(A quick word of caution; this entire post was written over a couple of days, while at work, and on an iPhone, so please excuse any possible misspellings or grammatical errors. Thank you.)
Ok folks, there are big things in store for my family. We’ve decided to undertake an experiment. First, some background;
We’ve ordered our lives, to the best of our ability, into a chase after Christ’s mission for us. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a journey rather than a destination, but we’ve at least embarked on the journey. We’ve seen Gods power displayed in so many ways as he forms us like clay in his hands. It has been a process and as the leader of this group, very challenging. What I’ve tried to do is pull us away from the lives we once lived where we, as a family and as individuals, lived in the pursuit of things and of momentary happiness. Our former ways, and still some present ones that are being chiseled away, only brought bitterness and division. If not for the grace of God we would have destroyed ourselves and I, as the leader, would have held that responsibility in my hands.
Pulled from the brink, we managed to salvage what was not broken and repair what was. The impact of a merciful God on our lives has been immeasurable. What we clung to before, that which was completely flawed to begin with, has been superseded and blessed on a scale that was hidden from our selfish view before. We’ve seen that as we turn our lives, little by little, over to a just and loving God, he in turn blesses and redeems each and every part. I wish I could explain what it is that ever causes us to hold anything back because he has proven time and again that if we will just release it to his authority, he will do far more with it for us than we could ever do alone. That being said, we still hold on. We fear letting go. It frightens us. Some things we know better than to do, but it’s like our old selves creep in just enough to tighten our grip around the very things that could, and often do, destroy us.
The biggest thing is money. Yup, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and money is root of all kinds of hardships for us. Hard to imagine, right? It is the anchor around our familial necks. First off, there is never enough to cover even our basic needs. At times, every family member has had to sacrifice because the resources just were not there. Currently, we have one in need of braces, everyone in need of clothes, two vehicles that are showing their age in clanky and worrisome noises, minimal furniture mostly lent by awesome and generous friends (although a tax return has helped on this front), not to mention the week to week worries about having enough food, gas, and paying bills that are strategically shuffled to avoid missed payments and loss of electricity. We have freed ourselves from the traps of credit cards and financing of any kind save one car payment (on one of the above mentioned cars with mysterious noises I might add). My gorgeous wife has given up on any of the things that make a woman feel good about herself. Who knows the last time she had a haircut or bought herself an article of clothing. Birthdays, Christmas, vacation (what’s that?), are panic time.
I wish it was just our family that was impacted but it’s not, there is a community and even global effect. We love to serve. I absolutely live for it. There is nothing I would rather be doing than serving, teaching, praying, etc, with others. If money was no object, you could keep your beach and sunshine, I’d rather be with people serving the hungry, preaching a sermon, digging a well, whatever. Those are the things that excite me. (By the way, this is all new. Before I met Christ I was the most selfish person you’d ever meet. A transformed heart changes a person, it’s all the work of Jesus.). All that aside, the lack of money, or the mismanagement of it, prevents us from serving as much as we’d like to. My beautiful wife has the beautiful heart to serve in underdeveloped countries. She dreams of going to India or Africa and serving anyone she finds in need. She can’t help herself but to put aside what she is doing to help a friend and aches to take that compulsion overseas, but we can’t afford it. I would love to plant a church or join a team of one already planted. I would love just to be able to participate more at the church we already attend, but we can’t afford for me to take the time off. We want to show our five kids the Church at work beyond our safe little world, but guess what, we can’t afford that either.
I do want to interject here that we are by no means naive to our good fortune of being citizens of the richest country on earth. Our needs and wants are mostly petty and full of greed when compared to most of the world. We understand that we have been blessed just to be born in the United States and to live lives that most could only dream of. I would never want anyone to think we were so self absorbed as to not see our good fortune.
Generosity is something of a gift. The desire to give is a blessing straight from God. On this front, I admit that I was the straggler. Even in our former lives, I was blessed with a wife and children that had no problem giving to others. I, on the other hand, could think of no one better deserving of anything, than myself. Christ impacted me in this area directly. There were several areas that almost immediately changed upon the meeting of my Savior, and this was one of them. Gone are the desires to accumulate, replaced with the urge to give it all away. But this is hard to do when you simply cannot afford it (that sounds strange, but hopefully you get my point).
The Bible speaks a lot about money. I’ve heard that 15% of Jesus teaching was on the topic of money and that scripture speaks of it more often than faith or even prayer. The tithe is a teaching seen throughout the Bible, New Testament and Old. The big one is of course Malachi 3:10-
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. 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.”
Jesus speaks of it also in Luke 11:42-
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.”
These are just a couple of examples, there are many more.
I believe in the tithe, how could I not? It’s there in black and white! But for some reason it frightens me. I have seen what following Gods commands does. I have seen him fulfill his promises over and over again but with this one I struggle. This is where the experiment comes in (finally!).
After much prayer, discussion, and conviction from the Holy Spirit, we are going to pull the trigger. We can’t afford it, but that doesn’t matter. We don’t have a cushion, but that doesn’t matter. We can’t afford basic necessities, but that doesn’t matter. We are going to do it.
There is no need to get into specific amounts, but last year we only managed to give half of the tithe (which literally means a tenth), this time we are jumping in with the whole amount. I am setting up a direct withdrawal from our bank account for a full ten percent to be deducted every pay day. Ten percent of the gross, not the net. We will sacrifice and put our faith in the word of God. If we really believe what the Bible says, we must do our best to follow the guidelines it sets up. I’ve heard it explained that the time we give, or the money we lose when I miss work to serve, or even the donations we make to sponsor a child overseas, should count. While those may be noble sounding ideas, I just don’t see an example of that in scripture. So we will continue to do those things as well as to tithe on our income. I don’t want to fall into the trap of legalism, but I don’t want to look for loopholes either.
Some would say it’s risky, others would say it’s stupid, still others would wonder what took so long. This is the one instance where God invites us to test him, and that’s what we are going to do. I admit, I am afraid. Why? I don’t know, but I am. Faith conquers fear so we will move forward.
Make no mistake, I do not believe in the so-called “prosperity gospel”. I am not asking for riches. In fact, I’d rather not have them. I want only what my perfect and loving God wants for us. It could be poverty or any number of things, but we are going to trust him wholeheartedly and give back to him what was already his to begin with.
For my non-believing friends this will be an opportunity to see a real God at work and to see a believer put his money where his mouth is. Jesus hated hypocrites, and while hypocrisy is surly still in my sinful life, this will be one area of growth. For those of you who do claim to follow Jesus, this will be a chance to see your convictions affirmed and strengthened. I know of many who believe and follow this teaching already and their example is something I envy. Some may have been hesitant to get on board and I hope to inspire you to do just that.
I will blog about our experiment here and try my best to explain the day-to-day implications of what is happening. God often blesses us in ways that we never expected and I imagine that will be the case in this instance as well. I claim no credit and want no congratulations or esteem. I know that all good changes come from God and that all glory goes to him. Any good that could from this is purely a blessing from God and all praise is his and his alone. There is the possibility of only hardship too, and we will do our best to celebrate that as well. Whatever the case, it will be Gods will and that is all that we could ever ask for.
Please pray for us. Please encourage us. We are not special or especially strong, so your love and support are greatly appreciated.
For all the updates on The Experiment click here.