Running Through Hurdles
I am sitting at my computer in my own home. I have food in my cupboards, I can hear the water running for laundry I am washing and I just finished looking over my bills. God has been dealing with me about money…like a lot.
Tithe (Also Known as Hurdle 1)
I have heard possibly every scripture about tithing in my many years in church. I remember having preachers yell to “plant your seed” financially speaking, making promises of abundance in return. I have heard the hell, fire, and brimstone version of tithing that was a scare tactic. Only in the last 15 months have I heard from the pulpit that tithe, although a requirement, is also a gift. It is meant to be something joyful. I want to be obedient and as a result about a year ago we began tithing…or so I thought.
In Deuteronomy 26 we are told to give of our first fruits. In ancient times that meant literal fruits from the fields, cattle etc. Today it is our salaries. I really considered the amount on my paycheck to be my “first fruits” because that was all I saw of my check. The more I prayed for financial break through the more I seem to hit walls. I KNOW that I am the variable here. God is constant and faithful so it comes back to what I am doing and why I am doing it. The first thing is in the last couple weeks I have started tithing on our salaries before taxes. Right now I am on workers comp so that number is not a huge difference. I am not giving with a grudge. I was quite happy to increase that gift. However, I realized I have been giving in an absent-minded sort of way.
Some time ago I mentioned that I use our automatic giving option with the church. At first, I thought this was amazing because I made sure I gave my tithe…it was set up just like a bill. And there you have it. I was trying to save tithe envelopes, be efficient and make sure I paid…but that zapped intention out of giving for me. I did not even realize it. It had become a ritual, a bill to be paid. Unless it is a final payment, when have you experienced JOY in paying a bill? (Add order more checks to the To-Do List).
Pride (Hurdle 2)
This week in service we focused on James 5:1-6. I give both in tithe and time. I try to be fair to others. I do not wear expensive clothes, jewelry or drive a luxury auto. My home is nice and modest. Everything I have we have worked hard to have. We are struggling with my being out on workers comp. When we moved to West Virginia it depleted our savings trying to juggle the house in North Carolina and the bills here. Then it was one health issue or child issue after another…we never got our head back above water.
I have had people graciously offer to help in very real, tangible ways and I keep saying no. We are trying to recover from well intended, but poorly executed decisions of the past. Here is the problem I have with this generosity being offered. Others need help so much more than I do. Others go without food, I may have to pay some late or over limit fees. Then in my connect group one of the dear ladies said that if you can’t receive…you can’t give. I did not think this was pride. I though I was dealing with the ramifications of past decisions. Her words made me question, am I actively refusing for others to receive joy through blessing me?
I am still praying and struggling with this. Granny used to mention people putting up a “poor mouth”. These were people looking for hand outs, not a hand up. They were users and abusers of the generosity of others. I am not trying to put up a poor mouth – besides Granny would smack me if I did. I think in the past I have been the one being fattened for slaughter as in James 5:5. I have chased opportunities. I have been driven to over-come and succeed. In fact, the Sunday before the 4th of July, in my connect group Ms. Joi prayed over me that I not be driven but be lead. Those words marinated in my spirit until this weekend hearing the message from James 5. We talked about hoarding money, possessions and abilities. I hoard my troubles. Not only from others but from God. I share my struggles through my blog but when you convey the impact on a person…words sometimes are simply not enough. I hold on to so many of my struggles, especially financially. I fear bankruptcy, foreclosure and having utilities turned off. See I have been there before. I have sat in the dark when my children were young because I could not pay a light bill for another 2 days. (No I am not in those dire straits.)
I promise I did not think I had a pride issue with money…but I am realizing that I do. I am not scheming to advance, that is not me and never has been. I do not want to take what someone else may desperately need. I do not want to impede another person’s blessing either. In fact, I have simply been praying for a better job for my husband and a different job for myself. I want to be able to do more for others…that can’t be pride or can it?
In our guide for the series on James it says this in reference to James 5:1-6 “At first glance this is just another message about money…but there’s really more going on here than that…it’s about the desires of our hearts and the issue of pride. Money is just a symptom of a much deeper problem that James is dealing with.”
We can have the best of intentions. We can not want to burden others, not make our loved ones worry, want to earn our keep and even not wanting to receive something that someone else needs more. It all sounds great, so selfless right? WRONG. The enemy takes all those good intentions and wraps pride in the middle. We end up suffering more, feeling shame, failure and so many more emotions that do not belong to the children of God. Our dependence on God is often going to also require interdependence on the body of Christ. Can you imagine a Pastor, dependent on God, but refusing help from his staff or congregation? It does not even sound feasible…so why are we any different. The early church took care of each other. They met each other’s needs and cared for one another. Meeting needs comes in many forms and sometimes it is as simple as kindness, prayer and encouragement. Sometimes it may be providing a ride for someone at church, giving money or taking time to visit. Provision and need come in many forms.
We need next steps. For me that starts with prayer and the bible. A friend at church gave me the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Program, so that is the next step. I have to trust more in God than in my understanding. Pride and all its friends have no place in my life. I am a conqueror because Jesus said so. Enough is enough. God has the authority over every struggle and he gives grace to amplify my faith and overcome my doubt and pride. I do not know how God will meet my needs. We are praying for jobs and other breakthroughs…but I do not know what the breakthroughs will look like. That is perfectly ok and when it scares me, my Abba Father is there to take away every fear.
Each of us deals with some struggle that boils down to a heart issue. Take command of those issues in your life. Pray for God to give you wisdom to recognize where you have dropped the ball. It is probably something subtle that you even think is generous or virtuous. That is the way the enemy works. After all, if he showed up with horns, a tail and a PowerPoint of how he is messing us up…we would run the other way.
Share the scripture you use to fight and win your battles.