This book as the cover may suggest is all about counting on God with our money. In my scenario, it's learning to count on God monetarily in personal and church finances. Burell deals with the hindrances to giving in the church and the breakdown of financial responsibility in the country and of course at home. Burell reminds the reader of the Biblical mandate to give and not just to give for the sake of doing so. In fact, many people would be surprised to know that of all the topics Jesus discussed in His earthly ministry, money/earthly possessions were talked about the most. Jesus made it pretty clear that if not careful, a person would actually end up serving money rather than God. In such case, money has become an idol that no amount of good deeds or church attendance will atone for.
So what about giving? Paul said God loves a cheerful giver and that we should give what we have purposed in our heart to give. Now understand, whether you're cheerful about giving or not doesn't remove the Biblical mandate to do so. Experiencing a lack of cheerfulness at giving your money away to God isn't a sign that you are exempt this month. It IS a sign that something is wrong in the heart. Paul said we should purpose in our heart what we will give to the Lord before doing anything else. We don't give God what's left at the end of the month or after things are taken care of. We give God what's first and trust Him to supply the rest of the way.
Literally the Bible tells us that if we do not give, we cannot receive blessings from God. Whatever is so important that would keep you from giving to the Lord needs to be more important than your children being blessed, your job being blessed, the cries for healing and deliverance, the need for protection and anointing, etc. When we don't give to God, we literally tie His hands to do anything in our lives. In such cases we're living for God based on head knowledge with no heartfelt experience to fall back on.
Paul continues in telling us that if we sow sparingly into God's Kingdom we will reap sparingly. So not only are we to give to receive and out of obedience, but we will be rewarded based on how we give. Jesus Himself said to give and it will be given back at a greater portion. Consider Jesus feeding the 4000 and the 5000. I'd say He knows how to multiply a true, honest, genuine gift.
Some of our greatest problems in giving though is that we don't prepare to give and we don't understand giving. There is a sect of people out there in the world who believe themselves to be free from tithing and offerings as they claim it's under the law and through Jesus we are no longer under the law. However, an even not so thorough examination of tithing will show the interested party that tithing 10% and beyond was added to the law after the fathers of our faith: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all instituted the practice and acted on it as well. The practice was adopted into the Law of Moses to care for the house of God and priests. Considering Jesus never abolished tithing and giving, but instead told the Pharisees that this is what they "ought to be doing," I believe it's very safe to say Jesus still expects the giving today. Why? Simply put, He still has an earthly house that needs resources to minister and He still has "priests" whom He Himself has called to serve. None of the reasons the tithe was included in the Law of Moses were ever abolished. Instead the church of Acts and the writings of Paul only enhanced them.
So what about preparation? It's called a budget and no it's not a bad word. There are several financial gurus that can tell you how to put a budget in place and all have excellent points and practices. The truth is that a budget is very easy and simple to put in place. The hard part is being disciplined enough to follow it. A budget helps a family not get ahead of themselves financially while also planning for tomorrow and the day after. Part of budgeting is not acquiring a second job to afford the new TV or larger house. Proper budgeting tells a family that is considering that measure that it's wrong.
I've heard some snarky things from some good, Christian church folk in my time in the ministry, but especially since being in pastoral ministry. Anyone who knows me and Billie knows we have a love for travel and exploration. We love seeing and experiencing new things. It's been said that we must be rolling in money to do the things we do and go the places we go. One unfortunate ignorant soul even declared a few years back that they wanted my job so they could make the big bucks. Let me let you in on a secret . . . . The reason we can and do travel the way we do is because we operate on that thing . . . you know . . . a budget. We know how much we make and we plan with it. The first check I write every month is to my church and because I know I can be guilty of want and greed like any other red blooded human being, I write my tithe check with an extra sum of money for offering included. In Malachi 3, God said the people were robbing Him of tithe AND offering. That one check doesn't mean I won't give again during the month, but I cheerfully write the check knowing that I'm obeying God and in turn, He will bless me even though I don't deserve anything, especially considering what He's already given.
I would encourage EVERYONE to find a budget plan you can operate in and keep it. Right now we are working towards paying off debt built up from when we were first married and took our first ministry job out of state (long story!). Through budgeting and planning, we've paid off more than $5000 of debt just this year. Our plan for next year is to pay off even more. Budgeting and tithing allows us to do this and it will you too! If you think you can't afford to give to God . . . You can't afford NOT to. The money we have is all given to us by God. We are called to be faithful stewards of that money. In my case, I'm called to be faithful with the money God has given me and my family as well as the money that comes into the church. Are you being faithful over what God has blessed you with? We will give an account of how we handled the Master's possessions . . . You did realize we don't really OWN anything right? Everything belongs to God.
Finally on giving . . . how and where should we give? The Bible is clear that we are to bring the tithe and the offering into the storehouse (church). There are many who claim to love Christ but haven't figured out how to follow this simple commandment. The reason the church is so important to the Lord is because the physical church is the visual representation of Christ and His followers in a community. It's the lighthouse people run to. It's the entity expected to perform ministry to those inside and outside its walls. It's the entity that employs the God called pastor and as such provides for His family. Burell would argue that a person that doesn't give tithe and offering to their church is literally declaring a lack of enthusiasm, concern, or conviction for the things of God. Whether that's true or not, a person's heart is where their treasure is and where there is no support for the command of God, a clear problem with priorities is revealed. If we withhold our giving to the storehouse and think God will bless us and answer prayer, we are deceiving ourselves.
So then how can I give? Budgeting and giving directly from one's weekly and/or monthly income is one way to give and the ONLY way to tithe. Donations of property or possessions is another way to give. Tax refunds and insurance payments are other ways to give and support a church and/or ministry. Burell gives guidelines in the book of a person can make the church a beneficiary of insurance policies or living wills. There are plenty of ways to give and the truth of the matter is if we give, we can count on God to come through for us. He is a rewarder and a giver Himself. He gave His Son, what more could He have given? He has given us all that we have, shouldn't we be giving something to Him? We can count on God. YOU can count on God.
Finally for those religious, pious individuals who would lump this book and its commentary along the same lines of all of those "made for TV" evangelist call lines, you're missing the point. There is no doubt that God's people and church have been exploited and made promises in exchange for enormous sums of money that God never directed be given. This is not the intention of this book or my commentary. Instead, I and the book simply press the red letters of Christ into our souls and remind us that the Bible is truth from cover to cover. Giving is a commandment. Jesus was so concerned about the role of money in the life of a believer that He talked about it more than anything else. It's the "what does it profit a man . . . " verse and the "no one can serve two masters . . ." verse, and let's not forget the "man cannot serve the Lord and mammon (money)" verse. Jesus seem to think money was going to be an issue for Christians and churches in the last days. Look around you . . . Jesus was right yet again. The country is in turmoil and the church is declining in the USA. Last year, non-Christians gave more to charities and foundations that every Christian combined gave to their churches. Isn't it about time we started obeying the words of Jesus? Maybe then we can correctly exclaim, "In God We Trust." Right now, it seems we trust in ourselves, luck, and plastic a little too much.
You can count on God.