Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Magic Ten Percent

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about tithing. He was ruminating on the origins of the magic ten percent number.

As if often the case, I leveraged this into a larger discussion about how we shouldn't be tithing to a number from our cash, but simply living unconstrained by a desire for wealth.

This is one of those easy ideas to get backwards. For much of my life, I had it wrong too. In some ways, I'm sure I still do. But I'm working on it.

I used to be a person who had a lot. Money, homes, cars, family. You know. . .stuff. And I thought I'd earned all that stuff. That I'd worked and saved and accumulated these things and now I was the one to decide how and when to give it to God. Uh huh.

When I consider how utterly and completely backwards I had it, it both amazes and disgusts me. But even now I hear this often in discussion when it comes to meeting the magic ten percent. We forget so quickly that it is more than the money that God allows us to acquire. It is the skills and talents and time that he graciously extends to us from His bounty. We have nothing except by His grace.

My life these days is focused on service. Or at least as much as this old fool can manage. A servant heart was the blessing I received in being humbled. So now when some new resources comes into my life I seek out how I can use it for His service. I sponsor missions, donate my time where there are needs, and give to those doing His work when opportunity arises. I say this only to illustrate that even in a humbled place, we all can find something to give. By worldly measures I am a shadow of my former self, but even so I find a way to give.

The best part of this giving? No matter how much I give for Him, there is always enough to meet my needs as well. Sure life is different when you are constrained in what you spend or constrained in how you spend your time. But somehow He always makes it work out. There is always enough to help those around me, always enough to meet my needs. It's that funny math that only He can do.
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
-- Philippians 4:19
More than just having my needs met, my heart is lifted as well. I don't walk in fear of not having enough because I know He will provide. My walk is without temptation because I'm not driven to accumulate. All my skills are still in use as a wise investor and I do my best to be a good manager of the resources and time He allows me. Knowing that everything I have, my every breath, my every cent, my every thought comes from Him and means nothing if not for His service, only brings me clarity of purpose.

And often I get to watch that funny math He does when it turns my meager means into amazing things. And that is a reward I claim in the here and now and not just in the sweet tomorrow.


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