Tithing Part 3 – A Flipped Script
Matthew 6:21, 33
We’ve been working our way through some of the advice our money might give us if our money could actually talk. And as it turns out, we’ve discovered that what our money would say actually matches what Jesus said when He talked about money. On week one, money said, “I can add meaning to your life, but I am not the meaning of life.” Life is not just a race to accumulate the most. You’re going to leave it all behind anyway.
Then last week, we said that if our money could talk it would probably remind us that, “The moment you think you own me, well I actually own you.” When we lose sight of the fact that our money is not ours, that we’re just managers, it starts calling the shots. So like responsible, accountable managers of someone else’s money, we’ve been tracking where it’s going because everyone should be knowing where their master’s money is going.
Now, if you’ve been playing along, and if you spent this past week spying on your money, you may have noticed that there are essentially five things you can do with money. There are certainly categories to each of these, but essentially, there are just five things you can do with money.
- You can spend it. And we’re all pretty good at that, right?
- You can pay debt depending on how much you’ve already spent or misspent.
- You can pay your taxes and bills, and I sure hope you’re doing that.
- Or you can save money.
- And lastly, you can give money away.
Those are basically the five things you can do with your money, and for most of us, that’s the order we actually do them in, right? First, we spend. Number two, we pay off debt. Number three, we pay our taxes and bills. Number four, we save. And if there’s anything left over, well, we might give some away.
Now, I want to go through that list one more time, but this time I want to put a different spin on it. The first thing we can do with our money, well that’s for me. The number two thing we can do with our money, that’s for me too. The number three thing we can do with our money, that’s kind of just America, but me too. The number four thing that we do with our money, ah that’s for me too. And then, number five, that’s for God and others. So it goes like this. Me, me, me, me, God and others. That’s how it’s done in the majority of cases, and perhaps that’s how it’s done in your home.
Now, the problem with all of that, of course, is that God and others come in last. Essentially, God and others get the leftovers. If I haven’t spent it all, if I don’t owe it all, if the government doesn’t get it all, and if I don’t save it all for myself for later, then perhaps God and others will get something. This is called, me-first living with some left-over giving.
And this is totally understandable because this is the script most of us inherited. This may be what we saw modeled in our homes, and this is certainly what our culture encourages. But when Jesus showed up, He literally flipped the script. Here’s what He said.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Now, I bet you’ve heard that before. Your treasure is your stuff, it’s your money, it’s your hopes, your dreams, it’s your physical stuff. And Jesus says, “Wherever your treasure is, your heart follows.” He wasn’t trying to shame us. He was actually just giving us a fact of life. Whatever gets our money gets our attention.
Now, if you’ve ever had a new car you understand this. For the first few weeks, maybe the first few months, you parked it way in the back of the parking lot as far away from all the other cars as you could get. You were spit-cleaning every smudge. You certainly didn’t allow your kids to eat in it. That car cost a lot of money, so it got a lot of your attention. It had a piece of your heart. Jesus knew how this works, and Jesus knew that our money takes a little bit of our heart everywhere it goes.
So He says, “If I want to know where your heart is, if I want to know what’s going to get your attention, your passion, your time, then all I have to do is look at your bank statement, your credit card statement. If you want to know where your heart really is, show me your money, or show me where you sent it, where you spent it because your heart follows your money.”
Which brings us to something I referenced on week one of this series. Jesus isn’t after your money. What is He after? He’s after your heart, and the best way for your Savior, your Heavenly Father to take possession of your heart is to allow Him to take possession of how you manage your money.
Now, lots of people dedicate their hearts to God, especially in times of crisis. But Jesus asked His followers to dedicate their possessions. That’s how you know whose you really are. Jesus knew that our money and our possessions are where the rubber meets the road in terms of our ultimate devotion. It is so much easier to give our health, our career, or even our relationships to our Heavenly Father than it is to dedicate our money.
Think about it, when you’re sick, you invite God into your health, you want Him to intervene. When you’re out of work, you ask Him to intervene on your behalf and to land you a good interview. You want to know why it’s easier to trust God with those things? Because you don’t have any control over them anyway. You’re relying on doctors or you’re hoping the HR guy calls you back.
