The story is told about a clumsy golfer who had difficulty teeing off. One day as he attempted to tee off, he swung his club and it struck the ground in front of the ball and it glanced against the ball. The ball bounced along the fairway and landed on top of an ant heap. There were ten thousand ants in the heap and the ball was perched at the top. He drew back and swung again and hit the ant heap again and killed five thousand ants and the ball fell back in place at the top of the ant heap. He drew back again and hit the ant heap again this time he killed four thousand nine hundred and ninety eight ants. There were two ants left and they looked at each other and said, "If were going to survive, we better get on the ball." The moral of that story applies to a lot of people and many Christians as well. If we're going to survive, we need to accept God's principles on finances.
Christians don't easily make the mental or spiritual connection between faith and finances. Nevertheless, faith and finances are an excellent fit. They go together perfectly. They go together like grits and biscuits or cornbread and greens. The Bible clearly says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. 11:6). This means faith is the essential requirement for pleasing God. Of course, we can please God in other ways through faithful obedience. However, the clear distinction is that faith is the absolute way for pleasing God. Furthermore, the word, impossible, makes faith the essential element above anything else for pleasing God.
The connection of faith and finances can be clearly seen in two biblical references: (1) the absolute declaration stating, "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. 11:6) and (2) the Lord's description that money is the "least" (Luke 16:10, 11). On the one hand, since faith is the absolute essential requirement for pleasing God, and on the other hand, since money is the least of God's blessings, the simple conclusion is being faithful with money is the primary way for pleasing God. This fact prioritizes money as the first area of Christian faithfulness. After all, it's the least of Gods blessings. I call it the kindergarten level of Christian responsibility to God. A person who has difficulty handling kindergarten will have a heck of a time getting a Ph.D. Who wants to be guilty of failing God in the least? Not me!
Furthermore, the profundity of the Lord's statement about money in Luke 16:10, 11 is underscored by the words, If you have not been faithful in unrighteous money who will commit to your trust true riches. The basis for being blessed by God with true riches is to be faithful with money first. It's foolish to expect God to bless us with more finances and bless us abundantly in other areas when we have not been faithful in the least. Money is the least of God's blessings! That makes our faithful response with money the basis for all the other levels of blessings and there are many. The Lord calls them true riches.
Please note also the secondary title, The Basics For Financial Victory. The Bible presents the basic principles to successfully handle money. Every sport has basic requirements that must be achieved first in order to perform at the maximum level. In football, it's blocking and tackling. In baseball, it's hitting, fielding and throwing. No athletic team will celebrate many championship victories if they don't pay attention to the basics of the game. Neither can we ignore the biblical basics of money management and expect to have successful results. Financial success is inseparable from following basic biblical principles.
All of us can remember our disappointment for missing a financial opportunity. With much regret, I definitely can recall missing a few financial opportunities. The following story is an excellent example of personal regret over finances: One day a graveyard caretaker came upon a woman who was stretched out across a grave crying uncontrollably. She was pounding on the grave with her fists, weeping profusely and wailing loudly saying, "Oh, if you just hadn't died. If you hadn't died I wouldn't be in the fix I'm in. Oh, if you just hadn't died I wouldn't be in this financial mess. My life is a wreck because you died." Upon hearing the bemoaning expressions of the grieving lady, the grave keeper attempted to comfort her and asked, "Is that your husband, Ma'am?" She replied, "No, she is my husband's first wife."
As humorous as this story is, the financial regret can't be missed. However, for all the regrets we have after missing a financial opportunity the good news is we can prepare better for other opportunities that may come in the future.
Vernon Jordan tells the story in his biography of when he was a teenager he asked his grandfather what one thing he would like to experience before his death. The setting was rural Georgia in the mid-1950s as they sat on his grandfather's porch on a sultry summer evening, and his grandfather expressed that he would like to have the facility of an indoor toilet to appreciate during the wintertime. Vernon said he was disappointed with his grandfather's answer, but recognized later that his grandfather answered the question out of his exposure to the circumstances of his life. The point of the story is our outlook on finances comes out of the exposure to the circumstances of our lives. The better our exposure is, the better our outlook on finance will be. Less exposure to finances affects us accordingly.
