Spiritual Growth 101 – Giving Last week we discussed spiritual growth in terms of making progress in the FAITH as opposed to progress in the LAW, showing the contrast between those two modes of existence in a few different NT passages. One of those passages was Gal 5 in which we saw the contrast between the acts of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. I challenged all of us to follow Paul’s exhortation in Eph 5:18 be being filled with the Spirit, which he contrasted with being drunk on wine. Instead of filling yourself in excess with alcohol, allowing yourself to be under the influence of alcohol be being filled in excess with the Holy Spirit, allowing yourself to be under the influence of God’s Spirit and do this on a daily a moment by moment basis in order that the fruit that we bear would be good fruit. This fruit would be both natural and intentional. While for example an apple tree does bear the fruit of apple its fruitfulness is determined by the amount of intentional attention it receives – the right amount of water, sunlight, nutrients, etc. So also, as those in whom the spirit dwells, we will bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control, but we need to be intentional about cultivating that fruit by feeding ourselves, nurturing ourselves with the word of God, fellowship, worship, and be being filled with the spirit. Now this morning, we are going to look at the spiritual discipline of giving, which is also good fruit in a Christian’s life, but takes intentionality. In Acts 20:35, Paul attributes the following words to Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Jesus doesn’t say that it’s bad to receive or that it isn’t blessed to receive. If you receive, that IS a blessing. You’ve been blessed. What Jesus does is shift our thinking as most kingdom principles do. They change our focus
- from self-centered to others-oriented
- they shift our paradigm from “it’s all about me” to “it’s all about loving and serving God and others.”
- It shifts our mentality from getting is better than giving to giving is better than getting,it is more blessed to give than to receive. By giving you are blessed.
You parents know this. When you were a kid, what was Christmas all about? You! You couldn’t wait to wake up and RECEIVE. But now, as parents you’re almost as excited as your kids because you can’t wait to wake up and GIVE. As we look at giving this morning, keep in mind our discussion from last week in our contrast between law and grace. When you consider giving under those two radically different contexts, you see:
- a different attitude toward giving
- a different motivation for giving, and
- a different perspective on giving
- Law-bound loop-hole seeker says “how much do I have to give? What is the minimum requirement?”
- Those who have grown in grace, those who are spiritually mature, who have made progress in the faith ask better questions like “how much can I give?”
- Duty vs privilege
- Law says: “my giving is a duty which I resent. Uh, I HAVE to give to the church. Boo hiss.”
- Grace says: “my giving is a privilege which I do cheerfully, not with reluctance or under compulsion”
- Law: I give in order to be accepted by God
- Required tithe
- Islam: one of the five pillars
- Grace: we give because we have been accepted by God
- Eph 2:8-10
- Saved not BY works but FOR works
- Saved not BY giving but FOR giving
Perspective: Ownership vs stewardship
- Spiritually mature people understand that everything we have is a loaner from the owner;the earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it. You don’t own your stuff. God does. We are simply stewards of God’s goods, not owners. So our money is really God’s money that he’s letting us use.
- Owners ask how much of MY money will I give to God?
- Stewards ask how much of GOD’S money will I keep for myself?
- Statistically, the less someone makes, the higher percentage they give
- Exception is Rick Warren
Speaking of perspective… Isn’t it interesting that 20-something % comes out of our paychecks whether you want it to or not and goes to the government to pay the salaries of government officials who
- make proclamations that you might flat out disagree with philosophically
- make decisions that govern our lives that perhaps go against our morality
- even deny the God that we claim to be the center of our lives.
BUT We can’t give half of that, we can’t give 10% of our paychecks to our local church to pay the salary of leadership that
- makes proclamations that you AGREE with philosophically and theologically
- make decisions in line with your morality and with your best interest in mind
- seek to honor and glorify the God who is the center of our lives.
