Category Archives: 31 Days to Wisdom

The Net Effects of Gross Tithing

31Days
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Proverbs 10:16

The wise give back to God.

For years, I have tithed on my paycheck, the actual net amount that popped into our checking account twice a month. It was simple, and I rationalized it to myself somehow. After all, if I never get to touch it, then why should I have to tithe on it? Right?

Something Brandon said in a sermon last fall convicted me of my folly. Maybe it’s what he said Sunday on the question of a gross or net tithe: “Which one do you want God to bless?”

Penny and I resolved to tithe on our gross earnings. We also determined to become very deliberate about including every little extra bit of cash that passes through our hands. Since we made our “Multiply” pledges last fall, I’ve been keeping track of my gifts and finding it exciting to see the amount rise.

I’d love to say that a long-lost uncle bequeathed thousands of dollars to me the day after we made that decision. It hasn’t happened. We haven’t even had spectacularly easy sailing. As I write this, I’m a bit annoyed at how low the checking account is.

But we have not suffered. We have been blessed, and we’ve been able to translate that blessing to others. Just last week, Penny took $100 she’d earned and dropped it off at First Baptist-Oak Grove for help with the tornado relief. And we’re not missing it.

I’m excited to see what God does through our small act of obedience.

  • Do you trust God sufficiently to tithe and give sacrificially?
  • What obstacles prevent you from being a bolder giver?
  • Can you pray this week that God will help you to recognize the way around those obstacles?

Lessons from the Buffet

31Days
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Proverbs 21:17

The wise enjoy what they have.

I have a saying when it comes to buffets: “The food wasn’t very good, but there sure was a lot of it.” Yes, there are a handful of good buffets, who actually put quality food on a steam table without killing it, but generally the appeal of these places is that you can cram enormous amounts of food into your mouth.

I’ll confess that I’ve been known to overindulge at Chinese buffets and that I possess an inexplicable attraction to Pizza Street. But in my heart, I recognize that I’m indulging an appetite for food to an unhealthy degree.

Probably everyone has an appetite that simply never gets satisfied. What is yours? Food, clothes, shoes, antiques, a bigger house, a fancier neighborhood? You’ll probably do your budget more damage, if not your waistline, by running amok with most of those.

Why did God not make me as rich as Warren Buffet? I don’t know, but He didn’t. Why did He not make me as rich as–you name someone you know who has more than you?

Perhaps in eternity we’ll understand why we have what we have, but for us to live lives that suggest that God was stupid in not giving us millions, if we run up credit cards and borrow as if we were Warren Buffet, then we’re essentially telling God how badly He has failed us. That’s not the way to live.

The wise learn to be content with what God has provided, making the most of it.

  • In what area of your life do you find it hardest to be happy with what you have?
  • Do you find yourself more easily drawn to complacency or contentment?
  • Will you spend time just dwelling on the amazing riches that we have in God in the coming days?

Lottery Tickets for Down Under

31Days
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Proverbs 21:20

The wise save for the future.

A few years ago, I taught a composition class to a group of home schoolers. One of their assignments was to write a proposal for how their family should spend some considerable sum of money. One boy, Chandler, had a grandiose plan that would take his entire family to Australia to chase crocodiles or something like that. The class pointed out to Chandler that his plan would involve a great deal of money that his family couldn’t simply wish into existence.

Undaunted, he smiled and explained his plan for that slight inconvenience: “Lottery tickets!” he proclaimed. “We’ll just buy a bunch of lottery tickets.”

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last twenty-some years, lottery tickets pay a whopping 45 cents on the dollar. That means that if you buy $100 worth of them, you can expect to walk away with $45. Of course, since a tiny number win big, the bulk of people will finish with less than  even that $45.

Playing the lottery, as Chandler surely understands by now, is not saving for the future. Saving for the future involves socking away that $100 or whatever you can manage, leaving it alone until you actually need it.

While God doesn’t seem to bless lottery ticket purchases for most people, He will bless our efforts when we demonstrate our trust in Him by saving for the future.

  • Are you a saver or a spender? What traits of these types do you possess?
  • What stands in the way of you making the most of your savings opportunities?
  • Will you pray diligently in the coming week about what God wants you to do to save for your future? Will you trust Him to open the way for that?

Constructive or Destructive?

31Days
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Proverbs 27:17

Be a constructive friend.

In my teen years, I spent a lot of time with two friends. For several years, Tony was my constant companion. Later, circumstances led me to spend more time with Scott. I stayed in touch with both of them from about age 10 to 20, but they definitely had distinct years in first place.

Once, when I was a college freshman, Tony gave me a ride back to MU on the way to his school in Rolla. When we got there, Tony reluctantly shared what Scott had been saying about me and my relationship with a certain girl. It seems that Scott thought me stupid to be with her and believed she’d bring me down. Scott didn’t share any of those concerns with me, but didn’t seem to have any problem trotting them out with Tony and others.

I think Scott might have been on to something. My dating relationship with that girl ended after two years. In May we’ll celebrate 35 years of marriage, but Scott might still have a point.

He was a pup at that time, so I don’t fault him, but Scott was not being very constructive. His words had a far greater likelihood of pulling me down than of doing anything positive. Even had he been right about that girl, his approach was wrong-headed.

Our goal as friends should always be to build our friends up and to help them prosper. That’s what Jesus did for us and what we should do for the ones we love.

  • Have you ever been less than constructive in your dealings with friends?
  • When was the last time that a friend proved especially positive toward you? How did that change your life?
  • How can you best pray for God’s assistance in celebrating the successes and sharing the afflictions in the lives of your friends?

Does This Make Me Look Fat?

31Days
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Proverbs 27:5-6

Be candid with your friends.

“Honey, does this look good on me?” Every husband knows that the answer to that question is, “You look great.” We don’t always say it, but we know the answer.

Beyond that bit of shallowness, we recognize that one of the great values of getting close to someone is the ability to be–in fact the obligation to be–completely honest with them.

Probably my best friend at work is Nathan. Although a terrific teacher and all around person, Nathan has a tendency to get pulled into positions of leadership that he finds overwhelming and utterly dreadful. Three years ago, he was detesting serving as the chair of a big campus-wide committee. Last year, he was swamped as president of the faculty senate. This year, he got sucked into serving on a different big committee.

When he resigned from that most recent gig, he expressed his relief. Instead of celebrating with him, I laughed and suggested that he’d soon let himself get lured into another difficult role. He looked at me funny for a moment, but since then he’s thought about that habit of his.

If we did not trust each other and enjoy each other’s company, I would not have been able to share that bit of criticism with Nathan. What he’ll do with it, time will eventually tell.

  • Do you receive criticism and praise from your friends in an open and accepting manner?
  • Do you offer criticism and praise to your friends in a way that helps them to become stronger?
  • What friend can you pray to speak more openly to in the coming days?