Sunday, March 9, 2014

Thinking Generously - Lesson 5

In our past five posts on this subject we learned.

1) Personally we should not borrow,
2) We should not pledge our resources to the debt of another
3) By implication the Church should not borrow either.
4) We need to train believers in Biblical financial principles.
5) The benefits to the church when we train believers in Biblical financial principles?

So what Biblical principles do we see that helps believers to be generous?

Let's go back and read the passages in Exodus 35 and 36. I encourage you to read the whole chapters if you have a Bible handy

Exodus 35:21 "And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord's contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for its service, and for the holy garments."

Exodus 36: 3-7 "They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. So all the skilled craftsmen who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left their work and said to Moses. The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do: "No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary." And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work."

I'm writing this from Ames, Iowa/. We are here for a college visit at Iowa State University, with our high school senior Jenna. One of the things that they have mentioned over and over here at ISU is you have to take courses in sequence or you won't have the foundation to understand what is taught in the next course in the sequence. Typically the foundation courses prior to moving to the next level is called a prerequisite.

One of the prerequisites for the type of extravagant generosity seen in Exodus is the believers were "free". This means out of slavery and bondage to their task masters in Egypt, to sin and to debt.

Just think about it, if Moses had asked Israel to give for a house where God would dwell, while they were still slaves in Egypt, they would have thought he was nuts. Slaves don't have available time or assets to give to a church building program. In the same way asking people to give lavishly when every extra dollar they have is committed to living expenses and debt is just so far over peoples heads that it just doesn't compute. They may even want to give or try to give (even mistakenly borrow some more money and dig their own hole deeper) but they just can't do it.

 In our day, one of the biggest areas of bondage is debt that can take many forms. The typical debts are student loans, credit cards, car loans, consumer loans and mortgages. Our greatest source of giving is our pay check and for many their pay check is totally committed to debt. We learned in our last lesson that we need training in Biblical financial principles and a process to be able to transform habits and our priorities.

But there is one other thing that needs to happen in our minds. We need to understand how to think generously.

Two popular points of view on money are a distortion of God's view of generosity: 
  1. Prosperity Theology - Says if we have enough faith we can ask God for anything. Kind of like a spiritual Santa Clause. This is sometimes called "Name it Claim It". Jesus said, "if you have the faith of a mustard seed" some very amazing things can happen. But he didn't say he would give you anything you asked for, even if it isn't good for you or if you are greedy. If fact, to one rich guy who had a bumper crop and wasn't generous God said, "you fool".
  2. Poverty Theology - Says money is evil.  This isn't what scripture says at all. It says the "love of money" is evil. Again your attitude is what makes it evil. The danger in this mistaken view is, you can't win with money if you think it is evil. Try funding missions, feeding the poor, providing a hospital and health care for people in Central America, or renovating a building for a church with no money. If all of us take a vow of poverty, the work of the church slows to a crawl.
There is a third point of view that is based in Biblical wisdom, it is called, "Generosity Theology". Generosity Theology, says our relationship to money stems from an attitude of the heart.

Let's seek wisdom on the Theology of Generosity from scripture.

I reference a sermon by Pastor John Steer, who is senior teaching pastor at Autumn Ridge Church. Pastor Steer says...

The mission statement of Autumn Ridge Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ who love God and serve people. Generosity is an integral part of that discipleship. If we want to grow in our discipleship we must grow in our generosity.

Generosity is an attitude not an action. Generosity is joy and delight in giving. Generosity is expressed in many ways other than money. It is expressed in our time, resources and abilities.

To understand why we should be generous, we look to the trinity.

God is an abundantly generous Father.

God's Love:

1 John 3:1 "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are."

Ephesians 1:3  "Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,"

God's Mercy:

1 Chronicals 21:13 "Then David said to Gad, "I am in great distress. Let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man."

Exodus 33:19 "And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The Lord'. And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy."

God's Provision:

Philippians 4:19 "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

James 1:5  "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."

Let this attitude be in us. Have this mind set on giving.

Philippians 3:8-11 "Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith--that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead."

We become like the people we hang around, if we look at Jesus we become like his generosity

Money is amoral – it is neither good or bad, it is just a tool. Studies tell us that the average person thinks about money 50% of the time. How to get it, keep it, save it, spend it, find it...and yes eventually give it. Scripture says, "Where your treasure is your heart will be also". When I was working on my masters degree a professor I respected said, "show me your calendar and your check book and I can tell you your priorities." So from multiple perspectives we know money is important but neither inherently good or evil, it is what we do with it that makes the difference.

Our attitude about money is an amplifier of the our inner heart. If we have a greedy heart, we will be greedy with money. If we have a generous heart we will be generous with money, whether we have a lot or a little.

So now that we understand a little more about generosity and are "thinking generously" is that enough?

Let's look to our next post to see.

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