Worse than missing financial opportunities is to not know that you have missed them. Worse than not knowing you have missed financial opportunities, is not realizing you are missing financial opportunities. It's tragic to recall missed financial opportunities from the past, but more tragic is to miss financial opportunities in the present and not know it. Ignorance of biblical teachings on money and the lack of exposure to a good financial environment will seriously threaten our financial possibilities. The culture of economically deprived people governs their exposure and their exposure governs their experience. Our exposure governs the quality of knowledge we have about finances. Consequently, the slavery background of African Americans is still paying off negative dividends on our mindsets about money. Simply put, people who come from impoverished lifestyles are adversely affected by that exposure. Furthermore, people who come from impoverished backgrounds will carry impoverished viewpoints about finances all their lives until they are exposed to more valuable viewpoints.
Personally speaking, my perceptions about money and my attitude and actions about money have been tremendously altered by the Lord's words in Luke 16:10, 11. These two verses have affected me more positively than all the other verses in the entire Bible and there are numerous scriptures on money. The particularity of these words is that they fell from the lips of the Master Teacher Himself and it was astounding to me to discover that money is the least of God's blessings. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much and he that is unjust in the least, is also unjust in that which is much. Verse 10 mentions "least" in a generic sense but verse 11 interprets what the "least" is—if you have not been faithful in unrighteous money, who will commit to your trust the true riches? Money, then, is the least of all blessings.
Equally as impacting as discovering that money is the least of God's blessings are the words, "if you have not been faithful in unrighteous money!" That means regardless to how many Jabez prayers you pray, your blessings hinge on the quality of your faithfulness to money. It doesn't matter how many chain letters you sign and send on to others, your blessings are predicted on your faithfulness or unfaithfulness to money. I'm referring to the letters that come with the threatening challenge that if you don't sign it and send it on, you will bear the consequences of breaking the chain and your dog will die and your cat will run away and you will have misfortune after misfortune. However, the Lord makes future blessings contingent upon the quality of your faith and not on signing a letter. Sign all the letters you want, name and claim all you want but the Lord says, "If you have not been faithful in unrighteous money who will commit to your trust true riches." True riches are blessings above and beyond money. They are the things that money can't buy. The Lord uses how faithful we are with money to determine what other blessings He will bestow upon us.
Our faithfulness with finances starts with recognizing God as our provider for our finance. The Christian viewpoint on finances recognizes that God is the single source for the provision of money. Actually, God is the provider of all blessings. When the people of God had overwhelmingly given for the construction of the Temple, in his prayer of thanksgiving, David said to God, "Of your own have we given back to you" (I Chronicles 29:14). In other words, David acknowledged that God was really the provider of the offering and they had only given out of resources God had given to them. Many scriptures indicate that God is the provider of all blessings. A summary verse is James 1:17. It says, "Every good and perfect gift comes from above, and comes down from the Father of lights with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning."
Consequently, we must recognize God as the provider for money also. However, that's difficult even for many Christians to do. We enjoy the thought that we have provided our money for ourselves through our own abilities. We think our educational or experiential qualifications have made our jobs possible but essentially God provided us our jobs. Our knowledge and strength to perform our jobs are gifts from God also.
One of Israel's major problems was they had difficulty viewing God as their Provider. God provided for them time after time. But during each crisis, they forgot how God provided for them in the previous crisis. The prophet, Isaiah, dipped his pen in divine revelation and warned Israel, "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!" (Isaiah 31:1). Jeremiah chided them by saying, "Thus saith the Lord, cursed be the man that trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from the Lord" (Jeremiah 17:5). Israel's propensity for not trusting in God and relying on God as their Provider never changed. They put their trust in horses and chariots rather than in the awesome power of God. When it comes to money, some people have more trust in dealers at a casino than they do in God. Some people look to their payroll clerks for money more earnestly than they do to God. Yet in profundity and simplicity the bible says, "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts" (Haggai 2:8).
