New Testament "Giving" beats Old Testament "Tithing" Practices

When I tell some people I don't believe in tithing, they automatically think I don't believe in giving. And such is the furthest thing from the truth.

I believe in generous and liberal giving.

I just happen to believe that since there is no more Levitical priesthood to support, I don't need to reimburse anybody for their services in a temple that no longer exists, or as a sign of gratitude to Yahweh for the land He's given Abraham and his children to dwell in forever.  Such is simply not my covenant, and such are not the promises that God has given me.

Instead, I recognize that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all these things commanded to the children of Israel, including the tithe.  And I believe we as Christians are no more called to tithe than we are called to circumcise our sons on the eight day of their birth, or to offer up any other type of sacrifice, because Jesus Christ has become to us our circumcision, our sacrifice, and our to tithe.  In light of such things, it simply does not make any sense to think we are required to tithe anymore.

And I don't think I'm alone in this feeling.

For all the preaching you hear in some churches, it is estimated that at best, only 10-15% of church members actually tithes a tenth of their gross income.  There are two reasons for this.  Either the church is full of greedy people who want to rob God, or the church is full of people who simply believe that God has called us to do something besides blindly writing a check every week to the church for an amount equal to ten percent of our income.

Granted, there is definitely a place for greed in this equation. But most Christians I know are very generous people.  Some give ten percent or more, and others give less.  But at the end of the day, I can't say I've ever known a Christian who wasn't a giver, because all have recognized that God has abundantly blessed them, and have by nature become givers themselves.

We as Christians are a people who recognize that Jesus Christ gave us His all, so we can't help but give as a result. Giving is as natural to a Christian as breathing is to all of humanity.

Whether people give ten percent, or whether people give less, I'm convinced God is just as happy with both sets of people just the same. And I believe God causes it to rain on both just the same (Matthew 5:45).  He is the same Lord, and is Lord of ALL! And He has blessed all Christians with every blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), regardless of the percentage of income they sign over from their paycheck.

Contrary to the exasperated claims of some preachers, there is not a single Christian alive that God has cursed because of their failure to tithe.

We don't live under the threat of the Old Testament curses anymore.  Jesus Christ gave us a "better covenant" with "better promises," (Hebrews 8:6) a covenant that promises us "life" (2 Corinthians 3:6), and not a covenant that threatens us with "curses" and "death."  All the curses in this world Jesus Christ became for us on our behalf when He hung on a tree (Galatians 3:13).  Clearly, ministers who continue to threaten other believers with financial curses for failing to tithe clearly have a very deficient understanding of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

I believe because of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross, we need to rethink our giving practices.  For Jesus Christ has brought to this world a new and better way.  As great as the things were that God instructed Israel through Moses, Jesus Christ has freed us to live a way of life that simply was not possible under Moses.

Tithing was done in the Old Testament in order to maintain an old covenant way of life.

Tithing was commanded in order to preserve the temple order and feed the priesthood and their families.  It was also done in order to help the poor who were experiencing lack, even as they lived in the land of promise.  And in this, tithing it was very limited within its scope.  The blessings associated with tithing under the old covenant stopped at the borders of Israel.  Tithing was given in order to maintain everyday life within the borders of a theocratic state, and ultimately make it possible for Jesus to be born.  As a result, tithing had a very limited purpose and in its reach.

But now Jesus Christ, the seed ultimately promised to Abraham, has come.  And now, when we give, we do not give in order to maintain any sort of priesthood or theocratic state.  Nor do we give to the poor as a result of the promised land not being such a great place to live.  Rather, we give out of a result of being a people who have experienced the blessings of the Gospel being worked into the very fabric of our lives, and we give in order that other people across the entire world might experience the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Instead of giving to maintain life, we now give in order to give life to others.

Can you see the difference?

We give, not so much because we are thankful to God and want to honor Him for the increase we have experienced in our lives (though we do), but we give because we are blessed beyond measure, and want all the nations of the earth to be blessed, and to enjoy the overflow of what we have in Christ.  We give because we are thinking outside the finite blessings that were limited by the borders of Israel under the old covenant.  We give because we have a greater mission, a mission that tithing has no means of fulfilling.

