing over words and trying to make excuses or justify ourselves. My goal is not to cause more division, strife, or arguing, but to open our eyes to the truth in Scripture and gain a fuller understanding of what Christ did for us, what He wants us to do, and how we can start living that out. I will try my best to be clear about those things, but it doesn’t always come through.

       So just know that when you read something I’ve written about tithing it’s not so we can keep more for ourselves. It’s so we can let go of the shadow, cling to Jesus, and be free to experience the relentless, irrational generosity that God has for us and to begin sharing that with others.

Out of all of the financial themes from the bible, contentment keeps coming up. In case you haven’t checked out the list of bible verses about money, there is a wide list of bible verses that have to do with contentment. Contentment means the act of being satisfied with what you already have. In some ways, it is the exact opposite of greed.

If you look at the list of bible verses more closely, you will see that the theme of contentment comes up over and over.

  • Psalm 37:16 – Better is a little that the righteous has, than the abundance of many wicked.
  • Proverbs 15:16 – Better is little, with the fear of Yahweh, than great treasure with trouble.
  • Proverbs 30:8-9 – Remove far from me falsehood and lies. Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with the food that is needful for me; 9 lest I be full, deny you, and say, ‘Who is Yahweh?’ or lest I be poor, and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

These are just a few of the many verses on contentment. The message seems to be clear: Value what you have. Don’t live your life in search of possessions. Search for meaning in people and God. And so on…

This sounds great, but can it be that simple? If this is God’s message to us, why is it so important. Why does it keep coming up, over and over.

Conservation of Resources

One of the first things that comes to mind is the conservation of resources. It’s no secret that the act of being green and frugal often overlap. When you are content with what you have, you are not driven to consume. Consumerism is rampant in the U.S. We strive to get more stuff, drive faster, get the latest and fanciest pieces of technology, and the list goes on. Unfortunately this means that we are using more of our natural resources and contributing to global warming. I’m aware that there is some disagreement over the issue of global warming – primarily if we are the cause (because it does exist), but irregardless, there is still an important biblical theme of stewardship. God asked us to be good stewards of his creation, and this is particularly relevant to issue of environmentalism.

Is it possible that God was/is warning us against our own self-destruction?

Are We Consuming or Being Consumed?

I remember when my wife and I started to have a little extra cash for the first time in our adult lives. Being a product of our culture, we asked what we could do with it. Questions about what we should buy (if anything) or where to go, were the popular topic. For anyone who has given into this, even in small bits, I am sure that you recognize (at least on some level) that stuff won’t make you happy. It may improve your life in some ways (and can therefore be “okay” with the right motivation), but it should never be the end result.

I often wonder if consumerism is about us buying and/or consuming resources or about us being consumed by our greed and want for stuff – because that is how it feels sometimes. If we are honest with ourselves, I think we will find ourselves looking for happiness in the stuff we buy. Is it possible that the impulse to buy and/or consume is doing more harm than good? (in more than one way)

I believe it is in a combination of these two reasons that contentment becomes so important. It is with contentment that we are reminded of what is important in life: friends, family, life, God, etc. All the other things have very little meaning.

Why do you think contentment is so important?


My friend who just finished seminary accepted a pastoral position at a church in Hawaii. (Talk about suffering for Jesus, right?) In moving there, the church will be paying to ship his truck there, so that he has a car while on the island. As any typical graduate student does throughout the course of their studies, he collected lots of stuff – mostly books, but also furniture, clothes, etc. While shipping his truck to Hawaii may sound like an easy way to take most of his possessions with him, it’s actually quite the opposite. He is only allowed to keep items in the truck that are bolted down. That means even his face plate for his after-market CD player has to come out.

Ultimately this means that he is getting rid of stuff. He just recently told me how he got rid of 3 boxes worth of books, in addition to lots of other clothes, etc. I started to think about how much stuff my wife and I have collected in the 3 years that we have been married. While we live in a 1 bedroom apartment, I can hardly believe how much stuff we have. How did this happen?!

Are Material Possessions Bad?

We often hear about consumerism or worldly possessions and how bad it is for us. I believe much of this conversation stems from a very basic truth:

You can’t take it with you!

This is the idea that when you die, all the stuff that you have collected over your life means absolutely nothing. Yes, that’s right, those baseball cards, your lucky underwear, your stainless steel appliances – it doesn’t mean anything when you pass.

Yet, this basic truth is often exaggerated…

Worldly possessions are bad. They are evil. Material possessions are false idols.

Or, my personal favorite:

Material possessions hurt your relationship with God.

Since when is a relationship with God and having stuff mutually exclusive? I guess I should be clear. I’m not talking about the level of the “Hoarders” T.V. show(s). I suspect that we all know that hoarding is a serious social illness of some sort (or at least that’s my suspicion without watching the show much). Instead, I am talking about the average person. Isn’t it possible that possessions are not all bad? Or even better, couldn’t it help us in our relationship with God?

Why Possessions Can Help our Faith

I ask this question of whether the stuff in our lives can be a good thing because of two reasons. I often like to tackle the common assumptions of the Christian faith, especially as it relates to finances. This is one of the reasons that I look at tithing differently than other Christian finances authors. The second reason that I ask this question is because of a significant change recently.

My wife and I recently invested in a portable dishwasher. There, I said it! Well, that may not sound like much, but if you know me, it is huge! I absolutely hate doing dishes. Because we are renting, our unit does not have a dishwasher. In our 3 years of married life, we have never had one. This means that we spend, at minimum 3 hours a week doing dishes. My wife’s in-laws were coming into town and I had two days of dishes piled up (prior to getting our dishwasher). I had to do all the dishes at once and it took me 2 hours! Wowzer!

As a result of buying our new dishwasher, things have drastically improved. It literally takes minutes instead of hours each week. I told my wife that it was the best investment ever! That’s how much our dishwasher means to us.

Does this mean that I am too reliant on this material item? Am I ruining my relationship with God because I enjoy the luxury of some of my STUFF?

I think it would be hard to find someone that would answer, “yes” to these questions. I think it is especially relevant when you consider the time saved. I have more time to spend on whatever I choose. Whether this is volunteering, praying, reading, etc. I believe this is a great example that material stuff cannot be equated with evilness. Stuff is not inherently bad.

A Proper Balance

I believe understanding that our possessions are not bad in and of themselves, but instead how we use them is very important. Understanding that we can utilize our STUFF to be a greater service to our community is an important thing. Yet, it doesn’t mean you should buy as many items as possible to free up more free time. There needs to be some balance.

There needs to be a balance between spending without concern for others and avoiding items all-together because of the belief that they are inherently bad. I can’t say where people should draw the line, but I believe it should be somewhere in the middle. One needs to consider the motives for buying stuff before anything.

Are you buying that because it will make you feel good? Do you absolutely NEED to have it? Why are you buying it?

These are all important questions to answer when thinking about how much stuff you have. When you consider that in addition to the great need in this world, you are on the right track.

Readers, where do you think is the balance? Should people sell all their possessions?