• Steven Marsh

Giving–To Whom We Give: a Reflection on Psalm 26, Mark 10:2-16, and Job 1:1; 2:1-10

What is it about giving that is so central to our identity as Christians?

To whom we give are many. As we have been considering these past weeks, your life is designed by God to be a wallet. From your wallet, you spend intellectual, emotional, spiritual, financial, physical, and time capital for the benefit of God and others. As our mission statement, “Loving God – Loving Others” states, the first person to whom we give is God. Then others. The Bible teaches us that God is to receive the tithe of our intellectual, emotional, spiritual, financial, physical, and time capital and others the offerings. The tithe is the first fruits of what God has given us. That 10% is to be given to God. If you disagree with me, take up your grievance with God and tell me how that goes. My friends, this morning’s message focuses on our financial capital. It is time for us to put our big boy pants and big girl dresses on.

God’s message of salvation in and through Jesus Christ is for humanity to live in integrity with God, others, and all creation. Like David in Psalm 26, we must address our brokenness, particularly in the area of finances. If we do not, we cannot experience the fullness of God’s redemption. Whether you are on fixed income or have unlimited resources, tithing of our financial capital to the church is the teaching of the Bible. Like the psalmist, we must look to God to validate our actions. Putting God first, and others second is the teaching of God’s Word.[1]

Mark 10 exhorts the community of faith to be honest with its strengths, but more importantly its weaknesses.At the core of Jesus’ teaching on divorce is being faithful to your spouse through it all. And Jesus’ teaching about children is to reinforce the necessity of simple dependence and trust. That is having a childlike dependence on and trust in God that God will see you through those difficult times. August 15, 2018 was my 36thanniversary as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Many people in congregations I have served have not been honest with their finances. They have not demonstrated a simple dependence on and trust in God to meet them in life’s difficulties, divorce being one of them, that lack of finances aids and abets. We need God and one another. And how we experience redemption in our financial weakness requires obedience to God and mutual respect and concern for and from one another.[2]

Giving makes the community stronger. A strong community is made up of individuals becoming stronger in dependence on and trust in God. And yes, dependence on and trust in one another. Job 1 and 2 gives us keen insight into the significance of community and giving participants. Job’s community was destroyed, and spirituality dismantled. With Job, we ask the question, “What good is faith?” Job examined his self-righteousness and sense of entitlement. Once Job was able to acknowledge that he was faithful, but that faithfulness does not guarantee a “get out of jail free card,” he was set free to see God’s redemption and act of grace in his misery. Job was enabled to rest in God’s righteousness for him.[3]

To whom you give matters. God first. Others second. There is wisdom here, my friends. Remember, wisdom is knowledge that has proven the test of time. Mike Slaughter in The Christian Wallet writes,

I am firmly convinced in the power and purpose of the tithe, defined in Scripture as the first 10 percent of all that comes into our hands. The needs within the world are simply too great for those of us who call ourselves Jesus followers to turn a blind eye. I have also seen the fruits within my own life of what can happen when we faithfully invest that first 10 percent back into God’s hands. I also noted that I can’t find anything within Jesus’ teachings that would set the tithe aside.[4]

To whom you give matters. Why? Giving spends your intellectual, emotional, spiritual, financial, physical, and time capital.

Loving God. Loving Others. Through giving, God is actively at work for our benefit and that of others. Let’s be obedient in our financial giving. There are some in our congregation who give nothing to the mission of Geneva Presbyterian Church. There are some who tithe. There are many on the tithing spectrum of 1% to 9%. All of us need to make movement in this area of financial tithing. Obedience to God is the key to experience salvation. Next weekend is Ingathering Sunday. Bring your financial pledge cards as an act of worship. We all stand before God, my friends. Conscious and Spirit led reflection on tithing our financial capital in our life’s wallet is in order. Amen.

[1]An overall insight in this paragraph was gleaned from Kathleen Bostrom in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 4(Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 128, 130, and 132.

[2]My thanks to David B. Howell for his insight of mutual respect and concern for one another as central to Jesus’ announcing the new Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. See David B. Howell in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 4, 140, 142, and 144.

[3]See Thomas Edward Frank in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 4, 122, 124, and 126.

[4]Mike Slaughter, The Christian Wallet (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 95.

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