I believe as Christians, we need to seriously rethink how we give and what we give to, as a result of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.    

Don't get me wrong, I am all for us giving to the support of the ministry of the church.  There are brothers and sisters who labor hard for the sake of the Gospel, and we and the rest of the world are in need of their "full-time" labor.  Let us bless these men and women financially, even as the apostles instructed us to do.  They are worthy of "double honor." (1 Timothy 5:17)

But if you study closely the pages of the New Testament, you will find that the early church was very  deliberate and focused in what it gave the vast majority of its money to.  Most of the money we see given in the New Testament was not given to ministers.  Nor is there one instance of a single dime ever being given towards a "building program."  Yet these are the very things we as the church spend our money on today.

Rather, if you actually study the giving habits of people in the New Testament, you will discover that the vast majority of money that people gave was for the benefit of the hungry and the poor.  Ministers received some financial support, but leaders like the apostle Paul taught that ministers should prefer to support themselves financially by getting a job, instead of "robbing" churches by drawing a salary (2 Corinthians 11:8).  Such is what he did for himself (Acts 20:34-35), and encouraged other ministers to follow in his example.

Such, however, is contrary to the spirit of this age.  In our culture, we find that being a "full-time" minister is one of the most coveted prizes in ministry, and it is highly sought after.  While many work bi-vocationally because they have to, I believe it is safe to say that the vast majority dream about the day when they can do such "professionally" and "for a living."  Such is blatantly an unbiblical attitude to embrace, yet it is the dream of just about every person I met in Biblical college and Seminary.

And I believe as a church, we have embraced such an attitude, because we still live very Old Testament lifestyles, and the practice of tithing only encourages us to foster such an attitude.

Remember, tithing was practiced under the old covenant in order to ultimately assist in maintaining life in the promised land.  It was very limited in scope and purpose.

Under the covenant that Jesus Christ has brought, we are no longer focused on maintaining a temporary program located in Palestine.  Rather, we are interested in taking the blessings of the Gospel to the uttermost ends of the earth.  We are freed from maintaining a program whose time has ultimately set with the coming of Christ.

Rather, God has called us as Christians to take the blessings we have received in Christ, and to ultimately share those same blessings to the uttermost ends of the earth.  And we are to do so by looking for and building relationships with individuals who are sick, poor, naked, hungry, and in prison (Matthew 25:31-46).  And as w forge relationships with such people, we cannot help but feel compelled to bless them as we have been blessed, as if they were Jesus Christ Himself.

These people are everywhere, and they ultimately need us to use our resources to help take care of them.  We need to seek them out, and we need to give our money to them.  And we need to give to them, not only by strategically forming ministries designed to assist the poor, but we need to find them one by one, and give to them directly.

Of course, we can continue to blindly write checks to a church for ten percent of our income.  And such is fine to do.

But when you really stop and think about it, tithing sucks compared to the practice of giving that is actually encouraged and practiced in the New Testament.  

In giving, we are free to actually be the church, and to share the blessings of the Gospel with the entire world.  In tithing, we model a form of giving that existed under the Old Testament, to maintain an old program that no longer exists, because that program has been replaced with Jesus Christ, and all that came with Him.  At its best, tithing could do little more than make some people fat under the Old Testament.  And such it continues to do for some ministries today.

Giving, on the other hand, and primarily giving to those who are in actual need, allows us to change the world, and the entire order of things.  It empowers us to all become ministers of the Gospel, and to make a difference in the name of Christ.. "Tithing" was done to maintain an Old Testament lifestyle.  "Giving" is now a means by which we share the blessings of the Gospel with those who need it most.

"Tithing" was practiced in order to maintain life under the old covenant.  "Giving" is now to be done to the end that others might experience the "new life" that is found in Jesus Christ. 


10 Signs of a Money Hungry Church

In a recent post, since the Bible has many sayings that warn against "the love of money," and being so successful that you "gain the whole world but lose your own soul," I thought it was appropriate to write about 10 Signs You Might Love Money.  Today, I thought it would be appropriate to expand on this topic, and provide a list of 10 signs that demonstrate that your church has a problem with the love of money.

