I begin today with a confession. I don’t offer it lightly. In fact, I’m talking about this because I feel God telling me to. But I’d prefer to keep it a secret, frankly.
First, a little background, just to set it up.
I’ve been speaking in front of groups of people since I was 6 years old. I don’t say that to brag. Many people can look back into their childhood see the consistent trajectory of their lives. I know mechanics who say, “I started working on cars with my Dad when I was a toddler.” I’ve talked with parents of talented musicians who say things like, “From the time she could crawl, she had an instrument in her hands.” Lots of people have a story like this linking what they do or what they are skilled at today with a long history that developed that skill.
So I’ve been doing this for a long time. And it’s not uncommon for someone to ask me: “Are you ever nervous before preaching or teaching?” My answer is always a quick no. I’m never nervous. Bu there is one exception.
Now to my confession: I’m always anxious when I teach about giving. Always. While I’m teaching, I’m fully aware that there are people who are hostile to the idea. There are others who see a pastor teaching on giving or tithing as a conflict of interest. And, of course, there are people who are just taking a step into church and attempting to overcome their many negative stereotypes of the church, one of which is commonly, ‘all the church wants is my money.’
Someone asked me after Sunday’s message why I don’t teach on giving and tithing more than twice per year (they were really making a suggestion). I told them two a year was all I had in me. That’s my confession: I don’t like teaching on giving.
But my confession is really more like a struggle. Because I believe that at the heart of God is a Love that Gives. In fact, Giving DEFINES Love! You cannot have love without giving. Further, I completely, 100% believe that you can’t be a fully devoted follower of Jesus and refuse to allow Him access to your finances.
Giving is at the CORE of the Christmas message. Think about it: Why are people more generous at Christmas? Is it cultural and socially acceptable? Sure. But I think there is also something deeper than that. Why did God give us Jesus – which we celebrate at Christmas? God gave because God loves!
For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life. (John 3:16, The Voice)
To be sure, God’s love and our response isn’t only about financial giving. But think about this: God loved us and what He gave was His Son! Love equaled a sacrificial, painful, gut-wrenching gift. We received love from God in the form of something He gave away.
This is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about not holding anything back in my devotion to God. God gave His All for me. I owe Him nothing less in return.
But for me – and for you – there is always some area where we are holding back – at least a little. So ask yourself today: Is there a place in my heart or in my life where I’m unwilling to give something up for God? Pray and ask God this simple question: Am I holding something back from you? This could be a key part of us all being ready for Christmas this year.