I used to be a great dancer. Every time someone asked me for money I was able to maneuver my way out of it.
I was a tightwad. Don't be nice and tell me I was frugal. I was cheap. I had a lot of good moves. I could win a dance marathon. I look back at some of the decisions I made with my money and I'm a little embarrassed. Since I've been married, my wife has helped me transform into a giver. Now, together my wife and I tithe. That means we give the first 10 percent of the money we earn to the church and various ministries. It wasn't easy at first. But I made the decision to trust God. I wasn't able to tithe before because I wasn't able to trust God. I have found new joy in giving.
I know that sounds kind of mad... I give away my money and I feel good about it. But it's true. OK - maybe I am a little mad. But the more I show God my faith, the more he shows me his faithfulness. Don't get me wrong, I'm not buying God's love. I'm just saying that the more I show God I trust him the more he honors that trust I place in him.
Now on Sunday mornings when the plate comes around I feel good about what we put in. I have to admit my wife writes the check. The first time I sat down to write a check to the church my hand started to shake and I couldn't spell out the amount. I apparently still needed time to transform into a giver. Since then my wife has continued to write the checks and I am OK with it. Besides, I'm busy giving the sermon and doing other things anyway. However, we go over our finances together and it actually feels good to see what we are giving.
A lot of us do some dancing when we're asked to give. We sidestep our financial responsibilities, dip under a request, pirouette around a promise we made, and we do a tango with our own responsibility as human beings to help out our neighbor. We don't like to let go of what we have. But dancing like that is like trying to loose your dance partner in order to control the room. Some dances require a partner. But no dance that is forced is enjoyable.
What joy it could be if we would do a different kind of dance. To find delight in sharing. To give our resources without trying to push someone else away. To share the dance floor and allow God, as a partner, to leads us across the room to the rhythm of a new song.
Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. - 2 Corinthians 9:7
Even though I now feel good giving, I'm not ready to get up and dance in the middle of service. Does giving make you feel as good as this guy?
When I am good, I want to be rewarded. Don’t you? Work extra hours at the office? Then you deserve a raise or an extra day off. Work long hours on that essay? Then you should get a good grade for trying so hard. Take good care of your yard? Those neighbors ought to notice and say how nice it looks! Find a bag full of money and return it to the rightful owner? You should be rewarded for being so honorable and selfless.
That’s just what happened to Berl Cox, Chad Millburm and Nealyn Buckingham, city workers of Tulsa, OK. They were working on a water line when they found an abandoned safe stolen from a nearby bank. Inside were several bags of blank travelers checks, watches, credit cards and $11,000. The men contacted local authorities to have the property returned to the bank.
The men never asked to receive a reward, but were more than surprised when they weren’t even recognized.
"We did the right thing” said Cox, the men’s supervisor. “No one even knew that we were out there and we (still) kept the money secure.” He added, "I feel a little under appreciation. That's the way I feel and my men feel…A whole lot of people have done less and got more recognition.”
Millburm added, "We did the right thing, but are the other people doing the right thing? That's my question to the bank."
Both men interviewed said the same thing, “We did the right thing.” Both men thought they should be rewarded. Eventually they were rewarded; by the bank and the city. Click here for more.
Do we need to be rewarded for doing the right thing? If we are doing the right thing because we think we are going to be rewarded for it, then are we really good people, or just selfish and self serving?
The reality is, by our own human nature, we strive to be good for something. It has been said that every human act has a selfish motive.
Take another example, Abraham Lincoln. No question he is one of our most beloved presidents and known as a selfless, honest man. Once, while riding in a stage from Springfield, Illinois, to a neighboring town, Lincoln, then a lawyer, was discussing this very topic of selfishness with another passenger. During the trip the two men saw a small pig caught in some mud, squealing and struggling to free himself. Lincoln asked the driver to stop.
He leapt from the stage, walked to the pig and picked up the little animal and set it on solid ground.
