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Giving to the Lord: just money or is there more to it?

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Last night my daughter and I were having a discussion on giving to the Lord’s work, specifically in the areas of tithes and offerings. I always love having these types of discussions with her because her perspective tends to mirror those of her generation. Which, btw, don’t always line up with my own!

We talked about the origins of tithing, the Law, the how’s and why’s of Old Testament ¬†giving, and finally how Jesus and Paul spoke of giving in the New Testament. To be sure, like most millennials she had lots of questions, which, believe it or not, I actually enjoyed.

We spent a fair amount of time talking about giving to receive a blessing, vs. giving as an act of worship. Since she has been raised in a Christian home, she has learned by observing her parents that giving to the Lord’s work is not optional, but rather a part of worship.

She has also heard conflicting views on the subject, particularly among those who espouse the “sow your best seed now to receive a blessing” crowd that permeate the airwaves today. Being a very bright young woman, it thrills me to know that she will not be numbered among those who succumb to such error (insert proud dad smile here).

We also talked a lot about the motivation to give to the Lord’s work. Do we give out of fear? Do we give because there is a “church rule” about giving? Do we give because that’s just what we do? As I said, she’s a bright young lady and has a lot of questions!

Our discussion concluded with the understanding that giving, like most everything else related to the Lord’s work, ultimately is an issue of the heart. We give to the Lord not to receive a blessing, but rather as one more type of personal worship. After all, it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

We know that the Lord loves a cheerful giver (II Cor. 9:7), and as such we should not give grudgingly. As an act of worship, I believe giving should be looked upon as one more thing that we get to do for the Lord, not another thing we have to do.

For me, the highlight of our discussion was when she asked me “what about the poor, those that have nothing to give. Does God still bless them”? I think at that moment I saw my daughter in a different light, because she has a heart for the poor and underprivileged. I pray that she guards her heart well as she grows older and that she always remembers those less fortunate than herself.

Thankfully, she understands that as Christians we have an obligation to help the poor and to work to make their plight easier if possible. I wish all of us could come to the same conclusion because I think we could have a tremendous impact on our communities. If I really think about it, I can think of few things more pleasing to God than to aid the poor.

Tossing money into a basket or plate is one thing, the motivator behind our giving however is what is important. Giving from the perspective of a grateful heart is a wonderful part of our worship. A part that all are invited to participate in.

Have a wonderful day!

Ron

 

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What do YOU see?

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It’s been said that God sees everything, and I have no doubt that He does.

He sees the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Whether we’re at our best or worst, God sees it all.

All of it.

What do YOU see when….

*You are forced to walk around a homeless person on the street?

*You see a young girl carrying a child she is not prepared to raise?

*Yet another drug addict has fallen into despair?

*The evening news tells one horrific story after another of abuse?

*You see the line of people that stretches around the block at the food pantry?

God sees all of this. He sees the suffering and the pain of every one of these people. People that His only Son suffered and died for. People we are commanded to love.

Do you see the suffering? Do you see the pain?

Or are your eyes focused only on the cause?

Do you see fault?

Do you see blame?

When Jesus reminded¬†us that the poor would always be with us (Matt. 26:11) he was letting us know that the problems of humanity are perpetual. That is a sobering thought isn’t it?

Now,we can choose to look at this in one of two ways. We can throw our hands up in despair at the seeming hopelessness of the plight of the poor and suffering.

Or we can choose to take the words of Jesus as a challenge to understand that these issues are not going away,therefore we must plan accordingly to do our best to alleviate the plight of the unfortunate among us.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers as to how best to accomplish this. But I am firmly convinced that it must begin with the church. Not the government. The church. Alleviating the suffering of the poor and unfortunate has always been the responsibility of the church.

It all boils down to what we see when we observe the pain and suffering of the poor.

I believe God sees their hurting.

I wonder what we,the people under the steeple, see…

 

The Great Divide…

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Having just moved to SW Florida from Ohio I have been trying to get my bearings and learn a little bit about the area we’re now calling home. Aside from the obvious beauty of the ocean,the beach,and the various rivers and harbors,I have been struck by the lushness of it all. The locals say we are heading into Fall but for this country boy from Ohio when it’s in the upper 80’s it sure seems like summer time to me!

