Aloha Friday Message – October 14, 2011 – How to Measure Up

1141AFC101411 – How to Measure Up

Read it online here.

Matthew 22:21“At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Aloha nui loa, Beloved. Today I am thinking about duty. In this passage of scripture (Matthew 22:15-21), the Pharisees have teamed up with another military/political splinter group to hassle Jesus. They want to set a trap for him in the hope of discrediting him. It didn’t work. Once again, they ended up looking like fools. If he answered it was not right to pay the census tax, he would be breaking the law and urging others – his disciples – to break the law. If he said it was right to pay the census tax, then he was supporting the right of the occupying Romans. He told them to deal fairly with both the World and with God.

We face the same dilemma today in many ways. We have to pay our taxes, pay for our utilities, pay for whatever the government does for (or to) us. The governments have pretty strict rules about what you have to pay and when; you can get in trouble, even go to jail – or, worse, prison – if you don’t follow the rules to the letter (or to the penny). Most of us feel it’s right to do our fair share to support the governments that provide services and infrastructure for everyone, for the military because of the protection and security it gives, the courts for the justice and vision they can provide, and the peoples’ representatives who help provide stability to the governance of each level of society.

Sometimes of course we disagree with how the monies we “contribute” are used in these circumstances, and we look for ways to reform the process, or we protest the way things work, and sometimes some people even deliberately break the law as a form of protest against what they perceive to be unfair. Others deliberately break the law because they are selfish – cheating on taxes for example, or defrauding Medicare. Those kinds of actions hurt all of us. Many believe that the laws need to be rewritten so that the burden of providing for the operations of government is shared more fairly. Whichever of these positions you choose, we know an adage that pretty well sums up the final outcome of the status of taxation just about anywhere in the world today: “Only two things are certain in life: Death, and Taxes.” (From Benjamin Franklin in a letter to Jean-Baptise Leroy: “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”)

Well, Old Ben sure hit the nail on the head! You are going to die, and you’ve got to pay your taxes or go to jail. Taxes are what you owe the government for taking care of you. It’s the law. It’s a regulation we need to promote the good for all of society. It’s certainly not a perfect solution, but then pretty much nothing involving the government’s money is perfect. Of course, if you are talking about God’s money now that’s a whole different story.

We have heard the jokes about God’s money. “I’ll write him a check. It’s up to him to cash it.” “Throw the money up into the air. Anything he catches he can keep.”

It’s not a joking matter, though. God has rules for your money, too; and, there are penalties for breaking those rules. “Oh, Rats!” you say, “He’s going to start yammering about tithing.” Well, yes, that’s part of it, but there’s a lot more. Many of you know that writing books about how to get rich using the principles of tithing are making the authors rich.You see Televangelists telling you your life will become flush and plush if you just send them $10, or for a gift of $1,000 you can get a genuine brass ring for another ride on the Merry-Go-Round and a nice little plastic plaque that names you as a Foundation Donor. At the other end of the spectrum you will find preachers who talk about the Economy of Godliness and the perils of failing to give God his due, “stealing God’s money” by failing to give a full tithe. Most of us are somewhere in the middle and the average manage to donate around 2% of their gross income to the church they attend.

Ideally, and historically, a tithe is one-tenth of something paid (hopefully voluntarily) to some governing or guiding level of an organization – commonly a religious group. Historically, also, tithes were paid in-kind – a tenth of the crop, a tenth of the land, a tenth of a commodity. More recently they are considered to be one-tenth of an income. It is around that little nub of information that you’ll find a lot of wiggle room.

Some insist that giving a full 10% off the top is God’s rule of thumb for successful management of Time, Talent, and Treasure. Others will tell you to pick something you can reasonably afford and then do that consistently. Whenever you can do better, raise the amount you give and keep it there until you do better again. The Pharisees were “finger-tithing.” Their motivation was to be seen obeying the law, and to give the appearance of righteousness. God asked for a tenth to be given in love and gratitude to honor and glorify him and for the good of the community. When we tithe only by a formula, we are doing the same thing the Pharisees did. Give to God what belongs to God because of your respect and awe for all he has given. Begin with a full tithe given in love and ask God to help you budget the rest.

