Monday, April 13, 2015

Let's talk about money!

A pastor stood before his congregation and said, "I have bad news, I have good news, and I have more bad news."

The congregation got very quiet.

"The bad news is that the church building needs a new roof."

The congregation groaned and shook their heads.

"The good is that we have enough money for the new roof!" the pastor countered.

A sigh of relief was heard rippling through the gathered group.

"The bad news is," added the pastor, "it's still in your pockets!"

That simple story highlights a simple fact: the work of the kingdom of God on this earth is financed by God through what He provides to His children. The means of paying the bills to do the work of the church is in our pockets!

We talk a great deal about encouraging others, sharing a smile, and giving hugs, but a glaring reality remains that some of the most significant things the Church will ever do will require us to dig deep into our pockets, resulting in our being parted with some of our money.

Jesus was concerned about both the souls and the circumstances of people, and He spent His life meeting both of those needs. He taught us how we can have peace with God and He also fed the crowds, healed people, and served their practical needs and difficult circumstances. As the Church, we're to follow in His steps, and to do that will take some money to finance all that needs to be done.

For us to reach into our pockets, we need to first fix our attitudes so that we'll be willing to take action to reach and serve a lost and needy world.

ATTITUDE
When it comes to the concept of developing our attitudes about giving to God, I'm not going to try to reinvent the wheel. In June of 2013 I wrote a book review about an outstanding little hardback book (a small one that can just about fit in the palm of your hand) that does a great job addressing the attitude we as children of God need to have (and CAN develop) regarding our giving to God and financially contributing to the work of His kingdom. The book is, "Plastic Donuts" by Jeff Anderson, and you can find my original review here. Not only do I encourage every Christian to read this book and absorb and act on its contents, I also encourage churches to provide this book to every member of their congregation.

ACTION
Our lives are a stewardship! From life itself, down to every penny we have, is a gift from God, one which we will have to give an account to God as being stewards of all that He has given us.

Godfrey Davis, who wrote a biography about the Duke of Wellington, said, "I found an old account ledger that showed how the Duke spent his money. It is a far better clue to what he thought was really important than the reading of his letters and speeches." Put another way, I once heard pastor Dr. LeRoy Lawson say, "Show me your checkbook and I'll show you your priorities."

Sometimes people become so frightened about having to give an account to God for their stewardship that they are afraid to do much of anything with what God has given them. But when it comes to our money, we can be comfortable knowing that it has been provided to us to spend, to  invest, and to enjoy.

Don't be afraid to spend some money!
Money is a practical element meant as a means to achieving something of greater value ... feeding your family, providing a home for your loved ones, clothing yourselves, helping others, and functioning in a world where doing much of anything costs something. So don't be afraid to spend money, that's why you have it!

Sometimes we over-estimate or over-emphasize what money can really accomplish for us. Someone once wrote that money will buy:
  • a bed but not sleep
  • books but not brains
  • food but not appetite
  • finery but not beauty
  • a house but not a home
  • medicine but not health
  • luxuries but not culture
  • amusements but not happiness
  • a crucifix but not a Savior
  • religion but not salvation
  • a good life but not eternal life
  • a passport to everywhere but heaven.
As you see, what is really important in life requires something other than money. Money is just a tool to use as you navigate this life, so don't be afraid to spend it.

Make sure you invest some of it!
You don't want to spend all your money at once, or squander it foolishly. Give consideration to what your needs are and will be, and invest some of your money toward those ends. Even small but persistent investment can pay big dividends over time.

According to Doug Stanglin of USA Today, a Massachusetts man's notion to pay off his mortgage in pennies started out as a joke 35 years ago, then became an obsession and finally turned into reality ...

"In April, Thomas Daigle delivered two 400-pound boxes holding more than 62,000 pennies onto the steps of Milford Federal Savings and Loan Association to make the last payment on the home he and his wife, Sandra, bought when they were married in 1977."

Daigle meticulously saved every penny he came across over the past 30-plus years in an effort to make his last payment "memorable." The Milford Federal Savings and Loan was 100-percent "for" the idea. After all, money is money!

Thomas Daigle's story demonstrates that even small acts of stewardship, faithfully carried out over time, can reap a weighty reward --- in Thomas' case, an 800-pound reward! In the end, he enjoyed the satisfaction of years of diligence and he now owns his home outright.

When it comes to investing, Jesus demonstrated the greatest investment we can make is in the kingdom of God and the lives of other people. That's where we seem to be challenged the most, as we would rather spend what dollars we have on ourselves than investing it in others.

At a church meeting, a very wealthy man rose to tell the rest of those present about his Christian faith.

"I'm a millionaire," he said, "and I attribute it all to the rich blessings of God in my life. I remember the turning point in my faith. I had just earned my first dollar and I went to a church meeting that night. The speaker was a missionary who told about his work. I knew that I only had a dollar bill and had to either give it all to God's work or nothing at all. So at that moment I decided to give my whole dollar to God. I believe that God blessed that decision, and that is why I am a rich man today."

He finished and there was an awed silence at his testimony as he moved toward his seat. As he sat down, a little old lady sitting in the same pew leaned over and said to him, "I dare you to do it again!"

It sounds so humble and pious to hear of the man giving his only dollar, but many would scoff at the idea of him giving away everything as a rich man. "It's too much to give away!" many would think.

Is it?

How much is too much to invest in the lives of others and in the work of God's kingdom? Now that the man was rich, money was still just a tool, it didn't change value because he now had millions. And he could trust God as much with his millions as when he only had a dollar.

James Miller once said, "It's ironic that we print 'In God We Trust' on the back of God's leading competitor'." We print Gods name across our money even though it is often money that tempts us to trust it rather than God. Let the "In God We Trust" printed on your money be a reminder of where you should be putting your confidence. Doing so will give you the courage to invest in others and in the work of God's kingdom.

"Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others," 1 Timothy 6:17-18.

Don't forget to enjoy it!
This might be hard for some to believe, but God really does want us to enjoy life! Doing so will require a little money, but did you notice in the last scripture that God provides for that?

"Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment ..." 1 Timothy 6:17.

We should be good stewards who spend when we need to, invest to meet our needs as well as investing in the lives of others and God's kingdom, but it's also okay to take a little of our money and enjoy life with it. Maybe that means splurging on a dinner out, going to the movies, buying a more reliable car, or taking that more exotic vacation. As long as our enjoyments fit within a stewardship of what God has given us, then don't be afraid to spend some money on enjoying life as well. Certainly not to the ignoring of financial responsibilities, or to the detriment of not caring about others, but don't allow for a sense of false guilt in actually enjoying the life God has given you. He intended you to enjoy your life! Make sure some enjoyment in life is part of your spending and investing.

"So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun," Ecclesiastes 8:15.

YOU AND YOUR MONEY ...
In his book, "I Talk Back to the Devil," A.W. Tozer reminds us of this ...

"Money often comes between men and God. Someone has said that you can take two small ten-cent pieces, just two dimes, and shut out the view of a panoramic landscape. Go to the mountains and just hold two coins closely in front of your eyes --- the mountains are still there, but you cannot see them at all because there is a dime shutting off the vision in each eye."

It doesn't take large quantities of money to come between us and God; just a little, placed in the wrong position, will effectively obscure our view.

We're to be good stewards of all God blesses us with, including our money. And when it comes to our money, we shouldn't be afraid to spend it, to invest it (especially in other people), and to enjoy it. How are you doing as a steward of your money? Are you spending it wisely or foolishly? Are you investing some in others, or are you being selfish? Are you enjoying some of it as a way to enjoy the life God has given you? What changes do you need to make to become a better steward?

Scotty

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