Keep or Give Away
--Pastor Jamey Nichols
From the time our kids were little, Michelle would periodically sit down with each of them in order to thin out the toys, the clothes, and the otherwise undifferentiated stuff of childhood. If left unchecked, a kid can accumulate a lot of useless items. In order to facilitate sorting, Michelle would create piles that were named “Keep” and “Give Away.” There was a trash bin handy for items that didn’t fit in one of the two piles. I’m sure you have no trouble understanding the game they played. If an item was deemed valuable enough to keep around it stayed. If not, it went to Goodwill. Sometimes the kids and their mom agreed, sometimes there were discussions. Every time a decision had to be made. I would venture to say that over the years we have donated carloads of clothing, toys, and home goods. What I wouldn’t venture to say is that I am a proud supporter of our local Goodwill. I patronize it occasionally and give to it often, but I can’t say Goodwill is in my heart. In other words, I don’t donate or shop there because I love the store. I just make use of it. If it closed tomorrow, I would not shed a tear. Instead, I’d feel put out because I’d need to travel farther to find a new store for the occasional good deal and to serve as the repository for my cast-offs too nice to toss into the trash.
With colder nights and changing leaves not only comes autumn season, but also the annual meeting of Stanton’s First Congregational Church. And you know what annual meetings mean—budget discussions. Each year our church family discusses and settles on a proposed budget for the upcoming year. We vote on a spending plan that reflects our shared values and what we believe to be God’s values for the vision He’s given. It’s also a time when all of us pause for introspection as we consider what portion of our wealth to “Keep” for ourselves and what portion to “Give Away” to the church.
Giving is a concept as old as God’s relationship with his people. Jesus taught that where you put your treasure is where your heart is. Paul the Apostle taught that each person should decide in [his/her] own heart what to give and then give it cheerfully. But before anything was recorded in the NT, God spoke through the OT prophets and told the people, “set aside 10% of your first fruits as holy unto the LORD.” This is what is known as a tithe—10% of a harvest, an income, a profit, or a windfall. So, do the math. How much money is coming in to your coffers and multiply it by .10 to compare what 10% of your income looks like vis-à-vis your contributions. Do you tithe? Do you under-tithe or over-tithe? Through the prophet Malachi, God rebuked the people who were not tithing. He said, “Would you dare rob God? But you are robbing Me. You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me,” (Mal. 3:8). God goes on to tell the people, “Test me in this and see if I won’t throw open the floodgates of heaven . . .”
Some will argue that tithing is no longer an obligation. I sort of agree. It may not be repeated as a NT command but the principle of giving certainly looms large. Jesus talked about money quite a lot, actually. Michelle and I believe tithing is no longer a maximum obligation. Instead, we believe it is a minimum starting point; beyond our tithes are our offerings. We consider the 10% figure to be the training-wheels of giving. As we grow in our walk with God, our view of money, possessions, and self-indulgence also matures so that we require less and less allowing us to give more and more. We continue to learn that it is more blessed to give than to keep. We also realize we would have nothing apart from Him and we display gratitude by giving back an ever increasing portion of what he’s given us. Generosity is a spiritual act of worship and its opposite a fleshly act of stinginess. The best way to give is to begin first with God’s purposes. Start by setting apart an amount dedicated to Him then figure out how to live on what remains. Try not to be nervous. Instead, test Him and watch Him supply your needs.