Income Tax Day rapidly approaches, and I admit that I have put off doing my taxes this year longer than I should have. Usually I finish filing by the middle of March then I just wait for the ocean of refund money to flood my bank account. Sorry, I exaggerate. My refunds are more like puddles that trickle in. I hear from others how their income tax refund will pay for a new stereo, let them remodel a significant room in their house, or allow them to go on a long-awaited vacation. I apparently have filled out some W-2 wrong (not difficult to imagine as I am bad at numbers). I usually get enough back to just go to a nice restaurant instead of the normal fast food joints I visit. (I can afford Chipotle today instead of just Taco Bell? Whoo-hooo!) On the state side, I usually end up owing taxes, because they did sooooo well last year with my money, that they want to continue bleeding red ink from their corrupt, bankrupt veins.
But I’m not using this post to talk about the civil government’s lack of fiscal responsibility. Entire doctoral dissertations could be written on that, but this is just a WordPress blog, people.
Instead, let us turn our focus to giving to the work of the Lord. If you don’t pay taxes, you get put in jail. The church cannot jail you for not “paying” tithes and offerings. Admonishing their people to give, they trot out the verse, “God loves a cheerful giver.” Well, that’s right out of the Bible, so I really can’t argue with it.
What I do argue with is an emotional plea, “Without your money, the work of God can’t continue, and we can’t…” fill in the blanks: free sexual slaves in Thailand, minister to AIDS victims in Africa, reach the former communist Soviet countries with the gospel, bring Spanish Bibles to churches in Paraguay, allow us to heat the church building in winter. You name it.
Question. Do we give because God really needs our money?
Is the God that created stars that dwarf our solar system relying on the US Dollar to get stuff done!?!
Can you picture God opening up the Wall Street Journal saying, “Man, the dollar is really sinking in value. I guess I’ll have to wait on helping starving kids in Ghana, because I have house churches in China that need Christian materials in their language”? Now, if he read the New York Times, he might notice the Cash for Gold ads. Can’t all heavenly beings fly? Who needs roads in heaven in anyway? (I jest.)
God doesn’t need our money. Really! He uses it to fund His work, but not because He didn’t have any other resources on hand. The picture of God’s back-up plan being dependent upon our Federal Reserve…frightening.
Then why does God say he loves a cheerful giver? Looking at the entire verse in II Corinthians 9:7, we read “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
In Matthew 6:24* (ESV), we read these words: “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.”
It’s actually pretty simple to understand. Much simpler than even my 1040-EZ that I have to finish in the next two days.
We give — cheerfully — to the work of God because it is an act that shows that He is truly our Lord. We’ve purposed in our hearts that He is greater and more important than our wealth. If we don’t give, we’ve effectively chosen money (or “mammon” in the King James version) as our god. When we plop our money in the offering plate on Sunday or write a check for a ministry that is helping refugees from Haiti hear the good news of Christ, we’re telling God that we’ve chosen Him as our master and not our bank accounts.
Don’t put your hopes in the dollar. Put your trust in the Lord. “Now my God shall supply all your needs, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 NKJV) God has His own bank, and everything we receive comes from Him anyway.
Last thought: by giving cheerfully to our churches and ministries that reach people for Jesus Christ, we also lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. If God is using gold for paving brick, I just can’t wait to find out what He’s laying up in the heavenly storehouses. The best part — no government can get their hands on it. Hallelujah!
*Luke 16:13 echoes this verse almost exactly.