Thursday, May 24, 2012

Frequent Problems with Tithing #1

The Life on Loan series of messages at New Life Church has generated quite a bit of discussion. Every family is unique and every situation is different. Yet, Randy Alcorn, in his book Money, Possessions and Eternity highlights twelve common situations that many families face. I hope these profiles, over the next couple days, will help you think about your situation and plan for tithing.

Profiles of Christians Who Rob God

Used with permission. [Alcorn, Randy (2003-02-01). Money, Possessions, and Eternity (Kindle Locations 4142-4233). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition].

The Situation:

Bill and Donna are in their midthirties. Bill has steady work, but there’s always too much month left at the end of their money. Bill and Donna sincerely intend to put in the offering box whatever’s left at the end of the month. But between house payments, bills, and sticking a little into savings, there’s never anything left. They feel bad, but what can they do when they’re out of money?

The Problem:

Bill and Donna don’t understand “firstfruits.” They should give to the Lord off the top, not out of what’s left—or not left. They don’t realize that the tithe belongs to God, and that there’s a word for taking money that doesn’t belong to them—stealing.

The Situation:

Joan’s a twenty-two-year-old, just finishing college. Her thirty-hour-a-week job pays just over minimum wage. She earns $800 a month. Joan’s parents still provide room and board, but she has to take care of her tuition, books, and other expenses. “I can’t afford to give,” says Joan. “I’m barely making it now. If I gave a tithe, it would be $80 a month, and I’d probably have to drop out of school. I’d like to give, but I just can’t.”

The Problem:

Joan is not only robbing God, she’s robbing herself of the opportunity to grow in faith. Right now she doesn’t believe God’s promise in Malachi 3 (confirmed in Matthew 6:33 and Luke 6:38) that he’ll take care of her if she puts God first by giving him what’s his. If God is capable of helping her get by on $800 a month, isn’t he capable of helping her get by on $720 a month? Joan’s God doesn’t seem very big—he can’t even compensate for an $80 shortfall.

The Situation:

Bob and Elaine are in their early fifties. Elaine says, “For years we frittered away our income on all kinds of luxuries. Now we’re twelve years from retirement and we don’t have anything saved. On top of that, we’ve still got two kids in college.” “We’d like to give to the church,” Bob explains, “but Scripture says we’ve got to provide for our family first. After we get our kids through school and get a nest egg started, then we’ll start giving.”

The Problem:

Bob and Elaine are keeping what belongs to God in order to compensate for their poor planning and lack of discipline. Their first debt is not to their children’s college education. Their first debt is to God. If it wasn’t tuition costs, it would be something else. Since they have no standard of giving, they’ll always find reasons not to give.

The Situation:

Phil and Pam enjoy giving. With their little blue Santa’s helper (credit card) they just gave each other a DVD player and a large-screen television. The kids got a new computer to keep them busy while their parents enjoy the city’s finer restaurants. They’re tired of their three-year-old Chevy, so they just bought a new model. “Next year I’ve got a big promotion coming,” says Phil. “Then we’ll start giving. Right now the budget’s tight. It’s not that we don’t ever give to God’s work,” Phil adds. “Why, when we were in Hawaii last month we attended a church service on the beach and I dropped $20 in the offering.”

The Problem:

Phil and Pam are blind. They say there’s no money left to give—and they do their best to make sure of it! No matter what they say, their lifestyle proves that toys, trips, and cars are more important to them than God and others. They say they’ll give when they earn more, but they won’t. If Phil and Pam have been unfaithful with a little (more than a little), they’ll be unfaithful with a lot. Their expenditures will always rise to meet their income. Making more money will only make them guilty of robbing God more. Phil and Pam don’t understand that the tithe belongs to God, not them, and they should return to him the “firstfruits,” not “last fruits” or “no fruits.”

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