Antioch Community Church

Ceiling vs. Floor Giving

Oct 15, 2010 | by Coley Waataja

Growing up in a little southern Baptist church in the foothills of the Appalachians, my sermon diet consisted of hell fire and brimstone and plenty of references to tithing with the right intentions. It wasn’t until college that I realized the opposite side of the giving pendulum was possible. As a sophomore in college I began to feel the money crunch begin. By that time my parents were far away and I was living the peanut butter sandwich days that make great stories of sacrifice and perseverance for your kids later on. As a junior in college I came out of the world of undeclared majors and excitedly began my studies in missions. Needless to say, this was my first time being on the requesting side of the offering plate. Class after class I began to see how scary, difficult, yet detrimental giving was to the body of believers and the kingdom. As a senior I was faced with the challenge of living what I declared as truth in my papers and exams when I joined a small committee of mission-minded people whose purpose was to convince other ramen-eating, entertainment-minded peers the worship and purpose of giving to the kingdom. Now as an adult with a grown-up job and bills to match, I have come to realize the importance of church-family supportive giving.

Those are life experiences. Now here’s my doctrine (please stay with me on this one). Deep down I don’t fully believe that God is sovereign in ownership, that my worship and heart are tied to and expressed by my money, and that increased wealth is an opportunity to increase my giving and not my standard of living. If I did, my spending would be different. As it stands, my life is a disconnect between my belief and my actions. I can tell I believe it a little because I have excels and graphs galore that show my financial Utopia of balance and savings. I’ve also been a model 10% giver from an early age (when you have a southern Baptist preacher staring down at you as the plate goes around you better believe I was a giver). It’s the actual acts of expenditures and choices that shows my true idea of Who I’m worshiping and what I am willing to worship with.

I’ll admit, when Pastor Andy began preaching on tithing I sat back and gave a pretty big sigh. Finally, something I’m doing right! I don’t have to worry about conviction on this point. I’ve given my allotted amount and can sit back and relax. A pretty hypocritical thought coming from the girl who used to stare down college students every Friday during chapel in an effort to convey the importance of giving more than you think you can.  Needless to say, after a few sermons from Pastor Andy and a couple more self-inflicted stewardship sermons from Pastor Mark Driscoll, I got over the idea that I was safe on this topic. So, here’s my thought based off of those sermons and the truth I find in scripture. If I truly believe that it’s not my money and that even the smallest action based on that thought is an act of ripping God off (Malachi 3:8-10), I would be living a lot differently. Now here’s the kicker; If I really wanted to lay down all my pretenses of viewing the church, my church, as a hotel rather than a home I would do everything I could to take care of it. I would invest in my home, take care of it, try to save in other areas so I could help maintain it. I would begin to view that 10% as a floor to work off of rather than a restricting ceiling.

It would change my lifestyle in ways that I can’t even imagine. You know what that means? Creativity! Do you realize how creative Christianity can be? I have limited myself far too long to the mundane weekly coffee drink rather than the opportunity to increase my giving.

All right, back to my college days.  Remember that group I mentioned before? The mission zealots who stare down broke college students? Well we had the epiphany that maybe we just needed to show by example how even ramen-eating, thrift store shopping college students can free up some cash to give to missions. Funny we didn’t pick up on the Jesus-like example before, but oh well. Then the fun began. Each of us thought through something we could give up for a month in order to give more to missions. One person gave up pop, someone else coffee, another person upped the ante and decided to hand-wash all her clothes in an effort to save on laundry-mats.

I’m an adult now with all the wisdom and privileges associated with that so why am I not as creative in my saving? I love this church. I’m not kidding when I tell you I absolutely love this church. That love inspires me to see it survive and grow and become all that it can be: all that God has planned for it to be. So, dear reader, here is what I am going to do about it. I’m going to start truly believing and truly living that I am a steward, that this church is my home, and that I can do more. I can create a budget that consists of more than a spreadsheet (FYI is amazing by the way) and actually make it a lifestyle. I can stick to that budget, not in a legalistic sense, but with the knowledge that there is something better than one cup of coffee or those new boots I like (sorry guys, but the manly analogies are going to be lacking in this paragraph). I can brainstorm with other people, make sure those close to me keep me accountable. I can live as if I believe the scriptures!

God is so worth the effort and the sacrifice, and this church is not my Holiday Inn Express. I plan on sticking around for a while and that means investment. So, let the brainstorming begin. Thanks for reading to the end. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some budgeting to do.

–Lydia O’Brien

Lydia is a member of ACC and serves in a variety of behind the scenes capacities, and we greatly appreciate her. Thanks for sharing, Lydia!

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