This article by the Campus Crusades founder, Bill Bright, made a decisive impact on my life several years ago, writes Jan-Aage Torp.
The most important thing we can do is to take the good news to everyone who will listen.
What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. And how do we glorify God? Jesus explains that in John 15:8, "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
In other words, the most important thing you and I can do as believers is to help take the most joyful news -- the good news of God's love and forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ -- to everyone who will listen through the investment of our time, our talents and our treasure.
Under grace, the love of Christ constrains us. We cannot misuse or abuse our New Testament liberty. We must remain sensitive and accountable to our just and righteous God.
Obedience to His commands in every facet of our lives is the key to experiencing the presence of Christ and the joy of heaven. Jesus says, "The one who obeys me is the one who loves me...I will only reveal myself to those who love me and obey me. The Father will love them too, and we will come to them and live with them.
Are you experiencing the presence of Christ in your life? Do you know His joy, His love, His peace, the sense of His direction? If not, could it be that you are not obeying His commands? When you withhold the resources that God has entrusted to you for His work, He has little with which to bless you, and your life becomes unfruitful and unhappy.
I personally know of no greater joy than that of being an instrument of God to communicate the good news of the gospel to others. And that takes money. We are not our own anymore; we have been bought with a price, the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our time, talents and treasure are our way of expressing gratitude to our great and glorious God and Father for all that He has done to fill us with His presence.
Since under grace everything we have belongs to God, we tithe -- or even give a greater percentage -- not as a requirement of law, but as an act of loving obedience and worship. I believe that we disobey God when we ignore our responsibility in giving and stewardship. And just as God disciplines His children under grace when they are disobedient because He loves them, the unfaithful steward should be prepared for discipline as well. Let me illustrate.
I love my sons dearly. I remember when I first held them in my arms. I felt my heart attach itself to them as I embraced them. But through the years while they were young, I found it necessary to discipline them. On each occasion before and after their punishment, I explained to them that I loved them and that the correction was for their good.
To make sure they understood, I would ask, "Why did I discipline you?"
Each time through their tears they would respond, "Because you love me."
The fact that I reproved them when they were disobedient did not mean that I loved them less, but more.
So it is with obedience in stewardship. It is vital that we do not allow anything to take precedence over giving our tithes and offerings. I would rather miss my meals and not meet other obligations than to rob God -- even though I am under grace, even though I know that He loves me, even though I know that my relationship with Him is vastly different from that of Old Testament believers because of the cross and the empty tomb and the reality of His indwelling presence in my life.
To fail in our accountability to God would be a misunderstanding of grace. Jesus said, "You should tithe." Since everything we have we enjoy as a gift of God, not returning a percentage of what He has given us to the work of the Lord as an expression of our gratitude and love is disobedience and can result in discipline.
Just as in Malachi God promised to abundantly bless Israel for faithfulness in tithing, I believe God will abundantly bless those today who tithe or give more in a regular, systematic way. The New Testament verse, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows," lies in the context of giving to one's spiritual teachers. An attitude of obedience when you tithe -- or give generously in a systematic way -- softens the soil of you heart for fruitfulness and thereby gives God opportunity to bless you.
I believe this is the spirit of the Malachi principle.
The premise of tithing as an expression of grace is three-fold:
First, tithing acknowledges God as the source and owner of all that we possess. Tithing performs a role separate from that of unsystematic giving, which suggests that we believe we own all that we possess. Through tithing we acknowledge that God created our increase.
Second, tithing is a voluntary act of worship. At Bethel Jacob said:
If God will help and protect me on this journey and give me food and clothes, and will bring me back safely to my father, then I will choose Jehovah as my God! And this memorial pillar shall become a place for worship; and I will give you back a tenth of everything you give me!
If you don't already, you too should consider tithing -- or giving more -- as an act of worship. Through this act, you keep your focus on the heavenly Father and testify to His kindness and generosity toward you.
Third, tithing teaches us to put God first. Moses said, "The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives."
Tithing as a systematic, purposeful plan for consistent giving enables you to circumvent the emotions and circumstances that would hinder you from being a faithful steward and, thus, from putting God first in your life. This prioritizing releases you from the tyranny of materialism and clears the channel for God's additional and abundant blessings.
Don Myers, Campus Crusade for Christ Director of Affairs for Southern Africa, relates how he and his wife, Sue, learned to put this principle into effect in their lives.
"During our first two years as Christians, Sue and I devised a plan to become tithers. The plan entailed a one-percent-per-year increase in our giving until we reached the magic 10 percent. Since our giving at that time was an anemic 4 percent, we were looking at a long laborious process. We tried that plan for two years, but it was life pulling a tooth slowly!
"At that point, we made a radical decision to jump our giving from 6 percent to 10 percent in one leap. This proved to be a relatively painless procedure, and it yielded a financial liberty and sense of peace in our marriage beyond our previous experience. We were encouraged to try new 'quantum leaps.'
"As staff members from 1968 to 1972, we managed to maintain a modest 'beyond tithe' level of giving. Then as we prepared for our move to Africa in 1973, we listened to a message at a staff conference that changed our lives. The speaker said that the best faith response to a financial crisis would be to increase one's level of stewardship.
"After prayerfully considering this radical principle, we decided to follow it during our Africa career. We encountered severe financial crises on six occasions during the sixteen years we served in Africa. Each time, by faith, we increased our level of giving. And each time the Lord solved the crisis. By the time we left Africa, our giving level was 38 percent!"
Does the principle of tithing apply equally to your time and talents as it does to money? I am convinced that it does.
Giving at least 10 percent of your time to God is not a burdensome task. Many of God's children give far more.
Opportunities to devote your time and talents are limitless. Do you sing? Play a musical instrument? Bake? Perhaps you are an executive, a professor, secretary, childcare provider, carpenter, landscaper, mechanic or bookkeeper. Ask God to show you how to use your talents for His glory. And check with your pastor of the leaders of Christian organizations in your area for opportunities to invest your time and talents for the cause of Christ.
I challenge you to give generously of your time and talents as well as your treasure for six months to see how God will multiply the fruit of your gifts in the lives of others. What an exciting privilege to watch your resources touch lost and hurting people around the world for the glory of God!