Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction

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Christmas Giving All Year Round: Slavery vs. Freedom

ChristmasGivingIt’s the Christmas season. I want to talk about giving—perhaps not in the way you want to hear.

As a new Christian 34 years ago, I learned about the principle of paying my tithe (10%). Although I didn’t quite understanding how this principle worked, I don’t think I spent too much time whining about it. I just did it.

You see, I’m a list-maker, you know, one of those people who creates lists for everything. I had my “Things-To-Do-Now-That-I’m-A- Christian-List.” I think it went something like this:

    1. Read the Bible, at least once, so I know what it’s about.
    2. Stop smoking.
    3. Pray in tongues.
    4. Find out what tongues is.
    5. Be a perfect wife.
    6. Get husband saved.
    7. Be nice to everyone I know.
    8. Then get them all saved.
    9. Lose weight and exercise.
    10. Tithe.

When I reviewed my new list, I saw that I was in trouble. Since we list-makers get our thrills from crossing items off our lists once they are completed, compared to the other items, tithing began to look like the easiest. You might say it was my first real victory in my Christian walk – even if by default. (It took me five years to quit smoking.)

Yet, despite my obedience in my giving, I continued to worry about money. I’d think of how little or how much I had; how and how not to spend it; how and how not my husband should spend it; and where it would come from and how I would get more. I’d sit mulling over the household bills, adding and re-adding, then fretting and wringing my hands. I was as much a slave to my will and to my fears as I was to money.

A few years later, when the Lord thought I was ready spiritually, he showed me that my tithing had become a legalistic ritual, a ritual to which I was in bondage. Yes, I was being obedient to the law, but I hadn’t surrendered my will with that obedience. I was giving out of fear and doubt rather than trust and love.

God We TrustGalatians 5:1 says: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

I was tired of being a slave. I prayed to the Lord as in Psalm 118:5-6: “In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid.”

Gradually, I began to surrender my control over my finances. Paying my tithe and giving my offerings became exciting to me again. It also became more about my relationship with the Lord than an obligation.

My obedience to the biblical principles of giving opened the door to more of God’s grace. He showed me that this type of obedience was not always reflected in other areas of my life. By his mercy, he began changing me from the inside out. My desire to give to the Lord with abandon grew, not only with my tithes and my offerings, but with my will.

Psalm 119:32 speaks of the type of obedience I want to exhibit: “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.”

Just so you know, paying my tithe and giving my offerings has very little to do with my church membership responsibilities or any denominational by-laws or doctrine – or even the IRS. It’s personal — just between God and me. And I love that about it now. And this love of giving has spread to other areas of my giving.

How about you? During this season of giving, I think it’s always a good idea to check our attitude.

Here’s a list to check off. 🙂

  1. Do we remember to give to those in need?
  2. Are we giving out of obligation?
  3. Are we giving so others will see us?
  4. Is our heart stingy or generous?
  5. Are we overspending to impress?
  6. Do we give to get something in return?
  7. Do we receive with gratefulness?
  8. Do we fit the person to an odd gift we have hanging around, or do we tailor the gift to the person?

Join Me in Prayer: Lord, please help us to appropriate the freedom you have given us through your Son Jesus Christ. Let our giving serve as a symbol of that freedom. Help us to release our anxieties and fears, relinquish our control and open our arms and our hearts in surrender to you. Show us how to give to you and to others with abandon! Then fill our souls with a joy and peace that money cannot buy. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.