I have the privilege of talking with pastors from different denominations and church sizes. One of the consistent things that come up in my conversations with them is how to grow their church in a healthy way. In order to grow in a healthy way, we do a health check of their current congregation. We look at the spiritual disciplines of the people who attend. Are they self sufficient Christians or are they solely dependent on the church? Are people being taught how to grow in Christ and given the tools they need to accomplish that? Giving of tithes comes up too, and I’m always shocked at how few Christians give their tithe (10% of their income). It’s a spiritual discipline that speaks to where our heart truly is.
There’s very few things in life as important to us as money. I often explain to sales reps that money represents freedom. It’s the freedom for people to live where they want, go where they want, do what they want and buy what they want. When you, as a sales rep, ask for someone’s money, you’re asking them to give up some of their freedom in exchange for what you have to offer. That same freedom mentality goes with people into the church and they’re not willing to give up what they think is freedom. What we forget is that freedom and income come from God. It’s a way of appreciating God for the blessings and freedom He has given us. If our mentality is that it’s ours, then we have a harder time giving it to Him. When we don’t give it to Him, Malachi quotes God as saying we are robbing Him and ourselves.
Giving our tithe results in more freedom for us. In Malachi 3:10 God says, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do, I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” (NLT) Giving of our tithe opens the windows of heaven over our lives and provides more blessings and freedom than we can contain. It also recognizes that God is our source and that everything we have is His. By not giving it, we are telling Him what we have is ours and we only need Him for moral guidance. Jesus said you can’t serve God and money. The best way to find out who you’re serving is if you’re tithing or not. Don’t rob God or yourself by not giving it. Tithing is as much an act of faith as anything else and shows God where our heart is. When we give it, we open ourselves to the blessings God has in store for us.
Recently my wife and I were walking and a Lamborghini drove by. She asked, “If you had the money, would you ever buy one of those?” I told her I didn’t think so, but I do think they’re pretty awesome. I like to think I’d be like J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans. He makes over $15 million a year, but doesn’t drive a car like that. He said that whenever he gets the itch to drive one, he just rents one for a weekend and takes it back. The truth is, if you don’t make that kind of money, it’s hard to know what you would do with it. Would you buy a mansion? Would you drive expensive cars? Would you throw parties all the time? Would you try to eradicate poverty? Would you fund housing for the homeless? Would you support missionaries with your excess? It’s easy to give these answers when you don’t have it.
Jesus told the story of a guy who was in charge of his wealthy boss’ affairs. When it came out that he was skimming and squandering the boss’ money, he got called on the carpet to give account of how he had been managing his money. Knowing the gig was up, he decided to make friends with the boss’ debtors. He started cutting what they owed down in order to recoup the things he lent out. The boss commended him for doing that, not because he had cheated him, but because he was thinking of his future and was doing things to make sure he would be taken care of in unemployment. Then in Luke 16:10, Jesus said, “And I tell you [learn from this], make friends for yourselves [for eternity] by means of the wealth of unrighteousness [that is, use material resources as a way to further the work of God], so that when it runs out, they will welcome you into the eternal dwellings” (AMP).
The very next verse is our challenge no matter how much we make right now. Jesus said, ““He who is faithful in a very little thing is also faithful in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little thing is also dishonest in much.” No matter what you make right now, are you being faithful with it? Saying, “If I had the money, I would… (fill in the blank,)” means nothing. If you aren’t making a difference now with what you have, how can God trust you with more money? Each of us will give account to God one day just like the man in the parable. Did we do things with our resources to further the Kingdom? Or did we do things to make our lives exceptionally comfortable here? We are simply managers of the money God has entrusted to us. No matter how you’re managing it now, ask God for wisdom in how to be more faithful with what you have today.
Every year, Americans spend over $80 billion on lottery tickets. It’s hard not to spend money on a ticket when lottery prizes are upwards of $300 million. However, nearly 45% of lottery winners go broke within 3-5 years. The problem is that we are trying to get wealth without earning it. When that happens, we don’t have an understanding of money, thinking it is an endless supply. You can search for “The lottery ruined my life” to see the countless stories of people who are worse off after having won the lottery than before. I also think there’s a heart problem here for most people. Who are you trusting to care for your needs? God or the lottery?
Each of us have prayed The Lord’s Prayer thousands of times. In it we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It’s interesting that Jesus taught us to ask for daily bread, but we are always seeking more bread. When the Israelites were in the desert, God told them to gather just enough manna for one day. If they gathered more than a day’s worth, it rotted and became full of maggots. God has always been about making sure we have enough. He’s not against us getting rich or trying to make more money, but He is concerned with our motives. Are we trying to replace Him as the source for our lives?
In Proverbs 30:8-9, there is a great prayer by Agur. He prayed, “Empty out of my heart everything that is false— every lie, and every crooked thing. And give me neither undue poverty nor undue wealth— but rather, feed my soul with the measure of prosperity that pleases you. May my satisfaction be found in you. Don’t let me be so rich that I don’t need you or so poor that I have to resort to dishonesty just to make ends meet. Then my life will never detract from bringing glory to your name” (TPT). We need to find our satisfaction in Jesus, understanding that He gives us our daily bread. Jesus said that when we seek His Kingdom first, all these other things would be added to us. Is He enough in your life? Are you satisfied with Him? Or are you trying to replace the need for Him?
I never want to get to the point in my life that I’m too good or have too much that I won’t bend down to pick up a penny. I especially make sure that I pick them up when I’m going through a difficult time. There’s a lot to learn from a penny when you stop and look at it, but most of us toss them aside as worthless. When I look at a penny, I see things in it that help me through tough times.
One of the first things I recognize in a penny is that it costs more to make a penny than it’s worth. The government keeps producing them because they are an integral part of our monetary system in giving back exact change. There are times in my life when I don’t think I’m worth much. When I think of the cross and the price that was paid for me, I realize that it cost more to save me than I’m worth. I then realize that God sees me as worth it and as an integral part of His plan.
I also see on the penny the words “In God We Trust”. Those words are words of comfort in difficult times. They remind me where I need to place my trust when things are too hard to handle on my own. I try to face each trial in my own strength to prove to God that I can handle it. In reality, I feel the trials and tests are there not to test my strength, but my reliance on Him. In difficult times, I can trust in God.
The president that is on the front of the penny is Abraham Lincoln. There’s probably not another president who went through something as difficult as leading a nation divided by civil war. He relied on God to help him navigate that difficult period. One of the quotes I heard that was attributed to him was, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.” He knew that God’s plan was more important than anything. I can learn a lot from that.
Another thing that stands out to me on the penny is the date. One of the things I like to do when I see the date on a penny is to think back and remember one thing that God did for me that year. When I recount the blessings of what God has done in my past, it gives me hope and strength that He’ll do it again. God has been faithful in my life. I just need to take the time to remember it. When I do that, my confidence in Him is bolstered and I know with Him I can face whatever comes my way.
I know there’s a lot more on a penny than what I mentioned here. You may not have looked at a penny the way I do. I see a lot of value in it beyond what it’s worth because of what it reminds me of. When God looks at you, He sees the same thing. He sees value beyond what you think you’re worth. He sees someone worth dying for. He sees someone worth spending eternity with. He sees what no one else sees, smiles and picks you up when others have discarded you. That’s what I see when I look at a penny. What do you see?