At least three common observances are essential for being faithful with finances:
Principles: Principles are like rules. Every sport is governed by a set of rules. Several principles govern the proper handling of money and we can't be faithful with money without observing them.
Planning: Specifically, a written plan is needed. A common reality among people who are in financial difficulty is the fact that they have no plan. You need a financial plan, preferably a written plan. Not having a plan is what gets people into financial difficulty and no plan at all is what keeps them in financial difficulty. I strongly urge you to make a written plan and then make it a part of your daily prayer time. Ask God to bless your financial plan and your goals for His glory. Your financial plan should include giving first to God, saving, investing, and getting out of debt.
Persistence: Persistence is needed for the observance of principles and for staying with your plan. It will require daily recommitment to break the bad habits you have developed, and replace them with good habits.
The starting point for being faithful with your money is to begin giving to God first. Make your offering to God the first item of responsibility and at the same time make it a significant amount. According to 2 Corinthians 9:7, we should give "liberally not grudgingly." This is the first principle for Christians to observe. We must give to God significantly. Significantly equates to liberally. The Old Testament principle for giving to God was to tithe. A tithe is one-tenth of a whole, or ten percent. Unfortunately, tithing has been preached and taught as if it is the ultimate principle for giving to God. But it isn't the ultimate principle for giving. Furthermore, it can't be the ultimate principle for giving because it comes from the Old Testament. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews would have us to know that every Christian principle is superior to any Old Testament principle. The word "better" is mentioned some 13 times in the Epistle to indicate that everything after the cross is better. It talks about a better hope; a better covenant; better promises; better sacrifices; a better country and ultimately a better resurrection.
Consequently, since everything is better because of Christ, then it follows that the New Testament principle of giving is also better than the Old Testament. The fact is tithing is not God's best. It can't be God's best because it is in the Old Testament. The main problem with tithing is that it limits the amount you can give to ten percent. Since it limits the amount you can give, it also limits the amount you can receive. What farmer do you know who plants only ten percent of his field and drives his tractor back to the barn? If a farmer only planted ten percent of his field, he would only reap from the ten percent he planted and he would be foolish to think he could reap more than he planted. The New Testament broadens the amount that we can give to more than ten percent, and if you give more, you will receive more.
Many Christians tithe like they pay taxes; that is, they do it exactly and precisely right down to the penny. We tithe like we pay our bills. We don't pay a penny more on a bill than what is owed. The point is we usually tithe the same way we pay our bills. When have you ever rounded up a utility payment to the next dollar amount? A fair question would also be, when have you rounded up your tithe to the next dollar amount? It's all right to pay your bills right down to the penny, but we shouldn't give to God that way. God is the last person you want to penny-pinch with. We should deal with God on an entirely different level than we do with our business vendors. We shouldn't write God a check that has a few cents in the amount.
Begin the practice of rounding your offering up to the next dollar. Instead of giving God a check for $146.76, round it up to $147.00. God is good for twenty-four more cents for goodness sake. When you round up your tithing amount you become a New Testament grace giver. You will no longer be a tither. A tithe is a tenth part or ten percent. Any amount less than ten percent is not a tithe and guess what? Any amount more than ten percent is not a tithe either. So there are two ways not to be a tither: by giving less than ten percent or by giving more than ten percent. The better choice is not to be a tither by giving more than ten percent.
Two primary verses stopped me from tithing and they are Luke 6:38 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. I used to be a tither but being threatened with a gun couldn't make me tithe again. The profundity of those verses stopped me from tithing. I can spot a tithing envelope two blocks away because it will say $146.76. What's my clue that it's a tithe? Not the $146.00. The clue that the amount is a tithe is the seventy-six cents. I used to tithe like that; right down to the penny. I made sure that I didn't give God one cent more than a tithe. How tragic! What a pitiful way to give to God. But I stopped tithing. I'm not a tither and what's more I'll never tithe again. I've already explained the better choice for not being a tither is to give more than a tithe. It is in that sense that I am not a tither.
