I have often said that God is not offended by our questions. In fact, He encourages them and definitely can handle them. I believe that honest, heart-felt questions can deepen our understanding of God and His will. You'll notice in Scripture there were numerous times when God's children questioned Him - and even asked for specific things.
While standing by the oaks of Mamre, Abraham asked the Lord, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" (Genesis 18:25b)
At a very important time in his life, David asked the Lord two very specific questions:
After this David inquired of the Lord, "Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?" And the Lord said to him, "Go up." David said, "To which shall I go up?" And he said, "To Hebron." 2 Samuel 2:1-2 (ESV)
Now, most often in life, the types of questions that come to mind have to do with tragedies. Questions like "Why has my loved one been diagnosed with cancer?" or "Why did so-and-so have to die?" These are serious questions and God does not shy away from them, so ask. There are other questions that come to mind regarding direction in life. Questions like "Which college should I attend?" or "Should I even go to college?" or maybe "Should I take this job or that one?"
I remember questions I would ask as a child that were really serious like "Is the Loch Ness Monster real?" Still haven't received an answer on this one. Perhaps it's because the question isn't really that important.
As you know, if you've been reading recent postings, I've been reading Randy Alcorn's book The Treasure Principle. It's an incredible little book all about realizing God's plan for being glorified through our lives. This book addresses how we often view giving. I believe Christians often have a worldly view regarding giving. In truth, some churches and minisitries operate on a worldly plan as well. In some cases, there are churches and ministries who should never receive gifts, based on their teaching and financial practices. However, rather than just present another book or teaching on why everyone should tithe, Alcorn addresses the core issue regarding grace and giving and materialism.
At the end of the book, he has a listing of "31 Radical, Liberating Questions to Ask God About Your Giving." This is not just another "You need to tithe" study. It's not even based on guilt, which is incredible especially since most sermons and teachings in the church seem to be guilt-motivated. (BTW - guilt-motivated giving never lasts long and I'm not really sure it's even God-honoring.) This is about experiencing God's grace fully and living our lives in His honor, for His Kingdom. I've summarized these questions below. I highlighted many portions of these questions in my book, so I thought I'd highlight them below as well. Guess these are the ones that really get me. Get a copy of the book here to read and to get the expanded questions with biblical references.
Questions to Ask God About My Giving (The Treasure Principle, 99-120)
- Time and again in Your Word, Lord, You make a direct connection between experiencing grace and expressing grace through giving. Grace is your lightning, and giving is our thunder in response. So here's my question: Has the degree of my giving suggested that I have recognized and embraced the full extent of Your grace in my life? Or does it suggest I need to recognize and respond to Your grace in deeper and more heartfelt ways?
- Could it be You have rased me up - with the financial assets You've entrusted to me - for such a time as this?
- Is my life revolving around You? Since money and things have mass, and mass exerts gravity, and gravity holds us in orbit, what can I give away that will bring me greater freedom?
- Have I been acting as if I own the store and You work for me, rather than recognizing that You own it and I work for You?
- Where in my community - or in the whole world - do You want me to go, to see and participate in meeting physical and spiritual needs through Christ-centered ministries?
- Why have You entrusted me with greater financial blessings than I once had? I guess I've assumed You've done it to raise my standard of living. But now, I'm asking "Is it instead to raise my standard of giving?"
- Have I overaccumulated? Have I allowed unwise spending and accumulating debet to inhibit my giving to You?
- I've wondered why You haven't blessed me more financially. Could it be that I've been spending money myself first, rather than giving You the firstfruits of what You've provided?
- Is it ever irresponsible for me to give to You now - no matter what my situation - rather than wait until later?
- Would it honor You if I determined a basic level of income and assets sufficient to live on, then simply gave away whatever You provide beyond that?
- Will the assets, accounts, and holdings I've stored up on earth be wasted if You return in my lifetime?
- Doesn't the fact that You've entrusted Your money to me, not others, indicate that You want me - during my lifetime - to invest in eternity, rather than passing along that responsibility to my children?
- How can I be sure that the assets You've entrusted to me will serve You after I die? If my children are adults and independent, should I just give away now what I can and, when I die, leave most of what remains to my church or missions or ministries that are close to Your heart?
- What's the eternal downside in giving as much as I can give to You now? What's the eternal downside of minimizing my giving or delaying giving until later? Is there a real danger in giving too much too soon? Or is the true danger in giving too little too late?
- You've prompted me to give now. If I delay that giving - for whatever reason - is it possible I may die before I get a chance to give it later? Or, might the money disappear before I get around to giving it?
- By postponing giving, will my heart become hardened to Your promptings to give?
- Since I have no choice but to leave money behind when I die, is it really "giving" to designate through my will the distribution of my estate? Will I rob myself the joy and reward and rob You of my trust by holding on, until death, to significant assets I could have joyfully given to You while still alive?
- Why are my eyes so often focused on temporary, earthly investments with such pitifully small returns? Who could match Your promise of 10,000 percent (a hundredfold return)?
- Help me see clearly when it comes to where I give Your money. Am I giving to causes You truly value most? Opera? Art museums? The Humane Society? As good as those things may be, are they as close to Your heart as evangelism, discipleship, church planting, or helping the poor, the disabled, the imprisoned, and the unborn and their mothers?
- Since I make twice as much money as most people do [globally], might giving away half of what I have be a reasonable Christ-honoring option for me?
- If I'm not putting everything on the table and asking You what You want me to do with it, am I really Your disciple?
- Why do I hang on to my possessions with a white-knuckle grip? Am I trying to prove something? Is it about pride? Power? Prestige? Selfishness? Insecurity? Fear? Without realizing it, am I making money my God-substitute?
- Am I living to hear others say of me "He's a great success!" - or to have You say to me, "WEll done, My good and faithful servant"?
- Is my fear of health-related catastrophes and old age causing me to hold back my giving? When it comes right down to it, am I hanging on to excess as a backup plan in case You fail me?
- Are my material assets competing for lordship in my life with You?
- What specifically am I hanging on to that You want me to give away?
- How can I better communicate and pray with my spouse and children so we can walk together down this exhilarating road of giving?
- What am I doing - and what should I be doing - to train my children to regular, joyful and generous givers?
- Have I been missing out on blessing and joy by not excersiging the gift of giving?
- If I am a giver, who have I been teaching and mentoring in giving? Are you calling some to be examples who show others how to give and stir them to raise the bar of giving?
- Five minutes after I die, what will I wish I had given away while I still had the chance?
These are incredible questions and force me to think about my concepts of giving and grace. I love the concept that God's grace is the lightning and our giving is the responsive thunder. Wow. That, and the concept of my material possessions having mass and the gravity from that mass holding me too tightly.
I choose to experience God's grace and freedom and do not want my "stuff" (which really isn't mine anyway) keeping me from this. How difficult in the affluent nation we live in where being patriotic and pursuing the "American Dream" is the driving force for many, is it to live as fully devoted followers of Christ?
God is really working in me through this study. It's a study centered around shifting from self-centric living to God-centric living. It's about understanding that my salvation is not just a one time event, but continues throughout my lifetime through His sanctification.