But money…money is different because money is tangible. You get to decide what to do with it. So when Jesus started talking about where your treasure is, there your heart will be also, He meant that the ultimate litmus test (a test that establishes the true character of something or someone) for our devotion to God is what we do with our money.
So if our money could talk it might remind us, “My direction reveals your affection.” Your money’s direction, what you spend it on, ultimately reveals what you care about most, what’s most important to you. So let’s go back to that list of priorities for just a second. How most of us spend most of our money. And remember, it’s me first, it’s me second, it’s me third, it’s me fourth, and then if there’s any left over, or I feel compassionate, or I feel guilty, or there is a tsunami, or an earthquake, then well, you know, then I might give.
If you think about it in those terms, that’s kind of messed up isn’t it? I mean, to me it’s a little bit embarrassing. So Jesus offers us a remedy. He calls us to flip that script, to re-prioritize, to literally flip that list. Now don’t panic, you’re not going to have to give everything away or sell all your possessions. That would actually be irresponsible. That would just make you a burden on someone else. This isn’t about living irresponsible.
Actually, it’s just the opposite. Spending almost everything on you, or saving it for your future, that’s actually irresponsible in light of the fact that it’s not even yours to begin with. So this isn’t about having nothing, it’s about re-prioritizing everything. Here’s how Jesus put it.
33 But seek first….
Seek first is the key. This is so important. To seek first is put first, re-prioritize, reorder, rearrange, rethink.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness….
Now the word Kingdom throws us off because we don’t live in a kingdom, and the word righteousness sounds complicated and religious. But Jesus is saying something so simple, and it’s so important. He’s saying. “In my Father’s kingdom, the Kingdom is an others first kind of Kingdom. If you’re going to follow me, it’s going to be about doing what is right for others and doing that first.” This is where our world has it so messed up!
Jesus taught throughout His ministry that what’s right for other people is what’s right. That what’s best for other people, is what’s best. So Jesus says, “Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to turn that list upside down, and I want you to put God and others first. I want you to put you second. You’re still on the list. It’s just that you’re not at the top of the list.”
Jesus is actually inviting us into something amazing. He’s inviting us into a world or to use His term, a kingdom, where we don’t go first. This is His invitation to give your money before you spend it or save it or spend it in the future, and to consequently give ourselves to God.
And do you know why Jesus taught this? Not because He wants your money. It’s because He wants you, and He knows what’s best for you. And as crazy as this sounds, I’m telling you in the kingdom where you don’t go first, you are going to find more peace, more joy, more purpose, and more meaning than you have ever imagine.
And ultimately, and you may not believe this, but when you prioritize the Jesus way, when you flip that script, you will have more financial margin as well. I’ll prove it to you. Look at the rest of this statement.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
What are all these things? These are the things you worry about. These are the things you fret about. These are the things that have to be done and have to be paid for. All of these things that are crucial to being able to survive, they’re going to be provided for you as well.
This isn’t an either/or. This isn’t give to others to exclude you. This is about priorities, pure and simple. It’s about who comes first, seeking His kingdom first, and then He will take care of yours.
Here’s the system I would love for you to embrace and pray about. It’s quite simple. Three words: Give, Save, Live. When you get paid, you invest in God’s kingdom first; you give first. Then you invest in your future; you save second. And then you live on the rest. Give first, save second, live on the rest. Yep, in this system, you get the leftovers.
This is how you throw open the door to God’s involvement in your financial future. And I’m telling you, rich people, poor people, and everyone in between, this is the key to financial security. This is how you live responsibly. This is actually the key to true financial freedom. This is actually the key to financial peace. You give first, save second, and then live on the rest.
Now, here’s a tip, I don’t want you to think in terms of amounts of money. I want you to think in terms of percentages. Pick a percentage of your income ahead of time, and then give it away as soon as you get it.
Whatever the percentage is, talk to your spouse, talk to your friends, family members, but choose a percentage. Figure out a way to get that percentage of your money out of your kingdom and into someone else’s kingdom before you have a chance to spend it.
Pick one or two non-profits, your church, maybe someone that’s doing stuff in your community that’s near and dear to your heart. Maybe something with children or a hospital. Whatever it is, and don’t wait to be asked. Everyone gives or just about everyone gives when they’re asked or there’s an emergency. I want you to be better than that.