My insight from this post comes from years of having served in just about every capacity of the church, both in big churches and small churches. In the process, it has been my observation that few things hinder a church from being all that God has called it to be more than a love of money, and yet at the same time, fewer sins are so casually dismissed among leaders in the church.

Yet fewer sins will ruin a church and ministry more than their love for money.  Therefore, if we care anything about God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the people we are trying to reach, we ought to guard our collective hearts from the love of money.

10 Signs of a Money Hungry Church:

1. A general lack of financial transparency:  If members of the church aren't freely allowed to "see the books," and aren't provided a detailed financial accounting of the amount of income the church receives, and where it spends its resources, then your church has something to hide.

2. If the pastors total compensation package is a secret, or known only to a few people, then the church likely hides his compensation because it knows most people would find his salary extravagant, and such would undermine his credibility and authority.

3. If the pastor regular drives a new car, has a large house (which few members ever visit!), is regularly changing his wardrobe out for the latest in fashion, and frequently sports a new hair-cut,  then these are all signs of not only great affluence, but the entitlement mentality that comes with wealth.

4.  If a large percentage of the elders, deacons, teachers, or lay-leaders are affluent businessmen and retirees.  Many churches these days have a "pay to play" attitude.  That is, if you wish to be in a position that influences the life of the church, you need to give a significant amount of money on  a regular basis in order to do so.  Because, an increasing number of churches these days bar those who don't give "above and beyond" from official ministry within the church, then church leadership is generally composed of those who can "afford" to give.  These men are often awarded positions of leadership in the church, knowing such will keep them "invested" in what goes on, and guarantees a regular source of revenue.

5.  If your church has a regular devotional message that accompanies the offering taken up during a worship service.  This is often done with accompanying music playing in the background.  Officially, it is typically said that this is done to provide a "worshipful" atmosphere in giving, and to incorporate it into the general flow of a worship service.  But in truth, this is usually done as a subtle form of manipulation.  It's the equivalent of playing a sad Sara McLachlan song during a ASCPA commercial.  Once your heart strings are plucked, your purse strings often are too.

6. If your church or denomination makes "tithing" one of its fundamentals of faith or part of its core practical values, then money is clearly at the heart of the organization.  Frankly, as Christians we should be offended that right up there with major doctrines like the deity of Jesus Christ, doctrines associated with "giving" are listed as a fundamental of the Christian faith.  While giving is very important in the life of the church, I can think of many other spiritual disciplines that are more essential to her health.

7. "Sacrificial giving" towards the church is encouraged, especially around Christmas time, and shortly after New Years. This is done, after all, to compete with the money you might otherwise spend at Target, and to capture as much income from the larger than normal size of the crowds typically visiting at Christmas time.  It is also done after New Years in order to take advantage of your all your new resolutions, or tax refund money you might get from the IRS.

8. The church never encourages you to give directly to the poor, and is upset if you "tithe" your income towards ministering directly to the poor.  After all, every good theologian knows that the local church is the "storehouse"  that you are to "bring" your tithes, and "give" your offerings at.  If your church in any way monitors your level of giving, and your pastor is deeply concerned about where you give your money to, then this is a major sign that your church loves money.  A pastor should have almost no knowledge of who personally gives what and where in the church.

9. The heavy use of creative arts, stage props, and technology in worship services and in preaching:  If Sunday morning often resembles a rock concert, such requires a ton of dollars to facilitate, and often a small army of professionals.  Such flashy services make the church highly dependent upon wealth to maintain its essential functions.  The monthly light bill for such a worship experience can often be thousands upon thousands of dollar in order to function.

10.  If the church has a large amount of debt, and/or takes out large lines of credit in order to help fund building programs, then this is a big red flag.  There is nothing that says "I love money" more than borrowing cash.  Such puts incredible financial burdens upon churches, and with it, opens the doors for incredible spiritual abuse by those in leadership.  Such requires the church to start acting more and more like a business, and less like a family, in its daily life.  In your personal finances, there is almost no excuse for excessive levels of personal debt.  In the corporate life of the church, this is also true.  Yet many ministries find themselves deeply in debt.  They are doing it "in faith" of course to support some big "vision."  But such an excuse does not make it ok.


