Preach the Word!

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
2 Timothy 4:1-4 ESV

I’m not always a big fan of chapter divisions in the Bible.

Yes, they are helpful for finding passages quickly, but they can sometimes hinder our proper understanding of the Word by causing us to subconsciously separate connected thoughts. The first four verses of 2 Timothy chapter four is one of those cases. Paul did not originally write this letter to Timothy with chapter divisions or verse numbers. He just wrote a letter, and if we read it like a letter, we will quickly realize that he is applying the truths that he stated in verses sixteen and seventeen of the last chapter.

Because all Scripture is inspired, profitable, and sufficient, Paul commands Timothy to preach the Word, but the command is not alone. The apostle prefaces his charge to his disciple by declaring that it is being made in the presence of God and Jesus Christ. He does this to emphasize the divine element of the command. It is not Paul’s idea for Timothy to preach the Word; it is God’s. Paul is simply the messenger.

Because God is driving the command to preach, we must not take preaching lightly. Reprove, rebuke, and exhort should immediately call to mind the profitability of Scripture. Though we can (and should) allow the Scriptures to teach, reprove, correct, and train us individually, the primarily vehicle for profiting from Scripture is through hearing it preached.

The regular, faithful preaching of the Scriptures should be a key focus of all followers of Christ. Since through preaching we are taught the sufficient, profitable, and inspired Bible, we are able to rightly call preaching the Word a means of communal discipleship. By hearing the Word preached, we learn more about the God who authored it, and we learn how to better follow Christ. Preaching makes disciples, and disciples of Christ should love to hear the Word preached.

Unfortunately, many people prefer to “accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” turning away from the truth and chasing after myths. There are many false teachers who improperly use the Bible to tell people what they want to hear, and in many ways, they are judgment of God. We must be careful not to assign the blame entirely to false teachers. They only exist because people want to follow after lies. False teachers give the people what they want, and if we are not wary, we can become our own false teacher. Many claim the name of Christ, but never attend church because they believe that they can read the Bible and know God themselves. Though avoiding community does not guarantee false doctrine, it almost always leads to it. We are not meant to follow Christ alone, and we are not meant to interpret the Bible alone. When we read the Bible entirely apart from other believers, we risk avoiding what we do not want to hear. We, in essence, become our own false teacher. We need to hear the faithful, expository preaching of the Word. We need to be in a congregation with other believers, where we have elders who hold firm to the trustworthy Word, instructing sound doctrine and rebuking false doctrine. (Titus 1:9)

But the work of interpretation is not entirely upon the preacher, the congregation of believers must also hold the him accountable to sound doctrine. In Acts, Luke writes this about the Bereans in this way:

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

Notice that Luke was not annoyed or offended that the Bereans fact-checked everything that him and Paul preached to them; instead, he commended them for doing so! A pastor whose heart is to see the congregation grow in their love of God and His Word will likewise rejoice to find the church daily searching the Scriptures to make sure that his preaching is correct.

For these reasons, regular attendance of the Sunday morning worship service is one of the primary expectations of a member at Western Meadows. Because we value the Scriptures as God’s Word and value making disciples as Jesus command to every believer, followers of Jesus Christ should desire to sit often under the proclamation of His Word.

Sufficient: completed & equipped by the Scriptures

that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:17 ESV

Though Paul does not use the word, sufficient well describes the message of verse 17. Once we know that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for us, we are now ready to learn that it is sufficient for bringing us to completion and equipping us for every good work. Let us, therefore, examine these two effects of Scripture more closely.

First, all Scripture is sufficient for completing the man of God.

What might Paul mean by becoming complete? His letter to the Philippians might offer us a clue: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) Since day of Jesus Christ is a reference to Jesus’ second coming, Paul encouraged the Philippians that God who first saved them would complete their salvation on the last day. This verse contains allusions to the entirety of the salvation, which occurs on three fronts: past, present, and future. First, our salvation occurs in the past through what is called justification. When justified, God imputes the righteousness of Christ onto us, legally declaring us to be righteous. Our salvation is also occurring in the present through the process of sanctification. Being sanctified means continually growing conformity to the image of Christ, everyday walking closer to Him. Our future salvation is called glorification. Upon our death or Christ’s return, God will give to us a glorified body that is no longer corrupted by sin. Justification destroys the legal power of sin over us, sanctification is our present and continued battle against sin, and glorification is how God grants us final victory over sin. Bringing God’s first work to completion means that God will be faithful to carry us from justification to glorification. And God uses Scripture to do so. It is through God’s Word that the man of God becomes complete, not apart from it. We need His inspired Scriptures to continue forming us into His image.

