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About this series
Cultivating a Lifestyle that Makes Room for God
We all do life in rhythms. Getting up for the day, meals, school, work, church... there are rhythms we live in. In this series, Chip introduces the idea of living in sacred rhythms. He tells us there's a specific way to arrange our lives that will cultivate practices and help us grow in intimate relationship with Jesus. Chip's son, Ryan Ingram, unpacks the specifics of how to live life in Sacred Rhythms.More from this series
I want to spend the rest of our time getting really practical about this rhythm of generosity and how we actually put it in place.
Because the reality is is most of us embrace sporadic generosity. And the funny part about it is we feel generous. Most Americans would call themselves generous, but statistically, forty-four point eight percent, yes, that’s very precise, of Americans do not give any of their money away. Most of us think we are generous because we remember a time when we did give someone ten dollars.
And Jesus is saying, “This is a sacred rhythm. This is something to put into practice.” And He says, “When you give to the needy…” In the Jewish world and under their context, giving and these offerings happened after a systematic, set allotted amount was given before that. It’s called the tithe.
And you have probably heard about it on Sundays, but I’ve never taught about it. I’ve taught a lot about generosity, but I want to talk a little bit for us and get practical on how do we live this out in a way that forms Christ in us in understanding: what is the tithe? And understanding what the purpose is behind all of this.
Because this is the process for us to become a, not only just a generous person, but get our lives in rhythm with God.
A few weeks ago, I was trying to have this conversation with my daughter, not because we are talking about it. My daughter is an entrepreneur, man. She’s amazing. This girl, she’s got a babysitting gig that is killing it. She’s got a ton of money in the bank. I was asking her, “What are you planning to do?” I love her answer. You know what she’s saving for? College. Fourteen years old! Yes!
She’s so focused on all that. And so, I’m working with her going, “Okay, when I was a kid, my parents had this process to train and teach us and they had three jars and it was like: give, save, spend. And you give ten percent to God, ten percent to savings, and then eighty percent you get to live off and had all this sort of stuff.
And I’m like, “Ella, you’re at the stage where you need to learn to really trust God with your money.” And we are talking about tithing and most of you know tithing has something to do with giving your money away. And we’ll talk a little bit more specifically.
And she’s like, “I know.” It’s just like we’re supposed to give our money to God, right? And here’s what I realized right in that moment. And especially with my kids and this is what I’m working really hard on right now. I’ve spent a lot of time in their early years helping them know what God has to say. And we are in a season to teach them why God said it.
Because you devoid or disconnect the “why” from the “what” it becomes like just a rote action with no deep meaning or significance. So, let me tell you why God says, “Man, embrace this rhythm of generosity and specifically the rhythm of tithing.
The big “why” is that tithing actually trains this habit, our hearts, to trust God. You were not naturally born generous. You were not naturally born giving. One of your first words as a kid, universally in America, so I don’t know how it is in other countries, is the word “mine.” You have to teach generosity. It doesn’t come simply naturally.
And so, tithing is this training mechanism that God has for us to trust Him, that we know that we can trust Him with all of our lives. If you can’t trust Him with your money, how could you trust Him with your life?
And so, He says this a little bit later on in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not store up for yourself treasure on earth where moth and vermin destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourself in treasure in heaven where moth and vermin do not destroy and where thieves do not break in.” Why? Why? Why? Why? “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Whatever you value and treasure in this life has your heart. Another way to say it, wherever your money goes, there your heart follows. Like, your bank account is one of the most spiritual documents in your life. It shows what you value and dream of and long for.
And there’s this invisible string connected to your finances and to your heart. And if you want a heart change in a specific area, like, if you wanted to have a heart for the needy, just begin to give to a homeless shelter, both your time and your money.
You’re like, I don’t even care about that, but the minute you begin to give to it, your heart will shift for it.
He would say it in a different way, Luke 16:10, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much and whoever is dishonest with little will also be dishonest with much. So, if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”
Did you notice that money is the little thing to God? It’s just the little testing area. We do this with our kids. It’s like, man, we want to give you greater responsibility as they are little. We want to give you greater freedom. And so, we are going to trust you here. And as you prove yourself trustworthy, we get to give you more because we know you’re going to be able to be faithful with that.
He goes on, No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” God is the God of the universe. He doesn’t need or want your money.
