If you were to ask any pastor the topics that are the most uncomfortable for them to address and preach on, I would be hard pressed to believe that money and giving would not fall in the top five. Despite the discomfort that pastors might have in addressing these subjects, Jesus seemed to have no problem whatsoever addressing these issues. After all, he said in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
People in the United States give an average of 3 percent to charitable causes annually. If you look at Christians within the church, the same number applies. Yet, there are numerous references in the Bible for people to be giving back at least ten percent to God. Why the disparity?
Ryan Thomas has written a provocative book meant to challenge believers to give not charitably or out of obligation but out of faith. Rather than giving because it is commanded or because of an altruistic spirit, Thomas urges believers to give in faith with the expectation that God will give back.
Thomas defines a faith-based giver as one whom, “gives to God, and only to God, and not because of how the money will be used.” He tells his own story, sharing of how he and his wife gave sacrificially and how God returned the blessing to them. He shares that giving to God should be driven by the rewards that we know we will receive in giving. In fact, he claims, the idea of giving to receive a reward is seen throughout the Bible and he shares the various places where we see this.
After sharing his own story, Thomas lays out the four rewards that should come to us when we give in faith. We give in faith because it will strengthen our faith, it will free us from materialism, we will be provided for, and we will receive treasure in heaven. He spends time within the book supporting these rewards and how the Bible supports them as well.
When I picked up “You of Little Faith,” I was incredibly skeptical of the message that it seemed to be promoting. It smelled of a “health and wealth” gospel, a gospel that can often treat God like a genie in a bottle, ready to accommodate our every request and desire. As I read from the author’s own experience, there were certainly times that I squirmed, feeling uncomfortable with what he was sharing. But I began to ask myself whether my discomfort was because what he was sharing was wrong or because it was different from everything that had been traditionally taught about giving.
As I made my way through the book, I couldn’t help but see parallels between what the author was sharing and my own experience in life. Growing up the son of a pastor, I heard stories from my parents of how God had provided for them in the midst of very difficult times. As a pastor myself, I have experienced those same times, times when I wondered how on earth we could keep pressing forward as a family, only to have God show up in a powerful and mighty way, unexpected and miraculous.
While there are certain things within “You of Little Faith” that I don’t necessarily agree with, the overall message of the book was a challenge to me to step out further in faith, giving more than was rational in expectation of just how God would show his faithfulness in sacrifice.
Among the verses that Thomas shares within the book is Malachi 3:10, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” It’s a verse that most church-going people have heard around the matter of giving, but I wonder how many have written it off as irrelevant because of its location in the Old Testament.
If you want to be challenged to the point of wrestling and discomfort, you should read this book. While you might not agree with everything that the author shares and writes, you may be stretched in your faith, causing you to step out and test whether what he poses is true. If nothing else, it may cause your faith to grow in a way that you weren’t expecting.
(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)