Mid Week Faith Lift
March 19, 2014
Giving, Receiving and Tithing, Oh My!
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
We are now in week 6 of our study of Spiritual Economics by Eric Butterworth, and we are at the chapter on giving, “Discover the Wonder of Giving,” is what he calls it. And Butterworth begins with the assertion that any study of prosperity has to teach you how and why to give. He also defines “giving” for us, like so many other concepts in this book, as “an attitude with which you touch things.” That is an interesting twist….it is an attitude, “an attitude with which you touch things!” An attitude! Last week we discussed cultivating a mature attitude toward money; this week it is about how you touch things? What gives with this guy?
Well, let’s define it by contrasts. Our culture has an undue emphasis on “getting” and “having” no matter who or what is injured, damaged or destroyed in the process. And we can participate unwittingly in this getting and having process, I know that I do. We can get hooked on thinking that it should be fun, fast and easy and I am entitled. Or we can fall into thinking it is never fun, never fast and never easy and only after sufficient suffering am I worthy! But if we strive for a life of meaning, then we are going to live from the inside out. We are not going to misuse metaphysical principles or spiritual laws just to “get” all that we feel we deserve. Feeling worthy of receiving is not the same as a sense of entitlement to get all you can no matter what. It is coming into a balance of giving forth effort and opening to receive what results from that effort and being at peace knowing that the balance is a spiritual energy, not a human equation.
The law of giving is a spiritual law, but ministers and churches are equally culpable for misusing it to coerce the faithful into “returning to God a portion of one’s income.” As Butterworth notes, “This skirts the issue of inward-rooted giving” and invokes giving as striking a bargain with God. I’ll give, God, but here is what I expect in return! Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:28 “Consider the lilies of the field and how they grow.” Given the right conditions, the lilies unfold from a bulb into a stem and a bud and then a beautiful bloom. They don’t stop and withhold their bloom or their beauty and they don’t prevent the decay and death of the bloom. Given sufficient water and sunlight, they grow and bloom every season; they can’t help it. They were made to grow.
And so it is with us. Our life is God’s gift to us; what we do with it is our gift to God. So, our question is how do I live my life as a gift to God, because we have choices about this living business and how we do it. It is in giving out my life that I am open to receive all of God’s blessings. It is in fully participating in the Divine Givingness of God, not in retreating, withholding or hoarding that I also open myself to receive. But this attitude of giving our whole self can feel scary and unfamiliar, not something to do willingly without thinking about what I will get in return.
But we confuse giving with getting and receiving with taking. You cannot take from the Universe or from God. The law is the spiritual law of giving and receiving, not getting and taking. My prayer partner had someone in her congregation who was taking from the collection plate every Sunday, $20.00 one week, $25.00 the next, for several weeks. When she was made aware of this, she sat down with the person to counsel him that you cannot take from the Universe; that is not how the law of circulation works! You can ask for what you need, and Jesus frequently reminded his listeners to ask. And you can open to receive your good, but you cannot experience or increase your prosperity by taking from the Universe, not for long.
The Universe, or God, is all about giving, about expanding. Science tells us that, and we can even see it through the Hubbell telescope. Spirituality also tells us that God is all about expansion, or giving forth of good. God is what Butterworth calls “the Divine Givingness” of the Universe and we are each created in the image and likeness of this Divine Givingness. And we cannot out give God! Say that with me, “I cannot out give God!” And know that as a statement of Truth….feel it in your heart. We are made to give, to touch everything and everyone with an attitude of giving. Did you notice that even the word “forgive” has “give” in it?
Butterworth says you cannot make any sense of your life or realize the free flow of substance in your life until you see yourself as a “giver.” In your spiritual quest, you are seeking a unitive relationship with the Divine flow, but you cannot hope to achieve this level of consciousness until giving becomes the main thrust of your life. Brene Brown calls this wholehearted living, and if you aspire to that, then you pour your whole self into life with a sense of hope and resilience and a knowing of your worth. This kind of giving is not about giving to charity, to church, to worthy causes. It is about pouring your whole heart and “beingness” into life, willing to risk, to be hurt, to feel both the pain and the joy of life. It is fully participating in the process of life, which is itself, a giving process. You are in the express business, as we said a few weeks ago, the business of expressing God.
And the spiritual law of circulation, giving and receiving, says that if you live in a truly giving consciousness, then you must receive, for these are just a different places in the stream or flow of God energy. In Luke 6:37-38, Jesus says “Do not judge and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down shaken together, running over will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (NRSV) There it is…..the measure you give will be the measure you get back. What goes around comes around! Whatever you put into circulation will come back to you! That makes me stop and think for sure! It is kind of like that old joke….the Hokey Pokey…maybe that IS what it’s all about! This was the message of Jesus over and over….give your all, don’t hold back. And then he did it; he gave his all.
We can all have a low moment, a moment when nothing seems to be coming back to us, when we say, “my life has no meaning.” Butterworth says, “Life has no meaning, the meaning is in YOU!” When you give forth your life into wholehearted living you let your light shine even when you feel like a fool. You release the meaning from within yourself and you PUT the meaning into your work, your relationships, and your experiences by giving your whole self to each of these with complete enthusiasm, passion and zeal.
You are a giving and receiving channel in this law of circulation. When you encounter a huge challenge, a roadblock, what is it you say? “Something’s gotta give!” Yes! Exactly! So YOU be the giver. You cannot lose because you cannot out-give God. Even the word “forgive” has give in it!
So what about this tithing business? Giving, receiving and tithing, oh my! Last week it was the M-Word, this week it is the T-Word! When is she gonna stop already? Well, let’s look at tithing, because it is a very misunderstood practice. It is not a spiritual practice, it was initiated as a legal practice, a means of taxation in a theocratic government that was the Jewish law. A tithe, or 10% was a required tax given to the Jewish governing body, which happened to be the priests because Israel was a theocracy- a religious state. There is a passage in Malachi 3:10 to support the practice and it reads, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts. See if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down an overflowing blessing.” (NRSV) This comes out of the Old Testament consciousness of relationship to an external God who blesses us when we are pleasing to him. This is not the consciousness of Jesus and his teachings. He spoke many times of coming not to replace the law, but to fulfill it…to bring us into a new consciousness!
So ….do we tithe? Yes, says Butterworth, but only to cultivate a consciousness of giving, not to strike a bargain with God. Tithing is like having training wheels on your bike when you are learning to ride a two-wheeler. It is a way to practice giving that makes it more comfortable and predictable. But when we move into a spiritual understanding of the laws of giving and receiving, then we will realize that giving is in the same stream as receiving and we will live in the consciousness that allows a continuous flow. We willingly participate in the Divine Givingness of the Universe….so what gives here….We Do!!
Blessings on the path,