It lies in darkness, untouched, unmoved, never experiencing the light of day, never released to joy and abandon. Its owner claims to have been ‘saved’, ‘converted’, become a new person now living in freedom – but his wallet remains a prisoner, shackled in the depth of gloom. When Wallet hears the invitation to give freely his hopes occasionally rise – thinking today might be the day when a £20.00 note will be released from his prison in to the glorious light – but then he feels the arm of his owner move as he reaches in to his trouser pocket to remove the 20p that has been safely stored there earlier for this very event.
One day Wallet hears a preacher speaking about tithing – but still, when the time comes to give, Wallet remains untouched. However, later, over dinner in an expensive restaurant with his wife, Wallet hears his owner speaking about tithing – giving 10 percent to the church they have recently left. A long discussion ensues about whether any tithe should be gross or net, on his wage or hers – or perhaps even both! They seem distraught. And what about their savings? Surely not! Finally they decide to put it on the back burner and seek the advice of their accountant.
Ah! The unsaved wallet – the most common and underused resource in the pocket of many many ‘Christians’. And I have met them – regularly. Some are highly respected leaders – but their wallets have never been set free. Some even tithe – out of duty or, perhaps, a guilty conscience or their desire for respectability – but still they live in a miserable, grasping way where, as we say here in Scotland, every penny is a prisoner. There is no joy in their giving – no abandonment or release. They are always the last to rise from the table in a restaurant when it comes time to pay the bill at the bar – the one who always stand behind in the queue at the coffee shop.
I have a friend, a man whose wallet lives in the light. He works in full time in Christian ministry – with no external support. One day he told me, laughing as he did so, because his heart is free as well as his wallet, that a very well off Christian telephoned him one day to say that they wanted to give him a gift – then asking my friend if he was able to travel a considerably distance to see him so he could pass it on. My friend subsequently travelled many miles to see the man and they had a time of ‘fellowship’. As they parted the rich man handed my friend a £5.00 note. Perhaps that’s all he had left of his tithe.
You can tithe to your heart’s content if you like – but if you give it grudgingly, only out of a sense of duty – you would be better not giving at all. Tithing is law not grace – and , from my experience, is used mostly as a coercive tool to guilt trip people in to giving to their church. I am not speaking here about those who, out of a full heart, have decided to give a percentage of their resources.
But it is more than money – more than the wallet – it comes down to a heart that has truly been set free and gives because it has been released from the bondage of a miserly spirit. Truth is this is not even a ‘Christian’ thing – as we all know people outside church or any religious affiliation who have big hearts and give freely. In this they are more ‘Christian’ than many ‘Christians’.
Honestly, I don’t really know if you can be a citizen in the Kingdom of God – and hold on to outright control of your wallet. We might call ourselves ‘Christian’ but really, what’s in a name? Coming in to ‘The Kingdom of God’ means, I suspect, a total abandonment of all we are and all we have – which is why Jesus so often referred to the difficulty rich people (and most of us are rich comparatively speaking) experience regarding the matter of their wealth.
The glorious truth however is that the Lord of The Kingdom is himself an abandoned giver. He does not reach for the 10p when you are in need – but changes water in to the best wine, a few loaves and fishes into a feast to feed a multitude with plenty left over, a father who embrace a filthy son and freely gives him his own robe. I need to ask myself – have I truly been set free? Am I really like the extravagant Lord I claim to love, worship and serve?
As we all know we are approaching the time of the year we call ‘Christmas’. If we are to take anything away from this momentous event in world history surly it must be the picture – no the reality – of a God who abandoned himself to humanity, a giving of the most extreme, unimaginable extravagance – for you and for me. Honestly, when you have been touched by such love your wallet can no longer remain a prisoner.
As I write this a picture comes to my mind of a scene from the 1984 film ‘The Dollmaker’. In it a mother (Gertie), living through the great depression started to make a little money from crafting wooden dolls. For safety and security she hid any money she earned in the hem of her skirt. Tragically her little daughter is killed by a railroad car. Her husband subsequently tells her there in no money for a proper burial – whereupon, with overflowing emotion and love she rips open the hem of her skirt revealing what she has saved for months. The money paid for her beloved little girl’s funeral.
I see God in Gertie – ripping heaven apart as, in the person of Jesus, the Eternal God in a fit of love, compassion and mercy, comes to live and die among us – so that we, His beloved, might be set free. And if we have truly been set free – might we be the means of setting others free – and may our wallets (and purses) be abandoned to the freedom, light and joy of Christmas.