One thing I’ve learned that isn’t different from Ohio however is that there are large numbers of poor and hungry children here. In this immediate area the percentage of children qualifying for free or reduced school lunches ranges between 48 and 75 percent,depending on the county.

So what’s so remarkable about that,you may ask?

Well,for starters, the amount of wealth in this area is staggering. Homes costing upwards of sixty million dollars can be found within an hour of me. Yes,you read that right: $60 million dollars! Million dollar homes don’t even raise an eyebrow in this part of the country.Talk about culture shock!

And lest you think that unbelievable consider that there are certain country clubs charging upwards of $250,000 just to join! Which,by the way,does not include the monthly costs of up to ten thousand dollars.Hopefully for those who can afford such things,membership does have it’s privileges!

With all of this wealth as a backdrop it seems impossible that such a large part of the population struggles to provide enough food for their families.

But of course this is by no means unique to this area. Wherever you live in America this same condition exists. Cities large and small,rural or metropolitan areas,pick any part of the country, all have similar conditions. As a matter of fact,it’s always been that way. It just hasn’t been as noticeable as it is now.At least to me.

The Great Divide

The gulf between the haves and the have not’s has likely never been wider than it is right now. The disparity in income levels appears to be ever increasing.Some might say it’s just me getting an up close eyeful of “the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer”. But I don’t think so.

Now please understand,I harbor no animosity,jealousy or bitterness towards anyone who has accumulated great wealth.It’s none of my business frankly.So I certainly don’t know what I’m missing (if anything).

Just as it’s none of my business what people do with their money,or to what charities they may donate to.

But I am troubled when I read in the papers where hundreds of thousands,and in some cases millions of dollars,are raised for a particular cause or event while children are hungry.Forgive me,I know it’s none of my business,but my lack of education and social status prevents me from understanding why priorities are what they are.

Being exposed to the magnitude of wealth in this area,albeit from a great distance,has perhaps brought to the forefront of my heart and mind something that has long troubled me.

I come from very humble stock. I’ve never had wealth nor do I anticipate ever having it.I have no rich uncles.What I do have however are memories of what it’s like to be hungry as a child.I know what empty cabinets and a bare refrigerator feels like.Few things in life are more cruel than having little, if anything, to eat.So it is very easy for me to have empathy for those who are struggling just to put food on the table.

The vast wealth of this nation is rivaled only by the depths of poverty to which some must try to overcome.I understand how hard it is to climb up from the depths of despair in order to make a better life for your family.Now try that while being hungry most of the time.Is it any wonder so many simply give up?

On the subject of poverty,I recently read part of a speech given by Herbert Hoover on August 11,1928 before a huge crowd at the Stanford University stadium.I was struck by the timeliness of it all as I was writing this particular post. In it Hoover had this to say about poverty:

“Given a chance to go forward with the policies of the last eight years,we shall soon,with the help of God,be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation”.

Eighty eight years ago this speech was given to a loud,enthusiastic crowd of supporters.

In that time the world has changed exponentially.Atomic weapons have been developed and used.New nations have been birthed while others have faded into obscurity.Another world war and several lesser wars have been fought all across the globe since 1928.

Manufacturing and farming technologies have advanced in unimaginable ways.For more years than I can remember,America has fed a large part of the world.In America today,more food is grown than at any other time in our history and many still refer to us as the “bread basket”.

Yet for all of our technological advances,for all of our knowledge,for all of the great wealth we have,we still haven’t come close to fulfilling the words of Herbert Hoover.

Perhaps we should finally try something different to eradicate the poverty issue in America.

Maybe for once we should look at poverty as a heart issue and not a social issue.Maybe if instead of staring at statistics and charts,instead of developing more programs to throw money at, we look into the faces of those who are desperate.Maybe we should look past the color of someone’s skin or nationality,and instead look into their eyes.

Or could it be that we are too afraid of the reflection we would see?

Give me your tired,your poor….

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Everywhere I look it seems that there are more and more people struggling in this land of plenty. Did you ever wonder how this can be,especially when there is so much prosperity to go around?How did it get this way,and more to the point…how did it get so bad?

