Thinking about this I looked back to raising my kids. We had a basic set of rules because although children are innocent in their understanding, they are born as tiny little narcissistic sociopaths. They want what they want when they want it and they don’t care what it costs to get it. They have to be given rules in order to learn, and they have to be taught things like empathy, patience and generosity. Some are easier to mold than others but the goal is to teach them to have a moral conscience not just when they’re with mom or dad but also when they are alone and under peer pressure.
The maturity level of a child begins with learning how to follow rules and usually starts with figuring out how close to the rules they can get without getting in trouble. They’re proud of riding the line so if you tell them to keep their hands to themselves in the back seat of the car what is the typical response? (I’m not touching you…)
We teach our children how to share, how to say they’re sorry and what kind of manners to have. They don’t start with the feelings or the understanding. It starts with simply learning to follow the rules and as maturity grows they begin to develop the heart behind them…(or not)
Ever see an immature adult? Yep, what’s the indicator? Selfishness. I know that this doesn’t sound like a giving message but hang with me. I promise I will tie this all together.
The law was designed to teach the Israelites the ways of God. It was intended to be a starting place that grew with maturity and taught them to depend on God -which sounds immature but is exactly what he planned for them and for us.
People who fail to mature are looking at the rules through the eyes of selfishness and we find loopholes and justifications instead of developing a changed heart. We see how close we can ride the line without being found guilty of sin. We’re grown adults acting like children (I’m not touching you!) Instead of asking “what can I do?” we ask “what can I get away with?” or “What’s in it for me?”
The tithe began in the Old Testament as 10%. This started before the law but became part of the law as the minimum standard. When Jesus fulfilled the law the Jews were freed from it much like we eventually outgrow the rules our parents held us to. The expectation is that our maturity takes us past the stage of being held to rules that once got us grounded (or swatted). Our maturity should have developed a deeper understanding for those rules and a higher standard. Compassion, obedience, generosity… The charge to the New Testament was to give generously because their generosity. The bible is full of promises and those promises are certainly for us but maturity takes us beyond the place of giving for the sake of a reward. Maturity brings us to a place of giving out of heart of joy and gratitude. All of us began as small children full of selfish desires but at some point we grew up and when we had our own children we matured in to adults and because of that maturity we give to our children with joy. We have all heard that children are a blessing but we’re not keeping tabs for a payback or making confessions of our future blessing because our heart to give to them is out of love and maturity. I would like to challenge all of us to look at our giving through the lens of maturity. Instead of asking “What’s in it for me?” Can we rise to a level of maturity in our giving?
2 Corinthians 9:11-13
11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.