Dr. Shield's Blog

Give Until It Hurts

Dear Friends,

In Romans 12:1-2, we read, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect."

St. Paul joins the spiritual to the physical when he says that our "spiritual worship" involves presenting our "bodies as a living sacrifice." Just as Jesus is God-in-the-flesh for us, our lives as disciples of Jesus must become "incarnational" - the spiritual enfleshed in the physical and relational dimensions of our lives.

This means that how I use my material possessions is one dimension of "presenting my body as a living sacrifice" to God as my "spiritual worship." The most important reason that I follow the Biblical practice of tithing is to worship God. As a practical matter, the tithe is 10 percent of my gross income given back to God through his Church. This is prior to other forms of "charitable giving." My charitable giving is directed to ministries or needs in which I feel called to participate and to which I want to direct my funds. Because I am directing or controlling where those gifts are used, I do not consider my "charitable giving" to be an act of worship, although it hopefully reflects my worship of God. God does not need my "charitable giving" as a kindness to him; God is worthy - and only God is worthy - of my worship.

By definition, worship is an act of surrender of my life back to my Creator and Redeemer, through praise, adoration, repentance, listening and responding to the Word and call of God, confession, commitment, and  acts of compassion, mercy and justice. Tithing is a wonderful expression of the discipline of surrender, of presenting my "body" as a "living sacrifice." By giving the first and best back to God as an act of worship, we acknowledge God really to be the one true God and not just one of many lesser gods to whom we commit our lives.

I have had to grow into this way of worshiping God. Unlike some people I admire, I did not start out as a tither. I've told the story of the time in college when I made my first real financial commitment to the Church - a pledge of $60, or $5 per month. I was terrified to make that commitment! My pastor, Dr. Bob Waters, helped motivate me to make that commitment in a sermon in which he told the story of how, when he was very young, an older Christian had told him the spiritual secret of how to become faithful to God with his money: "give until it hurts! And then keep giving until it stops hurting!"

I began by taking that one small step, and I am so grateful that, over the years, God has helped me to grow in my financial giving. I am looking forward to making my pledge to the Trinity United Methodist Church for 2016, because this is a Biblical expression of my worship to God. It is one way in which I can respond to God's Word: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."

Grace and peace,

Bob Shield

Posted by Bob Shield at 4:44 PM