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The Joy of Giving

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by Buster Whitlock, Minister of Finance & Administration

Last week we tackled a tough subject – how to start tithing if you aren’t currently doing so.  Even as I write this, I am praying for members of our Shandon family who are prioritizing this in their lives, looking at their personal budgets, and making the changes needed to honor the Lord with their finances.  I look forward to hearing wonderful testimonies of God’s faithfulness as our people manage their money in accordance with God’s will.

In the final installment of this stewardship series, I’d like to introduce a concept that's far beyond the reality of the average believer.  It is rarely even taught in our churches, but I believe it is God’s will for the mature follower of Jesus. 

I’m speaking of going beyond the tithe in our financial giving.

Your first reaction may be, “Whoa there!  I’m having a tough time with the idea of a tithe, and you’re talking about giving even MORE?” 

Yes I am - not because I’m trying to make your life miserable, but because I believe this is at the center of the Father’s heart, and because I have personally experienced the joy that can only be experienced when you go beyond the “requirements”.

I have personally experienced the joy that can only be experienced when you go beyond the “requirements”.

You may have heard the term “tithes and offerings”.  This phrase actually originated in the Old Testament, when the people of Israel had required giving (the tithe) and freewill giving (the offering).  Note the distinction.  There was financial giving that God REQUIRED and that was part of the Jewish law.  Beyond that, we see people giving out of joy, ABOVE AND BEYOND what was required.

We see this same spirit in Jesus’ teachings in Matthew Chapter 5, the Sermon on the Mount.  Time and again, Jesus states the Old Testament law, then expands it.  The law against murder is expanded to include unrighteous anger.  The law against adultery is expanded to include lust of the eyes.  Jesus was not creating more laws, but rather demonstrating that obedience is a HEART issue, not a list of items to be checked off.

How does this apply in the area of tithing? 

Most of the scriptural references to tithing occur in the Old Testament.  In the New Testament, Jesus affirms the tithe in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42, with a focus on the “weightier matters” – the heart and attitude of the giver.  Other NT examples are much more extravagant.  Whether it is the response of the early church in Acts 2:44-45 or the unexpectedly generous gift of the Macedonian believers in 2 Corinthians 8, the consistent pattern is that of generosity beyond what was requested or required – generosity that sprang from grateful hearts that were excited to participate in what God was doing.

the consistent pattern is that of generosity...that sprang from grateful hearts that were excited to participate in what God was doing.

How does this relate to believers today? 

The same Holy Spirit that moved in the early church moves in our church!  Our God is that God, and he inspires us to give joyfully and expectantly, not out of rote obedience, but out of love and freedom.  As we progressively move from the safe and familiar into a more mature faith walk with God, he challenges us to be more generous in all areas of our lives. 

If God is calling you to move beyond the tithe, how do you proceed? 

Ultimately, this is a conversation between you and God, but one strategy is to increase your giving each year by a specific amount or percentage.  However, if you are asking this question, it is not about a particular dollar value. 

  • Pray and ask God how you can be more a more generous partner with him. 
  • Listen and watch as God answers your prayer and shows you opportunities to give and serve. 
  • Begin building and expanding your legacy of faithfulness to the Lord’s work, both here and around the world.

As you consider your pledge for 2016, I encourage you to pray about going above and beyond the tithe.  Bring your pledge card this Sunday (November 15), and together as a church, let's commit to living a life of faithfulness and experience the joy of giving!

Can't be at Shandon this Sunday? Click the image below to submit your pledge online.

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in Giving

I want to tithe, but...

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by Buster Whitlock, Minister of Finance & Administration

Over the past couple of weeks, we have discussed God’s Cycle of Giving (part 1 & 2).  Here’s a brief recap:

  1. God Owns It All. Everything ultimately belongs to him.
  2. God Is the Abundant Giver. Everything we have is a gift from him.
  3. We Are Managers of God’s Gifts. God has called us to manage his resources in a way that brings him honor.
  4. We Give Back to God. Part of the management of God’s resources is returning the tithe back to him through his church.

The cycle begins and ends with God.  He has invited us to be part of the process.  We have both the joy and the responsibility of managing well and giving joyfully.

Maybe you have heard all of this before, and maybe you are nodding your head in agreement, but there’s a disconnect--you’re not tithing. 

If you find yourself saying, “I want to tithe, but…”, here's how to get started. 

I recommend that you take the same steps you would take if you were going on a trip:

1. Start where you are.

Anytime we take a journey, we start where we are.  Sounds simple, right?  My point is that you can’t start 1 mile ahead or 5 miles ahead.  You have to begin where you are RIGHT NOW. 

Look at your current monthly budget.  If you don’t have a budget, take a piece of paper, and on one side write down your monthly income.  On the other side of the page, write down all of your monthly expenses.  Add the two columns to get a total income and a total expense. 

Look at the page closely.  This is where you are - where you start your journey.  You may be surprised to find that you are spending more money than you are making.  You may be shocked by your expenses.  Maybe it’s not where you THOUGHT you were, but it’s where you TRULY are.

2. Identify where you want to go.

Every successful trip has a clear destination in mind.  If your goal is tithing, look at your total income.  This should be your gross income before taxes and other payroll expenses are deducted.  Ten percent of this monthly number is the Lord’s tithe.  If you are seeing this for the first time, it may startle you.  You might be thinking, “There’s no way I can do this.”  Remind yourself that God is with you and for you in your journey - encouraging you, not condemning you.  He would not ask you to do something that he will not also empower you to do.

Once you calculate your tithe amount, you have a destination for the journey.

3. Plan your trip.

You would never go on a vacation without checking the map, gassing up the car, and making hotel reservations.  This planning stage helps ensure that we get from our starting point to our destination.

Look at where you are in your giving to the Lord’s work.  Look at where you want to go (the tithe amount).  Then plan how you are going to get there.

For many of us, this means taking a hard look at our list of expenses in the budget sheet.  Pray and ask the Lord for wisdom in deciding which expenses could be minimized or deleted so you can honor him with the full tithe.  Some of these expenses are good things, even fun things.  But we are called to manage and give in a way that most honors our Savior.  Make sustainable changes that fit you and your lifestyle best.  Most people, for example, wouldn’t eliminate the electric bill!  Other expenses will be easier to remove from your spending plan.

4. Begin the journey.

Now that you have identified some changes, begin the journey!  Follow through with your spending reductions and redirect these funds to God’s tithe.  Consider asking someone close to you to hold you accountable for maintaining your new budget and your new tithing habit.

One way to begin is by pledging.  Pledging is simply a commitment to God and to your church to give.  It also provides some personal accountability.  Your pledge can always be changed if your circumstances change.  Bring your pledge card on Sunday, November 15, or pledge online.

 

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