Growing in Faith, by Giving
October 11, 2019 by Sherry Hester Kenney
After I graduated from college and accepted a sales position with an insurance company, I visited my grandparents to tell them my plans. They had helped fund my education, and I wanted them to be among the first to know I had secured a job, albeit one that paid me commissions instead of a salary.
My grandmother was out, but my grandfather was at his desk. I said, “Granddaddy, I have a great job. I’m going to be helping people make good decisions about their money.” This was a bold statement coming from a 23-year-old recent graduate.
His response: “Here’s what you need to tell your clients. If they share 10 percent, and save 10 percent, they’ll never need to worry about money.”
This was great advice – short and sweet – and in addition to sharing it with lots of folks over the years I’ve tried to follow it myself. The key to this financial plan is to share and save first.
Proverbs 3: 9-10 reads, “Honor the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” (New Revised Standard Version)
Sounds like my grandfather.
A former pastor of mine told me that church members sometimes asked him whether their tithe should be given before tax or after tax, to which he responded, “That’s between you and God.” Paul says as much in 2 Corinthians 9:7.
“For each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (NSRV)
In other words, just give until it feels good. We are the ones who benefit most from our own generosity.
Most Christians want to draw nearer to God. That’s why we practice the spiritual disciplines of praying, reading scripture, keeping sabbath, serving others, and so on. If our spiritual goal is to walk more closely with God, then we’ll give as much as we can.
In Matthew 6:21, a verse familiar to most, Jesus states,
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NSRV)
Most of my life I interpreted this to mean that the things we cared most about would be the things we gave the most to. However, several years ago, the Rev. Dr. Karl Travis spoke at our Stewardship Kaleidoscope conference on this passage. He agreed most people interpret it the way I had, but pointed out that if that’s what Jesus had meant he would have said, “for where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.”
Our hearts follow our treasure. When we practice the spiritual discipline of sharing what we have, we grow closer to God because we learn to rely more on him and less on our own resources, and because we partner with him in bringing about his kingdom. Continuing in Matthew 6 we’re admonished not to worry about our lives, what we will eat or drink, or what we will wear, and assured that our heavenly Father knows we need these things. “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness”, Jesus says, “and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Faith is like a muscle – the more we exercise it, the stronger it grows. And giving is an exercise that transforms lives – not only our own lives but also the lives of others. Over several decades my career in insurance sales evolved into a financial planning practice, but I always told my clients I didn’t do math in public. Even something as simple as calculating 10 percent in my head could be problematic. So, I’ve developed a preference for the simpler formula – just give until it feels good.
Sherry Hester Kenney serves as the Ministry Relations Officer for the South Central Region, which includes Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. She works with congregations to create a culture of generosity, offers seminars and workshops, develops gifts and fundraising plans for ministries, and provides coaching to finance, stewardship and endowment committees. You can reach Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free at 855-342-4130.