Giving/Generousity., love, Money

Money, Money, Money… A blog about giving.

Recently at Elevenses we sung a great old Kids Song which says: “I’m special because God has loved me, for he gave the best thing that he had to save me, his own Son Jesus, Crucified for all the wrong things I have done, thank you Jesus, thank you Lord, I know I don’t deserve anything, help me feel your love right now, to know deep in my heart that I’m your special friend”.

We serve a God who is extravagantly generous, a God who knows who give sacrificially that which is costly.

As I let these simple words speak to my Soul, I wondered what my response should be, and I was drawn to the lyrics of an old Hymn: “were the whole realm of nature mine, that was an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my Soul, my all”.

This struck me as a fitting start to a message about giving.

It’s not about guilt tripping people by reminding us of how expensive our buildings are to maintain and to heat (which is probably more than you imagine),  but rather thinking about whole life discipleship, giving all that we are, our talents, skills, abilities, relationships, time, energy and money for the glory of Christ (which of course includes stewarding what he has entrusted us with faithfully).

It all belongs to him anyway.

We say together before we take communion “all things come from you, and of your own do we give you”.

When we take communion we approach God with open but empty hand.

The call is to allow Christ to be Lord of all, in fact there is saying that ‘if Christ isn’t Lord of all, it he Lord at all?’

As we think in this letter about our giving, its not primarily all about “rattling the tin” but rather a call for us as the family of Christ called to this area to seek first his Kingdom.

Highway man Dick Turpin used to say “Your money or your life”. Jesus does not let us of do easily he says Both, he wants your heart and then everything else follows

Yet the principal of sacrificial giving isn’t just something we talk about when faced with a large bill, or a crisis, in fact whether or not we need money I would like us all to think about how our faith impacts how we spend our money.

Two quotes profoundly challenged me in my Christian journey were:

“would my bank manager know I was a Christian by glancing at my bank statement?”

“every pound you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to see, is it a world that reflects Christ’s big idea of the Kingdom of God?”

I want to be an ethical consumer, investing in justice and not exploitation.

I want to use my resources wisely and righteously for the glory of Christ a Jesus and the advance of his wonderful Kingdom.

This is a question all of us as part of the Church family need to constantly be asking of our life together: Are we using our resources to their full potential?

Are we seeking the advancement of God’s Kingdom by the blessing of our local community, being glory to Jesus, bringing and being good news to the suffering, hurting, marginalized and disenfranchised?

What would Jesus say if he was setting our budgets, both our personal budgets and our corporate budgets as Church?

Would he say: “well done good and faithful servant” or would he be flipping over chairs and tables?

cost, ethics, Giving/Generousity., justice, Kingdom, Money

Kingdom Economics 2

So yesterday we thought that Money itself isn’t intrinsically evil, but we need to have a right attitude towards our money. Yesterday I quoted Bishop Mike Hill who said “Money should serve but never rule”, I would go further and say “money is makes a good tool but a lousy God -Money is a God which takes everything, and promises much… and yet gives nothing of any real or lasting value in return”.

So, in the second of this series I am exploring what it looks like to have a Godly attitude to money…

Are we Generous?

Generosity and extravagance is part of who God is, he is a God who gifts lavishly and abundantly and calls us to live the same way… I love the contrast between the expensive perfumed poured on Jesus’ feet and Judas sulky comments about where the money could have been spent better (how many times have we experienced the same poverty spirit in much Church stuff? -more of this later!).

Scripture says “those who sow generously will reap generously”… and you “reap what you sow”…in fact when Jesus once said “if someone takes you coat, give them your shirt too!”

Are we pursuing justice? -Are we seeking his Kingdom?

Sadly, money is power -and as people living in the 5th richest nation on earth our wealth carries with it responsibility. Did you know if you have a freezer you are in the top 10% of the world’s richest people and the internet puts you in the top 3%? We have a responsibility to ask if our purchases are ethically sources… The problem is that many Christians still think that the ethical consumptions means occasionally drinking fair-trade tea at Church rather than whole spirituality and life style.

Every pound you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in? If this is true (which it is) what kind of world are you sponsoring, one of abused children in sweatshops or where the world’s poorest get a fair day’s work for a fair days pay.

Jesus said in Matthew 25 what you did for the least of these (the homeless, the hungry, the thirsty and those in captivity -slavery?) you did for me…

Do we just chuck a few quid at the vicar and the busker to feel better about ourselves and go on with our lavish lifestyle, or do we use what God has given us to bring transformation in the name of Christ.

Why is it that when we take the highlighter pen to our Bibles we highlight Jesus saying to Nicodemus “you must be born again” but leave unhighlighted “go sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor”.

When John (the Baptist) tells his followers “if anyone has two cloaks, he should give one to the poor?” -do we overlook that verse?

I have heard many (normally evangelicals) say “we should not neglect preaching the word to wait on tables” and yet we forget that the early Church says “they had no people in need among them for everyone gave what they had”.

Are we building in faith?

Money is something we often place our faith in, someone once joked that the American Dollar should read “In GOLD we Trust” rather than “In GOD we Trust”, yet money is transient and its value is effected by much we can’t control. We are called to live by faith, putting our trust in Jehovah Jira -our God who provides… Just listen to some of those remarkable stories of George Muller, right here in this city of living by faith and discovering that when we step out of the boat, God is faithful and trustworthy.

Now this isn’t saying we need to be completely reckless with our money, probably all of us feel uncomfortable by American telly evangelists with private jets, yet the danger I feel with the Church in the west is not a gluttonous irresponsibility but often a grasping greed that knows the cost of everything but the value of nothing.

