A few Sundays ago I taught on something called "the Blessing Pipeline". It was a conceptual crystallization for me after much reflection on the theological concepts of Blessing and Covenant. It all began for me with the experience universally shared by all sooner or later - the sense of being stuck in my life. That can be applied a number of ways; stuck in terms of career advancement, or progress in a relationship, or in some aspect of personal growth, or even stalled financial success. For our purposes we have been focusing on that last one, as we have been learning through a series on finances and stewardship at Woven. It appears to me -- if I may cut straight to the point -- that what we give is what we get; and that is the simple principle of blessing, that is to say, blessing is a two-way pipeline; we cannot just expect to get if we do not give. Here is a graphic illustrating our present sense of stuckness:
The stoppage above prevents all blessing from entering in. Our best efforts and well-laid plans fail because of this. We wait for a breakthrough to come from without, to break in-to our present condition, and to break through our stoppage. We wait for a hand-out. We wait for the blessings. And they don't come.
Often (not always) but often the source of the stoppage is not external, but within us. We can blame numerous external factors - the economy, the spouse, the temptation, our upbringing, our conditioning, but until we face the one factor we can change - ourselves - we will never break through the stoppage. Because we are continuously waiting for someone else to do it for us. And God can't do for us what we won't do for ourselves. Because that violates the simple principle that maturity requires responsibility, and there is no growing up from free handouts and no self-growth.
I am a proponent of counseling and therapy as a means of breakthrough. Yes, I believe that at times in our lives we need some help in breaking through stoppages of repeated patterns, behavioral ruts, relational (and generational) cycles, character defects and flaws; sometimes we need someone to tell us like it is - and yes, hard truths hurt - but it is necessary to break through. We must break through from within:
I apply this financially as well.
We cannot expect to get financial blessing from God if we do not give. Giving is the finishing school of our faith, where we put our money where our mouth is. Malachi 3:10 says "'test Me now in this,' says the Lord of hosts, 'if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.'" And this, if we "bring the whole tithe into the storehouse." Chronic closed-handedness when the charity plate comes around is a sign of a stoppage in our hearts. As the saying goes, "Give according to your income, lest God make your income according to your giving."
Ultimately, the clogged pathways must be opened from the inside-out. But once the pathways are opened from within, blessings can come in from without:
Now in the end, I am sure there are "what if's" and "what about's" and anecdotal evidence of exceptions to the rule: "What of the wicked prospering?" "This person gives naught to charity and yet God seems to bless him." To that I would append "- for now." God in his graciousness sees fit to bless that person - for now. But such a perversion of justice will not be tolerated for long. I've seen enough now in just a few years of wisdom and a few grey hairs that God is just; what goes around comes around, we reap what we sow, and the measure we give is the measure we get back.
Conversely, begin to sow blessing now, to invest generously, to steward faithfully. See and reap the returns in time. But they will surely come, if your own house is in order.