Second, all Scripture is sufficient for equipping the man of God for every good work.

Though good works do not save us, God still desires for us to be a people of them. The beauty of the gospel ought to produce within us the hunger for good works. For example, elsewhere Paul writes that Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14) He also claims that God created us “for good works” and ordained for us to walk in them. (Ephesian 2:10) Of course, James also famously stated that “faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2:26) The point is that good works are still important for God’s people, and the Scriptures are meant to equip us for them.

Paul writes a similar thought about God’s giving of leaders to the church: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12) The work of ministry ultimately belongs to every Christian, and God gives each congregation leaders to equip the saints for their task. Since we know that we have each received the call to make disciples, we also realize that God provides church elders to equip the church by instructing them in the Scriptures. The Word is sufficient for equipping us to make disciples.

What Is the Mark of the Beast?

Revelation is a weird book.

Filled with plagues, dragons, angels, beasts, and a lot of numbers, it is a difficult book to understand.

But Revelation is also necessary. In the final chapter, we find this reminder: “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (22:7) This means that Revelation is not a book that can be ignored or can be treated as unimportant until Christ returns. We need its message to the Church, and we must obey it.

Though there is much we could discuss, I want to focus specifically on the mark of the beast and what it might be.

Here is how the Bible describes it in Revelation 13:11-18:

Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

Probably the most common interpretation of this passage asserts that this beast (who is later called the False Prophet) is a literal person who will enforce worship of the first beast (called the Beast later and who many believe to be the Antichrist). The False Prophet will, therefore, institute a worldwide religion around the Antichrist, and those who refuse to worship by receiving its mark will be slain.

Proponents of this view typically believe that the mark of the beast will also be a literal branding of some sort. The rise of microchip technology has led many to wonder if the mark will be an implanted chip that is used in much the same way as credit cards.

While such an interpretation may very well come to pass, I would like to make a brief argument for another view.

Instead of viewing Revelation as wholly futuristic, it seems best to view it through the lens of symbolism. After all, Revelation is explicitly a book of prophecy, and God repeatedly called the Old Testament prophets to use symbolism in their prophecies.

In a symbolic view, many interpret the False Prophet to be a representation of all false prophets, who ultimately turn the hearts’ of people away from Christ and toward antichrists. Revelation’s visions of the Antichrist and False Prophet are viewed, therefore, as warnings of the plethora of antichrists and false prophets who will deceive people throughout history.

1 John 4:1-3 seems to complement this view (especially since it is probably the same John who authored Revelation):

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

The spirit of the antichrist was already in the world in John’s day, and false prophets were already directing worship to it. The spirit of the antichrist is anything that opposes Jesus. We either worship Christ, or we worship the antichrist. We worship God, or we worship ourselves. The spirit of the antichrist is worldliness and lawlessness (aka sin). When we sin, we place ourselves against Christ.

But if the False Prophet is symbolic, then what is the mark of the beast?

Notice that the mark of the beast is placed upon the right hand or forehead. This is probably best understood as a reference to the Shema in Deuteronomy. Jews have traditionally prayed the Shema twice a day because they view it as a sort of summary statement for their theology.

But you should read it for yourself:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

In the Shema, God was calling Israel to know Him through His Scriptures. He begins with a statement of who He is, and then commands them to love Him with all their heart, soul, and strength (which Jesus said was the greatest commandment, by the way).

But He didn’t stop there.

He then told them to take His Words with them.

Teach them to your children.

Talk about them in your house, while you travel, when you go to sleep, and when you wake up.

He told them to bind His commands on their hand and place them on their forehead between their eyes.