The Charlotte Transgender Bathroom Debate: Why I'm Against "Equal Access"

Recently, a heated discussion took place at the Charlotte City Council.  Up for debate was whether or not the city should grant rights to individuals within the transgender community to have equal access to the public restroom of their preference.

The Issue:

It is argued that "transgender" is a protected "class" of people, and that as such, they should have the same civil rights as everybody else, and that the government and society should not be allowed to discriminate against the people who make up this community.  Thus, under the law, they should be allowed equal access to everything that everybody else gets to access.  This includes places like public restrooms, and in particular, whether or not transgender individuals should be allowed to use the restroom of the gender that they identify with, regardless of their actual sex.

For those of you who may not know, the transgender community is made up of men and women, who feel that they are actually a different gender than the sex they were born.  Thus, even though biologically they were born as a male, internally, they identify themselves as actually being a woman, and vice versa.  

It is argued that as such, that somebody who is transgender should have access to the bathroom of their choice, and the failure to allow them equal access to both male and female bathrooms is a form of civil rights discrimination.  Forcing them to go to a bathroom other than the gender they personally identify with is viewed as fundamentally no different than having bathrooms designated for "blacks only."  

The Typical Argument Against: Sexual Predators

Needless to say, there are quite a few people in Charlotte who are upset about this policy discussion.  Some people argue that allowing transgenders to access the bathroom of their choice will also pave the way to sexual predators (or simply bored teenagers looking to get a rouse) pretending to be transgender, to start hanging out in the bathrooms of their choice, and causing all sorts of "problems."
Arguments like this aren't entirely without merit.  Whether we want to admit it or not, there are some rather perverted things that already happen in public bathrooms.  If you have been an adult long enough, you've probably lived long enough to "hear" (or hear about) sexual activity that takes place in public restrooms.  

Such activity is so frequent, for example, that in the main library in uptown Charlotte, the men's public restrooms have bathroom stall doors that have had the top halves cut off so as to discourage such sexual activity, among other things.  So, while such fear based arguments may be deemed irrational by some, in the real world, we recognize that a lot of awful things go on in public restrooms.  Thus, such fears are not without legitimate merit.

Unfortunately, such "reasonable" arguments will never win the light of day.  And here's why:

Simply put, your "fears" of what awful things might happen in public restrooms will never trump the "feelings" of those who feel "hurt" over such "discriminatory" policies and "civil rights violations."  It will further be argued, your fears are no different than the whites who were afraid of what awful things might happen if whites and blacks had to share the same bathroom or water fountain.  It will be further argued that "perverts" already hang out in public restrooms as it is, and that refusing transgenders access to your restroom will not change this fact.  And ultimately, at the end of the day, you just need to grow up and get over your fears, as your fears don't trump others rights.

And such is a somewhat reasonable argument.  But I don't by it...

My 3 Arguments Against "Equal Access":

In light of such a weighty argument for those who are for this type of policy, I believe we need a stronger counter argument than the typical "fear" driven argument that people put forward.  

My arguments against "equal access" are as follows:
  1. In granting people who identify themselves as transgender access to the bathroom of another sex, such a public policy actually has the effect of creating "reverse discrimination."  For in it, you are granting somebody access to a bathroom that I do not have the right to use simply because I don't identify myself as a transgender individual.  And as such, you are in fact discriminating against me on the basis of my sex and gender identity (or lack thereof).  
  2. Public restrooms are not an issue of "gender," but of "sex."  As the transgender community regularly says, there is a difference between one's "gender" and one's "sex."  One's "sex," it is said, is what you are born with biologically.  It's the issue of whether or not you have a penis or vagina.  One's "gender," on the other hand, is a socially constructed "identity."  Therefore, some transgender individuals have their sex "reassigned" by surgical means, so that their "sex" now agrees with their "gender" identity.  Therefore, no "equal access" law needs to be created, because transgender individuals still have the option of using the public restroom available to their respected sex.
  3. Finally, an argument that slides down the proverbial "slippery slope." If we allow transgender individuals to go to the restroom of their preference, then what about public locker rooms at your local gym?  Should a man who identifies himself as a woman be allowed to use the woman's locker room and take a shower in there, simply because that is the gender they identify with?  If we allow transgender individuals to access the bathroom of their preference, why shouldn't they be allowed to access the shower of their preference?

