Wednesday, February 05, 2014

A Kingdom Cycle of Blessing

I think I've told my readers about a volunteer "online evangelism" ministry I do with Global Media Outreach. They have a series of websites designed to attract people who are seeking to know God, and when someone is investigating the Gospel and asks for more information, I am able to start a conversation with them online. Also, there are many new Christians I chat with on a daily basis, who are seeking more about basic principles of Christian living.

So far, over the past half-decade I've been doing this ministry, I've been blessed to be able to correspond with several thousand people, from dozens of countries all over the globe. Most have expressed a commitment to follow Jesus and grow in their Christian faith. This has (obviously!) been a huge blessing in my life.

One of the reasons it's a blessing, is because they often ask very intelligent questions, which help clarify priorities in my own life. Sometimes I feel so compelled by the question, and the biblical answer which it calls for, that I feel I should share the answer God has given with more than just the person who has asked.

Which is why I have a blog, right?

So, today a young man (from a northern African nation) asked me about tithing. Kombula (I'm changing his name to protect his privacy) asked,
"The tithe ... is it for us today? The tithe was given specifically to the Israelites and was a law. Jesus came to set us free from the law. He taketh away the first that he may establish the second. Are we still under the law?"
Great question, right? My response:

You're right, Kombula, the tithe is a specific ordinance established under the Law. And we as New Testament believers are no longer under the Law, we are under Grace.

However, as with all Old Testament ordinances, we need to look to the underlying principle. And the principle here is pretty clear. The principle is: God is the owner of all that we have, and He has lent it to us. The parable of the talents shows that we are stewards of His resources. Jesus taught that if we "invest" what He has given us into His kingdom, then the Kingdom will be blessed, and we will be blessed in turn. Our investment proves that we are good stewards, and able to handle bigger and better blessings if He decides to pour them out on us.

While the tithe (10% of everything, right off the top) was an Old Testament principle, given to the Hebrews, the New Testament principle is: "God loves a cheerful giver," and "Give as God has prospered you." So, the question I ask New Testament Christians is, "Has God blessed you more, or less, than the average Old Testament Hebrew? If the answer is "more," can you give back to God at least 10% of what He has given you ... cheerfully?"

These are very convicting questions, particularly to those of us who live in affluence here in America. Of course He has! So we should consider the tithe (10%) as a minimum standard. But unfortunately, the average churchgoing Christian here in America only gives about 3%. And our country is struggling, walking away from its Christian heritage, in part I believe because of our sin of affluence and our ingratitude as Christians in America.

My wife and I try to practice this. We are not affluent, per se, at least by American standards. I work for a nonprofit organization and my wife works for a school. We are an "average" family, with two children. But we try to give a significant portion (well over 10%, probably at least double or triple that) of our money, our time, our volunteer energy, etc. to the Kingdom. (Which is why I'm talking to you now ... I don't get paid to do this!)

Since we have been practicing this, these past 20 or 30 years, we have been incredibly blessed. We certainly have everything we need, and God continues to pour out more that we can invest into the lives of others. It's the opposite of a "vicious cycle" (maybe call it a "Kingdom cycle of blessing?"): As we try to be faithful with what He has lent us, He entrusts us with more that we can invest.

I don't know what this looks like in other countries and cultural contexts, exactly, but I do believe the principle is the same everywhere. It's Scriptural. Whatever God has given you, invest it. Dedicate a "tithe" (whatever you can do cheerfully), right off the top — the best of your energy, finances, time, etc., back to God. If you prove yourself trustworthy in these "little things," He will bless you with more to be trustworthy with.

Let me be clear that this is not a guaranteed path to wealth, or anything like that. Wealth does not equal blessing. Blessing takes many forms.

Does that make sense? I pray that God will bless you abundantly as you trust in Him!

Larry

In upcoming blogs, I'm going to feature responses to some other great questions asked by this young man and others recently ... so stay tuned! And, as always, please let me know what you think.

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