When I was just two-years-old, I used to enjoy tramping around the beaches of Belgium with a bucketful of shells. While I made my “rounds”, I couldn’t help but hear other kids on the beach crying out, “Flowers for sale! Flowers for sale!” When I looked, I noticed that these kids had beautiful displays of tissue-paper flowers that they had put together with the help of their moms and dad. The price always depended on the beauty of the beach-made flowers. The nicer ones cost a bucketful of shells, while the rejects could be purchased for just a handful.
That’s when I began to learn an interesting lesson in life: Nothing in life is free! If something that is too good to be true is given to you for free, you need to become suspicious, to watch for the “catch”!
By the time I turned 10, I had learned my lesson well. A man offered to give me all of the beautiful, colored feathers that he had won at the fair. This was definitely too good to be true. I looked at my older brother and he stared back sternly. I realized then that there had to be a catch somewhere. Nevertheless, it was with a broken heart that I stuttered out: “No thank you!”
My rejection didn’t deter the young man though: “There must be one feather you really would like. Tell me which one it is!” I hesitantly pointed to one of the feathers on display, and to my utter astonishment he bought more shots and won the prize just for me. I was jubilant! Someone cared! Why hadn’t I trusted him in the first place? Why hadn’t I accepted his original offer?
Is it any wonder that people look suspiciously at Christians when they talk so freely about their Savior Jesus Christ?
“And He did this for free?” they stammer. “There must be a catch somewhere, don’t you think?”
When some of them become intrigued enough to accept an invitation to go to church, they cautiously enter the establishment, scrutinizing everything: “Could this offer really be for free?” Sadly, many become deterred when ministers stress the importance of tithes and offerings.
Some churches do this more than others, with some even elaborating on the fact that it is the duty of the people attending the assembly to do their part for the kingdom through monetary sacrifice. My wife had been witnessing to a couple, and one day they accepted her offer to attend church with her. When the pastor based his entire sermon on the fact that it is the duty of every Christian to pay tithes and offerings, the couple got upset. All the way back to their home, my wife heard nothing but comments like, “They are all the same! It’s all about money! They only want my money!” Needless to say, the couple never returned to church with my wife again.
What does God think of such an attitude in church, where money is emphasized over the spiritual well-being of those visiting their sanctuary? Let’s see:
“What do I care about incense from Sheba or sweet calamus from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me.” (Jer 6:20 NIV)
“I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.” (Amos 5:21-23 NIV)
My friends, why do we try to mimic the world’s economy in our own churches? Are our churches any better than the temple courts of Jesus’ days? “He (Jesus) overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, ‘Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” (Mark 11:15-17 NIV)
Are we robbing God for what He really desires? Our worship and adoration?
Don’t take me wrong. Someone who dearly loves God cannot help but support the ministry through personal efforts and monetary donations. But is making people feel guilty if they don’t give really motivating them to give out of love?
George Mueller, a renowned preacher and benefactor of the nineteenth century had a completely different approach to this problem. He refused pew dues (the tithing system of those days) and insisted on having just a donation box in the back of his church for anyone impressed by God to give. Never did he even mention the necessity to give in his sermons or in his daily contacts with people. Were his needs met? Absolutely! Depending solely on prayer, he was able to sustain several orphanages through the donations he received. His reality was God! He wanted to depend on God and not on his own endeavors to receive donations!
Have we lost so much of our faith that we cannot depend on God anymore, not even in our own churches?
“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.” (Heb 11:1 The Message)
May we learn to enjoy a “life worth living.” May we learn to depend on God and not on our own actions. Salvation cannot be earned. It is truly free!
“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” (Eph 2:7-10 The Message)
By the way, would you like to have a grace-laced tissue-paper flower? They are for free! Really! No strings attached!
What about the red one?
And the yellow one?
Could this really be true?
Come find out!