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Archive for the ‘Stewardship’ Category

Money and the Liberated Heart

Practicing Stewardship: Walking in Freedom 

If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:36

Spiritual bondage darkens our eyes, so that we do not see God for who He is.

Jesus liberates us by removing those cataracts.

Spiritual bondage deadens our hearts, so that we do not believe what God says.

Jesus rejuvenates our cold, lifeless hearts by giving His Spirit.

Salvation is freedom. Freedom from bondage, and freedom to heartfelt obedience.

What is financial freedom? It is not having a million-dollar retirement portfolio. It is not a six-figure job with a gold-plated benefits package. All of those things can disappear in an instant.

Financial freedom is “owning” nothing. Financial freedom = open hands to receive from God, and open hands to give to God and others.

The closed fist, wrapped around perishing earthly riches, is bondage.

When Jesus saves a man or woman, He opens their eyes. He opens their hearts. And, He opens their hands.

The liberation of the gospel moves from ear, to mind, to heart, to every part of our being – yes, even to our wallets.

If money is a competing god in your life, ask the Lord to break those chains. It is His purpose to set you free.

(this is the final post in the Stewardship series. Thank you for reading!)

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The Giving that Glorifies God

Practicing Stewardship: Giving Money 

For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. – 2 Corinthians 9:12

Grace comes down to us, liberating our hearts. We give, graciously, to our fellows here on earth. And glory rebounds to God in heaven.

Any questions?

:>}

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Practicing Stewardship: Giving Money 

Each one must (give) just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:7

“I don’t wanna share!!!”  “That’s MINE!”

How many times have you who are parents heard those exclamations?

We have to constantly train our kids about selfish hoarding and unwillingness to part with things. Sin shows up awfully early in the hearts of our little ones, doesn’t it?

And, sin leaves very slowly – even in adults. And, yes, even in Christians.

What is the giving that glorifies God? It is free, glad, and heart-motivated. It is an outflow of finding freedom in Christ, having received His free, generous, and heartfelt salvation.

Sometimes, over the years, we begin to lose that fresh sense of the liberation of God’s grace in Christ. We become consumed with bills, with responsibilities, with climbing the financial ladder. It can infest us slowly and subtly, leading to giving that is dutiful (or not giving at all).

In our family, we have had a system in place for many years of giving God a percentage of (gross) income, no questions asked. Which is good – but even that can become stale and lifeless. Automatic does not equal glad purpose of heart.

A tither may not be giving cheerfully, because his/her heart has wandered from the wonder of grace. Even as I write this, I feel convicted of staleness.

Let us measure our maturity in giving, not merely by amount, but by heart-disposition. It’s a privilege to know God’s generosity. Let’s know His smile by demonstrating His generosity to others.

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Practicing Stewardship: Giving Money 

He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully…and God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. -2 Corinthians 9:6, 8

Giving out of devotion to God involves faith. Specifically, we believe that the generous God of all abundance will not be out-given by us!

Many times, the measure of our very practical, down-to-earth faith is seen by the interaction of our hand with our wallet. Do we REALLY believe that God owns the entire universe? Do we REALLY believe that He sees all that we do, and rewards those who are faithful? Do we REALLY believe that He will take care of us today, tomorrow, and the next day – and therefore, we are free to take care of others right now?

Jesus tells us that God abundantly clothes the plants of the field, which are here today and gone tomorrow. Yet we are made in the image of God. Certainly He has us in His hand – which is not a hand of scarcity, but abundance.

Look at the terms in the verses above: bountifully, all, always, sufficiency, everything, abundance, every. Those words are mean to instill confidence in us; confidence that God has all riches and gladly pours them out through us.

If His hand is open to us with abundant provision, then our hands can be open to others. Let’s learn, each day, to sow bountifully!

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Practicing Stewardship: Giving Money 

According to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. – 2 Corinthians 8:3-5

Giving money to help others is good. But for Christians, that’s the end result of something greater.

First and foremost, we are giving ourselves (continually) to the Lord.

God doesn’t want our “sacrifices” apart from our heart devotion. If you give up 100 things for Lent, but don’t have a humble heart of love for God, it is just an outward show without substance.

Or, as the apostle wrote in the famous 1 Corinthians 13 passage, “if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”

Giving money without self-giving to God is empty. But, when we put our very selves on the altar, and choose God above all idols and selfishness, our every gift is acceptable in His sight, through the merits of Jesus who gave Himself for us.

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Practicing Stewardship: Giving Money 

You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. -2 Corinthians 8:9

The apostle Paul, in this chapter, is rejoicing in the generous giving of Macedonian churches toward the needs of those in Jerusalem.

He attributes their abundance of generosity to the working of the grace of God – especially as it occurred in the midst of their own affliction and poverty.

Giving is a gospel grace. When God’s people give, it is because their hearts are overflowing with the redeeming love of a Savior who utterly impoverished Himself for them.

We don’t give out of a sense of guilt. We give out of joy. Our Savior made Himself poor so that we could be eternally rich. To part with a few pennies (or even thousands of dollars) on earth to help others is hardly a comparable sacrifice. It’s an expression of thanksgiving.

If we’re stingy, the solution is found in staring more deeply at Jesus Christ.

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Saving Money to Save Others

Practicing Stewardship: Saving Money 

Now concerning the collection for the saints…on the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. 1 Corinthians 19:1,2

There were great financial needs among the brethren in Jerusalem, and the apostle Paul was asking the saints in Galatia and Corinth (and perhaps elsewhere) to set aside savings that could be brought for the relief of others.

And this is one of the reasons we save – for others.

The discipline of saving is not merely for our temporal security, or our later self-indulgence. It is so that we can help those less fortunate.

