September 20, 2016
Faith Has No Money-Back Guarantee
Post by Brittany Tedesco
Back in June, I read a Christianity Today article entitled "When Tithing Comes with a Money-Back Guarantee." The subhead reads: "How did churches like NewSpring and Life.Church get thousands of Christians to start giving? By offering a refund if God isn't faithful."
If God isn't faithful? Huh.
I'm sure it was written tongue-in-cheek...but the whole concept of a money-back guarantee on tithing implies that God might not actually be trustworthy.
A similar article states: "Recognizing that the prospect of giving away ten percent of one's income can be frightening for first-timers, LifeChurch encourages members to tithe for three months, and look for signs of God's faithfulness. If members believe God hasn't proven himself faithful, 100 percent of the tithe will be returned, no questions asked."
So you mean I don't have to fully give my money to God? I can just sort of transfer it—like putting it into a mutual fund—to see if I make a dividend? And if I don't, I can get it all back?
Cool! Because, well, stepping out in faith can be "frightening" as the article states. Risky. But this way, all of the risk is removed. Now I know everything will be okay!
And by "okay," I mean I get to continue living life on my terms—with my fist firmly grasped around every dollar and cent in my possession.
Real faith doesn't come with a money-back guarantee—a guarantee that everything is going to be "okay," according to our definition of okay.
To the contrary, "Faith is the deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time," as Oswald Chambers put it.
We trust in the God who told us that He knows what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8); the God who told us that we shouldn't worry about our basic needs because, if He takes care of the birds of the field, how much more will He take care of us (Matthew 6:25-34)?
When things don't go according to our plan, we can either believe, falsely, that God isn't trustworthy. Or, we can choose to trust in His character.
Wrote Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boom, "When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer."
Philip* was only 17 years old when he decided to end his life. He rummaged through a drawer in his parents' home in southern India looking for paper on which to pen a suicide note. That's when he came across the Bible his grandfather had given him. Twice, he heard the audible voice of God tell him to open and read it.
He'd never read the Bible before, didn't know where to start, but he took it and opened it...to the book of Ecclesiastes.
The first verse his eyes fell upon: "do not be a fool— why die before your time?" (Ecclesiastes 7:17).
This event marked the start of Philip's faith journey. He accepted Christ as Savior and went on to a successful government job.
He enjoys good benefits and continues to stockpile wealth in anticipation for the day he retires and takes it easy.
The end. Great story, huh?
Yeah, actually, that's not what happened. Philip spent six months at the government job when God spoke to his heart. It was something along the lines of, "I didn't save your life so you could work for the government."
What God was calling Philip to had nothing to do with saving up wealth or good job benefits...He was calling him to enter into a life of faith and trust. He called him to leave behind what all of his friends and family described as a great job and move to an extraordinarily difficult mission field in northern India.
Christians there are considered lower than the lowest caste (the "untouchables") and treated as such. Though born into an upper caste, Philip's status plummeted when he moved to that new location and people found out he was a Christian.
Things weren't "okay" for Philip. He didn't enjoy being treated with complete disdain. Initially, it was quite upsetting for him. But there was no money-back guarantee. There was only faith—faith in the character of the God who called him to this sacrifice of time, money, and even reputation.
And it was Philip's faith that God eventually used to lead tens of thousands of people to Himself. Because he acted in faith despite personal sacrifice, Philip has witnessed countless miracles and experienced the omnipresent faithfulness of God.
During a visit to Christian Aid Mission, he shared some of those miracles, one of which I'll share with you.
Philip had labored for years trying to reach his Hindu community, so antagonistic toward Christianity. If only he could gather them together and share this Good News with them, he thought...but how?
That's when God, through a series of events, gave Philip the idea to hold a Christmas party. He went door-to-door, passing out invitations.
Not sure that anyone would actually show up, he and his wife rented a tent, chairs, and a stage. By faith, she prepared enough food for 250 people.
Would it all go to waste?
Within the first 30 minutes, every chair was filled. More than 500 people showed up.
Philip's wife reminded him that there was only enough food for 250 people—what were they going to do? His heart started beating faster. This was his one, big chance to reach out to his community. How could he invite them to a Christmas feast and not feed them?
As he told us this story, he got choked up.
"I still get emotional when I think about how God multiplied the food that day so that everyone had enough to eat," he said.
Do we trust God's character? Enough to relax our grip on our resources and the way we think our lives should go? Can we trust that, whatever He asks of us, He will supply?
In 1 Kings 17:8-16, we read about a widow whose food was running very low. That's when Elijah, the prophet, showed up. He had good news for her—God was going to multiply her flour and oil—but first, she was to make him a meal.
Yep. Elijah asked her to use the last bit of food she had to make him a meal. That took faith. There was no food-back guarantee. She simply had to take God at His word.
And, of course, He was faithful.
*Name changed for security purposes