The Problem We Have With What We Have

Wealth is not just summed up by dollars and cents, but if you make more than $10K a year, you are among the wealthiest in our world. []

I have a dear friend that has seemed to always struggle with the thought, “Why did God bless me more than others?”  She is uncomfortable in her position because she feels like having wealth means she has more responsibility.

Like God expects something more of her.

I want to crawl out on a limb here and say, “He does”.  But no more than you or I, or anyone else who is a believer.

The problem here is not always how much you have, but what you do with it.

Here are some questions for you to think about:

–Am I willing to sacrifice?   Do I use my time, talent, and resources just to provide for my own needs or am I looking for ways to bless others?  When was the last time I gave up something so I could meet someone else’s needs before my own?

–Do I show true kindness to others?  It is so easy for us to stay focused on our own little world, so much so that we forget to look around us.  We ought to be aware of this hurting world that desperately needs to see God’s love in action.  We can give our money, but often what others need most is just a kind word.

Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A

–Am I generous?  I didn’t say rich. (But did you read that statistic or just breeze through it without letting it settle in too deeply?)  Generosity is more than how deep your pockets are.  It comes from the heart.  One that flows from gratitude.  Being thankful for what we have is never measured by how much we have.  If you are the kind of person that holds tightly to your possessions, beware.  They will come to own you.  Ask God to help you see ways that you can be generous.  Giving is contagious.  The more you give, the more joy you receive and the more you want to give!

–Do I recognize the source of my own blessings?  You may have earned a paycheck, but if you are only looking at your bank balance you are very confused about the blessings you have been given.  It’s not just about money.  If you are living in a free country, be thankful.  You have family and friends and every kind of comfort that much of the world will never experience.  Being thankful for the little things changes how you see the big things.  In every high and every low we have a God who provides.  I can have all the monetary wealth of the world and not have the peace that comes from knowing Him.

Now for those of you who are on the opposite end of the spectrum, your dilemma is quite the opposite.  You seem to never have enough.  Every month trying to make ends meet you feel like you’re stretching a Slinky like a short bungee cord across the bed of the pick up truck– it doesn’t quite reach and seems to keep going back to where it started.

The principles remain the same.

“It’s not how much you have, but what you do with what you have.”

I know.  It seems contradictory when you look at your paycheck.  “How can I sacrifice when I am barely making ends meet?”  “How can I be generous when I have so little to give?”

The answer goes back to that story of the widow’s mite.  Recognizing that all we have is a gift from God, we trust him–even when it’s hard.

No–especially when it’s hard.

I could tell you countless stories of when we were young and in seminary and didn’t have much in the way of income.  We didn’t have much in savings for most of our early marriage.  It took everything we had just to pay our bills and feed our kids.

But we were happy and made memories that will last a lifetime.

We would share a sundae at DQ or rent a movie instead of going to a theatre.  We ate out only on rare occasions and even had to count all the change we had in our pockets to pay for an anniversary dinner.  We can laugh about it now, and we ponder the fact that we don’t remember every anniversary, but we do remember that one!

Here’s the thing not everyone wants to hear:  The Bible is very clear about what we are to do with our income, including giving it back.  It’s all God’s in the first place; He’s the one who has provided our jobs and our wealth.  Tithing (the word literally means “tenth”) is about giving back to your local church so they can operate as a lighthouse in your community.  (Someone has to pay the light bill! :))

My husband and I have always tithed–even when we didn’t have much in the way of disposable income.  The definition of “disposable income” should mean “the income left after tithing“–not before.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight. Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. This will be healing for your body and strengthening for your bones. Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest; then your barns will be completely filled, and your vats will overflow with new wine.  Proverbs 3:5-10

It is a hard concept for some, but when your perspective about money is changed, you will often find it changes your perspective about everything else.

Sam Houston, “after 61 years of fighting the English, Mexicans, fellow politicians, and his own sin, he turned his life over to Christ… His baptism was scheduled for November 19, 1854:

As Houston walked down to the water’s edge, Rev. Burleson noted that Houston still had his watch on his hip. He pointed it out to Houston, and the politician handed it to a friend. “You’d better hand him your wallet, too,” remarked the well-intentioned pastor.

“No, I believe not pastor. I’m afraid it needs baptizing, too,” responded Houston.  [The Baptism of Sam Houston]

Holding tightly to our possessions will only drown us in the end–it’s letting go and the recognition that those resources can be used for good or for bad that sets us free.  They are only tools in our hands that enable us to do our job even better.

Well, what does that look like?  Let me help you see this perspective a little clearer:

Sacrifice means that we don’t just “tip” God.  We go above and beyond–sometimes until it hurts–to be obedient.  You know, like going the extra mile.  Being the one who gives up what they want for the good of others.  We always think, “When I get more, then I will give… time… tithe… sacrifice.”  It doesn’t work that way.  The best example we could follow would be the example Jesus gave:

Sitting across from the temple treasury, he watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little. Summoning his disciples, he said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had —all she had to live on.  Mark 12:41-44

Kindness costs you nothing, but can mean the world to someone else. That grumpy checkout person just might be struggling to pay their bills and every day has to watch as shoppers ring up purchases on frivolous things that could have paid their light bill.  Or that misbehaving child in the restaurant?  Maybe, just maybe, those precious parents desperately needed a night out, but with no family in the area, struggled to find a babysitter they could trust, so they took little Johnny with them.  Oh yeah, and that little Johnny that you think is ruining your dinner–he’s a foster child that has already been in 4 different homes and wonders why no one wants him…

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or without clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick, or in prison, and visit you?’

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  Matthew 25:37-40

Generosity seems to be the key to blessing.  Being thankful for what we have is the bottom rung on the staircase to the next level of giving–and blessing.  When you are generous–going above and beyond what is required–that is when you see God do His greatest work.  We can be obedient in tithing and see how God provides, but it is when we are generous that we get to share in the blessing of others.  Generosity doesn’t start when you have a lot.  It starts when you have little and you choose to go beyond what is comfortable.  Truth is, the more generous you become, the more giving gets “comfortable”.  Natural.  I would venture to say even, supernatural.

Gratitude is a choice.  When you roll out of bed in the morning, you are the only person who can decide if you will have a thankful spirit.  Whatever you face today, there is always something to be thankful for.  If you’re not seeing it, then I suggest opening God’s Word and asking Him to reveal truth to you.  The creator of the universe created you.  He knows where you are.  He knows where you are going today, and He promises to walk beside you and guide you through your unique circumstance.  When I was getting spinal injections and in great pain the other day, I spent the time focusing on Him instead of my pain.  It hurt.  A LOT.  But I knew that my sister had gone through this–AND back surgery.  I also “just happened” to meet a woman just two days before that had been in a car accident and had to get 3 times more injections than I did.

There is always something to be thankful for.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. By his own choice, he gave us birth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.  James 1:16-18

Have a blessed Christmas, friends.  Take my words and ponder what it is that God wants to give you this Christmas.  Maybe He wants to increase what you have, or…

maybe His great desire for you is that you increase what you give.

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