God says, “I want your heart.” And the chief competitor of your heart isn’t the devil. It’s your stuff. God’s not down on you if you have stuff, by the way. For some, you’ve lived with that. Man, I’ve got some really nice stuff. And I always have to defer. I’m going on a really nice vacation. Well, we paid points with it. I have this really nice car. Got a deal! That’s the church way. We don’t – it’s so weird.
God is not down on you if you’ve got nice stuff. He just doesn’t want your nice stuff to have you. And this process of habitually, systematically entrusting our finances to Him is what gives and aligns our heart with Him. That’s why He says tithing trains our heart to trust Him.
Well, what is the tithe? The tithe literally means a tenth. In Leviticus 27:30 it says, “A tithe,” or, “a tenth of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees belongs to the Lord. It is holy to the Lord.”
Saying that a tenth, here’s what He’s saying: A tenth of all that you have is God’s and so it’s not actually generous when you tithe. It’s just simply returning. It’s like it’s already His.
And so, you’re giving back to God ten percent of what you make. That’s what a tithe is. It’s returning to Him. Now, for some, you’re like, Ingram, that’s Old Testament. We are in the New Testament.
Oh, I’m so glad you brought that up. Jesus, in Matthew 23:23 actually reinforces the tithe there and brings that up. And you can read a bunch of different passages. Irenaeus, one of our Church fathers from 130AD to 202 writes this, “The Jews were constrained to a regular payment of tithes giving this ten percent. Christians who have liberty, assign all their possessions to the Lord, bestowing freely not the lesser portions of their property, since they have the hope of greater things.”
See, the Christian perspective is one of steward, and not entitle. Like, God, all that I have has been entrusted by You. And so, everything here, I don’t own. I’m simply a steward and so, I’m going to ask You: how would You like me to spend my money. And, in fact, my life. How would You like me to spend my time and my energy? I am a steward and all that I have is Yours. And what is going to remind me is this regularly giving back to You that trains my heart that, yes, that’s right. You are so trustworthy, Your Word is true, I can take those next steps with You.
Did you know that only two point seven percent of Americans give ten percent of their income or more? Ninety seven percent of Americans give less than ten percent, actually, far less than that. Did you know that thirteen point nine percent give less than two percent away? As mentioned earlier, forty-four point eight percent give nothing away. And, yet, somehow we think we are generous.
There’s this incredible book called The Paradox of Generosity. It was written by a sociologist from Notre Dame. I’ll actually end with a quote from it. But it’s fascinating this ten percent mark. Because this is hard for us. And he – in his book he notes, “The Americans who give away money, and more specifically, those who give away at least ten percent of their income are happier than those who do not.”
Could it be that your tradeoff isn’t a good tradeoff – reality. This rhythm of tithing and generosity. Tithing trains our heart to trust Him. Tithe literally means a tenth. And so, there is this idea of percentage giving. I’m going to choose a percent. And for some, you’re so underwater, you’re like, Ten percent? I can’t do. Start with a percent. Any percent.
For some, you need to start with ten percent and then you begin to give proportionally upon that. And, and, and, and if you’re new or if you’re hearing this and you’re just going, Ingram, I don’t trust you. That’s okay. Give somewhere else. Give to Compassion International, World Vision, Charity Water.
Oh, speaking of, second why I believe we should give to the Church, but I don’t want to miss this. It is too important for your heart and relationship with Jesus to not do this, because you think I have something in part of it. That’s always the challenge of talking about this.
Tithe. Take a tenth. Now, how do we do this? We give to God first. First. Proverbs 3:9 through 10, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the” – what’s it say?
Firstfruits. Not second-fruits. Not third-fruits. Firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing and your vats,” all of us got vats, “will brim over with new wine.”
God’s antidote for entitlement and greed and pathway to experiencing financial peace, which is different than financial freedom – and better – is found in the principle of firstfruits. When we give to God first, not last, it does not take faith to give to God last or out of what is left over.
Where you go, “Well, you know what?” Here’s the normative way that we do giving. The normative way is consume what I make. Save if I can. Give if there’s any left over.
In fact, the average American lives on a hundred and ten percent of their income. Tough to give there.
Ninety percent of Americans buy things they can’t afford. Sixty percent of Americans don’t pay off their credit card each month. Wow, that’s an exorbitant percentage that they’re paying. Eighty percent of college students graduate college with credit card debt.