What about "family restrooms"?:

Some people have suggested that we need to strike up a happy medium, and make public restrooms that are "gender neutral," such as the "family restrooms" that various public facilities make use of. This idea, while not a bad one, at the end of the day won't stand-up to any sort of legal challenges.  It could be argued that forcing somebody who is transgender to go to a "family restroom" if they wish to go one of their preference, would actually be a form of discrimination, and is the equivalent of having a "blacks only" restroom or water fountain.

The only solution:

Having said all of this, I see that there are only two solutions for the city of Charlotte:
  1. Make all public restrooms gender/sex neutral, as they do in some parts of Europe.  
  2. Allow public restrooms to purposefully be places of discrimination on the basis of sex, since there is no actual negative impact on anybody for using either bathroom.
Personally speaking, I am perfectly happy to have bathrooms that continue to discriminate on the basis of sex.  As a guy, I like having restrooms with shorter lines in airports and in stadiums, all thanks to my God-given ability to pee while standing up, and thus, occupying less space because men's rooms are equipped with the "technological wonder" that is the urinal.  Arguably, such makes restrooms as we have much more efficient places, and benefits the common good.

Secondly, requiring all restrooms become gender neutral would require a massive overhaul of all current restroom facilities, and would be a very expensive ordeal to undertake, and simply not practical.  Such could be financially crippling to some private business owners, who cannot afford to redesign their public restrooms.

So... that's my opinion.  What's yours?


10 Signs You Might Love Money

As is well known, the Bible says "the love of money is the root of all evil."  Few people give any thought to their love for money.  Money is celebrated, and those who have it are thought of as being virtuous in our society.  Indeed, poverty is often thought to be the result of a lack of moral character, and those who are poor are thought to be cursed.  Unfortunately, the church has done little to challenge this conception.  As it turns out, many in the church have tied wealth and financial gain to the Gospel, and a growing number of pastors are living high off the hog as a result of the "blessings" associated with their ministry.

