Giving & Tithing

Would you tell your landlord, utility company or mortgage lender that you’re only going to pay them if you have something left over in your budget?  Or would you tell your family that they only get to eat if there is something left over?

Of course you wouldn’t (I hope!).  But this is exactly what we tend to do when it comes to giving or tithing.

Giving and/or tithing (which means one-tenth) is an important part of any financial plan.  The problem is we tend to do it as an afterthought, with whatever might be left over.  The problem of doing it this way is that it robs us of any blessings that come from giving purposefully.

The prophet Malachi wrote the following to the Israelites while they were in exile and had not been giving a tithe to the Lord:

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.  You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.  Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts.  Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.  Malachi 3:8-12

 

God tells us that purposeful giving or tithing will bring blessing!  In fact he says if we do this he will rebuke the devourer for us!  If we faithfully return to God a portion of what he has given us to manage,  He will bless us so that our needs are met as well as protect us from those who would steal from us.

Do I Have to Do a Tenth?

For now, the important thing is to start. With any amount.  What matters is that whatever you give, you give it willingly and joyfully and with thanksgiving.

Give whatever you decide is appropriate for you (praying about it doesn’t hurt, either!) and just start putting aside that amount to give every month as part of your monthly budget.   If it’s $10 or one tenth isn’t as important as the change you will feel in your heart and in your attitude towards the income you earn as a result of giving intentionally.

In time I encourage you to incrementally increase your giving at scheduled intervals, and test and see if God doesn’t provide what you need in order to do so.

 

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Photo by minthu courtesy of photovaco.com

There is an old nursery rhyme that  goes something like this:  “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?  With silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row.”  I’ll leave it to you to interpret what the actual meaning behind this rhyme is or was meant to be, as for now I am only intrigued by the the question, “How does your garden grow?”

This morning my pastor preached a sermon about the garden of Eden called “The Good Life: Phase 2,” explaining how God had created this incredible garden for Adam and Eve to tend to and enjoy.  Likewise, God has planted a garden for each of us to tend to and enjoy.  However, we too often find ourselves looking for contentment elsewhere.

The Well Nurtured Garden

Picture a well nurtured garden that you have seen.  This is easy for me, having grown up on a small farm, with parents who carefully tended their gardens; my dad tended the orchard and crops, while my mother maintained a stunning array of flower and herb gardens, which occasionally even drew newlyweds for photo opportunities.

There is growth, vibrancy, blossoming, potential, tranquility, beauty and love expressed in a well tended, nurtured garden.

The Neglected Garden

Now picture a neglected garden that you may have seen somewhere.  I have seen these as well, gardens left untended as generations passed away, gardens overgrown due to inattention by owners caught up in the busyness of life.  Weeds are everywhere, choking out the plants that formerly thrived, vines and shrubs and various grasses growing out of control everywhere in haphazard fashion, giving the garden a run-down look.

There is choking, anxiety, depression, unrest, ugliness and the pall of death expressed in a neglected, abandoned garden.

The Inner Garden

Now, pause and reflect on your own life, your inner self, and picture the garden planted in you.  How does your garden grow?  Does it grow more like the one nurtured or the one neglected?  The good news is that your actions right now, and each moment of your life can affect how your garden grows.  You can begin tending it and bring it back to life and vibrancy, or you can get lazy and begin to neglect it allowing it to fall into an ugly, weed infested mess.

Tending Your Garden

Even better news?  You aren’t meant to tend your garden on your own!  Our friends, family and community all feed into our garden, and most importantly, our Awesome God provides the living water and fertile soil we need to grow strong and be satisfied, which reminds me of a quote from John Piper: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” (see John Piper, Desiring God).

Are you content with your garden?

Finally, learn to be content with and in your garden.  If you are always searching for a better garden somewhere else, who is left to look after yours?

 

Keeping your Attention

Have you ever worked on solving a problem that you just couldn’t seem to let go of, no matter how long it was taking? Or perhaps you have found yourself in a constant struggle to maintain focus on the solving problem, but end up doing anything else instead.  Eventually, exhaustion and time creep up on you and you finally give in, resolved to tackle it anew the next day.

Then it happens – the next day you look at the problem again, and voilà! the solution presents itself so obviously that you literally smack yourself in the head and announce to no one in particular what an imbecile you are.

Of course, you’re not really an imbecile, just perhaps a little unbalanced.  Let me explain. We all need balance in our lives; the right amount of food, the right amount of exercise, the right amount of work (yes, work is a necessary and good thing), and the right amount of leisure, to name a few.  We also need to balance our attention, especially given the extraordinary demands on it in this current information age.