Our trust is in Christ, the God who owns the Cattle on a thousand hills, who made heaven and earth… this mighty God is not short of a bob or two, and doesn’t need us to lend him a fiver…

The problem often is found in the epistle to James “You have not because you ask not?” because we aren’t prepared to experience his faithfulness, to ask and open our hands to receive… Where our eyes are fixed on Christ and his call, rather than losing our faith in the balance sheets.

So the question should be, how in my life am I stepping out in faith, practicing the generosity of God, perusing justice and seeking his Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Kingdom, Matthew 6, Money

Kingdom Economics P1.

Often we misquote the Bible and talk of “Money is the root of all evil” where as in reality the “love of money is the root of all evil”, in other words it isn’t money itself that is evil but our attitude towards it, and this attitude s not really effected by how much of it we have:

Jesus commends the widow who gave all she had, even though it wasn’t actually a lot of money… yet isn’t impressed by the wealthy flashing the cash, making grand –but empty gestures- giving what looked generous but wasn’t
Jesus said “where your treasurer is there your heart is also”… he also makes it clear “no one can serve two masters, either he will love one an hate the other, you CANNOT serve God and Money”… Actually Jesus said “You cannot serve God and Mammon” -Mammon a Pig God. Pigs are insatiably, they are never satisfied, they always want more and more and more… The Billionaire Donald Trump was asked “how much is enough?” and he answered “just a little bit more!” Money makes a terrible God and yet it has often been  said that the last thing to get converted is a persons wallet, but I’d say that the wallet is often the first thing to be grasped back when backsliding away from God.
John Wesley knew its danger when he wrote: “Money never stays with me. It would burn me if it did. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible, lest it should find its way into my heart” John Wesley and Bishop Mike reminded Synod that “Money must serve but not rule”, yet sadly too often money
I remember not long after coming back to God I remember being challenged by a talk where the question was “would my bank manager know I was a Christian by the way I spend my money”, my mentor Jeremy Andrew said “Our bank statements are theological documents”… “They show what we really value and invest in” -although he was  talking about the Church, it works to for our own hearts.
Jesus said:”where our treasurers are there our heart is also”, often what we spend our money, time and effort on will show what we really and truly value in life.
Why do we highlight in our Bibles the passage where Jesus tells Nicodemus that “we must be born again” but leave unhighlighted when Jesus tells the rich young ruler to “go sell all he owns and give the money to the poor”?
I’ll close todays blog with some great (and challenging) words from Jesus (sort of)  about money…
Matthew 6…

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Giving/Generousity., Mark 12:41-43, Money

Celebrity Cheques and Widows Mites

Mark 12:41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few pence. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’

I was at a Deanery Synod last night (feel sorry for me!) and people were talking about money, basically the diocese doesn’t have enough cash to do all it wants/needs too, and being anglicans, we all pay money into a central pot so that we all help each other out, especially meaning we can support Churches in areas which might not have a Church otherwise (which is why you rarely see more congregational Churches in deprived areas!).

As I looked at all these numbers, I suddenly realised how impressed I was by the big successful Churches large pledges of money, and didn’t pay so much attention to the small Churches little pledges, and then suddenly realised as someone said about even though they were a tiny congregation they  were giving sacrificially, and I began to think about this story, and quietly repented in my head for my materialistic thinking.

If you have a lot of money it is easy to appear generous without taking much of a hit, whereas when you are generous with the little you have to survive on that shows greater love and commitment to the cause.

In our world the celebrity cheque is greeted by the flash of cameras and cheesy grins and yet probably cost the giver very little, whereas the poor family moved to give out of a tight budget might not be greeted by the glare of publicity but is actually showing greater love and compassion.

The same is true of other giving too, often we praise those who are always at Church doing things, often the retired who enjoy coming along to stuff, but can overlook the mum who just helps out every Friday with the youth group, when for her this is possibly a bigger and more costly sacrifice giving up her one free evening to serve.

In Mark’s gospel the text is continually ‘flashing forward’ toward the Passion narrative, Jesus’ death on the cross for us was not him making a small contribution but giving his everything. What of us are we giving our everything in return?

“Were the whole realm of nature mine that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!

So, lets pray we are generous people, pray we see generosity of the heart not seduced by the amount, care more about the heart that has given than the zeros on the cheque.

People might be getting stressed at me by this point, because there is also another interpretation to this passage.

t is a classic Mark Sandwich, where the first and third paragraph is counterbalanced by the middle story, the widows mite is in-between the Pharisees “Church and State”  argument about paying Taxes to Caesar and followed on by Jesus prophesying the destruction of the Temple “As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” (Mark 13.1&2)

Mark is attacking the religious institutions obsession with buildings and wealth and neglect of the heart. Although Jesus praises the woman’s sacrificial giving, I wonder too whether Mark is showing how exploitative the Temple had become? The wealth and grandeur of the religious establishment ‘look at these wonderful building’ but is  squeezing a poor widows of their last penny.   Jesus had already driven the money lenders and merchants out of the Temple two chapters earlier.

Sadly this money grabbing nature which places the finery of its buildings and the continuation of the religious establishment above the care of the poor and vulnerable.

I think both interpretations work together and think Jesus is actually saying both.

A challenge to us, are we people who give sacrificially?

Are we people who are seduced by wealth, or see the sacrifice of the heart?

Are we people who challenge exploitative systems that rob the poor?

Lets live radical lives of generosity, sacrifice and fighting for justice.