By Lindsay Few
Have you ever felt greed sink its teeth into you? Wrap its tendrils around you like a pestilent vine, growing more quickly than you thought possible? I have. Let me tell you.
Very early into marriage, Brian & I went shopping for our first grown up purchase: A new couch. We were both still in school and we worked both a patchwork of breakfast, lunch and dinner shifts waiting tables. We were officially broke as a joke, but we lived accordingly: We spent sparingly, tithed 10% and had carefully saved up $500 for the big purchase.
We walked into a discount furniture store ready for the occasion. Immediately our budget, which had seemed generous, looked measly next to the brand new sofas and loveseats. This was disappointing. Could we afford anything at all? We almost walked right out... but then decided it couldn’t hurt to look around a little, right?
As we looked, we got a little more comfortable. We test-sat and imagined lounging happily at home (while trying to ignore the salesmen circling like birds of prey). We found one - could it be the one? A sprawling brown leather number; shiny and new - especially compared to the free giveaway couch we were replacing - and it was marked with a “sale” tag. Emboldened, Brian asked about the price. “$2,000,” the salesman answered, glad to help. (*Gulp*) But wait! He could give us no-money-down financing. We could take it home today and pay nothing until later! Were we interested? Uh, yeah, we definitely were. The smell of new leather filling our nostrils, we looked at each other, almost giddy with the possibility. It seemed too good that we could have a couch worth four times what we could pay! I think we both began to realize that maybe it was too good. “We’ll think about it and come back,” we said.
Driving home we chattered about how we would position the couch in our living room; how happy we’d be with this fancy new upgrade. Back at home, we grew quiet. How quickly we’d been lured into wanting - no, needing! - the couch once we’d found it. Backing out now would be such a let down. Yet, knowing how easy it could be to abandon our $500-budget plan; seeing how effortlessly we’d both moved from a mindset of stewarding each dollar carefully to “must-have-it-now” spooked us.
We decided not to go back for the couch. The tentacles of greed seemed wrapped up in it. Instead, we agreed to take half our budget and put it toward the capital campaign at our church. Giving $250 felt huge, but we wanted a hard break from grabby greed. A reset of trusting God and stewarding well what He provided.
Generosity is one of the best antidotes to the poison of greed. But why give to the church, specifically? Many say that buying lunch for a friend or donating to a favorite charity “counts” as tithing. These things may be generous, but they aren’t tithing.
Following Jesus means loving Him; treasuring what He treasures. The Church is high on that list. Scripture refers to the Church as Christ’s bride, and the level of care that indicates is clear: “No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.” Ephesians 5:29, 30. He loves His bride enough to die for her.
If we say we love Jesus, but fail to also love His Church, we are missing out. This is what made it easy then to give to our church: In giving, we partner with God to build up what he loves. Giving reminds us that our lives are not just our own, but are part of something bigger. We are invited to build God’s kingdom right here in our own church body. God doesn’t need anything we can give, for as He says, “the world is Mine, and the fullness thereof.” (Psalm 50.) It’s all His anyway; we are graciously invited into the mission of building His kingdom on earth. The more we trust Him into the details of our actual life; into the details of our dollars, the more we can live the fullness of life He invites us into.
Start with a consistent percentage
If you’re unsure of “where the money goes” at church, ask!
Ask God how he wants you to give. Notice how He shapes your heart as you do what He says
Epilogue: A couple of weeks later, Brian stopped by Pier One to look for a couch. They had one on sale; additionally discounted since it was the floor model. It was $250 exactly and felt to us like a gift from God.