Ultimately, we all have limited attention spans, and although some are more limited than others, the key is not to treat this as a problem for which we need a cure, but simply to understand and accept the limits of our attentions span and structure our life and work in a way that best complement it.

For those who tend to have longer attention spans, this may mean the constructive use of deadlines to rein in our über-attention and force us to “Ship It,” as Seth Godin advocates in his excellent book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

For those with shorter attention spans, it may mean the constructive use of time-chunking, or working in chunks of time attuned to our natural attention span, with micro breaks in between to refresh our attention for the next chunk.

My guess is, most of us fall into both categories depending on the time of day, what we are doing, or the setting we are in.  The point is, when you feel your attention slipping, it may be time to ship it or chunk it, and find something else to keep your attention.

 

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Giving Up Your Credit Card

Could you give up your credit card(s)?  How hard would it be for you to do?

If you had to give it up to save a relationship or a job, could you do it?

Imagine for a moment that all your credit cards have just been stolen.  Did you just feel a moment of panic or loss?

What is this bond between us and our credit cards?  Could it be that the borrower is slave (in bondage) to the lender as Proverbs 22:7 suggests?  Proverbs 6:1-5 suggests that when we find ourselves in the position of borrower, we should not sleep until we have “saved ourselves like the gazelle from the hand of the hunter…”

Now try a quick experiment with me:  Compare the length of time you had your oldest credit card to the length of time of your longest dating relationship (including marriage), or the length of consecutive time spent working for the same employer.

For Example:

  • My longest held credit card:  18 years  (cancelled in 2010)
  • My longest dating relationship:  4 months (give or take a month)
  • My longest time with same employer:  17 years

I had the same credit card longer than any dating relationship (by far), and longer even than my longest time with the same employer!

To be honest with you, even though I willingly and readily cancelled and cut up all my credit cards in 2010, I still felt a slight pang of loss when I actually cut them up.  Ridiculous, right?  Wouldn’t happen to you.  Right?  Okay, tough guy, cut them up…c’mon, what’s taking so long?  Cat got your scissors?  Yeah, not so easy, is it?

I have hosted 7 Financial Peace University classes since 2010, and the most difficult part of every class has been the call to cut up credit cards.  It is amazing the lengths to which we will go to defend our need to keep at least one credit card, especially the one that is “only for emergencies,” or the one that “gives us mileage points.”   It’s hard, even though we know at least 3 new credit card offers will come in the mail this week.

I know I can’t make you give up your credit card, but before you dismiss the idea entirely, I highly recommend watching the documentary Maxed Out for more exposure to the darker side of the credit card industry.

I dare you to give up, and cut up, a credit card right now.  Don’t worry, they will send you offers for new ones, even if you’re dead (seriously – watch Maxed Out).

“Work will grow to fill the time you have set aside for it.”

Cloud, Dr. Henry, and Dr. John Townsend. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. (p. 208).

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

How you define “Work” may define how you “Live”

In a recent blog titled I don’t work, author Jon Acuff admitted that he really doesn’t work, based on the following quote from author James M. Barrie: “Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.”  And Jon Acuff only does that which he would rather be doing.

Many comments followed this post stating the importance of work, and that work was intended as a good thing (God having created man and woman to work in and care for his creation, Genesis 2:15).  So how could Jon Acuff, or anyone else for that matter, say it’s not really work when there is nothing else you would rather do?

It is really a matter of definition – and how you define “work” impacts how you live your life.

Have you ever attempted to answer the question, “what is work?”  Consider the following advice from Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek:

“If you can’t define it or act upon it, forget it.”

Specifically, Ferris suggests asking two questions when considering stress-inducing questions like this:

  1. Have I decided on a single meaning for each term in this question?
  2. Can an answer to this question be acted upon to improve things?

In our case, can you decide on a single meaning for the term, “Work”?  If you can define what work is for you ( and I’m fairly certain all of us can), then is there action you can take to improve your work, or improve what work means to you (I believe the answer should be yes to this question, the problem lies in our willingness to take the necessary action)?

Let’s return to the Jon Acuff post mentioned earlier.  It appears that Acuff started out with one definition of work that, when examined under the second question above, could be acted upon to improve things, in his case by redefining “work” based on the Barrie quote, and in light of what gives him fulfillment and life.

In other words, Jon Acuff doesn’t have a job, nor does he have a career, but he has found his vocation, or purpose in life, and while it requires effort, it rarely feels like work.  And that makes life worth living to the full.

How do you define work?  Is there any action you can take to improve things?

 

Recommended Reading:

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”