Monday, September 17, 2018

A Church Strong – Giving

               Do you remember in high school or college when your first ran into that famous equation that Einstein gave us: E=MC2? Energy (E) equals mass (M) times speed of light squared (C2). Ronald Laskey explains this for us in an article found in Scientific American:

Consider a cubic hollow box at rest in space with sides of length D and a mass of M. This box is also symmetrical in its mass distribution. One of the faces inside the box is coated with a fluorescing material, and, at a given moment, a photon (i.e., a particle of light) is emitted from that material, perpendicular to its surface. The momentum of this photon causes the box to move in the opposite direction as the photon, and it continues to move until the photon hits the opposite wall. During this time the box moves a very small distance, Δx.
Newton's laws of mechanics tell us that the center of mass cannot move, because the box has not been acted upon by an outside force. However, in order to keep the center of mass constant, since the box has moved, some mass must have been transferred from the fluorescing side of the box to the absorbing side in the process of generating the photon and its striking the opposite side. Therefore, the photon must have a mass, m.
What? Feeling a bit lost? This is a bit complicated, right? Somethings in this amazing world are incredibly complicated. God’s plan for the Church with regard to giving is NOT.

               When Abraham runs in the high priest Melchizedek in Genesis, Abraham hands over 10% of his goods as act of worship and good faith. In Exodus, as the people of Israel cross the wilderness to the Promised Land, the Law—Torah—is handed down and they are to bring a tenth of their goods to God. In Deuteronomy, we find a shift from a barter/goods economy to a cash society—in 14:22ff, God calls for a tithe, but allows that the distance may be too great to carry the goods, so they can convert the good into silver and bring that to Temple. And, of course, Malachi makes things very clear:

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. (Mal.3:10)
               This idea of 1/10, 10% or a tithe was so clearly understood, such an ingrained part of the people’s understanding, that when Jesus comes preaching in the New Testament, he never has to mention how much. He reminds them of the blessing (Luke 6:38). When Paul writes to the congregations scattered around the Mediterranean (many of the people Jews of the Diaspora), again, the focus is never on ‘how much,’ but on the attitude (II Cor. 9:6-11).

               Today, most of the people who grew up in and around the Church know—they KNOW—that the starting point, the basic expectation for giving, is 10%, 1/10th, a tithe of our income. (Some folks are curious about whether this is pre- or post-tax. The rule of thumb in our house is simple—10% of what we receive.)

               So why don’t more Christians actually give 10%? Studies have been done that show that most Protestant Christians give 3-4% of their income. The numbers go up to around 6-7% for just Pentecostals. One of the interesting phenomena is that poorer people and poorer groups tend to give a higher percentage of their income. That’s something to think about. So, why don’t more Christians bring a tithe to God?

               Fear. Unbelief. Distrust. When we don’t do what God asks us to do, we are basically saying, “I don’t believe God’s Word; I don’t trust God to do what the Bible says God will do.” Yet, God could not be more clear— “...bring the tithe...and test me.” Wow. That’s a challenge! And, I’ll second it. Before my wife and I married, we discussed finances...and we decided 1) to put all our money in one account and 2) that we would always tithe—no matter what. The tithe comes off the top, from the front. We don’t wait to see what we have at the end; the first money out is the tithe. In 28+ years, God has always provided what we need. So, God’s Word challenges us, and I lay down the challenge as well—do what God asks us to do, and see if God does not provide and bless you. What the blessing looks like, how God provides—that, we don’t know and can’t guess. But, never in 28 years have my wife or I said, “I wish we hadn’t tithed this month....”

               Giving is one of the holy habits of Christians, a habit that builds our faith and trust, and leads to a Church Strong. Let’s open our hymnals once again to page 48:

Will you be loyal to the United Methodist Church, and uphold it by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, and your service?

We pray for our church—asking God to break-through with new visions and dreams, new avenues and places of ministry.

We are present with one another—encouraging one another in love and to do good works.

We bring our gifts, we give—we give out of habit, as part of the rhythm of our lives—because God has called us to and because through our gifts our congregations touch lives here and around the world.

If you have not given before, decide today to begin giving. If you give some from time to time, decide today to give regularly. If you give regularly but you’ve never tried to tithe, take God up on the challenge and determine to tithe for two, three, six months—and see if God’s Word is true.

When we embrace these holy habits, our own faith grows stronger...and we have a part in building a Church Strong.


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