Now,maybe you live in an area where everyone is doing very well.Maybe your circle of friends are all enjoying the good life and everything seems to favor you and yours.If that describes you,then this post will not resonate with you at all. For the rest of us however,read on.

The downtrodden and poor have always been a part of communities everywhere,as have the rich and well to do.Fact is,even Jesus acknowledged this when he said:

“For he have the poor always with you,but me ye have not always”. Matt. 26:11 KJV

So the reality of life is that there will always be the poor among us. I get that. I see it all the time. Perhaps you live that reality every single day.

So I wonder,in my own simplistic way,does it really have to be this way in America? In this world? Do we not have enough resources to effectively combat this problem,or is the real issue one of the allocation of those resources?

Before I go any further with this I need to make sure a few things are understood regarding my personal thoughts on this matter.

I do not believe continual handouts are the answer. History has proven that to be true. I know of many multi generational recipients of that type of “support”,all of whom seem to like the system just fine thank you.

Nor do I believe we should take the “Robin Hood” approach and take from those who have worked so hard to suceed in life and give to those who are lifelong “takers”. Sorry if that offends you,but that’s how it is.

So back to this resource thought. It is clear by anyone’s measurement that we have an abundance of riches in this country unlike any other nation on earth. And as such we have a responsibility to use those resources wisely,to allocate them in such a way as to help those who are struggling to reach the next rung on the ladder.

We have an abundance of natural resources such as coal,oil,natural gas,and alternative energy sources.

We raise enough food in this country to be able to export huge amounts of it,even while we pay out billions in subsidies every year to farmers so they will not plant too much(and yes,I like farmers).

Talk about an abundance!!!!

We are told by the media that the working poor suffer the greatest as they are caught in the middle. The don’t make enough to get over the hump,but make too much to qualify for certain assistance programs.It’s a lose lose for them and I feel their pain,as I too was once caught in that trap.

In truth,we in America are all filthy rich by the standards of the majority of the human population.Think about these statistics for a moment: there are just over seven Billion souls living on this planet.Over half of them,or 3.5 Billion of them live in poverty making less than $2.50 a day.What’s even worse is that over 1.3 Billion people live in extreme poverty earning less than $1.25 a day.

Our lifestyles represent a quantum leap away from those of the poor in other parts of the world. Yet for all of that,not everyone enjoys the basics of life in this,the richest country in the history of the world.

So what’s the problem? Why on earth are there so many doing without in this land of riches?

And where is the church in the midst of this problem? Ah yes,the church…

Shouldn’t the church be leading the way in the efforts to build up those who are down and struggling? And yes, I am aware of the many programs that some churches sponsor in an attempt to make a difference in the lives of the unfortunate.

Why has the church been only too willing to allow this to become the problem of the government and not their own?

I know,I know,”we give to missions”is always the answer isn’t it? We support missionaries all over the world and somehow our conscious is appeased and we can sleep well because of it.

Meanwhile the family across town goes hungry,children are forced to eat subsidized lunches and on and on it goes…

Speaking strictly from a Christian perspective,what do we do with all of the money we collect each week? Is it being used for salaries,staff,more building projects,bigger and better programs? What are our priorities as Christians?

Seems like a good spot for a great big ol’ WWJD doesn’t it?

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that if the majority of a churches’ budget is being spent to pay salaries and mortgage payments to the bank then we are failing in our efforts to be good stewards of the riches entrusted to us. That’s not what real ministry is folks.

Yes,the poor will always be with us.

But that does not diminish our responsibility to do everything we can to ease their burdens. It does not take away from the fact that the church is responsible,not the government,to see that the poor,the widows,and the fatherless have the basic necessities of life.

On a plaque affixed to the Statue of Liberty is a quote from the poem “New Colossus”,written by Emma Lazarus that perhaps you have heard of:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Many today are tired, poor, and broken in spirit. It is up to all of us to try to make a difference. First,by stepping up to the plate and helping to provide those in need with the essentials.

Secondly,to speak the words of truth and life contained in the Word of God to each person we come into contact with.

Be blessed,and pray for those less fortunate.

Ron