"Now, look here," said the passenger with whom he had been talking, "you cannot say that was a selfish act."
"Extremely selfish," said Mr. Lincoln. "If I had left that little fellow in there the memory of his squealing would have made me uncomfortable all day. That is why I freed him."
We are all good for something.
God on the other hand, does not need a reason to be good. He seeks no reward. He freely gives himself to us. He is compassionate, He is kind, He is Love (1 John 4:8)
Psalm 145:9 says, “The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.”
In other words, God is good for nothing.
Ananias and Sapphira. They are two people in the Bible who refused to bring God their worst and they paid the price. In the early days of the Church, people would share everything they owned. Many people even sold their homes and land in order to give to others in need. Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of land they owned. But they kept some of the proceeds for themselves even though they claimed they were giving it all to the Church Ananias gave the money to Peter, one of the disciples. Peter knew Ananias was deceiving him. I don’t know how Peter knew, but he did. He told Ananias that he could have done whatever he wanted with the money he made. The sad part is, he didn’t have to give all his money. But instead he chose to conspire to trick God by claiming to give all the money from selling his property when really he was keeping some for himself. By the time Peter finished telling him this Ananias died. His body was carried away and he was buried. About three hours later Sapphira came to Peter looking for her husband. I don’t know where she was this whole time. Maybe she was shopping with some of the money they hid from God. Anyway, she shows up searching for Ananias and asked Peter where he was. Peter said, “I’ll let you know but first tell me something. Did your husband bring ALL of the money you made from selling your property?” Sapphira lied and said, “Yes.” Peter replied, “It’s time for you to join your husband.” And with that, Sapphira dropped dead on the spot and she was buried next to Ananias. I don’t know why Ananias and his wife Sapphira tried to trick God. Maybe they were greedy. Maybe they were jealous of other people who had the faith to sell what they had and give it away. Maybe they were prideful and just wanted to look good in front of others. Whatever the case, when they stood before God to hand over their money, they misrepresented themselves. They didn’t realize their fate because they didn’t bring God enough money. They were judged for misrepresenting themselves before God by pretending to be something they were not. How often do we misrepresent ourselves before God, before anyone for that matter? We try to be something we’re not. We put on masks to look better. We act like we have our lives together. We go before God and we try to present ourselves as if we’re ok without Him. But God doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want what we pretend to be. He wants all of us, even the ugly parts. God wants the worst of us. Because God takes what we are and he transforms us into something fresh and new. Are you giving God all of yourself? Or are you giving Him a cheap substitute for who you really are? God wants the warts. He wants the failures. Because God makes all things perfect in Himself. His love transforms. But He won’t transform you, unless you are willing to give Him all of yourself. Ananias and Sapphira held back from God and tried to look good at the same time. They were only willing to give God a part of themselves. They held on to the worst part of themselves by lying. You may think me mad for saying this, but bring your worst to God. He wants your worst so He can transform you into something new. Are you ready to bring God your worst? The story of Ananias and Sapphira can be read here
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.- John 15:13
As I write this, my wife and I are flying home to California to visit family. Sitting next to my wife is a gentleman in a United States military uniform. This has inspired me to acknowledge the men and women who serve and protect us.
The people who serve in our military today are volunteers. For whatever reason, they made the choice to sign up. They have made a commitment that could cost them their lives. I think these men and women should be acknowledged for that.
They have made a commitment to us. I think we should make a commitment to them. I think those who serve in the military should be honored and respected while wearing the uniform. I applaud those businesses who give discounts to the military and restaurants who, on certain holidays, extend a free meal to service men and women. I think we the public should show our appreciation in practical ways.
I think we should pay the check for any uniform we see eating a meal. Isn’t that the least we can do?
Call me crazy, but I think someone who is actively serving in the military and in uniform, should never have to pay for a meal when they are in public. What are your thoughts? Will you ask the waiter for the check for a uniformed serviceman/woman?