I am not going to take the role of a pundit to write about the best way to tithe. The only things I will tell you about tithing are that 1) you must somehow decide to give regularly (frequency and amount) to the support of your center of worship, 2) give it as a gift – not an investment – and without expectation of a return, and 3) don’t be afraid to increase the level of your gift but always try to avoid decreasing the amount.

What I specifically want to remind you is that tithing is not enough. You must also make sacrificial gifts: Donations to charities, “second collections” at church (especially if they are for missionary work or for the specific needs of your place of worship), appeals and campaigns, youth groups (please, please, please!), disaster relief, and things that move your heart – starving children, for example.

The Saints tell us about living through relying solely on God. We’ve seen it done. Why can’t we do it? We lack the will, plain and simple, and I am as guilty of this as anyone. I also think there might be some of what I call the Abraham Effect: God prepares us for the things he expects from us. It appears some of us are better prepared to be sacrificial givers; however, ALL of us have been prepared to tithe, therefore all of us should. All of us understand what it means to make a sacrifice – some understand better than others – so all of us should also make sacrificial offerings. “Why do we have to have all of these second collections? Just get over it already!” Think of it as an installment plan. Sure, you already put your offering in your little envelope every weekend, sure you give a “free-will” offering now and again (usually a buck or two hastily hauled out of your wallet), and sure you give to this or that campaign or charity. That’s what I’m thinking of. The little envelope is your tithe, the others are your sacrificial offerings, and you should take advantage of every opportunity that comes around for those sacrifices. Why?

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap; for with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” We often hear about the importance of Stewardship of Time, Talent, and Treasure. I know it wouldn’t kill me to be more generous with all of those things. In fact, in light of what Jesus said, I think I need to revise my approach to giving by revising my approach to spending. Instead of asking God how much to give back to him after I’ve figured out how much I need, I think I should be asking God how to spend my time, talent, and treasure – especially the treasure – in ways that allow me not only to give the tithe a full 10% or more, but also to be prepared for and to manage real sacrificial gifts.

So, pay your taxes as you should, and when you do that, consider it as fulfilling that part of your duty as a citizen. When it comes to tithing, do it willingly and well. God created the universe, and God created you. God’s Principles run the universe, and one of those Principles is that we should give a return to God from the best that we have, off the top, and without whining about it. It is more than “just a rule.” It is a biblical principle decreed and approved by God. The principle is that every time you measure-up, increase your generosity, God uses the same larger measure to measure back.

Missionaries around the world are risking their lives to spread the Gospel. Pray for their safety, their success, and their needs. One of the missionaries in the same vicinity where the Pierce family is working in Haiti was shot recently. Pray for a full recovery from the wounds received.

Family values are under constant assault clear around the globe. The virtue and sacrament of marriage has been so badly contaminated by the desire for instant gratification that many couples these days have lost the sense of holiness that comes from becoming one flesh. As a result, shacking-up, multiple partners, and total lack of commitment to each other produces strong waves of disharmony which are destroying civilization – the only way earthlings can associate with one another. If you’re living in or supporting that kind of relationship, stop. Go back to what God intended. You are worth more than just a casual, “open-ended” relationship. Beloved, pray for restoration of right and holy relationships between men and women.

Remember our friends with cancer, especially FO who had to go back into treatment, and continue to pray for those who have stayed in remission.

Pray for restoration of relationships for KG, DM, KD, DR, and many others whose heart-breaking losses of love and caring have been devastating.

Pray for the Fruits of the Spirit: Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Generosity. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control.

Pray for, with, and about one another. Read your Bible so you can hear God speaking to you. Go to church – not for what you can get out of it, but for what you can put into it. Make time to be Holy. It has always been what God wants most for you.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.

This just in: KW writes ” When I’m asked to pray for others, I find that I am the one who gets closer to God. wrote out this long thing, only to realize it’s a reminder message that “I” needed. Anyway, we all can remember that Christ’s love and forgiveness is all we’ll ever need to be whole, healed, unashamed…. Faith in that brings us into communion with the one who can do everything.”

And the People of God said, AMEN

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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