Now, don’t misunderstand me here to be saying that I’m only interested in your giving so that I can get a paycheck. That should be clear in a few minutes – I’ll get to that. The point is: you give to the government. And you have a plan for that; it’s incorporated into your budget. Your plan is that it comes out before you can spend it. And if enough doesn’t come out, you make up for it in April. I challenge you to incorporate giving to the church as a fixed part of your budget like your taxes. If it isn’t planned, if it isn’t budgeted, it gets overlooked and neglected. Giving should be motivated by grace not law. We aren’t under the old covenant law that required adherents to give 10%, we have freedom in the new covenant, in the Kingdom under grace. But recall what Jesus does with the Law when He teaches about life in the Kingdom. He says the Law said don’t murder, but I tell you don’t even be angry with your brother. He raises the bar. He says the Law said don’t commit adultery, but I tell you don’t even look at another woman lustfully. He raises the bar. This isn’t in the Sermon on the Mount, but if it was, fill in the blank. The Law says to give ten percent, but I tell you________. He would have raised the bar. Spiritually immature Christians, however, ask terrible questions. Is it okay for me to go out with him? Is it okay if we kiss? 2nd base? 3rd base? How much do I have to do? How much do I have to give? Oh, the answer is I DON’T HAVE to give. Oh, pssshht. That’s easy. Done. Spiritually mature Christians ask better questions.
- Is this beneficial?
- Is this profitable?
- Is this wise?
- Does this honor God?
- Does this advance the kingdom?
- Will this be a blessing to him or her?
Theologically mature people will not settle for law. They know better. But across the country and possibly the world, churches impose law on their people because for the most part they aren’t theologically mature enough to know better and if they aren’t spiritually mature enough to give abundantly and cheerfully from the heart and they need coercion, and they want those people to give, impose law because law works; it will produce results. Oh, that’s what I have to do? Well I guess I will do that, but no more than that. I have family members who attend a very big, very nice prominent church on the edge of town that has a really big budget. When they joined, I read over their membership requirements. Part of those requirements include that members are to give 10% of their income. This is common and many of those churches that impose the requirement for members to tithe receive those tithes. The church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints is at the forefront of this. Super legalistic, but those people give. Statistics say that nearly 90 percent of Mormons tithe regularly, which is why they have all the money they have to make commercials and build nice buildings and do outreach. Mormons exceedingly outshine evangelical Protestants in the area of giving. A Barna Group survey in 2008 revealed that only 9 percent of born-again adults tithed regularly in 2007. Here’s the catch 22 that churches face. Either, we talk about money all the time and say, “we need you to give, we need your money” and we become the church that talks about money all the time and everybody is aware of the need, but nobody wants to go to that church. Churches are like restaurants and Americans are picky. We don’t like going to a church where it’s constantly talk about money, so we will go somewhere else. On the other hand, if we don’t talk about it, the need isn’t known. What we could do so that we don’t have to talk about it is build it into membership requirements like a lot of churches so it is part of a commitment upfront and the pastor doesn’t have to say anything about it. But think about that whole “we need your money” thing anyway. Remember Circuit City? Anyone used to shop there? I wonder how many people heard that they were in a “we need your money” situation and sent emails to all of their contacts and said, look, Circuit City needs our help. Only shop there. Until further notice, do not go to Best Buy or Frys. And don’t get any electronics from Walmart. People didn’t do that, right, because they didn’t care so much about the “we need your money” situation as much as they care about the provision of excellent goods and services. On the other hand, a couple weeks ago, I went to Starbucks for a study session and I had to stand in line for ten minutes to order and then I had to stand around for ten minutes waiting for a seat to open up. Do you know why droves of people were giving their money to Starbucks? Not because they are in a “we need your money” situation. People give their money to organizations because they provide excellent goods and services. This is just another perspective thing, so don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not against Starbucks. But I am for the local church. We give our money to Starbucks (myself included), because they provide excellent goods and service. But doesn’t the local church, does not YOUR local church? Perhaps you aren’t convinced that it does and perhaps that’s why our giving looks like it does. And if that’s the case, then keep giving your money to Starbucks. But next time you need:
