Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or how about, don’t put the cart before the horse! Both of these conjure up thoughts of linear motion, an order to things. You know it well. If I do A, it will lead to B, and that will lead me eventually to a result. It’s good to know the order, it’s the reason instructions are included (though they don’t matter much to us guys). But not everything moves in a straight line. For example, which comes first, faith, or actions? Let’s remove the spiritual context for a minute. Do you try a new kind of spot remover because you have faith in the result, or do you develop faith because you used it (action) and discovered it to be effective? Here’s the truth: some things move in a circle, or, if you prefer, a cycle. There are times faith is required before we can take action, sometimes actions come first to develop faith. In a cycle, wherever you enter feeds where you need to be going, and it keeps building! Circumstances dictate where we should enter the cycle, and if that cycle is entered at the wrong place, the feeding can get interrupted. An arena where this often happens (as we return to the spiritual), is in generosity and giving (you just flinched, didn’t you?). Most of us agree that there is a clear call in scripture to be generous both to the church, and to people. And our attitude in giving is supposed to be characterized by a joyful willingness. As Paul, the last disciple to be called by Jesus put it “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NLT). In straight-line thinking, it’s easy (and common) to wait for a feeling of cheerfulness (A) which will cause giving (B), and lead to faith in God (result). But if we move this into a cycle, and include the verse that comes right before it, our course of action might be very different, “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.” 2 Corinthians 9:6 (NLT). The generous crop won’t come if the farmer only plants when he feels cheerful about planting. While there are many factors that determine the success of a crop (which are mostly uncontrollable by the farmer), one thing is for sure, no planting means no crop. So where does the farmer jump in the cycle? He may not feel cheerful about all that goes into the planting process (it’s a LOT of work), but he will enter the cycle at the spot of action, which will be rewarded with a crop, which will make him cheerful! (side note: cheerfulness is rooted in gratefulness. The grace and mercy of Jesus is ours whether poor or rich…does your gratefulness change with your circumstances?). Finally, both cyclical and linear thinking come together in God’s call to faith in His providence through the principle of tithing: “I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I challenge you to put me to the test. Bring the entire ten percent into the storehouse, so there will be food in my house. Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing.” Malachi 3:10 (CEV). In the economy of our Creator, giving, whether prompted by faith, or an action toward gaining faith, will equip the local church fully for ministry and provide all we need and more! Where will you jump in?