Write them on every doorpost of every house and gate.

What’s the point?

God wanted His people to be saturated in His Word. Even in the Old Testament, God’s people were to be known by their love for God’s Scriptures because God revealed Himself in them. We should be so steeped in God’s Word that it might as well be marked or branded on our hands and forehead.

So, if the mark of Christ’s followers is their love for one another and the Scriptures, couldn’t the mark of the beast be a sign of us devoting ourselves to anything other than God through His Word?

As we saw John say already, the antichrist is any spirit that does not proclaim Jesus as sent from God, but he continues in his letter to tie the antichrist to worldly thinking:

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:4-6)

God’s people are commanded to speak the Scriptures to one another, but those who follow after the antichrist “speak from the world, and the world listens to them.”

Could it be, therefore, that the mark of the beast is saturating our lives with the things of this world, instead of with God, His Scriptures, and His people?

This interpretation resonates with me because while many Christians watch vigilantly for the latest news of microchips, few saturate themselves in God’s Word, teaching others to obey all that Christ commanded us.

Few watchfully persevere in prayer, praying for boldness to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into marvelous light.

Few fill their lives with the community of their brothers and sisters in Christ, showing the world our love for Christ through our love for His people.

Martyrdom can quickly become a fantasy.

It is easy to look forward to a day when we are called to stand for Christ in the face of martyrdom, but the reality is that our Lord already called us to die to self. Each day is an act of martyrdom as we take up the cross of Christ so that He might live and reign in us. We must not romanticize dying for Jesus if we are not willing to live with Him everyday, saturated in His Word.

Many read the Bible, but few are saturated in it. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 describes Scripture saturation well.

As people who have been saved by God, do we long to hear from God in His Word?

Do we excitedly speak about it to each other while at home or traveling?

Is God’s Word such a component of our lives that we might as well have it tattooed on our forehead or hand?

Or are we marked by the wisdom of this world, which James calls unspiritual and demonic?

I would argue that if the beast’s mark is a lack of God’s Word, it is far more insidious and deadly than any microchip.

What Is Biblical Inspiration?

All Scripture is breathed out by God…
2 Timothy 3:16 ESV

Before we address what Paul means by Scripture being breathed out by God, we must first identify what we mean by the word Scripture. At its simplest, the word scripture means a writing, some form of written document. The Apostle Paul is using it as a title for what many of us today call the Bible (which means book). The Word of God is also an appropriate title, and the Old Testament is fond of calling it the Law. So the Bible, Scripture, Word of God, and the Law are all titles for the same collection of ancient literature that we Christians value greatly.

You may also note that Paul refers to the Bible as Scripture (singular), but they are also called the Scriptures (plural) just as often. In fact, Jesus Himself tended to use the singular and plural pretty interchangeably. I think this is because the Bible is both a collection of books and one single book.

With sixty-six books, the Bible is a library, divided into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Containing thirty-nine books, the Old Testament is significantly larger than the New, and many considered to be much more difficult to read. However, the Old Testament’s story can be easily read in the following books: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Those eleven books form the overall narrative, from creation to the restoration of Jerusalem. Beyond that, the Old Testament can be divided into three categories: the Torah (Hebrew for Law), the Writings, and the Prophets. The Torah consists of the first five books of the Bible, authored by Moses. Psalms, Proverbs, and the other poetic books compose the Writings. The oracles of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Jonah, and others fill the largest section, the Prophets.

There is a four-hundred-year gap between the Old and New Testament. The New Testament opens with the four Gospels. These are each accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The presence of four books that tell the same story should point to the importance and centrality of their message.

Jesus is the focus of the entire Bible.

The Old Testament looked forward to Him, the Gospels proclaim Him, and the rest of the New Testament is a reflection upon what He did and will do.

But why do we need four Gospels?

We can think of the Gospels as being different portraits of Jesus. They all tell the same narrative but from a slightly different angle. Matthew paints Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, coming to establish the eternal kingdom of heaven on earth. Mark depicts Jesus as the suffering servant, coming in authority to lay down His life for others. Luke pictures Jesus as the Son of Man, who reaches out to the poor, sick, and outcast with healing, grace, and mercy. John portrays Jesus as the Son of God, the divine Word of God who eternally existed with God, as God, and has now come into humanity on a mission to redeem us.

