Buckets and Pipes

I flew into Orange County last week and a kid in the seat in front of me was saying, “Mom, look at all the houses with pools! Almost all of them have pools!” I couldn’t help but think about my reaction as we were flying into Entebbe, Uganda 9 months ago. “Look at all those huts” was all I could think. The contrast between the impoverished African country and some of America’s richest neighborhoods is incredible.

Driving around Orange county is a trip too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many new cars, or so many expensive cars before.

And I wonder, is that it? Is that all I want my life to be about? Cool cars, a nicer house, and more and more money? Most of us have settled for a life that is about more but not about meaning. YOLO.

Deep down, that doesn’t sit well with us. We want life to be about more than just accumulating.

I don’t know who to credit with putting it into my brain, but somebody told me they want their life to be a pipe, not a bucket. That’s been rattling around my head for a while now and I love it. It’s a game changing thought. Because the default mode for me is to think that I need to get and get and get, otherwise I’ll be left behind. I’ve got to save and build to protect myself. As Proverbs says more eloquently than I can: “The rich think of their wealth as a strong defense; they imagine it to be a high wall of safety.” (Proverbs 18:11)

It’s easy to write that off for “those rich people over there.” My inclination is that this is talking about other people, yet this is exactly how I treat money. If I have enough, I’ll be safe. But that’s just not true.

That’s bucket thinking and it just doesn’t work. Because the flow will never stop in the bucket. One day my bucket will be emptied. And when I die and they dump my big bucket out, who will benefit? Answer: Not Me.

But pipe people, pipe people are different. Pipe people understand that it’s only money. Pipe people get that money comes from God. Pipe people get that what we receive comes into our hands, and must flow out, and it’s better to keep it flowing now to benefit others instead of filling a bucket that somebody else empties when we die.

This is why I love the idea of tithing. For the longest time I didn’t. Because I have always heard it preached legalistically. As if somehow God needs our money to do what he wants to accomplish.

God’s not after – I don’t think – 10% of our money. God’s after 100% of our hearts. He knows that if we’re bucket people – always looking to fill up our bucket – we’re never going to be able to give 100% of our hearts to him. But if we can remove money from competing for our hearts, maybe we can follow God so much better.

I don’t think the percentage matters nearly as much as the heart of the issue. There have been seasons in life when I haven’t given anything for various reasons, and seasons where I’ve given beyond. What never mattered was the percent, but the heart. But for people trying to follow Jesus, the norm ought to be consistent sacrificial giving to things close to God’s heart.

It’s the sacrificial part that ensures our heart stays fixated on the things that matter. And pipe people “get” it. Pipe people get that God has good things for us. Pipe people get that some things are more important. Pipe people get that we should give up things we love for things we love more.

The tithe is just another provision of God, not because he needs your or my money but because you and I need our hearts aligned with things God cares about. Life is better that way.

Finally, 2 Corinthians 8:9 has been kicking my butt lately. I’ll let you read it and see if you had the same reaction I did:

Though [Jesus] was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. -2 Corinthians 8:9

How often have I worried that I’d become too poor if I gave at the level God has called me to? Yet Jesus was rich and deliberately became poor.

That isn’t bucket thinking. That’s pipe thinking. Sounds way better to me. And way harder.