Monday, January 18, 2016

The Nonsensical Way To Financial Health

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It makes no sense, really.  The idea that people with limited resources should take a portion of their income — the first portion no less — and give it away.  NOT invest it or save it or make a house payment with it or buy food with it…GIVE it away! It makes no sense.

It makes no sense, until you add faith into the equation. That’s a pretty important additive. After all, “It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him." (Hebrews 11:6 New Living Translation) If you believe that God exists and that He rewards those who seek him, giving the first part of your income to him makes sense.

When I was a kid, I helped my mom plant and tend gardens. She would determine the best time in the spring and we would go to work. We tilled up the soil, drove stakes to hold the string that would keep our rows straight, filled those rows with water — which quickly soaked into the earth — and planted seeds in the mud.  We got those seeds in various ways, but most often we bought them. My parents exchanged hard-earned money for seeds that would be stuck in the ground. Why? Because they had faith!

Year after year, those seeds split open down in the soil and little stems began to poke up through the earth. O, how we rejoiced at those first tiny shoots!  Within a few months, we would have rows of healthy plants. On them were beans and peas, corn and carrots, radishes and melons, okra and squash.  Throughout our New Mexico summers, the Norris dinner table was an assortment of fresh food we had grown in our gardens…by faith.  The rest of the year, we enjoyed the frozen and canned vegetables and fruits that were the continued reward of faith and hard work.

As I remember those years and describe them to you, it strikes me that most of you can understand this picture of faith. My parents let go of their hard-earned cash and received something much greater in return. Most of you get that. Some of you, though, can’t see the connection between what my family did with seeds in a garden and what you and I are called to do with the money in our lives.

I understand something now which I didn’t understand as a kid. That act of faith — planting those seeds and working those gardens — wasn’t just so we could eat healthy food. It was so we could eat! The economic realities of our family were such that those seeds and those gardens literally made it possible for us to survive. Those seed-buying dollars were far less than if we had been forced to buy that food in a store. In other words, my parents were full of faith, but they were also practical!

That’s the disconnect, I think, for many of the people I have known who struggle to put God first in their finances. Giving to him first doesn’t make sense to some folks. To those, however, who learn to put him first, it’s a grand discovery of hidden treasure. It’s practical because of the promises he makes and keeps to those who practice money management his way. “You can’t out-give God,” a Sunday School teacher told me many years ago. I found out that he was right!
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Tithing is one of the hardest hurdles most people have as they learn to follow Jesus. It’s critical to Heart Health, though, and a can’t-miss topic for those who are serious about living by faith. Tithing is an adventurous way to live, which I can’t wait to describe to you this weekend at Stone Ridge Church. I hope you can join us and bring a friend. Can’t make it? Catch the podcast!

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