Being that "the love of money" is not something we think much about, I thought it would be helpful to put together a small list together of things I believe show that you are infected with the love of money.
  1. You worry about money:  We worry about the things we love.  Whether or not you are rich or poor, if you find yourself regularly worrying about your personal finances, you just might be in love with your money.   This is especially true if you worry to the point of losing sleep, or fighting with your spouse.
  2. You don't make a budget:  Unless you wake up in the morning and go outside and pick money off the branches of the money tree you have growing in your back yard, you need to make a budget.  Because if you aren't making a regular budget and tracking your spending, then the chances are money is ruling your life in the form of overspending.
  3. You are never able to save any money:  Unless you are living in deep poverty or are simply giving every last cent you make to the poor, you should be able to save a portion of every paycheck you cash.  Living paycheck to paycheck may be the common American experience.  But, if you are only one paycheck away from disaster because you have no savings, then money has too much power in your life, because failing to get paid has the power to destroy you.  Money should never have this much power in your life.
  4. You are deeply in debt:  This problem is related to everything said thus far.  If you don't make a budget and don't save any money, you are probably having to regularly go into debt to cover unexpected expenses, or "splurges."  And when you take out enough debt, you create another monthly expense that has the power to bring worry into your life, because you constantly worry that you won't have enough money to cover your additional expenses.
  5. You aren't a giver:  If you aren't regularly and systematically giving your money to charity and those in need (or you are giving simply so you can get a tax write-off), then the money in your life consumes you, as you are unable to let go of any of it.  You should regularly look for ways to expand your giving, especially in the area of giving directly to those who are poor.  If you judge them by saying things like "But they'll just spend it on booze and drugs!" then you love money too much.
  6. You don't forgive personal loans made to others:  It's amazing how many people sue other people, especially close friends and family, simply because that individual has failed to repay what they have promised.  If somebody hits you up for some money, just give it to them with no strings attached.  If they repay you, great.  But if they don't, then don't let that ruin your relationship with that individual.  Prefer to lose money over family and friends.
  7. Money keeps you from getting married, having kids, or making other major life decisions:  A lot of "millennials" have delayed making major life choices simply because they feel that they don't have the necessary financial security in order to do so.  As a result, an increasing number of people are waiting until they are 30 or older before finally "getting on" with life.  For some, their wallet leads in areas where their heart should.
  8. You are involved in a multi-level marketing scheme, or are regularly trying to "get rich quick":  When I was 19 years old and in college, two of my friends that were engaged were recruited into a multi-level marketing program, and decided to drop out of college.  Their logic was that they didn't need to go to college anymore, because they were going to become "millionaires" within the next year, and would be able to retire.  Needless to say, things didn't work out for them like they thought.
  9. You regularly buy the newest, biggest, baddest, coolest, brand name items:  If you feel you are regularly "entitled" to luxury items simply because you work hard and "deserve" the finer things in life, then money has a hold on you. "Work hard and play harder" may sound like a great motto to live by.  But in truth, most people who quote this motto really don't work all that hard to begin with.  They just feel entitled to stuff, and are in love with "bling."
  10. You make grand moral judgments about others because of their level of poverty/wealth:  I once was part of a church where the vast majority of the congregation was poor.  I was surprised how many people in the church had harsh feelings towards those who were middle-class or above.  Bitter and jealous comments abounded.  Attitudes and comments such as I heard made me very aware that poor people are just as capable of greed.  "Greed," is not a vice unique to those who are wealthy.  
This list is by no means exhaustive.  What are some other ways you think we demonstrate we are in love with money?  Feel free to comment below...


I. Heart. Money.

I believe if you were to ask a lot people if they loved money, generally speaking, they would probably say "yes." They might add a disclaimer to their affirmation, but their answer would essentially still boil down to a yes. And why not? Money gets you so many things. It allows you to do everything from putting food on the table, to gaining political power and influence. Money, they even say, makes the world go round.

Money is greatly celebrated in our culture. Hip-hop and rap artists frequently make songs about it, and feature it as an important "prop" in their music videos. They show that money is the key to getting bling and having a nice "life." Money is so important to us as a nation that we even have entire cable channels, like CNBC and Fox Business News, dedicated to around the clock coverage of news stories and shows that focus on nothing but money related issues.

Some of us would deny having an intense love for money. But our hearts otherwise betray us. "It's just a tool," we say. Few things will spark more emotion from people than money. Research has shown that money is the primary thing that married couples tend to fight over most, and money problems have resulted in many people who otherwise had an intense romantic love for one another getting a divorce.

A comedian once said "Getting a divorce is like getting your heart ripped out through your wallet." Many men jokingly lament that it's always, "cheaper to keep her." And often, when a divorce happens, at least one person is forced to go through bankruptcy court in addition to divorce court.

I can't personally relate to getting divorced, but I remember this one time I was in a long term relationship that went bad. I remember that one of the first thoughts that entered my head shortly after we broke up was "this sucks... but on a brighter note, I'll finally be able to save some money." I was shocked that this thought entered my head so quickly after the event. My wallet suddenly felt a little bit better. Benjamin Franklin's make for great tissues in which to dry our tears upon. It's a funny thing how money comforts us and touches us on an emotional level.

For example, I work in the financial services industry at a really big national bank. In a prior position, I had to fly all over the country and participate in many court facilitated conferences to try and help people who were having financial troubles. I know from first-hand experience that I've never seen people get more emotional than when I sat down as a bank rep, to have a "heart to heart," with people over their financial challenges.

I'm a super nice guy, and to my recollection, I can't ever recall saying anything to anybody in my entire life that inflicted so much pain in their hearts so as to make anybody cry. I care about people and geniunely love them. But when I went to court to talk to people about restructuring their finances, sometimes I had to have some very difficult conversations with individuals, and those conversations sometimes made people extremely upset, to the point they busted out in tears, which stopped court proceedings, as people had to be excused so that they could collect themselves.

