Singing the blank check blues
July 11 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Singing the blank check blues | Friday, July 11, 2003

Friday, July 11, 2003

Singing the blank check blues

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Just write the check.

Lots of checks have remained unwritten this year - checks that could have supported local churches, missions efforts, and a variety of ministries related to the Baptist State Convention.

With the economy lingering in the doldrums, many people have lost their jobs and others are running scared. Retirement plans that once ballooned with each passing year deflated just as quickly. The growing national deficit leaves people uncertain about the future.

In short, the current atmosphere is not conducive to generosity.

That makes it a perfect time to pull out all the stops and give more freely than ever.

"But," you might say, "that doesn't make any sense at all." And, from a strictly human standpoint, you might be right.

Followers of Christ, however, don't necessarily live by what makes worldly sense.

The Bible is filled with examples of people who were willing to give all for the sake of others, even when facing poverty of their own.

There's the story of the poor widow of Zaraphath, for instance (1 Kings 17:10-16). There was a great famine, and she did not expect to survive it. The prophet Elijah met the poverty-stricken woman just as she was preparing to mix a last handful of meal with her last few drops of olive oil to prepare a meager cake of bread for herself and her son, expecting it to be the last they would ever eat.

Bold as brass, Elijah asked her to serve that last morsel to him, instead. He promised that if she did, the Lord would not let her meal barrel or oil jar run dry until the famine ended.

It must have been hard for her to give Elijah the last crumb of sustenance she had for herself and her son, but she gave it - and the scriptures testify that Lord was true to His word.

And there's the story of Hannah, who wanted a son so badly that she promised to give him back to God if He would only bless her with a boy. God responded to Hannah's hopeful faith, and Samuel was born. He was her only son, and it must have been sorely tempting to forget the promise she had made with such great emotion.

But Hannah remembered, and the first chapter of 1 Samuel says that when the boy was weaned, she took him to Shiloh to live and serve God in the temple. God blessed Hannah with several other children afterward, but she didn't know that would happen when she gave up the one son she had.

The New Testament knows generosity, too. A story found in Mark 12 and Luke 21 speaks of how Jesus observed a poor widow who came to the temple and quietly cast two tiny coins into the offering box. She gave more than all the others, Jesus said, because she gave all that she had.

I find it interesting that, in each of those examples, the generous and sacrificial spirit was found in the heart of a woman.

That is not to suggest that men could not be generous, or at least, encourage others to be. The prophet Malachi challenged Israel to be faithful in bringing their tithes to God, trusting that the Lord would pour out blessings on them (Mal. 3:10). We presume he was willing to practice what he preached.

I believe that promise is still good.

I do not believe we should give for selfish purposes, looking at our tithes and offerings as nothing more than investments that will pay big dividends as God pours out blessings so great that we don't have storehouses big enough to receive them.

I believe we should give without regard to what we may receive in turn, because that is what it means to be a Christian. That is what Jesus said would set Christians apart from the rest of the world. "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples," Jesus said, "because you love one another" (John 13:35).

When we love, we give, and we give generously, even if it means doing without something we might have wanted for ourselves.

So, when Sunday rolls around and you know the offering plate will be coming by, write the check.

When the appeal arrives from the Baptist Children's Homes, encouraging you to help hurting children, write the check.

When you come across that person who is truly down on his or her luck and in need of help, write a check - even if you can't count it as a tax deduction.

When I was a student at Southeastern Seminary, professor Malcolm Tolbert used to say, "If you want to do something really Christian, do something generous and loving."

The longer I live, the more I appreciate those words of wisdom.

Just write the check.

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7/11/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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