Acts is the only other narrative work in the New Testament. It describes the growth of the church and how they, through the Holy Spirit, continue the ministry of Jesus as His body. Romans through Philemon are letters written by the apostle Paul to churches or individuals. Hebrews is a letter/sermon of unknown authorship that explains the Old Testament’s completion in Christ. James through Jude are letters named after their respective authors. Finally, Revelation is a book of prophesy concerning the end of everything. It contains many allusions to Genesis because it the completion and closing of all the Scriptures.

What Is Inspiration?

The most recent books of the Bible were written nearly two thousand years ago, while many Old Testament books were even written thousands of years before those. But even though the Scriptures were written by various authors over thousands of years in a plethora of genres, there is unifying thread that weaves them all into one book: their Source.

While men like Moses, Ezra, Paul, or John are considered biblical authors, Peter tells us that no “Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophesy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21) Notice the phrase carried along by the Holy Spirit. Moses may have physically written Genesis, but the Holy Spirit guided him to write what was needed.

This process of the Holy Spirit carrying along the biblical authors is called the inspiration of the Bible. The Scriptures were written by men but inspired by God, or as Paul says to Timothy, they are breathed out by God. A literal translation would be that all Scripture is God-breathed. The LORD breathed the Scriptures into existence, using the human authors as instruments.

This does not mean that God overrode the authors individual writing styles. Paul writes different than Moses, Peter, or John. But it does mean that there is unity to the whole because ultimately each book is written by God, which makes each book of the Bible feel similar to one another. Exodus and Romans could not be more different, and yet they have a similar gravitas, a paralleling significance. If we consider Clement’s letter to the Corinthians, the familiarity becomes more identifiable.

Clement was a pastor in Rome, who was born in 35 AD, placing him roughly in the generation below the apostles. Living in the time of Jesus’ disciples, Clement wrote a letter to the Corinthian church that may have been finished before the book of Revelation. Thus, you would expect this letter to have much the same feel as the New Testament letters, and yet though Clement’s letter is beneficial and worth reading, one can feel that the Old Testament books are more similar to the New Testament letters than Clement’s letter does. This is because for all of its value, Clement’s letter is not Scripture. God did not breathe it out, and it noticeably does not contain the same weight as the books of Scripture do.

The Bible is ultimately God’s book, His Word breathed out to humanity about Himself. The Scriptures reveal His will, character, and commands for us, and they teach us who He is. They are for our benefit. This means that they are very much the actual Word of God; thus, as we read the Bible, we are hearing God speak to us.

Our value for the Scriptures is enormous; however, they do not themselves grant us eternal life. Instead, the Bible reveals to us the God who holds eternal life. The Bible’s infinite value comes because it is our means of knowing God.

Before concluding this post, we need to pause and consider one more thing.

If Paul truly does mean that ALL Scripture is inspired by God, then we have the duty to submit ourselves to them regardless of whether we like what they say or not. By believing that every word of Scripture is breathed out by God, we can no longer ignore unpleasant parts of God’s Word. We must face all of it, together as a whole, letting God speak to us. If we do not give the Scriptures the right to contradict and correct us, we will never know the God that authored them. You simply cannot know God without all of Scripture.

I urge you, therefore, to trust the words of the One who also spoke galaxies into existence. Give His Word permission to alter your thinking. You will never regret it.

The Wisdom & Worship Reading Plan

This Bible reading plan came about because of a few ideas.

First, I wanted to have a daily reading from the Psalms. The past two years I went through two different reading plans: blended and chronological. I enjoyed both of them and certainly recommend them to anyone who might use them to systematically read through the entire Bible. However, I did not like that both plans required a reading of the Psalms that in no way differed from the other books of the Bible. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so, I do not think that the Psalms should be treated that way. Psalms is a collection of God-inspired, Holy Spirit-breathed poems and songs. Many of the Psalms are deeply-emotional prayers to God, either in praise or lament. This prayerful emotionality makes the Psalms completely unlike any other book of the Bible. They are designed specifically for worship, both corporate and personal.

