Are you in the 99th Percentile?

 

In about four weeks, you can expect to hear the same line echoing in homes across America: “When are we going to open our presents?” Family traditions may split between Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning, but there’s no chance the wrappings will be untouched by the 26th

Imagine how God must feel when the spiritual gifts He’s selected for all of His children end up unopened – and, unused – with no attention paid to either the immense value of both the gift and the Giver. The very supernatural enablement that He has entrusted to every one of His family is the secret weapon with which He has equipped us to honor Him and oppose the forces of evil. Unopened…

He’s made selections from Heaven’s catalog for each of us. Prophesying; serving; teaching; encouraging; giving; leading; showing mercy: each is a game-changing demonstration of God working through redeemed people to impact our world and expand His Kingdom (see Romans 12:3-8). What did He put under the tree (not the Christmas tree; rather the Calvary tree) for you?

There’s a bit of confusion for some as we seek clarity in this subject. Most of these gifts align with practices that all followers of Jesus should be incorporating into our daily relational routines.

Prophesying – which speaks God’s truth in the face of defiance – is a challenge that demands response. Parents are called to teach their progeny, no matter their specific gifting. Encouragement is called into action whenever those we love need a genuine emotional boost. Giving is a constant among those who care for one another. Leadership is needed whenever there’s confusion over what should be done. And mercy – loving the guilty through genuine forgiveness – is the ultimate spiritual solace.

All of us are expected to manifest all of those qualities as part of healthy community. At the same time, each of us have it in us – by God’s divine determination – to make extraordinary acts of contribution happen in keeping with those God-given personal spiritual gifts.

I’ve referred to my friend Ted who – 44 years ago – spotted a gift in me and called it out. He pegged me as a teacher. I denied it, but God proved him right over the ensuing years.          

How do you spot gifts? There are “tells” that reveal the likelihood of God’s talents brewing in a brother or sister. I know people whose discernment about gifts can seem uncanny, but helpful.

I’m zeroing-in on the gift of giving. All Christians are expected to be faithful in honoring God with a portion of our income. The principle of first-fruits – giving off the top, not from what’s left at the end – is an act of obedience for all who are part of His family. The historic formula of the tithe – the first 10%, before anything goes elsewhere (including taxes) – dates back to Genesis; it’s a good baseline.      

Most folks live paycheck to paycheck; for them, the idea of a dime from every dollar is a faith stretch that calls them to action twice-a-month. There is, however, a leading edge of the economic bell curve whose financial life includes both earned income and asset appreciation. For them, treasure – which in Bible lingo applies to holdings that go beyond what’s needed to fund God-given responsibility – becomes the field on which the gift of giving is either exercised or squashed.

From time immemorial, the challenge has been constant: treat wealth as an owner who answers to no one, or act as a steward who recognizes Almighty God as the investor Who has entrusted His resources to gifted human servants who are representing Him and His interests with what they control.

From the beginning of my ministry career in ’84, tithing on my non-profit salary was a given. From Day #1, I’ve also done “gig work” – asked to speak at churches and other special events – that provided over-and-above honorariums that gave us more capacity. That allowed us to discover – and, refine – the gift of giving which we have practiced in keeping with Romans 12 advice: generously.

For the last few years, we’ve been giving all of my ministry salary and additional proceeds from investments that have allowed us to practice the kind of stewardship that our sole Investor Client (God) expects: “It is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:2). We’re supposed to be faithful; He’s serious about blessing gifted people so that they can bless His Kingdom.

In America today, you and your spouse are in the top-10% of the economic bell-curve if your taxable income exceeds $191,000. That same income puts you in the top 1% in the world: Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).      

Have you been given treasuremore than you need for your personal/biblical responsibilities – to steward on behalf of God’s interests? It’s most likely that you’ve also been given the gift of giving, which we are supposed to exercise with generosity.

If you’re in that category – along with Cheri and me – how do you sort out the places where your giving should go? That’s next week’s question… 

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