Furthermore, New Testament giving is far more poignant than Old Testament giving. New Testament giving carries more payload than Old Testament giving. Many Christians use the New Testament scriptures on giving as an excuse not to tithe. They are quick to say they are "under grace" but unfortunately, they have misinterpreted the scripture and misrepresented the purpose of grace. They use New Testament scriptures as an excuse to give less than a tithe which is not the purpose of New Testament principles of giving. Under grace our motivations should be to give more not to give less. All the Christians I know who argue about tithing use the New Testament scriptures to give less than a tithe. The Lord says in Luke 6:38, Give and it shall be given unto you good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, shall men give unto your bosom; and He says, "For with the same measure that you measure with, it shall be measured to you again."
Under New Testament teaching you can determine the amount you want to give. But is it wiser to give God less than a tithe or is it wiser to give God more than a tithe? The verse clearly teaches that God measures back to us what we have measured to Him. It plainly says we receive "the same measure." Our return is based on the measure that we have given. So our motivation for giving should be based on our appreciation for God's grace and our good sense. Consider this, what if there was no Old Testament tithing principle, then how would you determine your offering? I would give a significantly good measure knowing that my return would be based on the amount I have given.
Also, 2 Corinthians 9:6 likens giving to God to planting in a field. It says, "But this I say, He who sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly and he who sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully." If you sow sparingly, how do you think you are going to reap? Sparingly! But if you sow bountifully, how will you reap? Bountifully! It's a no-brainer. Notice please, this scripture is set in the foundation of horticulture. Horticulture is farming, planting and reaping. Consequently, it is based on the Laws of the Harvest. There are two primary laws of the harvest. The first is you always reap what you sow. This can be proven by planting a garden in your backyard. You will see that you can't plant cucumbers and reap tomatoes. You reap what you sow. That's why it says if you sow sparingly you will reap sparingly and if you sow bountifully you will reap bountifully.
In addition, the second law of the harvest is even more emphatically revealing. The profound reality of the second law is you always reap more than you sow. One grain of corn will get you at least two ears to a stalk. In fact, most of the time one grain yields four ears to a stalk. A watermelon seed is even more graphic. One watermelon seed will grow a vine five or six feet long with five or six watermelons on that vine, all full of seeds! What's more, God starts His horticultural yield at thirty fold, and if He wants to He can raise it to sixty fold, and if He wants to He can raise it to a hundred fold. God can pay dividends like that because He doesn't have a Federal Reserve Board setting rates on Him. God can sovereignly pay any dividend He wants to. That's why I stopped tithing.
I must urgently say, please don't feel guilty if, for whatever reason, you are unable to start your giving at ten percent. I strongly recommend that you choose a percentage you can be successful with and start there. Start with any percentage you are fairly certain you can handle. It's better to figure your offering from a percentage than to arbitrarily select a dollar amount. If you choose to give $40.00 per month without figuring it from a percentage of your income, you won't know what that amount represents of your income. You need the percentage so you can chart a course to get to ten percent and ultimately go beyond ten percent so you become a grace giver. Select a time frame for increasing your percentage for your offering; perhaps every three months, four months or for six months. I recommend that you make a time line so you can see the date when you will reach ten percent. Once you get to ten percent, you will be ready to go on to more generous levels of giving. God hasn't struck you with lightening yet for not giving as you should. God has been waiting all this time for many Christians who aren't attempting to improve their giving. So I think we can expect God to continue to wait especially when a person comes before Him in prayerful consecration and determination to be faithful in the least. To be faithful to God with money you must begin by becoming a generous giver and we become generous givers by giving significantly. God will honor every promise He has made.
Be encouraged and start with getting your giving under control. You can win or lose your financial battle by not being faithful in the least and particularly by not giving generously to God.