Saturday, January 10, 2009

Giving from the Heart

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."

-- Malachi 3:10

The statistics are literally heart stopping.

According to the American Heart Association, coronary heart disease (CHD) causes about 1 of every 5 deaths in the United States. For 2009, the respected health organization estimates that 785,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack, and about 470 000 will have a recurrent attack. And recent mortality rate data reveal that nearly 2,400 Americans die of cardiovascular disease (CVD) each day. That’s an average of one death every 37 seconds!

And there are more sobering numbers. About every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event -- and about every minute, someone will die from one.

It’s obvious that our nation faces a cardiac crisis. But there’s another serious heart problem that doesn’t involve cigarette smoke, cholesterol management or low fat diets:

Far too many Christ-followers lack a heart that’s willing to give according to the resources God has richly given them. And when they do open their pocketbooks, it’s often done grudgingly.

But that’s not the example God has given us through His Word, the Bible. If there’s a two-word lesson that we can learn from God’s principles about money and possessions, it’s be generous.

We worship a God of generosity. And He wants us to follow His example and spread His Kingdom -- even here in Central Virginia! One way to do that is to follow the Biblical principle of the tithe, which means giving the first 10 percent of our income back to Him through the Church. Of course, the God who created the universe with a Word hardly needs our money. But following this savvy practice accomplishes several purposes. In addition to enabling the church to better spread the good news about Jesus Christ, help Christ-followers grow spiritually and benefit our community, generous, purposeful giving shows how much we differ from society. The world teaches that cash is king and that he who has the most toys wins. Money and possessions are its god. But Christ-followers are to give away what will rust and fade away for something much more permanent and valuable. Our Lord also knows our inner nature; if we didn’t give to others, our selfish natures would take over.

There are many reasons why Christ-followers fail to give to their potential. For some, it’s a lack of sound Biblical teaching on the matter. For others, it might be a lack of financial planning or even debt issues. And unfortunately, basic selfishness often figures into the equation.

“Who has known the mind of the Lord,” we’re asked in the Book of Romans. And that’s a great question when it comes to money. After all, what if He had told us to give 80 percent of our income and live on the remaining 20? But He didn’t. Instead, we should ask ourselves if we believe that our God – the one who raised His own Son from the dead – is able to let us do more with 90 cents than we ever could on our own with the whole dollar.

The Bible doesn’t advocate gambling. But when it comes to money and possessions, this is one time when putting your bottom dollar on God’s abilities is the safest bet of all.

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