I was probably 10 or 11 when we visited with a relative one weekend. The family pulled out a deck of cards and I played poker for the first time. My dad was a simple man, and he simply said to me on the drive back home, “Michael, those cards can get you into a lot of trouble.” Point taken.
But there are other cards that can get us into trouble, too: credit cards.
Over 200 million Americans own them, averaging 2.3 cards per user. Of this number 75 million pay their entire debt every month, but 125 million carry debt from month-to-month with interest. The average debt is $8000, which is down a bit from a high of $10,500 in 2008. According to the website, wisebread.com, paying the minimum payment on a credit card purchase results in doubling the original debt over the course of the loan. In other words, if we charge a purchase with a card, we may end up paying twice the price for the item for the sake of instant gratification.
Compare typical credit card interest of 15-22 percent with a bank loan of four or five percent.
Jesus said a person’s life doesn’t consist in the abundance of possessions, but we’ve been arguing with him every since. Our world says things add to quality of life and we can own them now; we don’t have to save our money.
God’s people in the Old Testament honored the Lord with their “first fruits.” The farmers knew the first of the harvest was the best, and it was what they brought to God as a sacrifice. The principle is that God is worthy of our best (Leviticus 2:12).
Modern believers know that rather than bringing grain or sheep to God, the tithe is the way we express this principle. We honor God with our income—the first check, as it were.
But the average Christian gives 2.6 percent of their income to God.
A denominational official talked about this in a pastors meeting years ago. He suggested it might be advantageous to encourage our members, many of whom were mired in debt, to increase their gifts to God by a percentage each year, moving to the biblical tithe. One of my friends sitting nearby grew red-faced and shouted, “OK. If I’m having two affairs, you’re saying I only need to give up one?”
My friend was lobbying for strict obedience, and that’s fine. But I tend to agree with the denominational official’s more reasoned approach. I challenged those in our church recently in the 2.6 percent category to consider increasing their gifts incrementally to the Lord in 2018 as a way of honoring and trusting him.