Over the past couple of years, I have developed a friendship with Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a successful businessman, author and Jewish rabbi. I first came to know Rabbi Daniel by reading his incredible book, Thou Shall Prosper. This is definitely a must-read book for anyone who wants a clearer understanding of the biblical view of money. In fact, I bought a couple hundred copies and gave it to everyone on my team. Its that good.
Thou Shall Prosper is a rabbis perspective on why Jewish people, no matter where they live in the world, have a disproportionate amount of wealth. Less than 2% of the people in the United States are Jewish, but they make up 60% of the Forbes 400. And its that way everywhere. Theres no such thing as a Jewish slum anywhere in the world. Why is that? I believe its because the Jewish traditions teach some fundamental principles about money that todays church should model.
For example, the whole Jewish perspective on giving blew me away. It was just one of those lightning-strike moments that showed me a powerful image of what giving should look like. Its called the Havdalah, and it has changed how I understand the concept of giving. Lapin explains:
The Havdalah service is recited over a cup of wine that runs over into the saucer beneath. This overflowing cup symbolizes the intention to produce during the week ahead not only sufficient to fill ones own cup, but also an excess that will allow overflow for the benefit of others. In other words, I am obliged to first fill my cup and then continue pouring as it were, so that I will have sufficient to give away to others, thus helping to jump-start their own efforts. (Lapin, 150)
When I read that, I immediately thought of the large communion cupa gift from a friendthat sits in my personal conference room. It made me think of how we usually try to fund ministry work. Often, were expecting people with half-filled cups to somehow have an overflow. Asking them to give is like trying to draw water from a dry well!
Fill Your Own Cup First
We need to teach them to fill their own cups first. You may say, Fill my cup first? Take care of myself first? But isnt that selfish?
Lapin explains that the Jewish culture regards filling your own cup first (meeting your familys needs) not as shameful, but as a moral obligation. We see this in Scripture, where were told to take care of our own household first, or were worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)
The bottom line is that weve got to lead Joe and Susie to the place where their marriage is not in a strain because of debt; where theyre not worried about whether their kids are going to have enough money for college; where they wouldnt be in trouble and have to skip a house payment if they missed one paycheck. Once their cup is full, only then can it begin to overflow.
Let it Overflow
Beyond the needs of our own family, anything we pour into the cup splashes into the saucer beneath. That saucer represents the needs of others. So, anything that spills over the edges of our cup goes straight to meet someone elses needs.
And then all of the sudden, we can take our eyes off of ourselves. Our selfishness dissipates. We can give and give and give without having to worry about how to feed our families or pay the light bill. More importantly, we learn to make giving a natural part of our lives.
Giving to the Vision
God has given you a vision of what He wants to accomplish through you and your church, a divine mission so vast and so great that without Him it would be impossible. Your people want to be part of that mission, but they need your help first.
Instead of trying to get your half-filled cups to overflow, teach them how to fill up their own cups. Check out the 800+ Scripture passages about money. Start Financial Peace University classes and promote them heavily from the pulpit. Get in there and help them out. Remember, they dont need another sermon on why to give; they need to know how!
It will take some time for them to develop good money habits, but as they do, and as they taste the sweetness of giving, youll watch them transform from tippers (tossing God a tip here and there), into tithers (giving a true tithe week in and week out), and ultimately into lifelong, generous, outrageous givers.
Dave Ramsey is a leading speaker and radio talk show host who helps people get out of debt and become more generous. A number of Catalyst staff have benefitted from his program, Financial Peace University.