- wise counsel
- spiritual guidance
- a brother to bear your burdens
- someone to partner with you in training up godly children
- marriage advice
see if Starbucks employees will provide that. I just don’t think they will. But they WILL make sure your order is right or they will remake it every time. Take out your programs. We have a budget on there. It shows YTD budget. Last weeks’ etc. Not sure if you look at that. But it doesn’t look so good. Recently I mentioned that I’d like to make some purchases that would help our worship atmosphere to be excellent. As Jim Collins says, good is the enemy of great. One of the things I wanted to get was speakers and a sound system. I said that I would match giving if anyone gave toward that end. I didn’t have to match one dime because nobody gave a dime toward that. I still gave $200 toward it but nobody else did. In fact, I was told that people didn’t want to contribute to that because if you look at our weekly finances on our program, we are in the hole as a church. I just want to be clear on what that means. That means that somehow, somewhere, something wasn’t paid. Where are we in the hole? What wasn’t paid? Supplies were bought. In fact, additional supplies were bought like these nice banners and signage, electrical components that could sustain this screen, this nice curtain, our nice flyers that Cody designed, renting a booth at Market Days. Rent has been paid. What wasn’t paid? Me. I wasn’t paid. I get with Brian and say, “do we have enough in the budget to do this or that?” And if he says no, and I think it’s important enough for us to do as a church, guess what doesn’t get paid? It comes out of my check. Rent has to get paid but I don’t. Bottom line: I’m willing to sacrifice a significant portion of my pay, so that as a church
- we can do more
- reach more, and
- be the kind of church that
- you love
- that you’re excited to come to and
- that you’re excited to invite your friends to.
But a sacrifice of something good for the sake of something better is an investment. I see those purchases as making investments. So when you look at the budget and say we are in the hole and then hear me say I’d like us to buy something that isn’t in the budget, what that really means is that I’m saying that I’m willing to be paid less, if you can imagine that. So obviously, my motive for encouraging giving around here isn’t strictly so that I can take home more money, although I’m not going to lie; that would be nice. Since we started four years ago I have taken paycut, after paycut, after paycut, and my current pay is less than half of where it was when we started, so…yeah we are kinda going backwards because the goal was for me to get pay raise, after pay raise, after pay raise, until I could do this full time – that was the goal. I just want to make it clear that this isn’t all about me putting money in my pockets, but us investing in the Kingdom together and I’m willing to sacrifice to make that happen. I don’t share all that with you to make you feel bad or to get any pats on the back, but for the sake of full disclosure and to hopefully inspire you to see sacrificial giving as a wise and worthy investment. Giving is a sacrifice. But sacrificing something good today to receive something better in terms of the big picture is an investment. Whoever gave, whoever contributed to Hill Country Bible Church back in 2000 enabled them to send out marketing mailers so that I could get one in my mailbox and start going to a church that nurtured my early relationship with Jesus. Talk about investment. I’m so thankful for their financial sacrifice. I may not be here right now if they didn’t. Earthly investments yield a certain return, but those only go so far. Giving to the local church is an investment in the Kingdom, an investment in eternal things with eternal implications. Jesus said in Matt 6:19-2119 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Where is your heart? Where is your treasure? Do you love your church? Don’t answer out loud, but think about it. Do you love:
- the teaching
- agree with the doctrine?
- Do you love the ability to ask questions?
- Do you love the fact that we aren’t bound by tradition or creeds?
- Do you love that we can be honest?
- Do you love the way people rally around others to
- get them a driver’s license
- bring new parents food
- visit people in the hospital?
- Do you love the fact that it’s casual?
- Do you love the worship?
- When we have enough critical mass to have them, do you love our small groups?
- Do you love that we do months and months of free premarital counseling?
- Do you love what our church does for your kids?
- Do you love the fact that church leadership will show up at your or your children’s special events?
