Just when I start getting comfortable, God rocks my world. Granted, he rocks it in a way that is good. Giving is one of those areas where He continues to show me new things. When I began tithing about 15 years ago, I thought I was fine. I gave 10% of my gross income and I felt that was adequate.
When I got married about 11 years ago, my bride and I continued to give 10%. Then, about five years ago, I read a book entitled Money, Possessions, and Eternity written by Randy Alcorn. I shared the book with my wife and we both agreed that 10% was no longer a sacrifice and we made a commitment to increase our giving.
Soon after, I read another of Randy Alcorn’s books called The Treasure Principle. This took our giving to another level. My wife and I made a commitment to limit our spending to a specific amount each month and then we would give the rest of the money away. As it is with many of us, our income generally increases each year and we realized that we didn’t need that much. We could live on less than we were earning. Last year, we gave away about a third of our gross income. I struggle with sharing that with others as I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:3,4: "But when you give to someone, don't tell your left hand what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in secret, and your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you." So I don’t mention it to brag, but rather to encourage you.
This leads me to something else God has been teaching me about giving. In business, we often talk about networking. Networking is basically a way to be intentional about your marketing. You line yourself up with people that can benefit you and your business. In exchange, you attempt to benefit them and their business.
I am learning the importance of networking in my personal life, not for personal gain but for Kingdom gain. When you network in your personal life, you are hoping to benefit others and to benefit the Kingdom of God. Your needs are suppressed. Jesus was asked what the two greatest commandments were. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record Jesus’ words. Matthew’s version is found in Matthew 22:37-40: "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments."
Loving God and loving others with money
When you give money to your church or a Para church organization that is a direct way of showing God your faith and trust in Him. You are showing Him that you love Him. It is an indirect way of showing love for others. When you give money directly to a person, it is a direct way of showing love for others which I believe also shows your love for God.
I am learning that God wants me to use the money He has given me to build relationships. Whenever I spend His money, I have to consider how this impacts His Kingdom. If I am going to go out to dinner, I should invite others. If we’re going to have a meal, I should invite my neighbors. Bill Hybels calls this "barbequing with your neighbors." If I’m going to play a round of golf, I should invite someone who doesn’t know Jesus. I don’t know of any golfers that will refuse a free round of golf. How else can you get individual time with someone for four hours? And remember, you are sharing more than a meal or golf round with someone. You are investing in their life. By the way, you can invite people to anything that they find interesting. It doesn’t have to be golf.
The bottom line is this: God allows you to have things not for your own use, but for His use. I’m reminded of one of the treasure principles that Randy Alcorn gives in The Treasure Principle: "God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving." Everything we do must be for His glory. Otherwise, it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Steve Scalici is the Vice President of Treasure Coast Financial, a financial planning firm in Stuart, FL. He is co-host of God's Money which can be heard weekdays at www.oneplace.com. He can also be reached at his website www.tcfin.com.