As with all matters financial, it all boils down to a matter of the heart. Are we living in faith, with a God-first mentality? Are our fists tightly wrapped around OUR money, or do we hold it with a loose hand, ready to do good for others?

One of our great motivators to earn, and save, and invest, and give, is to honor God by helping others. After all, we serve a generous God – does a careless or stingy spirit represent Him to the world?

It is good to save for large purchases (Luke 14:28). To save for a rainy day (Proverbs 22:3). And, it is good to save in order to save others from want. Those motivations have the commendation of Scripture; and, to adapt a quote from Eric Lidell – when we save, we’ll feel His pleasure.

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Practicing Stewardship: Saving Money 

lottery I am no fan of lotteries.

Think about it. What is the core of “lottery thinking”? Is it not, “I’m going to get rich quick, apart from hard work and God’s steady blessing”? “I’m going to strike it lucky”?

As the NY Lotto ads in recent years put it: “Hey – you never know!”

So – throw in some bucks and maybe tomorrow you’ll be filthy rich. Right? Easy-peasy.

What a crock. Anyone who runs a lottery knows this – the odds are never in YOUR favor. But that’s not even the main point.

Nowhere in the Scriptures does God encourage lottery thinking when it comes to work, earning, saving, and investing. Trust in God’s blessing – yes. Diligence – yes. Steady progress – yes (Proverbs 13:11). Throwing away money on million-to-one odds? I don’t see it.

We are stewards of every dollar we earn (or are given). Is God pleased when we sink any of it into get-rich-quick schemes? Are we not, in this case, guilty of loving money?

There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up. -Proverbs 21:20

Wisdom is in the path of careful stewardship of resources, not finding some shortcut to wealth. Do you have any idea how many of these get-rich-quick lottery winners end up losing it all? Easy come, easy go, when a spirit of wisdom and self-discipline are not joined to wealth.

And don’t buy the dodge that it’s all for a good cause, for the increase of some education budget or other. The means don’t justify the end.

Instead of being conformed to the world’s way of thinking, we do well to follow the perspectives Paul laid out in his first letter to Timothy, chapter 6:6-10

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Lottery thinking is rooted in discontent. Discontent with our daily provision, and discontent with God’s approved, and wise (and typically long-term), way of creating wealth.

Save your money, and save yourself the heartache of pinning your hopes on games of chance. Wealth minus wisdom is a pathway to poverty.

photo credit: Lisa Brewster via photopin cc

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Practicing Stewardship: Saving Money *

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…” Proverbs 13:22

Selfish people don’t think about the future. Godly people seek to make provision for both the current and future needs of their families.

One way that we do that is through responsible saving. Storing up, not out of a materialistic hoarding instinct, but in order to bless those we are responsible for – first and foremost, our families.

This mindset, of course, isn’t just for future generations – it’s for right now as well:

If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8

Strong words. In the context, Paul is urging each family to take care of its own, lest the old or infirm become a burden on others. And in the broader context, it is clear that Paul is condemning a lifestyle of idleness and irresponsibility, which can only lead to further sin.

Now, let’s face it – many of us struggle to meet the weekly bills, let alone be able to set aside much of an inheritance. I don’t think we should wallow in guilt if we’re working hard, taking care of our family, and doing the best we can to live in a financially responsible way. The best inheritance we can give our children and grandchildren is a great example of godly diligence. But it’s not wrong – it’s good – to save up something for the welfare of our future generations. Who knows, but that the inheritance we leave behind may be invested by our children to bring forth a hundred- or a thousand-fold for the kingdom of God!

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* This series is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re now in week 9, considering the role of prudently saving (though not hoarding) money. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box on the blog’s right sidebar.

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Practicing Stewardship: Saving Money *

If you think life is predictable, you probably haven’t lived long enough yet. Anyone out there had a nice, ever-growing, smooth path of uninterrupted financial prosperity?

I didn’t think so.

There are twists and turns. There are seasons of plenty, and seasons of want. There are droughts, storms, downsizings – there are both predictable and unpredictable periods of financial income.

I’ve been through most of those. Though not the “swimming in wealth” part. Still waiting on that one… :>}

So, what are we to do? Do we save up? Or just leave it all up to God and pretend that we have no responsibility to plan?

That approach can be made to sound like faith, but in fact, it’s a cop-out form of bad stewardship.

We saw from Proverbs chapter 6:6-11 that the lowly ant gathers and stores up provisions for times of want. This is contrasted with being an imprudent and lazy sluggard, and thereby suffering want.

I don’t think I want the following engraved on my tombstone: “Outworked by ants, he starved through stupidity.”

Similarly, from Proverbs 10:4,5 – Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.

It’s really not hard to figure out, by mere common observation, that there is a time of harvest, preceded by a time of preparation, and followed by a time of lack. And although most of us no longer live in an agrarian society, where such climate/weather patterns are regular, the principle is unchanged – we must be diligent to work and earn and save while we can, because it’s almost inevitable that there will be lean times.

Responsibly saving money is godly prudence, not lack of faith. God commends our careful and diligent saving, so that we can provide for ourselves, our families, and others in times of need. The fruit of the Spirit includes self-control, which extends to the way we handle money.

Nowhere in the Scriptures will you find God giving a command such as, “Spend without thought or self-discipline, and just trust me for the bad times!” That’s presumption, not faith.

The reality is, we’ll have financial dips in life, and so will others. The good steward has already made ready by setting funds aside.

Trust and work. Trust and earn. Trust and save.

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* This series is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re now in week 9, considering the role of prudently saving (though not hoarding) money. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box on the blog’s right sidebar.

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