“Ahhh! It’s coming on again!” I screeched, diving for the remote as the latest commercial for the hit A&E show, Hoarders, invaded my living room. Coordinated I am not, and I ended up in a heap on the floor with the remote halfway across the room as the commercial droned on, “…a fascinating look inside the lives of two different people whose inability to part with anything they own….” Clearly, Hoarders creeps me out. Just seeing a brief advertisement is enough to send me into a frenzy of cleaning and organizing anything in reach. The popularity of such shows has soared, as America’s morbid fascination with gross excess prompts either utter disgust or obsessive fascination in viewers. So, why does this show bother me so much? It is more than just a lack of cleanliness – there is a heart attitude that hits way too close to home.
As American Christians, we are a society of hoarders. It may not be in such a way that earns us a television show, but we hoard the majority of what God has given us for ourselves. God asks for 10% and we automatically assume that the remaining 90% is for own wants and needs.
Traditionally, women have given less to charity than men, according to the Center on Philanthropy. This is changing, as women are making more money and assuming more control of their finances. But sadly, while women and men gave equal amounts to secular charities in 2009, the pattern has not yet transferred to Christian charitable giving, where women give far less. Also, married women are more likely to give more to charity than single women – even though single women have far greater disposable income.
A woman’s primary focus is on her home and family. This is a good thing. God designed women to be nurturing and family-focused. (Proverbs 31:10-31, Titus 2:3-4) When a woman hears about a need, she asks herself if she can afford to give without jeopardizing her family. In her head she is calculating the amount of bills to be paid, the groceries she has to purchase tomorrow, the fact that little Johnny had a growth spurt and will need a whole new wardrobe soon, and the percentage they are saving each month for a family vacation. The problem comes when our priorities for our family become skewed by the world.
Single women, is saving for your future dream wedding, that extravagant girls weekend at the spa, or weekly dinners out with friends a greater priority than giving? Moms, is giving your child everything on their Christmas list, providing them with the latest Wii/Playstation/X-box contraption, or taking the family on that Disney Cruise more important than teaching your children about giving? Or, if you are like me, are you spending your “extra” on the occasional splurge of unnecessary items, not because of a need, but because they are 70% off? The thing we, as women, often forget to factor into our calculations is God. If God tells us to give, he will provide for the needs of our family and our future.
This post is not meant to be a guilt trip – although God has convicted me yet again about my own giving while writing it. I know that there are times in life where tithing is all a family can do. But that is not the case for most of us. The question is where is your heart? “If you want to know where your heart is, it is not in the volume of your singing voice, it is not in the passion of your worship, it is not even in the way that you treat other people. If you want to know where your heart really is, look at your checkbook, your credit card statement and your mortgage. Jesus said it – where your treasure is going, that is where your heart is,” Andy Stanley. This post is not about financial management, it is not about saving, nor is it about tithing. You can read Malachi 3:7-12 to understand the basics of tithing. This blog is not about that 10% tithe, it is about the 90% that is left.
Why we give:
Because everything we have has been given to us…
For God so loved the world….he gave (John 3:16). Not merely something he created, he gave of himself – he gave his only son. There were not many sons for God to choose from, there was only one. And God gave him to a people who continually rejected, ignored and spurned his love. Yet God still gave his only Son, and because of that, we, his people, also give. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” John 3:16. When a believer gives according to God’s blessings, she will always go beyond what is required, because God is never stingy with us. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32
Because we love God more than any amount of money…
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money,” Matthew 6:19-24. God or money? I’m sure every woman reading this post would agree that life would be much easier if God AND money could co-rule our lives. But that is impossible. Both war for our affections and seek to rule our hearts. Bobby Eklund, in his financial workbook, Children of Privilege, explains, “Jesus depicts money as a rival god. If allowed to become a false god, money is capable of inspiring devotion and sacrifice. The rejection of this false god [money] is necessary for those who would love and serve God.” If on any monthly financial statement there is no mention of Kingdom work…who really rules your heart? “Your bank and credit card statements are theological documents. They tell who and what you worship.” from ’40 Day Spiritual Journey to a more Generous Life.’
How we give:
Sacrificially… Sacrificial giving means that I have to alter my lifestyle in order to give.
“And Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44 Others gave money they did not need; she gave what she needed. She did without necessities in order to give. Jesus did not tell us her motivation for giving, but we can be sure that she did so because the father moved on her to do so. If God told her to give until she had nothing left with which to meet her own needs, we can be sure of something else; God met her needs (Philippians 4:19).
“Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.” 2 Corinthians 8:2-5 Paul did not ask the Macedonians to give because he knew of their extreme poverty. But once they heard about the problem of their spiritual brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, “they urgently pleaded with Paul for the privilege of sharing.” They, too, were living in poverty, but they begged for the privilege of giving.
To whom we give:
Throughout scripture, in both the Old and New Testament, we see that God’s people gave to three types of causes, all of which are based on great need: foreigners/poor/widows/orphans in need, suffering Christians in desperate need, and missionaries.
Poor and needy: “Look after orphans and widows in their distress.” James 1:27 “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome…He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing” Deuteronomy 10:17-18; 24:19-22.
Christians in need: “Share with God’s people who are in need” Romans 12:13 “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? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” 1 John 3: 17-18.
Missionaries: “When I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me [Paul] in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again….I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” Phil. 4:15-18
What we have: America the Rich
You may not feel rich, you may not feel like you have extra, but you do. Don’t believe me? I didn’t either. I have spent the last 3 years in seminary and now I am a missionary – not the most lucrative of jobs. Yet I am still in the richest 10% of people in the entire world. (See where you rank at Globalrichlist.com). The truth is, even though I may not be able to afford the latest iPhone or fabulous pair of leather boots, I am still eating everyday and I have a place to live.
Most of the world doesn’t.
Even in this economic downturn, we aren’t poor, we just have less extra money than we used to. If you spent more than $2 on a cup of coffee this week…. you are rich. If you bought a new pair of shoes this year….you are rich. If you went to Wal-mart or Target and bought just one thing you did not need…. you are rich.
Perhaps God has given us riches, and made us aware of it through the troubled economy, so that we can give it away. Sometimes God gives us that little extra not to increase our standard of living, but to increase our standard of giving.
3 billion people live on less than $2 per day.
1.3 billion survive on less than $1 per day.
70% those living on less than $1 per day are women.
Some of those women, who live on $1 a day, live in the slums of India. They are widows, single mothers and wives of poor men who have been given the opportunity to join Transformation Groups where they learn business skills and receive a micro-loan [$20] to start a business. Trained by believers, they experience the transforming love of Christ for the first time. Several of these women – who still live in the slums, in what we would consider poverty- were challenged by their Christian teachers to support poverty-stricken children in a different area of India. After meeting the children, one of the slum women said, “I could see the faces of the children whenever I eat my food. I decided not to live a luxurious life and give the maximum amount to these children who are in need.” She and 16 other women from the slums gave of their meager business profits to help those even less fortunate than themselves. (story compliments of www.SistersInService.org)
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 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 Corinthians 9:6-7
Are you a hoarder or a giver?
Where is your heart?