But I can relate. I remember a time when I was going through my own money troubles. My income was very low, but my bills were very high, and I didn't have the ability to make all of my ends meet. I was single, and didn't have to take care of anybody but me. If I got kicked out of my apartment for failing to pay rent, I always had parents who loved me and would be more than glad to let me move back in with them. I had little to lose, except my dignity and pride. But in spite of this, I regularly lost sleep, as I couldn't do anything but stay up and worry about my money woes. I was full of so much worry... and all over money.

As it also turns out, worrying about money isn't a problem only poor people have. People who are well-off and wealthy worry about money too. One millionare I knew once told me that to him, "a million dollars represents a million problems." First, he has to make sure the money is stored in a safe location so that somebody doesn't just steal it. So he puts the money in a bank. Then while in the bank, he has to make sure inflation doesn't eat up his hard earned savings like a moth eats a sweater. So he has to make sure he invests his money in financial instruments that will gain enough earnings to protect him from inflation, but at the same time, make sure he limits his exposure to the market, so as to not become poor overnight because of a stock market crash. Then of course, he has to worry about his children never growing up and becoming financially independent, because they look at their father as a cash cow, and are ready to seize his assets as soon as he dies. His money, which appears to be a great blessing to many, is a potential disaster waiting to happen.

Rich and poor, we all tend to worry about money. And reflecting on these things, I tend to think as human beings that we only worry about those things which we love and care about. And if we find ourselves worrying regularly about money, I think it might be due to the fact that we have an attachment to it that is greater than the purpose of paying our bills, and putting food in our bellies. We worry about money because we love it. But the end, this thing that we love so much often ends up destroying us.

No wonder the Bible is full of warnings about money. Warnings, I think we as Christians living in America would do well to seriously consider. Money is often made out to be a merely neutral thing, a mere tool of many different tools in our shed. But the more I read the Bible, the more I become convinced that money is not the neutral thing that it appears to be. And in my experience, those who frequently point out that money is merely a tool, tend to be the individuals that love money the most. And "the love of money," which consumes so many of us, truly ends up "consuming" us in the end.

No wonder Jesus said it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. While we probably all wish that the only temptation we suffered in this life was the problem of having too much money, in reality, being "blessed" with a surplus of greenbacks and gold tends to only plunge us into the worst of possible problems.

We often see this with people who win the lottery and become multi-millionaires overnight. Even people who win hundreds of millions of dollars end up seeing their lives wrecked as a result. This has happened with so many people that there is said to be a "lottery curse."

Or consider TV shows like "The People's Court" or "Judge Judy." See how many people on those shows end up suing close family members and friends over a few bucks. Such suits often destroy the deeply woven bonds of people with long histories. And all over a few bucks that most people would have never missed to begin with! But money became more important to them than the relationships they had. They were wronged out of their money, so they sued somebody they loved, as a matter of "principle." So they went to court all over something as silly as money, and lost a friend or family member for the rest of their lives in the process.

In the end, the love of money destroys us and those around us. It is no wonder that Jesus said the love of money will cause so many people to lose their own souls. It truly is the root of all sorts of evil. Money is something we would do well to purge from our hearts, and it is something we would do well to never chase.


Stop Saying Marriage Is Hard!!!

Everywhere we turn these days, we hear the very well repeated mantra that "marriage is hard!" To reinforce this idea, it is usually followed by the oft quoted statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce. A stat which isn't true, by the way.

And in fact, a lot of people are involved in marriages they find hard. But I don't think this is due to marriage itself being hard, so much as life itself can be difficult, and we often do selfish things in marriage that further compound our problems.

A lot of ministries repeat the idea that marriage is hard, and specialize in helping couples work through their difficulties. But interestingly enough, you would never get the idea that the Bible thinks of marriage as being hard, and that in order to make it, you really have to "work at it."

