One-hundred percent living
Last week, I wrote about my belief that when it comes to giving and tithing, the Bible does not prescribe an exact percentage of giving for the New Testament believer. The idea that the ten percent tithe is a hard and fast command to the church goes against the spirit of the New Testament, and it is nowhere expressly stated by any New Testament writer.
My goal here is not to argue for or against the tithe. That has been done many times before and while I would enjoy the discussion for and against that invariably ensues, I would rather explore the idea of “100% living” that I believe is found throughout the New Testament – specifically when it comes to our finances. I use the term “100% living” to refer to the expectation that we will freely serve our God will all the things with which we have been blessed. My goal is to order my life so that I serve God with a greater and greater percentage of my life. Here are some questions that I use to help me evaluate how I am doing on my goal of 100% living:
Do I serve money?
Money is a tool, not a goal. Matthew 6:24,25 famously states:
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
Are your life decisions inordinately impacted by the financial implications of those decisions? Does your family suffer as you seek to earn more and more money? Do you neglect your church and those around you in order to earn more or hang on to more dough? Could you improve your family life and spiritual life if you lived more frugally and stayed home rather than working more hours to pursue a lifestyle of entertainment? Is your trust in your 401K greater than your trust in God?
Do I provide for my family?
Paul wrote out these instructions in I Timothy 5:
Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God . . . If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
If you are the head of the house, God considers you worse than an an unbeliever if you do not care for your own family! All the gifts to support missions or to help the poor are meaningless if you neglect your own family. This includes your immediate family and your extended family – and it includes the time following your death. Last week, Glblguy wrote about the wisdom in making preparations for your family should the unthinkable happen. Caring for family is a spiritual exercise!
Do I meet my financial commitments?
When a believer makes a financial commitment, his honoring of that commitment reflects on his God. James 5:12 commands the believer to take every commitment seriously:
Above all, my brothers, do not swear””not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.
and Romans 13:8 says:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
This is yet another reason to avoid debt, especially debt that is incurred because of the pursuit of pleasure or luxuries that we do not need. The believer who does not do everything within his power to repay the debt that he owes is not only committing a civil offense against another person, but also a spiritual offense against God. To say nothing of limiting his ability to care for the needs of others.
Do I seek to meet the needs of fellow human beings?
There are a host of verses in Scripture that challenge the church and the believer to be active in charitable work. I John 3:16,17 shows how Christ was willing to give all for mankind, and how our response to His act should be to meet the needs of others:
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?
Two relevant passages that sum up the New Testament approach to the believer’s finances:
But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us –see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.” II Corinthians 8:7-15
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor 9:7
Every part of our life – including our financial life – demonstrates our view of God and our relationship to Him. Our financial life is worship just as much as what we might do on Sunday mornings. The believer who does not pay his bills or care for his family is just as disobedient as the believer who does not give to his church. If you give exactly 10% of all of your increase to God, you are doing a good thing, but if the other 90% does not indicate a heart that is wholly committed to Christ, then you are not fulfilling the principle of “100% living”.
What do your financial habits indicate about your view of God? What is your percentage? I certainly have a ways to go . .
Photo by redvers