“In a child or a flower or a tree we are all aware that when there is no growth there is something wrong. Healthy life . . . will always show itself by progress and increase. It is just the same with our souls.” (Ryle, Holiness, 84)
Our last lesson on solitude and meditation was well received. I’m glad for that. We all, I think, need time alone to consider God’s greatness, His saving favor, and His enduring love. That is hard to do at this speed of life. Today, however, in this next entry, we’re going to a different place, a place you probably didn’t expect me to take you. Here it is: the road to abundant growth is paved by giving. If you wan to grow beyond mediocrity, then give, give, give.
We live in a society that is so self-interested that many people are becoming who they want to be with themselves as the main benefactor of the growth. People say things like, “I’m really happy with where I’m at.” In Christianity, the opposite is true. We are called to strive and give for the benefit of others, as Paul says, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Corinthians 10:24). So where does giving start?
First, tithing (giving 10%). Tithing isn’t a New Testament law, so to speak, but it is a biblical principle. As with principles, so it is with the tithe: it’s merely a guideline. What really belongs to God is abundantly more than 10%, so to tithe is a principle that leaves us, not at the ceiling of giving, but the floor! The New Testament says that God loves “abundant” givers and “cheerful” givers, people who give more than they “need” to and do so gladly, with a happy heart.
What does this have to do with overcoming spiritual mediocrity? Simple. When Jesus needed to drive a point home about the most important god (note the lower case g) in our lives, He often addressed money. Here are a couple of examples:
- “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 6:24)
- “And Jesus, looking at him [a wealthy but moral young man], loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'” (Mark 10:21)
Truth be told, some readers may find this to be the most difficult of the disciplines. Reading, meditating, fasting — for some people this comes easily and naturally. But giving? This is arguably the most difficult discipline for all of us.
Let’s say, though, that we’re ready to begin. To whom do we give? First, we give to God through the ministry that feeds us spiritually and cares for our needs. That would be (should be) a local church. Over and beyond that, giving is an issue of generosity and sacrifice (which we aren’t going to delve into here). If you can discipline yourself to tithe, and tithe faithfully, you will shoot up into the next level of growth immediately. And giving up your control of your money (I mean, God’s money) is simply going to encourage more faith and devotion from you. That, too, will take you to a new level of growth. And so the growth cycle goes.
If we want to keep our lives the way they are, then we shouldn’t give — or practice any other discipline for that matter! But if we want to grow, then we must not forget to tithe this weekend — and every weekend from here forward.