Therefore, I do not want to read the Psalms as I would Genesis or Matthew or Romans; instead, I long to use the Psalms to foster a prayerful intimacy with God. With this in mind, I have established a reading plan that has a daily Psalm reading. Over the course of a year, the Psalms will be read twice with Psalm 119 being read three times. I divided Psalm 119 into multiple readings because it is essentially twenty-two psalms that together form the longest poem in the Bible. Also, because of Psalm 119’s passionate love for the Scriptures of God, I believe that it is the perfect psalm to begin our year of reading God’s Word.

The book of Proverbs follows a similar thought process. Like the Psalms, Proverbs is a collection from throughout the history of Israel. It contains many wise sayings and ponderings upon wisdom from King Solomon and others. If the Psalms are meant to be springboards for prayer and worship, Proverbs give us practical and applicable advice for daily life. Most of the individual proverbs are not exact promises from God, but they are divinely written guides for how to live life. Therefore, I hope that small and daily readings from Proverbs bring about more Godly wisdom in our hearts.

The Old Testament is laid out the traditional order. The average reading length is two chapters, with some days being more or less. Personally, I have a great love for the poetic literature and the prophets, so I have chosen to read through books like Ecclesiastes and Habakkuk more slowly. As this is my first year to use this plan, I will be closely examining the layout to learn if this approach feels natural or not.

As for the New Testament, the plan will take us through its entirety twice. I have decided to organize the books around the four Gospels. Because Luke was a companion of Paul and wrote Acts as well, the book of Acts and the letters of Paul follow Luke’s Gospel. Mark was a disciple of Peter, so Peter’s letters are read after Mark. Jude bears much similarity to 2 Peter, making it included in this grouping. Matthew is the most Jewish of the four gospels, so Hebrews and James are read after it. John’s Gospel is then grouped with his three letters and the book of Revelation (also written by John). I pray that this will be an effective way of organizing and focusing upon each of the four Gospels and how their themes are traced throughout the New Testament.

May this be a year of growth in the wisdom, knowledge, and grace of God through prayer and the Word of God.

How to Tithe Your Time

For many Christians, giving tithes and offerings are a normal part of life.

Even though I do not think that Christians are necessarily bound by a tithe (or 10%) today, I fervently uphold the principle of giving a portion of our finances back to God since they all came from Him in the first place.

With that said, my wife and I have recently been exploring the surprising truth of the phrase, “Time is money.”

After going through Dave Ramsey’s courses, we’ve begun to budget our finances, taking control of our money. And we decided to do the same thing with our time as well. After all, God essentially gave us a weekly allowance of 168 hours to spent in much the same way we spend our paychecks.

Since I wrote about creating a time budget last week, I will now explore another aspect of our usage of time: tithing.

Tithing time?

Why (and how) would we ever do that?

My reasoning goes something like this:

If we believe in giving tithes to God because every cent of our finances came from Him and if we believe that every minute and hour is a gift as well, should we not also give to God a portion of our time as we do with our income?

As I said earlier, I do not believe that Christians are obligated to give 10 percent of our income. The New Testament is clear that we should delight in giving, but it makes no claim on how much we should give. In fact, Paul even instructs the church members of Corinth to give “as he has decided in his heart” (2 Cor. 9:7).

Christians are to be cheerful givers, not obligated givers.

Giving ten percent of our income is a great starting point, but our focus should ALWAYS be first upon the condition of our heart.

A Tale of 2 Christians

The same should also apply with our time.

If God has given us 168 hours each week, a tithe of our time would be about 17 hours.

Obviously giving ten percent would fly in the face of nominal Christianity that only requires attendance of church on Sunday morning… if that.

Sadly, many professing Christians do not spend time each day reading the Scriptures or praying.

They refrain from attending most prayer services, events, or activities outside of Sunday morning, and their attendance on Sunday morning might also be sporadic.

In essence, they give God an hour or two each week.

But let’s take a minute to imagine a different scenario.

My church has three regular services: Sunday morning, prayer, and small groups.

Sunday morning tends to last a little less than 2 hours.

