Recently I found something on a large local church's website that I thought quite interesting. The forty comments that my post received on Facebook let me know that I might need to delve a bit further here. The website read: "We commit to you that if you tithe for three months and God doesn’t hold true to His promises of blessings (implied material, though not explicitly stated), we will refund 100% of your tithe. No questions asked." This caught my attention. I thought it was rather clever they left out any specifics as to how God might bless. And what would happen if after three months the individual didn't think that God had fulfilled his promises? Would they respond about the ways that God has blessed them; i.e. food, shelter, water, air to breathe, etc.. I try to give the benefit of the doubt and I'm sure these people are coming from a place of sincerity and faith, but the cynicism can get the better of me sometimes. Cynicism aside, does this border on the ever popular "prosperity theology" that teaches if you give financially to a church (often taught and perceived as synonymous with God) then He will "bless" you with greater wealth than what you gave (passages like Mal 3:10 are often used to support this idea). The probem with such theology is that we turn the living God into a 'genie', or pagan god that we try to manipulate or appease in order to serve our own selfish desires (c.f. James 4:3). In my local church, we talk about the fact that the language we use matters. Words have meaning, and the words we choose to use carry with it meaning and we want to choose words that have the meaning we are really trying to convey (this in and of itself would be a good study - the use of language and the tounge). Instead of using the word 'contribution' (or 'tithe' - which literally means a tenth; something only commanded under the old covenant) we choose to call it an 'offering'. We choose to use this language because we believe it conveys and denotes the motives that are proper when people give. We should give (to the church, those in need around us, etc.) because we are giving out of a motive of gratitude and thanksgiving, out of joy and cheerfulness, not because we are expecting to be somehow rewarded and repaid. Day 1. Read the following passages on the topic 2 Corinthians 8-9; Acts 10:1-7; Mark 12:41-44 (Lk 21); Mat 22:15-22 (Mk 12, Lk 20); Mat 6:1-4, 19-21 Day 2. What themes do you see in the hearts and minds of those recorded as dealing with money and giving in the N.T.? Day 3. In what ways does your heart and mind differ when you give (to the church, others, etc.) from the examples you find in the scriptures? Day 4. Consider in what ways and at what times do you find it easiest for you to give (your time, money, effort, energy, focus) and in what ways are the most difficult. Now consider why is that? Day 5. Pray and seek counsel (help, advice, accountability from others) to deal with any ways you need to repent in your heart (motives), mind (thinking), and actions concerning what, when & how you give.
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