Do you love your church? Let me ask you a follow up question: what is your plan for financially supporting the church you love? Not a trick question. What do you call a guy who does the bare minimum when it comes to supporting his children that he loves? A guy who doesn’t have a plan for providing for his family he loves. The cupboards are empty, the fridge is empty, but while he’s at work he grabs lunch at Wendy’s and then grabs some drive through on the way home. He gets home and it’s like, Dad, my big toe is like poking out of my shoe a little help here, we’re starving here, we need your help, we need your money (like Circuit City). Okay, okay, let me see if I have anything in my wallet. Here’s $5-10 go ahead and get what you need. What kind of a dad is that? What is a dad who says he loves his kids but doesn’t support them financially until they beg him out of desperation because they are in a “we need your money” situation? What is a Christian who says he loves his church but doesn’t support it financially until it begs him out of desperation because they are in serious need because they are in a “we need your money” situation? You know what we call that? An average Christian. And that is Sad. Here at NCF 20% of the people contribute 80% of our financial giving. I would love to see that change. I don’t even like talking about $ to begin with because it’s awkward for me, but I need to move past that. But my fear is that I’m talking to the 20% right now and you’re looking around like, I’m already doing that. From the beginning, I opted to know nothing about who gives what to avoid the temptation to prioritize my investments in people’s lives based on their giving. I don’t have time to give to those people, they aren’t even giving to our ministry. I wanted to avoid that and so I have, but all of my pastor friends tell me I’m crazy and that I should be seeing who is giving what so that I can personally challenge people who aren’t giving or follow up with people when their giving is irregular. My response is that makes me uncomfortable – to which they say and rightly so I think, “Isn’t giving an act of worship and spiritual discipline and as their shepherd aren’t you responsible to help them grow spiritually?” I couldn’t really argue with that. This series spiritual growth 101 is all about growing spiritually, making progress in the faith. In week one, I mentioned that when it comes to making progress, it usually requires sacrifice. Anyone who wants to make progress in weight loss knows will choose to sacrifice a cheeseburger and instead eat a salad. Anyone who wants to see progress in their IRA or 401K will elect to have a percentage of their check allotted to their retirement plan every pay period. They sacrifice spending money right now in order to put it into their retirement plan. Progress rarely happens without sacrifice. SACRIFICE VS INVESTMENT But I challenged us all to shift our thought process from thinking in terms of sacrifice to thinking in terms of investment. When you give up something good in order to receive something better, it shouldn’t be viewed in terms of sacrifice, but in terms of investment. When we give sacrificially to our local church, we are making an investment. And what better to invest in than
- the souls of men
- in our spiritual growth
- in the Kingdom of God?
Do you love your church? If so, what is your plan for financially supporting the church you love? What is your PLAN? Much like bearing the fruit of the spirit is natural and yet intentional, it requires us being intentional, giving also needs to be intentional – planned. What is your plan for financially supporting the church you love? If you love your church. If you don’t love your church, you’re still here for whatever reason, let me ask you, what will it take to make this a church you love and are you willing to do it? Might that require giving sacrificially? Progress in the faith, growing spiritually means that we begin to ask better questions than what is the bare minimum, what do I have to do? As spiritually mature Christians, we ask better questions like what CAN I do? What SHOULD I do? What will benefit the Kingdom? What will be a blessing? Let’s change the statistic. 80/20 sucks. I want to challenge everyone to become percentage givers. I’m not going to stand here and tell you that as new covenant believers you are obligated to give ten percent because you’re too smart for that, you’re too theologically sophisticated for that. I’ve taught you better than that; you know your bibles too well for that. You’re too mature to say what is my obligation? You know you’re not under the law but under grace in which we go beyond what the Law says. The Law says, but Jesus raises the bar. And ten percent is a great place to start. If you can’t do ten percent, do less, but let’s all become percentage givers and give sacrificially. Giving is a sacrifice, but let’s shift our thinking in this area so that rather than thinking in terms of sacrifice – what we’re giving up, we think in terms of investment – what we are gaining, which is far, far better. As Jesus said, it is more blessed to give than to receive.