For some reason, we seem to think that Jesus isn’t enough for us in our modern world. We seem to think that in order to find joy we need Jesus and something else. This week, I heard a pastor speak and it bothered me. He spent around two hours explaining how God wants to financially bless us. He talked about how if we give a monthly 10% tithe to the Church, God would rain down blessings from heaven for us. He talked about how if we tithe, God would give us promotion after promotion. He said if we gave back to God, God would want to give us abundant financial blessings.
At first glance, this sounds to me like a sly way to get people to give money to the Church. If I tell people that they need only give 10% of their monthly income and God will bless them abundantly, then I promise you that giving will increase. But giving is not our focus, God is. We do not give money to the Church because of what God will bless us with.
Rather, we give money back because it isn’t ours to begin with! Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” It’s all God’s anyways, so we give back to share in God’s work. Secondly, we do it out of gratitude. We should not be giving money so that God will bless us, instead we should be giving money because of how much God has ALREADY blessed us. Finally, we give money back because we want to see the Gospel spread. Just as we support a charitable organization and want to see them help others, we give money back to the Church so that it can be used to help and equip the Body of Christ.
So while I do advocate giving money to your Church and to charities, I want us to to think a bit about our motives. If you have believed the lie that you give to get, then there are some questions I want you to think about.
1. What is a blessing? The problem I had with this pastor and many other Christians today is that they talk as if material blessings are the most important. However, I believe some of the greatest blessings from Jesus are the lessons he allows us to go through on a daily basis. Read Matthew 5:3-12. Jesus promises blessings for those who trust and follow him, yet none of these blessings are material. The kinds of blessings Jesus offers us in these verses are for the life yet to come. A great new song by Laura Story called “Blessings” ends like this:
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy?
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?
2. Can we praise God when he gives AND we He takes away? The problem with believing that God will always financially bless you if you give back to Him meets a big problem in the book of Job. Sometimes, people give back to God, and God does not financially bless. And so, if you equate financial blessings with God’s love, then when you suffer harm, you start to question if God really loves you. Rather, we must look at each and every situation as Job did. “And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21. Also, read what happened to Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:24-29 to see that giving does not always get us material rewards.
3. What happens when I give but God doesn’t bless me financially or give me that promotion? The problem here is that we try to make God into a magic genie. All we need to do is put some money in and wait for our reward. If that’s the case, then God is no longer God. If God’s blessings are dependent on our tithes, then we have made ourselves to be God. We are here for God, God is not here for us.
4. Are we content? Read what Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13. The point here is that as a Christian we are to be content and praise God at all times. When God blesses me with a promotion or a new job then I am to praise God. When God blesses me by taking my job away, (which from our view may not look like a blessing) I am to praise God. If you are giving to get, then are you really content and praising God when you abound and when you are brought low?
5. Do we love Jesus or do we only love the gifts or blessings he can give us? The problem is that most of us love the gifts offered, but scarcely love or truly know who is offering them. This would be like if I love my mom because she buys me things, but not because she is my mom. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38. We take up a cross not to gain material blessings or even eternal life, but rather because it means we get to follow Jesus who alone is worthy of our love and praise.
What if Jesus died for you, but never promised you eternal life? Would you still love, serve and praise Him for who He is and what He has done? Thanks be to God that we do have eternal life, but that is only the secondary blessing. The primary blessing is that we get to personally know God as our Father and have a relationship with Him.
I want to end with the story of Horatio Spafford. Most of us don’t know him, but he is the person who wrote the beautiful hymn “It is well with my soul.” But do you know the story behind this hymn? In 1871, his only son died at the age of 4. Soon after, the Great Chicago fire ruined him financially. Then in 1873, his wife and four daughters were crossing the Atlantic when their ship sank and all four of his daughters drowned.
As Spafford was later crossing the Atlantic near where his daughters had drowned he wrote these words:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
May we all realize that Jesus has already done so much for us. May we learn to be content with the amazing blessings God has given. May we tithe in gratitude and service, not to gain more for ourselves. And most importantly, may we see and savor the fact that Jesus is more than enough for us. May the fact that we have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ make us say “It is well with my soul.”