I Went to Church Today
Church has always been a huge part of my life. It’s been the one thing that I’ve somewhat kept at besides video games these past 20 or so years. I know the lingo. I know when to stand. I know when to sit. I know when to clap. When I hear people who are more outspoken than I am, I can appreciate their enthusiasm.
Today, I heard a message I’ve heard before. I literally heard the same message three weeks earlier from the same pastor but at a different campus. It was great. I loved it. I felt like I needed it and even felt some endorphins flowing through me when I heard it again, just like the first time.
I sat there. I enjoyed it. I loved it.
Obviously I’m not going to rewrite something I feel that was already close to perfect. I don’t think that’s smart.
The speaker before the preacher was talking about tithing. I enjoy these messages because God-damn it’s so hard to tithe some days. I need that extra boost because if I’m being honest, I haven’t tithed in years until today. What I don’t appreciate is when people try to lessen the blow by affirming that my materialistic wealth is tied into how much I tithe. If I want more money, I will work harder and produce more things people will want to pay me for. My money does not grow in correlation to the size of my faith. My ability to be without money grows exponentially as my faith grows. This is how I can tithe my money that I desperately need.
I don’t believe in the Prosperity Gospel. I hate it.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the first fruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.
The speaker came up and quoted this scripture to us this afternoon. And really, I got hung up on verses 9–10 because I thought this was it. I thought I was wrong and maybe God does give back more money when I put in some money. Maybe there’s some veracity to the Prosperity Gospel that I hate so much. But then, I focused on what scope I was viewing verses 9–10.
When I read about how my barns will be filled to overflowing, and my vats will brim over with new wine, what am I imagining? Because I imagine three possible lenses available for us: wealth, self, and God.
I am so attracted to wealth. Wealth feels so far away from the tips of my fingers that it would impact every single aspect of my life right now. I buy Powerball tickets and Mega Millions tickets because I want greater financial security, and so I can buy a lot of things. When I hear about my barns overflowing and my vats brimming over with new wine, I immediately start perking up my ears and thinking about a greater magnitude of wealth. I imagine gold roads and a lot of cash. I want to replace my suits my old cat tore up with some premium Banana Republic. I’m thinking a huge house with a pool, and an upgrade on my Honda Civic to an Accord. I’ve always wanted a pool table. I could upgrade my home gym. Maybe. It’s pretty wild.
I love the prospect of being without worry of finances and being able to take care of my family and friends. I want to be able to quit my job, sit at home, write some boring blog posts, try to write a novel, attempt to finish school, and get another cat while I’m at it. It’s a real nice life that I’m imagining.
I love myself. Justin Bieber did not write a song about me that reached No. 1 in 15 countries this past year. I absolutely do what I want and make sure that I can get away with being as greedy as I can every single day of my life. If my decisions don’t benefit me in some way, I have a very hard time committing to it and following through if it do (EDIT: IF IT DO, BRUH! JK THAT’S SUPPOSED TO SAY ‘IF I DO’). The one thing I love doing most is watching people enjoy what I do. It gives me value and appreciation because they are enjoying me and laughing at my intentional hijinks.
So I start thinking, “I deserve this. I deserve to put in ten cents out of every dollar and get a barn and some vats.” And I start thinking, “So I have to do it. It doesn’t make sense not to because I want to come up and get what I deserve.” Even if the system is rigged and broken in our favor, I’m not even thinking about why it’s broken. I’m thinking, “Nice. This must be the good news everyone was talking about.”
In those two lenses, I leave out the whole point of the Bible. The Bible is not a modern self-help book available at any of your online and local booksellers. The Bible reveals to me the heart of the Father, and allows me to fall in love with Him. The Bible, if I had more faith, would change my life and allow me to live in a freedom I don’t even understand yet. So when I see Wealth and Self and how I am bolstering my insufficiencies with the word of God in Proverbs 3:9–10, I need to remember what the purpose of this Bible intends to uphold. It’s not me. I was dead when the book was written and I will be dead for a long while as it perpetuates through this evolving world of ours. Proverbs 3:9–10 was not written so that I can have a huge house and fat vats. Proverbs 3:9–10 was written so that I would honor God with the first fruits of my labor. Beyond what I receive from the seeds I sow into this world, I use all I have been provided to praise God who has given me hands to work and a steady source of income. The proverb shows that God is a God who has the inimitable ability to multiply the little that I give and that I should be amazed at His power and Almighty ways. The words enlighten my thoughts on how God sees the small money that I give in comparison to the trillions and trillions of circulating currency in our world economy, and that He is able to notice my tithe and sincerely appreciate my portion.
I benefit greatly from everything that was written in the Bible. But I would be an idiot to think that this book was written for the purpose of Me.
The Bible was not written for me. There is no dedication space written out in sentimental words that the Bible never would’ve came to be had I not been born in 1990. In all of its pages, it is written proclaiming the goodness of God coming upon the Earth and to show us why we are to honor God with the first fruits of our labor. He shows us we can live without wealth. We don’t need it. It does not fulfill the perpetual longing in our hearts. He shows us that we don’t need to always look out for ourselves. We can be selfless like Jesus was selfless. We can give and expect nothing in return. We can love others and receive no appreciation for our love till we burnout. Why? Because God is sufficient. God is good. I want to honor Him in any way I can. And so I tithe, gladly.