Revised section on ‘Unfulfilled Promises’
The Psalms of Asaph is getting a new title and cover—and a new section on “Unfulfilled Promises.” (It will now be called God, I Don’t Understand.)
When I wrote it two years ago, I was seriously wondering if it was possible to out-give God. After some financial setbacks, it seemed we had and were deep in debt. However, in 2019, I was forced to rewrite that section after a miracle that proved “infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20)!
So, if you have the current book, print this off and tuck it in the Conclusion.
I began this book with my confession that Malachi 3:10-11’s promise—if you tithe, you will be will receive “over-flowing” blessings—hadn’t seemed to be fulfilled in my life.
I believed—and still do—that tithing is the biblical method for financing God’s work and caring for “the least of these.” Jesus teaches in Matthew 23:23:
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things (NLT, author’s emphasis).
Jesus did not abolish tithing. Instead, he expanded the manner and motivation for giving:
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Luke 6:19-20 NLT).
Giving is no longer about simply—and legalistically—giving one-tenth of our cash income. Tithing also includes our time and talents to fulfill “the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith.” The Old Testament stresses the letter of the law; the New Testament the spirit of the law.
And finally, tithing does produce a “blessing.” The Hebrew word for blessing is barakah. It can mean blessing; the praise of God; a gift, a present; a peace treaty; liberality. It’s used sixty-nine times in the Old Testament, but rarely in reference to financial blessings. Most of the time it denotes godly rewards rather than earthly riches.
So, here are some “answers” I’ve come to after years of struggling financially—and spiritually.
First, Jesus taught “‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God’” (Luke 6:20, author’s emphasis). Unlike his Sermon on the Mount, where he uses “poor in spirit,” the Sermon on the Plain speaks of literal poverty. Jesus’ teachings turn the world’s values upside down. So, they have been times I felt very blessed!
Second, I may not have had a large bank account or a pension fund for most of my life, but I have been abundantly barakah-ed! I have been blessed with godly parents, wife, adult children, and adorable grandchildren.
I’ve been blessed to live longer than my maternal grandfather, despite a cancer scare. (Cancer-free since 2008!)
God has given me the privilege to share at camps, churches, colleges, and conference throughout the United States and overseas, as well as through books and articles. I’ve been blessed to meet wonderful authors, musicians, and national religious leaders, many of whom have become good friends.
Plus—materially—I have been barakah-ed to have never slept on the street, never missed a meal, always had a closet filled with clothes, and always had a vehicle. (At the time, my 2004 Taurus had 220,000 miles, but it still ran and had been purchased with cash.)
Unfortunately, we always had “just enough, just in time.” The only thing “overflowing” was our credit card bill envelopes.
So, when I originally wrote this section, I was careful not to imply that God promised to bless us financially. But, in all honesty, Malachi describes physical, financial rewards:
“Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies (3:11).
I was trying to give God some wiggle room if readers felt he was failing the test financially for them as well. But God does not need my “spin.”
After twenty years of just getting by, I received an inheritance which was “infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). At this point, our mortgage, second mortgage, and credit card balances are paid off. We’ve been able to give significant donations to our favorite Christian charities. And we now have enough invested to give us earthly security if this writing and speaking thing doesn’t work out.
Recently, my friend Gary caught me in the hall at church and simply said, “I told you so.”
“Told me what?”
“Just think about it,” he answered with a big grin.
A few years earlier, in our men’s Bible study, I confessed that the old platitude, “You can’t out give God,” was simply not true in my life. Gary disagreed—and he was right! It took nearly twenty years, but I now know that God does keep his promises—even Malachi 3:10! Not on our schedule, but he keeps every single promise in his time. (If I had received the money much earlier, I probably would have blown through it with matching new Mustangs, a time-share in Maui, and more stuff I really don’t need.)
So, if you’re going through a rough time financially, be encouraged.
• Thank him for the faith development and spiritual growth he is providing as you go through this difficult and painful time of want—and it is difficult and painful.
• Concentrate on the spiritual riches he is pouring out on you in reward for your white-knuckled obedience. Make a list.
• Learn the lessons he has for you during this time of testing.
• And always remember all the time, he always keeps his promises—in his time.
Copyright © 2019 James N. Watkins
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