Yes, I know, it’s tempting to fill in that blank; but before you do, if you really want to know what you trust in life, take a moment and do the following:
Look at your calendar. See where you spend your time.
Look at your work - your hobbies - your projects. See where you use your talents.
Open your checkbook. See where you spend your money.
This brief series of columns takes the idea of what we generally call “worship” - going to church an hour a week - and blows it up by calling it a LIFESTYLE. A Sacrificial Lifestyle. A lifestyle that takes a commitment from us to live our lives for Jesus. That’s worship.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1.
This is our final column in this series on worship. In the first column we addressed the importance of prioritizing our TIME - spending more of it with God. In the second column we addressed the importance of using our gifts - our TALENTS - to serve God and His people - primarily in and through the church.
In this column we’re tackling the most difficult of the three areas of our lives God wants us to give back to Him: TREASURES. Though God wants us to give all three - our time, talents and treasures - the most difficult one for most to give is money. While some might say, “I’m so busy I’d rather write a check than give my time to God and His Church,” the Bible says absolutely nothing about substituting one for another.
Don’t write out a check, thinking that covers you from God wanting you to give of your time and talents. And don’t give of your time and talents, thinking that’s going to cover you from God wanting you to give Him your treasures.
He wants it all. Not because He needs your time or talents or treasures. What God is wanting is your heart. And what we spend “out there” reveals to God what’s “in here” – our heart.
While this is a very challenging subject to fully address in a brief column, I encourage you to read 2 Corinthians 8:1-9. In these verses you will find answers to the following three questions.
1. When do I give? Give to God first. It’s so much easier to give when you have it – than when you don’t. And God deserves more than our “leftovers.” When you put God first in your life – especially in the giving of your treasures – your life will change!
2. How much do I give? While in the Old Testament God’s people were required to give back to God 10 percent of their crops and livestock, Jesus fulfilled the law through His death on that cross and the tithe is no longer required. Paul says that we are to give “in keeping with [our] income.” (1Corinthians 16:2). Base your giving on a percentage – not an amount. This keeps you faithful to your commitment regardless of what happens to your income. Most importantly, remember that God doesn’t need your money! He wants your heart!
3. How do I learn to “want” to give? Our want and willingness to give to God begins in recognizing what Jesus did – out of love for you – on that cross: He gave you His life.
When I was studying to be a pastor, I felt compelled by God to research this subject of giving and put it into practice in my life. I discovered three areas in my life in which I needed to work: my motivation for giving - my method of giving – and my trust in God to work miracles through me in my giving. When putting what I learned from God’s Word into practice, I learned the following:
The motivation for giving is forgiving. God forgiving me in Jesus. God forgiving others through me.
The method of giving is to place God 1st in my life. Give God the best – live on the rest.
The miracles from giving are God working in me and through me – my time, talents, and treasures – to connect people to Jesus.
What changed my entire perspective about the giving of money through Christ’s Church was learning that all I have are gifts from God to use for Him and His purposes. When I began really to believe that, I took up the challenge God makes to us in Malachi 3:10:
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse… 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.” (Malachi 3:10)
He did. And He will do so for you as well.
Check your calendar - your completed projects - and your checkbook – then have a conversation with God.
It’s time to fill in that blank.
Live a Life that BEGS the question.
Rev. Dr. Martin J. Brauer is pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 700 W. Whitestone Blvd., Cedar Park, TX. He lives with his wife, Leona, and dog, Tica, in Leander. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.