God's math can be confusing

By Pastor Andrew Schroer

With school starting this week, it got me thinking. Do you remember "New Math"? If you are my age or older, you probably do. In the late '60s and early '70s, "New Math" was introduced in our nation's public schools as a supposedly better way to teach mathematics to children. The problem was that it confused many adults who had learned math the old way. It's not that the new math was bad. It's just that people didn't understand it.

The same is true with God's math. At first glance, it doesn't seem right. It seems confusing. For example, what is 1+1+1? For God, it isn't three. Our God is triune. That means that he is three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in one God. So for God, one plus one plus one equals. one. Confusing? Yes. But true.

Another interesting example of God's math is that he adds by subtracting. Allow me to give you an example. If you have $100 and you give it away to someone in need, will you have less or more? According to our math, you would have less. But God's math says you will actually have more, because God adds by subtracting.

The Apostle Paul once wrote, "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously, will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace about to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will about in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

In other words, God tells us that the more generously we give - whether in our offerings at church or to a worthy charity or to a struggling neighbor - the more we give, the more blessings he will rain down us.

But be careful. Some people misunderstand that and treat their giving like an investment. They think, "Great! I'll put $100 in the offering plate so that I can get $150 back from God during the week." Sometimes, that actually does happen. God does at times bless our generosity with more material blessings, but not always. We need to remember that God's blessings come in many forms. In fact, God's best blessings don't come with dollar signs attached to them.

The more you give, the more God promises to bless you. And he makes that promise, not so that we selfishly give to get more, but so that we can give without fear. The devil constantly whispers in our ears, "If you put that money in the offering plate, if you give to Helping Hands, if you help out that struggling neighbor, you might not have enough for what you need."

God tells us that we can be generous without fear. He will always provide. He will generously bless our generosity. You cannot give yourself poor. That's another confusing component of God's math. You cannot become poor by giving. I know that sounds illogical. But it's true. You cannot give yourself poor. Try it. It is impossible. The more generous you are with others, the more generous God will be with you. God adds by subtracting.

And if you still aren't sure - if you're still confused - take a look at the clearest example of God's math. Jesus gave up everything. He gave up the comfort, glory and perfection of heaven. He gave his life to gain for you the joy, perfection and eternal life of heaven. God adds by subtracting.

God's math can be confusing. We may not always understand it. But it is true. You can trust it. So try it out. Give. Share. Be generous. And do so with the confidence that God adds by subtracting.

Andrew Schroer is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Edna