Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Being Deliberately Generous

I'm not writing this to brag on myself or my spouse. I'm also not writing this to put a guilt trip on anyone, either. What I hope is to influence others to be more generous in their life and make the world just that much better.

As my wife and I were discussing our finances before we married, we agreed that we would tithe to our local church. That means we give 10% of our incomes to help support our local church. One can argue this way or that to prove tithing isn't necessary under the new covenant, or that churches are "just out for the money." Certainly, there are Biblical arguments for not tithing and there are churches which are only interested in profit, both of which sour many on giving to the "church." Still, I believe there are good arguments in favor of tithing.

First, it's a practical thing: bills need to be paid. Personally, I like having lights, air conditioning, heat and coffee in the church's building. There's a mortgage to pay, water bill, salaries, etc. That money has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is supposed to be from the donations of the people who call that church "home."

The next reasons are more spiritual. This is, perhaps, the most oft-quoted verse when it comes to tithing: "'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,' says the LORD Almighty, 'I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!'" (Malachi 3:10 - New Living Translation)

The God of the Universe is offering a challenge: "Try it!" This isn't a command, this isn't a guilt trip, this isn't some kind of religious zealousness. God is simply telling us to give 10% and see if He doesn't return it and more to you. It's like an investment. I can honestly say from my own experience, I live a whole lot better on 90% of my income than I ever did on 100% of it.

There is another spiritual aspect to this I call "God Karma." In eastern religions, Karma is the process by which when you do good things, good things are returned to you. In Christian circles this is known as "sowing and reaping." St. Paul wrote to the Galatian church: "Don't be misled. Remember that you can't ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow." (Galatians 6:7 - New Living Translation)

By sowing generosity in your life - not only in tithing but in all you do, generosity will come back to you. I can't explain why and how - I just know it works. For the past four years, my wife and I have taught ourselves to be generous in all circumstances. We give to our church, we give to many charities, we over-tip (even when the service is bad), we give to those we find in need, we try to pick up dinners for our friends and family members when we go out, and the list goes on. This isn't a way to show off or to make people think we have more money than we really do. This is all done on a "cash basis" using very little, if any, credit or borrowing.

One thing we find is that we don't worry about money. We never have to because we always have more than enough to meet our needs and have plenty go give away. This takes a lot of the stress our of our lives and out of our marriage. It's wonderful that when we see a need, we always seem to have enough in our savings to make things happen. My friend's son passed on; I was able to buy plane tickets with little notice so I could attend the funeral. My sister's son passed; we were able to pay for a part of the headstone. Another friend needed gas money to take his son to a missionary event 12 hours away; we were able to help out.

We believe that out of this generosity comes things which benefit us personally. When we want to take a trip, we have money for it. On gift-giving occasions we're able to give wonderful gifts. When our cars need repair, we have the money to get them done. From where all this largess comes from we can't really calculate because it doesn't make sense. When we need or want it, the money's there.

Now, I will caution against taking this too far and falling into the "Prosperity Gospel." I've heard preaching which instructs people to give because God has to return to us 100 times what we give. I don't believe, though, that God "has" to do anything. As in many spiritual matters, I believe it's the attitude about the giving rather than the hard numbers. Give because you want to give, because it's the right thing to do. If you give out of greed you won't get the "God Karma" going. It's a delicate balance in your heart and in your head, but it can be done.

"You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully." (2 Corinthians 9:7 - NLT)

Click here for a list of charities we help support

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