When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. —James 4:3
Have you ever cooked your salmon in the dishwasher? Apparently, some folks do! Rumor has it, if you place your salmon in foil, squeeze lemon on it, top it with a little salt and pepper, and then set it on the top rack of your dishwasher…at the end of a wash cycle, you will have a deliciously poached salmon!
How about defrosting your frozen items in your washing machine? Throw those frozen chicken thighs in your washing machine, run it on the delicate cycle, on a low water level, and when it stops—perfectly thawed out chicken.
Chances are, if you are like me, you haven’t tried either of these tactics—but why not? Probably because that is not how the machine was built or wired, and when the user disregards the intent of the designer, dysfunction is inevitable. I can imagine many “failed” scenarios and ending up with fish that tastes like soap, or clothes that will eternally smell of chicken guts.
The Bible teaches that we too have a Designer, that we were created in the image of God. And that means being a generous people. But most Christians do not naturally give.
Here is the way most people handle their money:
The first thing they do is they EARN it. The word “earn” reflects a sense of ownership and entitlement. If that’s the attitude you have, then you’ll always be frustrated. “I work hard for my money—I earned it!” Would you agree, there are people who don’t work as hard for their money as you do, but they make a lot more than you do? Or people who work much longer hours than you, but don’t make as much as you? Yes and Yes. So work hard (because that’s a Christian virtue), but recognize whatever you receive is from the Lord.
Then the second thing they do is SPEND it on themselves and their families (whatever it is they think they need or want to enjoy); and PAY down their debts (if they have anything left over—otherwise they just pay the minimum on their credit cards and punt reducing their debt into their future).
Then, if they have any left over, they SAVE something. And, if they still have any left over, they GIVE some of it to the Lord. EARN—SPEND/PAY—SAVE—GIVE, in that order.
The problem with that plan is that you usually run out of money long before you get to the generous part, actually, before you even get to the saving part.
Here’s Plan B, which was always Plan A, the order that God blesses:
First you RECEIVE it. The word “receives” reflects a sense of responsibility and gratitude.
Second, you TITHE it. You say “God, You’re number one in my life, so the first part goes back to You.” The Bible says to “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.” (Proverbs 3:9) God has always required the firstfruits, firstlings, first parts.
Third, you SAVE it. Then fourth, you SPEND it on your and your family’s needs; and pay down your debt as soon as you can. You pay God first (TITHE), you pay yourself second (SAVE), then you pay others last (SPEND). The miraculous thing about this plan is that, when we follow it, eventually we get to the point that the amount we have to spend at the end (step 4) according to God’s design is significantly more than the amount we spent in step 2 of the way many manage their money.
Then you GIVE, you become generous with the blessing that God provides, because when you recognize that you simply cannot be more generous to others than God can be to you, you realign your priorities.
When you become generous, you start to operate with the intent your designer created you for. You recognize when the user disregards the intent of the designer, dysfunction is inevitable.