Confession: I spent many years of my life preaching something I didn’t believe.
I stood up weekend after weekend and told people that they could trust God with their resources, and that generosity was the path to freedom and joy. The problem was I didn’t believe it – not practically anyway.
I don’t mean that I was lying. I wasn’t, at least not intentionally. If you had asked me if I intellectually understood that God is trustworthy and generosity is a life-giving path, I would have told you, “Of course!” But belief is more than an intellectual understanding. Belief is action. After all, people say you have to “take a leap of faith” not “have a thought of faith.”
So every Sunday, I told my congregation that God was worthy of their trust financially, then I would step off that stage and let the basket pass right by me. I’m sure people assumed the pastor was giving online, but the only website that regularly ran my credit card was Amazon.
How Did I Get Here?
If I’m honest, I have no idea how I got there. My parents taught me to tithe. It was certainly taught in my church growing up, and it was a constant conversation in seminary. Maybe it was other influences in my childhood that led me there – like watching Scrooge McDuck swan dive into his vault of gold coins, or watching the Banks family deal with the Fresh Prince’s antics in that fly Bel-Air pad.
Maybe you’re finding yourself in the same place – intellectually you understand that God is trustworthy and that generosity really does lead to freedom, but there’s no demonstration of trust in that area of your life. And so now you’re curious about how you got here. Maybe you’ll find an answer. Maybe it’s connected to a childhood of scarcity, a trying financial season as an adult, or being sucked up into the consumerist belief that fulfillment and peace are available via two-day shipping.
Or maybe, like me, the influences are so numerous and complex you won’t be able to nail down how this chasm formed between what you say you believe and how you actually live. But regardless of how you got there, or whether you can fully understand the journey, there’s a choice to be made now. I can’t unravel years of financial mistakes, or go back in time and make sure my financial walk matches my talk, but I can trust God today.
How Do I Change?
Believe it or not, my path out of fear and toward trust wasn’t complicated – it was simply demonstrating my trust one small step at a time. I didn’t take a financial course (though they are helpful), I didn’t stand in front of the church and make a giant financial pledge, nor did I sell everything and take a vow of poverty.
I took one step.
I knew that God was trustworthy, and I knew that generosity would lead to freedom. So one day, my wife and I said, “From here on out, we tithe.” And we wrote our first check.
I think the best way to illustrate what happened for us in that moment is to tell you how my daughter spent her 10th birthday. She and some friends went to an arcade, and while there, they noticed a ropes course suspended above the game cabinets. She begged me to buy her a pass to do it. I told her what I always tell my daughter and rarely tell my boys, “Whatever you want.”
She put the harness on and began her ascent, and I watched as her confidence faded with every step upward. Once she reached the first platform and saw the panels stretched out on thin wires above a completely unaware arcade floor full of screaming kids, she froze. She knew her dad wouldn’t let her do something that would hurt her, she knew the harness would hold her, she knew she would have a blast doing this; but even with all that knowledge, fear was just as present.
So what could she do? She only had one real choice – take her next step. Move from intellectual understanding to real, demonstrative trust. I wish I had captured her first walk across the ropes course because a truly amazing transformation occurred. I watched that scared kid take her first step, and immediately the transformation began.
As she took each step, the frozen, scared kid on the platform disappeared and what came forth was a courageous, confident, and blissfully happy girl.
My daughter’s experience on the ropes course was our experience taking our first steps toward generosity and trust. We were frozen in fear. All the “what-if’s” flooded our minds every time we entertained the notion of giving. But when we decided to step off that platform of fear and greed for the first time, I can’t describe to you the relief and joy we felt when the first plank of generosity held us firmly. And just like my daughter, with every step of generosity, that frozen, scared couple faded away as God transformed us into confident, generous, and blissfully joyful people.
Your path off of the platform of fear and anxiety isn’t complicated – it’s a single step. I was afraid. I was hypocritical. I was unbelieving. I took one small step, and I am forever transformed.
How will God rewrite your story this Easter, one small step at a time? Join us online or at a local campus in Central Florida to celebrate Easter at Grace. We can’t wait to meet you!