E-pistle November 6

The Blessing of Giving
As the Apostle Paul bade farewell to the elders of the church in Ephesus for what would be the last time, he remembered the three years he had spent among them.  He spoke of the tears and the trials they had shared and he commended them “to God and the word of his grace.”  He told them to keep up the hard work they had begun and be diligent in helping others.  Then he reminded them of the words of Jesus not otherwise quoted in the gospels, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Paul was talking about money.
To be sure, Christian giving is rooted in the very character of Christ. Christian giving, finally, is about the giving up of self for the sake of the other.  It is about daily cross bearing.  But Christian giving is also, and specifically so, about money.  In the gospel narratives Jesus spoke more often about money than any other single topic save the Kingdom of Heaven. In the passage from 2 Corinthians cited above where Paul reminds us of Jesus’ radical self-giving, the Apostle goes on to talk about the pledge of financial support for the beleaguered church in Jerusalem made by the Corinthians. 
So let’s talk about money. It is more blessed to give the stuff away than to receive it.  So says the Bible.
The Bible does not say that receiving money is not a blessing.  It often is. But giving it away is a greater blessing.
For much of our married life, Becky and I have not had much money. My salary was usually modest at best and we made a decision early on, our decision, that Becky would be a stay at home mom.  We lived hand to mouth and sometimes there wasn’t much in the hand by the time it got to the mouth. 
That’s the way things were, and because that’s the way things were, we know the blessing of receiving when you don’t have anything to give.  We can tell you stories of unexpected checks in the mail, mysteriously appearing envelopes containing various amounts of cash – just what we knew, but no one else knew, we needed.  It can be a great blessing to receive. 
But it is more blessed to give than to receive.
One of our members recently asked me if I thought Christians should tithe, give ten percent of their income as an offering to God. Should Christians tithe? Yes. Must Christians tithe? No.
There have been seasons in our life when Becky and I have not tithed.  During one of those empty hand to mouth times a wise elder in the church I was serving reminded me of 1 Timothy 5:8. In some ways our tithing had become legalistic, maybe even prideful; priorities were out of order. We weren’t able to give as we wanted. We need to readjust some things.
The blessing of receiving is sometimes very humbling. 
By the grace of God, though, we have been able to give, to tithe, through most of the chapters of our life together. Through the nine years of college tuition, through orthodontia and cancer surgery, God’s grace was sufficient for our need.  I pray that there is no pride in the telling, only a grateful witness to the grace of God in Christ Jesus. 
Becky and I get paid and pay bills just like everyone else.  Frankly, it is not so much next month’s mortgage payment that worries me, though I know there are no guarantees, as it is all that advice the experts give about saving for the future.  It seems as if you can never do enough. I get kind of anxious about it all.
This week Becky and I will be talking and praying about our pledge to the work of Christ through LPC in 2010. Maybe it just my typical selfishness, but I am grateful for the opportunity to be blessed by giving.
By the way, the Bible knows a secret the financial experts just never get.  Thankful giving is the perfect antidote to the anxiety all their advice generates.