The prayer service typically goes for 1 hour.

And small groups normally take 2 hours.

That’s 5 hours a week.

Add a daily hour of private prayer and Scripture reading, and you would be spending 12 hours specifically dedicated to God and His people.

That still leaves 5 more hours of our time tithe for discussions over coffee with other believers, ministry meetings, community service, or even good ol’ evangelism!

But Isn’t Everything I Do Worship?

Of course, a possible argument could be that a Christian should not need to allocate time given to God since we are called to do everything in worship.

Yes, we should worship and glorify God with every action we take: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:17)

Even though time spent loving our spouse or family is God-glorifying, there is still a need to set aside some of it for God.

Worshiping God by working hard at your job is wonderful, but time should still be made for hearing from God in His Word, coming to Him in prayer, and being with His people.

We are called to worship and wisely use both our time and our finances, and that means setting apart some of our time and finances specifically for God.

But I Don’t Have Time!

Another objection might be the lack of time.

While it is true that some people are exceedingly busy, the truth is that we are rarely as loaded down as we would like to believe.

We can easily fall into the trap of believing that our worth and value are directly attached to the weight of our work-load.

The busier we are, the more important we feel.

I fall into this snare often.

And it’s sinful.

Instead of living in light of God’s sovereignty, I attempt to carry the world on my shoulders, which is a prideful lack of faith.

Of course, after honestly assessing my time, I usually also find that I have much more “me-time” than I thought.

For example, consider this article from 2014 that claims Americans within my age group watch 27 1/2 hours of TV on average each week.

I won’t even venture a guess as to how much time is spent on social media.

So what do you do if you don’t have a tenth of your time to give to God in personal devotions and church services?

Here’s a suggestion: Monitor how much of your time this week you spend watching TV, scrolling through social media, playing video games, etc.

Very few of us will come away from such an experiment happy with how wisely we use the precious time God has given us.

Conclusion

To be clear, I have no intention of placing a legalistic burden upon anyone.

I simply believe that giving God a tithe or a significant portion of time (as with our finances) is a healthy practice.


So, do you agree with me?

Should we dedicate a tenth(ish) of our time specifically to God?

How much of your time each week do you spend at church services, communing with God, or intentionally growing alongside other believers?

7 Principles of Biblical Giving

Giving to the poor is a staple of Christianity and most other religions.

Typically, we consider giving alms to be an inherently righteous and holy act, so when Jesus warned that there was a wrong way to give to the needy, most people likely hadn’t even considered that was possible.

How can giving ever be anything other than godly?

To help answer how to give in a godly and biblical manner, here are 7 principles found in Scripture to guide our giving.¹

1. Give secretly.

Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:2-4)

In these verses, Jesus effectively states that the godly nature of our giving is voided whenever we give merely to be seen by others.

Jesus calls His followers to live in righteousness at the heart-level.

Whenever we give in order to be known as generous, we reveal pride to be our motivator, not true godliness.

The two hyperboles Christ presents are simply fantastic.

First, He warns not to sound a trumpet before you while giving your money. A lot of commentators present suggestions for what Jesus means, but I think Jesus was warning us not to hire a trumpet player/town crier to play a fanfare and announce, “Hear ye! Hear ye! Harken to the marvelous donation being made!”

It’s an over-the-top picture, yes. But Jesus uses it to illustrate the ridiculousness of giving in order to be noticed by others.

The second hyperbole He uses is not letting our left hand know what the right hand is doing. I think Jesus what means by this that we should be so prone to give secretly that a piece of ourselves might not even realize what we did. It’s as if our right hand gives the money, and the left hand says, “Wait a second, what happened?”

Once again, it’s over-the-top, but this call to secret giving should create in us a desire to give and forget about the gift.

The godly giver does not keep a mental record of his or her generosity; instead, they freely give because God freely gave.

2. Give cheerfully.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

I love this verse.

Jesus assumes in Matthew 6 that His followers would give to the needy, and Paul makes the same assumption throughout his letters.

Christians ought to desire to give, and Paul emphasizes that desire by saying that God loves a cheerful giver.

