Salvation and Works

I believe that we are not saved through works, but we are saved to work. I feel that ‘getting saved’ is like getting your diploma or degree.

It’s a great development, and to be celebrated, but it’s not the end point. You’re supposed to do something with it!

Who would get a degree in veterinarian school, then go live on an island where there are no animals? No, you go somewhere that you can start helping animals.

God did not pay a great cost to redeem us, just so we could sit around and be redeemed.

I believe his purpose is to redeem and restore the entire world (I get this idea from the book of Revelation). Once we have accepted his amazing, gracious gift, we’re supposed to continue and cooperate with his will: the expansion of his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

We can’t earn God’s love. When I support a charity or feed a homeless person or visit a prisoner or share the gospel, I don’t earn an extra crown in heaven. What I’m doing, rather, is the same thing Jesus said in John 5:19: ”I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

I’m just doing what I see God doing. Caring for the downtrodden. Giving hope to the hopeless. Offering a hand to those who have fallen.

Because there is a great deal of work to be done in this world, and God himself has chosen to do it with and through us.

We are God’s plan A, and there is no plan B. This doesn’t point to how great we are, but rather how incredible God is. The epitome of perfection, willing to work through fallen, flawed and frail humanity because he values us.

Working for God and his purposes is not an obligation, it’s an honor. One that we’d have to be blind to refuse.

Should Christians Tithe?

I had a conversation about tithing the other day with my teens. We talked about whether giving 10% of our income is what God requires/expects. When your church is having trouble making budget, you’re very likely to hear about Malachi 3:6-10 either quoted or directly referred to. “Don’t rob God.” “Bring thewhole tithe into the storehouse.”

But does this apply under the new covenant?

In Matthew 23:23, Jesus affirms tithing as a discipline that the Pharisees should continue to practice.

But I think it’s impossible to discuss the topic of our financial giving without looking at Luke 21:1-4.

While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”

It seems to me that the criticism that Jesus levels against the rich men making donations is not that they were giving less than 10%. It is that they had an abundance, yet they kept it mostly for themselves.

The standard of giving that Jesus provides in Luke 21:1-4 is to not give only as much as we are required. To not give only what is comfortable for us to give. It is to give even when it hurts to do so.

To give all that we can, not all that we must.

Jesus wants us to live a life that is dedicated to doing the most good, not the least acceptable amount of good.

To love lavishly, abundantly and generously. To give, even in our own need, not only once we have excess to spare.

I think supporting a local church is a good thing. If you’re committed to the community of your local church, by all means support it, including with financial provision.

I also think that we have amazing opportunities to support other organizations which we can learn about through the internet or through other contacts. Your church may not be committed to helping slaves across the world gain freedom, but you can give money, time, effort to this cause above and beyond your church membership.

You can support the ministries of your church while also helping to feed and clothe the homeless in your area.

I’m not trying to infer that you should never spend money on yourself or your family for fun purposes. I don’t believe you must live in poverty, while giving away every available dime. If you wish to do this, that’s your choice.

I don’t think Jesus was upset with the rich people because they didn’t give every last coin, I thing he was upset that they were simply living up to the minimum standards and thinking that was good enough. That God just wants people to fulfill obligations.

We serve a God that held nothing back from us. Let us be careful in believing that we can give him a 10% commission in order to satisfy him.

Money isn’t going to go with us to the afterlife. It is a tool that we can use only here and now. Let us use it wisely, treating a device of this temporal life as seeds with which to plant a crop that may be reaped in heaven.

Perhaps instead of viewing 10% as a set number that we must never go under and that we need not exceed, we should instead seek to give all that we are able at any given point in our lives.

From our abundance or our need, let us seek to be generous. To give all that we can.

Birthday Charity

On the evening of December 23rd, I went out with the Salvation Army to inner city Baltimore in order to hand out hot meals to homeless and/or needy persons. Being only a little more than a day before Christmas, I figured there would be a larger number of people in line for meals that usual. Since people buy presents for kids at this time of year, I assumed that some people who are normally able to make ends meet would need a little help feeding themselves and their family.

When we drove out to the locations, we discovered that there was a large number of people who were in need, but we also discovered that there were many other people and groups passing out food. At one homeless shelter, we passed off several boxes of prepared meals, to find several pizzas being delivered for free as we drove off.

In honor of the Christmas season, it seems giving and charity was abounding. The driver of the truck I was on had a slightly different view. He said, “Oh yeah. Tomorrow if you come out here, there will be food just lying around. But come back a week from Monday and you won’t see any of that.”

It struck me just how tragic this all is. When we actually care and decide to do something about the issues which surround us, we can really do something about it. The problem is, we don’t care enough.

I understand that just handing out food for free all the time isn’t some kind of perfect solution. My point is that when we commit to being generous and charitable, we can really make a difference. Should it happen only once a year? Of course, I say no.

So how can we make sure that we all give the effort to meet the needs in our communities, but not at just one time?  Here’s my idea: we start a new idea that to celebrate your birthday, you do charity work.

That means each day will be covered throughout the year. And it only asks each person to do it one day out of 365. You can’t be much more reasonable than that.

Additionally, it takes an event that we normally direct toward ourselves: getting presents, eating cake, having a party; and we do something to remind ourselves that we’re supposed to be living a life of sacrifice, not just indulgence.

I’m not saying birthday cake and birthday parties are bad or evil. Just that maybe it’s a good time to dedicate ourselves to doing the work of God’s kingdom for another year.

So the next time you have a birthday, call a local charity and ask how you can volunteer on that day. If the million or so people who have a birthday in the United States each day took that chance to show their thanks to God for another year by blessing others, what couldn’t we accomplish!?

Just a thought.