Find the organizations you love and start giving whether or not there’s an emergency, and regardless of whether or not they ever asked. Pick a percentage, then decide where it’s going, and let it go.
And then secondly, pick a percentage to save. This is also a way of helping other people because you don’t want your kids or your grandkids to have to take care of you, right? Preparing for your own future is a way of loving other people. So save a percentage of your money second, and then you just consume your heart out. Live on the rest.
Once you’ve given a percentage and once you have saved a percentage, everything left over is yours to live on. That’s how you guard not just against financial disaster, that’s how you guard against greed. It’s how you ensure that you have your money and that your money never has you. Give first, save second, live on the rest.
Now, one last thing. I want you to pay close attention to the internal tension this creates inside of you. In other words, when you started thinking about giving away a percentage of your money and giving away a percentage of your money first, it’s going to perhaps be a little battle on the inside of you. I want you to listen closely to those internal conversations. The ones that you have with yourself, the ones that you’re preparing to have with your spouse, or may be the conversation you’re already having with me in your head.
“I’m all for generosity. And that was pretty clever what you did about the… me, me, me, me, God and others. But if I start giving away a percentage of my money, it’s going to take us twice as long to save for a down payment. I’ll be paying off my student loans till I’m dead.”
I want you to pay attention to that internal dialogue, that internal tension, and here’s why. Because I want you to discover something about yourself. I want you to discover what is at the center of your resistance, and this is so important. In fact, I think you owe it to yourself. You certainly don’t owe it to me, but you do owe it to yourself.
I want you to answer the question that’s at the center of your resistance. Why I am in resisting this? I want you to listen to the excuses you’re telling yourself, and then I want you to just give anyway. Because what you might discover is that your resistance, it’s not really about money. It’s about something else…your heart.
So go ahead, give first, save second, and then live on the rest. And if you’ll start working towards give, save, live, something will begin to happen in your heart. I dare you to try it. I challenge you to flip the script and put God and others first, put your future second, and then adjust your lifestyle so you can afford to live on the rest.
It will impact every single area of your life, it will certainly impact your financial life and ultimately, it will impact everyone around you lives as well. I’ve seen it so many times. You’ll come back and say I don’t understand it. I can’t exactly explain it, but something has happened inside of me because of this simple financial model. Something’s happened to my family. Something’s happened to my finances. I can’t explain it on paper, but something’s different. I’m different.
Because when you choose to put God first in a tangible way, in a way that’s measurable, in a way that actually feels like it’s costing you something, everything begins to change.
Jesus was so clear. The litmus test, and I know this is hard for us, but the litmus test of our devotion to God is our willingness to put Him first in the arena of our money and our possessions. Not to just include Him, not to offer Him our leftovers, but to put Him first in the arena of our money and our possessions.
Now, giving first may sound crazy, and from a certain perspective it is crazy, but it’s a better version of crazy than spending everything on you and having nothing to show for it in the end. Crazy is living as if your life consisted in the accumulation of stuff and of wealth. Crazy is leaving your kids a bunch of stuff they’re going to sell or throw away.
So, one more time. To what ends do you want your life to be a means? Skip that question and you’ll just follow your money. You’ll settle for “me first-living” with a little “left over-giving,” and that would be a shame. Jesus says that would be a total loss.
It would be a shame because all you’ll have to show for yourself is yourself, but when you identify and embrace your answer to that question, your money will follow. You’ll begin to view everything you own, everything that comes your way as a tool that you can use to add meaning to your life and meaning to the lives of others as well.
So come on, let’s get this right. Let’s listen when money tells us, “I can add meaning to your life, but I’m not the meaning of life. The moment you think you own me, I actually own you. My direction reveals your ultimate affection.” And the final thing our money might say is something we’ve touched on throughout our time together, “What you choose to do with me speaks volumes about who and whose you are.”
So, I hope you’ll live like a manager, not an owner. I hope you’ll redirect your heart and give and save before you live. And in the process, I hope you’ll discover the peace and contentment Jesus talked about when Jesus talked about money.
33 Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.