We should never give reluctantly or under compulsion, only cheerfully.

Why?

We know that God does not need us or our money.

As the creator of… well, everything… there is nothing that is not already His.

Each penny we “own” comes to us solely by God’s grace.

Everything we have is a gift from God, and if we are not cheerful when we give to others, it is a sign that we do not understand God’s gift of grace.

Christians are called to know only cheerful giving.

3. Give as the Lord Leads you.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

This verse is so good that I’m giving it a second round.²

If you ever feel like God is a cash-grabber, read this verse again.

There is not a one-size-fits-all dollar amount for Christian giving; instead, we are each meant to be led by the Holy Spirit to give as the Lord leads us.

Remember, giving should be a cheerful act for Christ’s followers. Sorrowfully giving what you think is the bare minimum or giving exuberantly to impress others are both sure to destroy the joy of giving.

4. Give sacrificially.

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)

The poor widows offering is one of the most popular stories from Jesus’ earthly ministry. But what is the lesson to be learned from it?

The widow’s incredibly small offering was considered by Jesus to be greater than the large sums from others because she gave her offering sacrificially. Those two coins were all she had, yet she freely gave them to the Father.

This is contrasted with the wealthy givers who gave from their abundance, meaning their generous gifts had little-to-no impact upon them.

Yes, their gifts were large, but there was no sacrifice in giving them.

What faith is there in giving which costs nothing?

The widow’s faith was made evident by her refusal to cling even to her final two coins.

Let the widow’s sacrificial giving also keep us from ever using the excuse: “I would love to give more, if only I had more.”

We might have dreams of great acts of giving (dropping $100 tips everywhere, funding church plants, etc.), but in reality our hearts tend to place our wants and desires first.

Give sacrificially from what God has given you, and if the Lord wills, He will give you even more to give.

5. Giving is itself a blessing.

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35)

I often come to this verse to ask whether I  actually believe it to be true: Do I really believe that giving is a bigger blessing than receiving?

To be honest, I really like getting thing (books, in particular), but as followers of Christ, we must see the act of giving as a greater blessing than receiving.

Paul repeated this line of thought when he discussed a monetary gift that the Philippians sent him. After writing about having contentment in Christ regardless of his circumstances, the imprisoned Paul told the church of Philippi, “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.” (Phil. 4:17)

The imprisoned apostle did not need their gift because God was sufficient for him, and that contentment allowed him to share in joy of the Philippians who were blessed by giving to Paul.

6. Giving is an investment in eternity.

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:19-21)

The act of giving is a blessing, but there still are more blessings for the giver.

In Matthew 6, Jesus indicated that secret giving will be rewarded by our heavenly Father who sees in secret.

Many prosperity teachers claim that God rewards us by miraculously multiplying and returning our money to us. Though God is certainly free and able to prosper us, this give-and-get teaching is entirely unbiblical.

Such teachings view material wealth as the ultimate reward, but the Scriptures teach that godly giving is an investment in eternal treasures.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

It can be so easy to safely store our hearts within our wallet or bank account, desperate for the security and provision that money seems to provide.

It’s an alluring treasure.

But God beckons us toward more.

When we give away our earthly treasures, we go against the impulse to simply accumulate money. Giving drives a knife into the heart of greed, and it reminds us not to place our hope in currency.

Giving helps us to fix our eyes upon our blessed hope, displaying that God alone is our great treasure and He alone possesses our heart.

7. Giving mirrors God’s heart.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

This is the most significant reason for Christian giving.

God gave His only Son for us.

And we are called to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1).

I’ll let the apostle Paul describe the wonder of this thought:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
by taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

(Philippians 2:5-11)

God Himself humbled Himself to point of the death, even death on a cross, for us.

Every grace that we have is predicated upon Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Jesus’ words to His disciples apply to us still: “You received without paying; give without pay.”

Because followers of Christ have experienced the immense grace of God, how can we not also become givers of grace?


1) These principles are far from exhaustive on the subject of giving, but I pray they are helpful nonetheless.

2) Seriously, memorize 2 Corinthians 9:7 and pray through it each time you give as away to check your heart’s motivation. You won’t regret it.