On the contrary, the Bible paints a pretty joyous picture of marriage, and for all that it has to say on marriage, there is little indication that the Scriptures view marriage as a troubling or inherently difficult thing. In spite of the cottage industry that has built up around the idea of repairing troubled marriages within the church, there is surprisingly very little the Bible has to say about marriage.

Everything that the Bible has to say about marriage is good.

From the very opening pages of the Bible, God tells us that marriage is a blessed thing. In fact, marriage is the only relationship given to mankind that God has inherently blessed in and of itself, and is the only relationship between two people that God is said to have His hand in joining together. Every marriage has its origins in heaven.

So, wherever we get the notion that marriage is hard, we never get such an impression from the Bible. Dare I say that the idea that marriage is hard is a lie that the Devil has told us?

That's not to say that the Bible doesn't record plenty of people who had problematic marriages. Obviously, Eve gave Adam forbidden fruit to eat. The book of Proverbs warns about choosing a nagging wife, or a spouse who has other major character flaws. And of course, the apostle Paul spent a few chapters in Corinthians dealing with sexual issues in the church that put a strain on marital relationships. And other examples could be easily multiplied.

But in spite of such problems, that still doesn't change the fact that the Bible never depicts marriage as hard. The "hard" relationships the Bible deals with involve doing things like loving and forgiving people who are your enemies. Forgiving your enemies, that's supposed to be hard. Forgiving your spouse, that should be a bit easier.

One of my wife's friends once told her that marriage should be "stupidly easy." And I concur. Marriage is a relationship unlike any other. It comes with a unique bond wherein two people are made "one flesh." Since God has blessed marriage from the dawn of creation, and continues to do so even today, it is my contention that marriage should be thought of as "stupidly easy." Stupidly easy is built into the very DNA of the marriage union itself.

In marriage, two people become one person. And the last time I checked, I find it pretty easy to get along with myself. As most people find it easy to get along with themselves. I like myself quite a bit. I make me pretty happy. Sometimes I even tell jokes that make me laugh, even if nobody else in the room finds them funny. If I can't crack up anybody else, I can crack me up! I'm sure you tend to be the same way.

Therefore, if we really believe that two people become one in the marriage union, then we should look at marriage as fundamentally no different than getting along with ourselves.

Of course, in saying all of this, I don't pretend that there aren't a lot of people out there who aren't having difficult times in their marriages. Indeed, I come from a very large extended family marked with troubled marriages. Many people on both sides of the family tree have been married and divorced, some multiple times.

But marriage in and of itself isn't hard. As I just mentioned, it should be stupidly easy. And why not? Marriage is a relationship unlike any other. It comes with the unique bond that inherently makes two people "one flesh." And with "stupidly easy" being built by God into the genetic makeup of every marriage, the fact that we are born sinners into this fallen world does not change the dynamic of God's original design. Even as sinners in need of a Savior, the marriage relationship is still a fantastic and blessed thing that God has given the this world.

Marriage did not cease to be a blessed relationship just because Adam and Eve messed things up. Where sin has abounded, grace has always much more abounded. Adam and Even didn’t get divorced simply because they messed things up. The world literally fell apart around them and “went to hell in a hand basket” because of the sins they committed in their marriage. Yet, they stuck it out with one another for hundreds of years, and had an untold number of children. Divorce never once entered their mind, as God never placed it there.

It has been my experience and observation that marriage only becomes "hard" when we engage in attitudes and actions that threaten and strain the oneness of the marriage union. Whenever one partner insists on having their own way, and not mutually submitting themselves to each other, only then do marriages experience difficulties. Whenever we operate independently of the other person that we are one with, our individualistic self-interests can pull the fabric of a marriage apart.

However, marriages never go bad in and of themselves. God has designed 10 out of 10 marriages to be blessed, joyous, and successful.

It's only when we start functioning outside of how God designed marriage to function that the relationship becomes threatened. And the relationship only becomes threatened when people stop operating out of a sense of oneness, and begin to act separately from one another.

So, instead of going around and repeating the lie of the Devil that "marriage is hard," and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, I think we need to take the Biblical position, and start saying that marriage is blessed, beautifuly, and "stupidly easy" thing.

Biblically speaking, it's divorce that is the hard part.