Today’s sermon was all about giving generously. At my church, “we don’t preach on tithing,” says my pastor. Today’s sermon was, in part, about tithing. But it went deeper than that.
A frequent argument I deal with from atheists and other detractors of Christianity is the ludicrous notion that Jesus wants Christians to give up all earthly possessions and live penniless. They aren’t approaching the text from the perspective of stewardship. All gifts come ultimately from God, and God wants us to wisely use these gifts for his glory. The ultimate summary is Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Or, as C.S. Lewis put it, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”
The idea is to judiciously use what we have for the good of the kingdom, not to sell everything and live in abject poverty. The trick is that the more we have, the greater the obstacle to true intimacy with God. Or as Jesus famously put it, “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Lk 18:25).
The Eye of the Needle was actually a place in those days. A camel could get through it, but it took a lot of effort and often wasn’t worth it. Jesus isn’t saying that is impossible for a rich person to enter heaven, just that it is going to take much more work than for a poor person. A rich person is expected to give more generously with both time and financial resources to further the cause of the kingdom. Obviously, a poor person doesn’t have as much to give and therefore as much won’t be required.
Bottom line: you can’t be sure of anything in this world except for God. So don’t put stock in material goods–moth and rust can eat and destroy them. Build up treasure in heaven, where nothing can get to it. Material wealth isn’t the same as true security, and we never really possess something we aren’t willing to give to God. Read the rest of this entry