|PRINCIPLES OF GODLY LIVING
PRINCIPLES OF GODLY
James C. Guy
1. YOU DON'T NEED ALL THAT STUFF. James 5:2-6
gives a warning to the rich who trust in the ‘stuff' of the world.
Those things that seem so important are "corrupted, moth-eaten, and corroded."
Isaiah gives a similar warning to those who spend their money on things
that they don't need and forget the things that are important. He
says, "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages
for what does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good,
and let your soul delight itself in abundance." (Isaiah 55:2).
We may be tempted to say, "that doesn't apply to me. I'm not rich."
But, the truth is, the reason many of us do not give like we should is
because we have too much debt. We buy things we ought not buy
and that prevents us from giving God what we ought to give. We drive stolen
cars, live in stolen houses, and wear stolen clothes because buying those
things prevents us from giving properly. In truth, it all belongs
to Him anyway. But, are we using it wisely? In Malachi 3:8,
God accuses Israel of ‘robbing God.' The reason was, they were ‘buying
stuff' and not giving God His due. Do you rob God?
2. YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW. How many times have you
said, "I just can't give this week?" Sure, there may be extenuating
circumstances that require our ‘juggling' finances at times. But,
we must be careful that we do not claim we CAN NOT give when the real problem
is we WILL NOT give. The Bible doesn't teach us what many televangelists
would like for us to believe: "Give me $100 and God will give you
$1000. But, there is the Biblical principle of reaping and sowing.
It is not so much a monetary, or physical reaping and sowing principle
as much as a spiritual mindset. II Corinthians 9:6 which reads, "He
who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully
will also reap bountifully" is in the context of giving.
But, it was not the dollar amount that is what is sown, but the willingness
to give it. The next verse (verse 7) teaches us to give cheerfully,
not grudgingly or of necessity. If our priorities in giving are to
take care of our physical wants and needs first, we may find what we reap
is not of God. Give God His first. Again, it all belongs to
Him in the first place. He doesn't need our money. He wants
our willing hearts put into action.
3. GIVE AS YOU HAVE PROSPERED. Many people give,
but do we give ‘enough?' Some will tell us we are required by God
to give a tenth (tithe). But, this is a requirement of the Old Testament
law which was nailed to the cross (Galatians 3:23-25; 5:4). However,
we are to learn valuable principles from the law (Romans 15:4). While
God does not specify a requirement to give 10% in the New Testament, do
you think He expects less? The New Testament teaches us to give as
we "prosper" (I Corinthians 16:2). Does that mean we should give
every dollar we ‘prosper'? Of course not. But, we should give
a portion of all we receive. We should make up contributions when
we go on vacation. It is really an issue of thankfulness. The
reason we may not give as we should may be because we do not sufficiently
appreciate what we have been given. We do not see that vacation as
a gift from God. We often see those things as what we have earned,
and always look for more and more of what we call ‘success.' David
gives us a great lesson about this. After he and the people had given
graciously and generously for the building of the temple, he said to God,
"who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer
so willingly as this? For all things come from You, and of Your own we
have given You" (I Chronicles 29:14). He realized that it
wasn't his money, it was God's. If we learn to appreciate what we
have as being from God, and stop thinking we must have more or we deserve
what we have, it will be so much easier to give as we ‘have prospered.'
It's easier to give someone what is theirs than to give them what is ours.
Do you appreciate what God has entrusted to you? Does it show in
what you give?
4. GIVE TO GOD FIRST. Why do we run out of money
to give our contributions? Why do we neglect to give when we are
out of town or on vacation? Why do we look in our wallets on Sunday
mornings and realize we don't have enough left to give to God as we know
we should? It's because we didn't start with God. God has never
been satisfied with the leftovers or second best. It is no different
in our giving. When we leave God until last in our giving, it generally
means we have left God to last in our hearts. Again, there may be
some extenuating circumstances, but are they our fault or God's ‘fault'?
We can always find a bill to be paid, or something that needs repaired,
or something we need (or want) to do that will take a bite out of our contribution.
But, we must ask, "Is this what GOD wants me to do?" He has promised
(Matthew 6) to provide us with our needs as long as we are willing to work
for them (II Thessalonians 3:10-12). So, why do we not trust God
enough to give to Him ‘off the top.' I Corinthians 15:20 reminds
us that Christ was given to us ‘off the top' (the firstfruits). If
God can give us the most important and most valuable gift of all time,
why do we think we cannot ‘afford' to give to Him of the firstfruits of
the materials goods that belong to Him anyway. If you are going to
put God first in your life, shouldn't that also include your giving?
5. PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS. The reasons we should
give and should give a sufficient amount ‘as we have prospered' are theological.
That is, God has taught us what to give, how to give, and why to give.
He expects it of us as His children. But, there are a few practical
considerations that may help us in doing what God expects us to do that
are worthy of consideration:
a. Remember the budget needs of the local congregation.
Make up contributions when you are out of town. Don't cut back
on your giving in order to have things you want but do not need.
When you ‘take' from God what you should be giving to Him, you also take
from the resources needed to do the work of His church more effectively.
The elders or other church leaders may not always use the money as you
think they should. If they use it inappropriately, you may need to
go to them personally about it. There may even be some extreme cases
where we may need to re-direct our giving (not withhold it) until a matter
of a sinful nature is corrected. But, these are rare cases.
Never use your money for political purposes to influence the budgeting
of the church. That would be selfish and greedy. Instead, trust
the elders and other leaders with God's money. He has entrusted them
with it. The needs of the local church continue, even if you fail
to give as you should.
b. Prepare your ‘gift' in advance.
I Corinthians 16:2 teaches that giving should not be an afterthought.
But, it is also practical advice. It helps us have more of a heart
of giving, and keeps us from writing checks and digging in our wallets
during the Lord's Supper or other times of worship. Sure, sometimes
we forget (though we should not neglect the Lord's Supper remembrance to
prepare our giving). As much as possible, prepare your gift when
you get paid, before church services, and ‘lay by in store' for the giving
opportunity on Sunday.
c. Give from ALL our increase. That
should include things like tax refunds, extra vacation pay, and employee
bonuses. These would all be areas in which we have prospered.
Do not be content with giving as little as we can get by with.
Giving to God is not like buying a car. There is no negotiation process
to ‘get the best deal.' It is not the amount that God is concerned
with, but the heart that is shown by the amount we give. Do not be
afraid to give as you should just because the economy is low and you MAY
have a reduction in income. If you reduce your giving because of
what you think may happen, God may see to it that it does. Instead,
give to Him in faith, and whatever happens, He'll take care of you as He
d. Make it a priority. Learn to
love the opportunity to give. Appreciate the fact that whatever amount
you have to give, you are glad you can give it. Again, put God first
in our hearts, and it will be easier to put Him first in our giving.
e. Make it a commitment. Some
congregations ask for yearly commitments to help with budgeting.
This may be helpful, but we must remember that our ultimate commitment
is to God. Decide right now how much you should be giving, and pray
to God a prayer of commitment to give it to Him all year long. Though
we put it in the church collection plate, we are really putting it in the
hands of God. He has committed it to our trust. Should we not
live up to that commitment by committing to Him to give with a cheerful
heart and as we have prospered? Do not rob God!!!