Saturday, June 07, 2008

Joyful living and joyful giving - Part 2 of 2

In Part 1, I left off by saying that there was more to the stories about joyless giving that I had briefly mentioned. Check out that post to see the stories.

In story number one, the host of the program made things worse for the woman, in my opinion. It was obvious to me that he was a supporter of Christian tithing, and so instead of addressing the fact that tithing is a non-Christian principle (again, stay tuned and I'll eventually lay out a series of posts, showing how tithing is not a New Covenant principle by any means), and freeing the woman up to simply give freely from her heart as she determined to do on her own, which would by nature involve nothing less than cheerful giving, he gave her a list of rules and principles she could try to follow in order to have more joy in her life.

This is the type of thing in which I tend to have more verbal communication with my radio than I otherwise would have. ;)

And worse yet, in story number two the woman and her husband were commended by the host for what they did. I will mention that the woman said that she and her husband were very happy with what they had done and that they were thankful that they were in a position to be giving to something that they really wanted to give to. If they were truly changing their lifestyle because in their hearts they had decided that this was a way to give, and they did it cheerfully, then I can't argue with that.

But yet the whole story seems to me to be based more on legalism and religion - and not just a small wiff of it. This couple did feel obliged to "pay a tithe" to their local church. It didn't seem like they thought they had a choice in the matter. The root of their actions, it seems to me, was obligation, not giving freely.

When it comes to both joyful living (an overall life of joy) and joyful giving, the root can never be obligation. It can never be religion. It can never be rules. It can never be law. Christ came to set us FREE from all of that! I think that many Christians are living joyless lives, or at least seem to have very little joy, because they are mixing either a little or a lot of law and Old Covenant principles into their Christian lives. It only takes a little leaven of the law and religion to leaven the whole lump (see Gal 5:1-9).

Someone (well, ok, a LOT of people) might want to take some New Testament words and make "rules and principles" out of them. I'm thinking of words such as Peter's words, "What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives..." (2 Peter 3:9). I recently heard an entire sermon on the radio based upon this passage. It basically turned out to be a list of do's and don'ts for the Christian life.

But the more I find out about my freedom in Christ, I find that the "oughts" of the Christian life are rooted in something much deeper. We can't simply yank passages out of the Bible and make rules out of them. Peter, in the above passage, continues with words that are often overlooked. " you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming." This "ought" was rooted in joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord. It wasn't rooted in any kind of obligation to "be a better Christian" by following the rules. Joy wasn't going to come as a result of trying to live by "oughts."

Rather, the types of lives we live are rooted in the fact that in Christ we have freedom and we have joy. We have a wonderful Savior and Friend, and as we get to know Him intimately and freely, not through rules and oughts, but through His grace and love, then we won't be obliged to change our lifestyles in order to try to do better for Him. Instead, our growing process will be much more natural, over a period of time, as we rest in Him. It deeply saddens me that for many, the Christian life is not much more than futile attempts at rules and oughts.

As you read through other New Testament epistles, note how Paul and the others lay a foundation of life, love, grace, etc. And much more than a foundation, life, love and grace are also the makeup of the entire Christian life. And the actions of the Christian life, such as giving, kindness, love, holiness, etc, are not the root of the Christian life. They are the legitimate fruit of being grounded firmly and deeply in God's love and grace!


  1. Well written, good stuff....a hearty AMEN!!

  2. Joel, I just re-read this and it's great!

    I love how you said the sanctification process is natural and takes place over a period of time as we rest in Him. That is so true. This morning I told a friend to stop trying to live this life because we can't change ourselves. Father does the changing as we rest in Him and we're amazed to see the change in us because we know we didn't do it.

    Also, I liked how you said that the actions of the Christian life are not the root but they're the fruit of a life firmly grounded in Father's love and grace. I can't add to that. This is all really good.

  3. Joel, This is probably a week or two old post but my recent busyness at work kept me from reading many posts including this.

    Anyways, I just got a chance to read this and all I can say is that I couldn't agree with you more on this. i know we have talked about this in the past. I remember writing checks every two weeks for the exact 10% of my paycheck and faithfully putting it in the offering plates. You know, one of the feeling I used to get by doing that act was a sense of "security". I gave what is obliged to God, now he won't come after me to punish.
    Needless to say that I didn't have a clue what Gospel meant. I didn't believe in what Jesus did, I added myself (or my doings) into the equation. It is a pathetic thing.
    I am so glad that I am out of it. Gospel is so very wonderful, I don't know how I missed it for so many years. Sometimes all I can do is thank Him and nothing else.
    Thank you brother for taking time and explain the truth regarding giving. I am sure it will be helpful for many.

  4. Ha ha... Bino, I just had to share that earlier today I was headed out the door and I saw an email come in with your comment here. I glanced over it quickly, and at first I misread your words as "all I can say is that I can't agree with you any more on this..." LOL I knew that's not really what you wrote and I laughed out loud at the thought of that being real. :)

    Anyway, thanks Lydia, Aida and Bino for your comments. I usually try to reply to most comments but for some reason these slipped by me!

    Aida, that advice to your friend is great advice. As Paul Anderson-Walsh paraphrases Galatians 2:20, "the life I live in the body, I don't." We live by faith and we live by His life.

    Bino, I'd bet the tithe is just as much security for many Christians as it was for you. I remember doing the same as you, thinking I was safe because I had put my 10% in. I thought God would bless me and fill my "barns" to overflowing because of my faithful giving.

    How wonderful, and what a relief it is, to now understand the good news and to be free to give instead of obligated to give, and to know that it's not just about money!

  5. I agree wholeheartedly with this! I had the sincere desire to "be a good christian" for YEARS and wondered why I kept failing and couldn't seem to get there. When I let all of that go and just started desiring to know Christ and have a relationship with Him, period, is when I began to really grow and see fruit produced in my life. Scriptures that seemed obscure are more and more being revealed to me in new ways and I have real joy in my life. ANY time I feel "guilt-tripped," I know immediately that it's not God. It's either the enemy or my own flesh slipping back into old thought patterns. The Holy Spirit's conviction NEVER sounds like beating myself up, whether it's about giving, or behaviour, or any other part of my life. It's definitely a long (lifelong) process, but my mind is being renewed every single day!

  6. Right on, Melissa! :) Thanks for the comment... I can relate to all that you've said here. Whenever we feel guilty or condemned, that's definitely not from God. Jesus said that the ones who the Holy Spirit convicted of sin would be those who don't believe, and then He went on to talk about how the Holy Spirit would convict people of righteousness. That's us! "Jesus became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus." He convicts (convinces) us of righteousness, because that's who we are. It's when we're confident in our true identity that we'll much more naturally walk in it. Definitely a lifelong process, as you say, as our minds are renewed daily to the truth!