Death and destruction never take a holiday. Intense persecution in the Middle East. Famine and war. Tsunamis, tornados and hurricanes. And now a disastrous earthquake in Nepal—there are always horrific circumstances that break our hearts and motivate us to help. So we should. God blesses us so that we can bless others.
Within hours of the first news reports out of Kathmandu, my inbox was flooded with pleas for donations. Relief ministries, friends, and friends of friends all told stories of suffering and begged for aid.
Have you made your New Year’s resolutions? Are you vowing that this year you’re going to diet, exercise, and be more responsible with your finances? I can’t help with the diet and exercise part, but I can recommend a must-read book on finances. It’s Daring to Live on the Edge: The Adventure of Faith and Finances, by Loren Cunningham.
There are a lot of books out there on managing your money. They all contain pretty much the same advice—follow a budget, spend less than you earn, don’t go into debt. If the author is a Christian, then there’s an additional focus on tithing, generosity, and putting God first.
Do you tithe?
Not many people do. Some believe that tithing isn’t taught in the New Testament, so it no longer applies to us. They explain that we’re living under grace, and tithing is legalistic. Others insist that all Christians are supposed to tithe, because of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23. I’ve heard many sermons on Malachi 3:10, where the pastor explained that the local church is the “storehouse” and we must bring our entire tithe to them, with any other giving counting as an “offering” above and beyond our mandatory 10%.
Clearly, there’s lots of room for interpretation regarding tithing. Matt, at TheChurchOfNoPeople.com (one of my favorite blogs) recently wrote about tithing. I think he gives us a lot to consider, and urge you to read what he has to say. Matt inspired me, thus today’s post.
Here we are, the day after Thanksgiving. Did you eat too much? Are you still feeling full? I, like many others, often throw out restraint on our national feast day, but the day after is another story. As I munch on leftover stuffing and sweet potatoes, my conscience is beginning to intrude on my carb-induced lethargy. It’s time to climb back onto the healthy food wagon before my cravings take over my life.
At the same time, Pete and I recently restructured our budget. I’m excited that we can finally plan our spending—he hasn’t missed a paycheck for an entire year now! Still, we’re not exactly flush (I’m looking for flexible employment), and our food budget is one area where we can conserve. The average person in the U.S. spends $7 per day on food. That works out to $420 per month to feed two people. We set our budget at only $300. (This is what we already spend, so we know we can do it.)
How well do you deal with your finances? Is everything under control, or is this a major issue in your life?
Pete and I recently had the privilege of going to hear Ron Blue speak. He’s well-known in financial circles as a financial advisor, helping people with estate planning, philanthropy, and investment management—all according to Biblical principles.
While most in the audience were wealthy enough to need a financial manager, we snuck in on the coattails of others. Still, his advice applies to everyone, no matter how much money we have or don’t have. In fact, it was very simple: practice contentment.
I guess we’re not in the wilderness any more.
If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that since about 2005 our finances have been a bit… sporadic. While Pete worked full time (and more), and I cared for my elderly dad, started a business, and continued with the volunteer ministry God placed me in, we’d only get a paycheck every few months. We used up our savings, we simplified our lifestyle, we prayed—a lot! And God provided.
As you read this, Pete and I are off enjoying some much-needed R&R. More specifically, we’re at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, an hour plus south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Imagine 50,000 white Snow Geese, an undulating floe covering the waters of a shallow lake, then, with a tremendous honking and flapping of wings, rising en masse to fill the dawn sky. This has to be one of God’s most incredible spectacles!
Bosque del Apache is also the winter home for thousands of Sandhill Cranes, ducks, and other birds… and hundreds of birders and nature photographers. Our coming here was my 2012 Christmas present from my dad. It’s just what I wanted.
Although I wasn’t raised in the church, one of the very first lessons I heard as a new Christian was about tithing. It was a given: God expects us to give 10% of our income directly back to Him. This rule was so pervasive in the culture of the church I attended that no one saw any need to support it with Scripture.
Since that time I’ve fellowshipped with a wide assortment of congregations. I’ve learned that there is more than one approach to this issue of giving. While most believers agree that we are to give 10%, how we give and where we give are subject to interpretation.
“Given our culture’s growing sensitivity to economic injustice, including among younger evangelicals, how would you respond to accusations of hypocrisy against megachurches with costly facilities?” That was the question Skye Jethani posed in his recent post, “Do Megachurches Hurt the Poor?” I started to write a reply which quickly grew into this response. If you haven’t already read his article, I strongly encourage you to do so now. As usual, he makes some very thought-provoking points.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, Pete and I go to a megachurch. Last I heard, our regular attendees number in the 10,000 range. Our “living room” (as our auditorium is affectionately called) is one of the largest venues in Colorado Springs, with full stage lighting, huge screens, and an elaborate sound system. While the basic building design was an economic one, it cost millions of dollars to build, and we’re still paying off a mountain of debt on it (incurred by our previous pastor).