We are born with a sinful nature. What is “natural” or “instinctive” has to be overcome by choice. We may be born with a volatile temperament and quick to anger,  but we should learn as we grow and mature to control that volatility. I personally have a very bad temper, but few have experienced it. I chose to learn to control it. I choose to exercise control of it. I control it; it does not control me.

Sin is very much a matter of choice. Sometimes the choice is easy. Sometimes doing the right thing is difficult. Sometimes the difficult choices are in the smallest things. For example, what happens if a friend asks you what you think of the person he/she is dating (and you really don’t like that person)? You need to be honest, but you know could lose the friendship.

Difficult choices that go against our natural inclinations can be answering a question that someone asks, or it can be in how we react to how others act. We won’t always make the right choice, but we do have the ability to choose. The Apostle Paul wrote of choices.

Romans 7:15–25 (KJV 1900)

15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 

16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 

20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Jude 10 (KJV 1900)

10 But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.

Just this week several things have happened that have tested my “nature.” One of the happenings included receiving a call from an organization to which I have been tithing. The organization called to let me know that the way I have been labeling my envelopes was inconveniencing them because they were getting confused by the outside of the envelope: it wasn’t their “standard” envelope. Their “system” was not to track tithe amounts by name, but by a number on the outside of an envelope. I use my own envelopes, and they asked me to pick up their envelopes so that they can just use the number they assign to me … Well, I have to admit to being ticked off. I am not a regular member of this organization, but visit only occasionally. When I do visit I like to make a significant tithe offering, usually a four-figure check. Now if you are an organization doing work for the Lord and receiving a contribution as a tithe, first fruits, or other category of offering, I believe the organization should be focused on what they can do with the funds, not what envelope the funds arrive in.

My nature is such that at the moment they called to inform me of their objection to my envelope my initial response was (internally): “Seriously? You are concerned that the funds came into your organization in an envelope that doesn’t have the standard pre-numbered tracking number the organization uses, and not just thankful for the funds and how they could be used?” Oh my normal nature had a response forming in my mind and on my lips, but I chose to control my normal response.

I immediately went to prayer. The person on the other end of the phone probably had to wonder if I was even still on the line, because I was dead silent, praying hard to not have the thoughts and make the response that was my instinctive reaction. You know what my nature was saying? “Well, I am sorry for your inconvenience and I won’t inconvenience you again by writing you a check. I am sure there are many other organizations that need the funds and would be happy to be inconvenienced by receiving funding in a non-compliant, not pre-numbered envelope.”

This is day three after that call and I am still dealing with my nature and seeking God’s guidance in whether this organization is where His Resources should be going. Unfortunately my experience that when organizations are so focused on the “envelope” and not on the mission and its funding, there are usually bigger problems in the organization and with its ability to do God’s work. The focus on mechanics, on the internal preferences and structures translates into an “it’s about me” perspective and not “it’s about God and serving those in need.”

I can contrast the envelope organization versus a mission-focused organization: A smaller check was sent to a small, rural church. This church’s treasurer sought out the person that sent the tithe, as this donor had never attended the church, was not a member of the church, and did not even live in the area, but knew about the church and its community outreach to senior citizens in need of a hot meal and God’s message. The treasurer made the effort to tell the person what each and every check meant to the church in terms of having “extras” like class materials, hymnals, and other materials needed to do the outreach. This organization didn’t care what envelope the money came in, how frequently, or how much. Every dollar was appreciated and used for serving God and His Children.

When I think about the “envelope” phone call, I am sure that the person was acting out of his / her own nature. S/He wanted things easy and standardized, without the inconvenience of changing procedures. I get that. But when it comes to running organizations—be it a faith-based organization, a church, or a business—we have to keep in mind that our personal natures can easily get in the way of the real objective: Serving God, the customer, the client or those in need.



Author:  Lea A. Strickland, MBA CMA CFM CBM GMC
Copyright ©2012 Lea A. Strickland
All Rights Reserved

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