And Jesus is saying, “Reverse it and flip it. It will change your life.” Give to God first. Say, Okay, I’m going to choose this percentage. Ten percent. It’s Yours already. I’m just returning. I’m actually not being generous at this moment. I’m just returning back to You. This is an act of faith and obedience, trusting that You’ll provide. Then I’m going to save, and then live on the rest.
And for some, you’re talking to me, “I can’t do that. I’ve got to tell you, I’m doing it on a pastor’s salary. I think you can too as well. But let me say this: you can’t afford not to. You can’t. The life of Christ being formed in you actually has so much to do with what you value and prioritize and your finances and how you spend your money reveal what you prioritize, what you value, and your affections.
This is so important that God actually invites us to test Him. Did you know it’s the only place in all of Scripture where He says, “Test Me on this. Try Me.” This is God, the God of the universe. I double-dog-dare you!
A heavenly Father who knows what is best and sees that His kids, like it’s really hard, and this is something that we are holding like this and we’ve got a tight grip on. And if we have a tight grip on it and it has a tight grip on us. And He’s saying, “I want to help you learn to trust Me, so test Me.”
Malachi 3:10, it says, “‘Bring the whole tithe, not part of it, into the storehouse that there may be food in My house. Test Me in the way,’ says the Lord, ‘and see if I will not throw up the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’”
Let me define blessing real quick. Robert Morris says this, “Blessing is having supernatural power working for you. A blessed person may or may not be wealthy by the world’s standards, but they enjoy a quality of life most billionaires would envy.”
See, when we write the word “blessed” we immediately go…God is going to, I’m going to give ten dollars, He will give me a thousand. That’s not how it works. That’s turning God from a heavenly Father to a genie.
Jesus would say it this way, “Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, it will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
The apostle Paul would say it this way, “Remember this, whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. Whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what he has decided in His heart to give.” Notice, there is a pre-decision in your heart: I have decided this.
It shouldn’t be this, Man, I feel oughted and guilted and manipulated. Notice, we already took offering. We are not taking a second, special offering. Not reluctantly or under compulsion. There should be no sense of manipulation. This is a private decision between you and God.
And then he goes on, “For God loves a cheerful giver.” Generous people – they are amazing to be around, aren’t they? And when I’ve been around incredibly generous people, you know what I hear from them? “I can’t believe I get to be a part of this. I can’t believe, this is so much fun to be able to support and give here and to help them. Like, wow! I get to be a part of that!”
They get to experience the blessing. “And God is able to bless you abundantly” there’s our word again, “so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need,” not all that you want, all that you need, “you will abound in every good work.” Notice that the blessing of God is so that you can abound in good work.
The Paradox of Generosity, Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson say this. Their conclusion to their study. It says, “If Americans want to become happier, healthier people who live with greater purpose, suffer less depression, enjoy more personal growth, one way they might better accomplish that is to learn to be more generous. The scientific evidence shows clearly that more generous people are doing significantly better in their lives in many important ways.” The rhythm of generosity begins with this practice of tithe.
And when you begin to practice this, you get to see God at work.
We were moving from Georgia to California and we actually had this weird circumstance. Got actually ripped out of money from our employer. And so, we had about two months with no payment. Our bank accounts going to zero. We’ve got to move across country. And I’m trying to sell our Honda Passport, one of my favorite cars. And I’m trying to sell it for five thousand dollars and it’s supposed to be our spending money to be able to move across country. Because, seriously, we are looking at, we’ve got nothing.
I’ve got a mortgage. Couldn’t sell the house yet. And God just tapped us on the shoulder and said, You know what? That family in your church that has five teenagers? Yeah, five. I want you to give them your car. And I wrestled with it for a while. I’m like, okay, but that’s our plan. That’s how we are going to provide for our family. No, I want you to give them your car.
I said, “Okay.” We talked about it. Prayed about it. Went over, said, “Hey, you know what? We just felt like God asked us to give you the car.” He said, “No, I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t.” I said, “You don’t have to deal with me. That’s what God told us. So, you need to talk to God about that one.”
And we give them the car and we are days away from moving. I think we had just a few hundred dollars in the bank. Like, Okay, God, well, I don’t know how this is going to work. I get a knock on the door and I have a courier show up. It’s the first time in my life, at that age, I ever had a courier show up. Hands me an envelope. A guy I met once wrote me a note. “Hey, heard you’re moving away. Sad to see you go. Thought you could use a little moving around money.” Inside was a check for five thousand dollars.
You have a God who can provide all that you need. Would you just begin to take little steps of faith and trust Him with what you have today?