Strong Start: Finances, Generosity, and Why Money Won’t Fix Your Life

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On Sunday we opened up a bit of a difficult or uncomfortable topic: money. Most times churches talk about this, it’s because they want more of it. But on Sunday the point wasn’t that I wanted anything from anyone, I wanted something for everyone. And what I believe we all need, isn’t more money, but a better relationship to money.

The truth is that money will not fix your life, or make it better. And while at first glance that seems well…just not true. Who wouldn’t love more money? The truth is we know that it is true.

  • We all know people who make way less than us, but are much happier than us.
  • We all know people who make way, way, way more than us but whose lives aren’t full of happiness and joy.
  • We all know people who have maybe won the lottery, inheritance or whatever, only to see that money…vanish.

The truth is that while our culture tells us that money will fix our problems, the Bible teaches that our relationship to money is the problem. Getting a huge raise, or money doesn’t actually automatically generate more generosity, self-control, or self-discipline. And the truth is if we want financial freedom it doesn’t come from having more money, but a better and different relationship with money.

So we looked at this small passage in Acts where Paul’s preaching says this, “You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” And this is so true! Expect for many of us it doesn’t feel…well true. For many of us it honestly feels better to receive a huge bonus, then it does to give and cut our neighbors lawn. But that’s actually not what Paul is talking about or Jesus for that matter. Paul is not talking about individual experiences or moments, but a lifestyle.

A better way to translate that passage for our context would be this: a generous life is wholer, better, and happier than a stingy life.

And that’s true.

When was the last time you met a truly generous jerk?

When was the last time you met a really happy, fully alive, stingy person?

It just doesn’t happen.

Jesus is right; a generous life is better than a stingy life. The trouble is that generosity is not random, it is strategic and a discipline. And disciplines are hard to create and generate.

So we ended the sermon with a few steps to starting to create the discipline to be generous so that we might find new freedom. The three steps were pretty simple and straightforward: make a budget, choose a % to give, and track your money.

Generosity doesn’t start with randomness but with a plan. So make a budget to examine your life and where you are spending and where you should be spending. Then choose a % to give. The main problem with generosity is that it is not habitual, so giving a % is key. Start anywhere but keep increasing it as you grow. And lastly, track your money. What you don’t manage soon becomes a disaster. So manage your money.

These are three simple steps, and there is so much we could get into but they will give the basis for a strong start this year. And to go deeper we are having a financial course here at the church, and if you’d like to be part of it just email the church office here for details.

So we ended with a challenge: put effort into our finances. Because no one has ever regretted putting effort into it and becoming a more generous person.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: A generous life is happier, fuller, and better, than a stingy life

Teaching Points:

  • The key to financial freedom is not having more money.
  • Having more money will not fix your financial life.
  • Money will not solve all our problems.
  • The problem isn’t money or the lack of it; the problem is us
  • It’s better to give than to receive.
  • A life orientated around giving and generosity is the way to live.
  • Generous people don’t give when they have enough; generous people orient their lives so they will always have enough to give.
  • Having more money doesn’t give us more self-control.
  • A generous life is happier, and better than a stingy life.
  • Generosity is a discipline.
  • Make a budget, choose a % to give, and track your money.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What did you think about Andrew’s statement “The key to financial freedom is not having more money “? How does that relate to your life? Would you say your life is orientated around generosity? How can you maybe start to take some of those steps? Do you have a budget? Who can help you to create one? Can you start or increase your % of giving? How can we support you in this?

Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families

Today rather than talking about generosity, start to teach it. Start to encourage your kids to give money away. If you do an allowance, ask them to give a %. Start to teach generosity from the beginning.

Challenge for the Week: Put effort into your financial life to become generous.

An Awkward Conversation About Money

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On Sunday we are looking at finances. I know something everyone hates talking about. And with good reason. Too many churches, around money, beg, bribe, or berate people to give to them. Too often giving and finances have been tied to guilt, something Jesus never seems to do.

But even though this topic is one that has been covered so poorly for so often, it’s actually really needed.

Because guess what the number one cause of divorce is? Finances. Guess what most people think would fix their lives? More money. Guess what most people stress over? Finances and debt.

And so for this series we are looking at having a strong start to this year. To having a year that really takes off with hope, and purpose, so this is a topic that we need to address. But my promise to all of us is this: there is no second offering, there will be no guilt, there will be no pressure or anything like that. Instead, I just want to open up this topic with honesty, and clarity and talk about the importance of being generous. Because here is the truth: Jesus says a generous life leads to happiness. What if he is right? That’s what we want to explore on Sunday.

So I know an awkward topic, but it’s a needed one too.

The Connections Between Faith and Finances and Fresh Starts

1390009_45620103On Sunday we looked at the topic of finances and how to have a fresh start. I began by acknowledging how badly the church has dealt with and discussed finances. We often berate people into giving, bribe them with promises of health and wealth, or beg people to give. And while I don’t believe any of these approaches is correct, I also acknowledged that we can’t pendulum swing to not discuss finances. Because finances can bring stress, money is a spiritual thing, and it’s a real life thing. 

So with that understanding we took a look at Malachi 3:7-11.

This passage in Malachi 3:7-11 is both challenging and full of promise at the same time. It has some bite to it, and can set you free. God challenges the Israelites with their lack of giving, he says that they have “robbed” him. That’s the challenge part.

But there is also this promise part in verse 10. We read this,

“Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams.”

God is essentially saying that if we put him to the test, he will come through on our trust. And that’s what this passage is actually all about, it’s about trust.

The truth is when we often stop giving, give reluctantly, or don’t give at all – at the root is often a lack of trust. At least I know that’s true in my life. When I want to pull back from giving, at the root is often that I don’t trust in God deep enough to get me through something. I’ll see a bill, and rather than give, I’ll hoard. That’s a trust issue, not a budgeting issue. 

The truth is, at least in my life, that as my trust grows so does my giving. And I think that’s exactly what God is getting at in this passage. He’s saying trust me, give, put me first and see what I will do in your life. God is challenging us to put our trust in him, and to see if he is trustworthy. That’s what he is asking – see if I’m not trustworthy.

And that’s a challenge I know I need to hear. Because giving is a spiritual thing, it’s a trust thing. And what I know is that I trust in God more, he will bless me more. And not in we all get rich way, but in a real life way. And this just makes sense, the more control God has over my life, the more opportunity he has to direct it and bless it.

The point is that this passage is really about trust and priorities. 

And so on Sunday I gave us all, myself included, the challenge to give. To give more if it’s already a habit, or to start if it isn’t. To put God’s challenge to the test, to see what he might do in our lives as we make him a priority and demonstrate it by our giving. For God giving is a central issue, because it’s a heart and priority issue. So my challenge is to put God first, give greater, and see what he does in your heart and through your life as you put him first.

I think it’s a challenge worth taking, and what’s the worst that happens, you were more generous for a few months. But imagine what might happen if God comes through and does abundantly bless you? Imagine not only how you would be blessed, but the world around you? So I think giving greater to start this year is a risk worth taking.

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We need to put God and our trust to the test – by giving.

Teaching Points:

  • Churches shouldn’t berate, bribe, or beg for money – they should bless with money.
  • Giving is spiritual
  • God sees giving as intimately connected with us following him.
  • if we put him to the test, he will come through on our trust.
  • When we choose to not give, it’s a spiritual issue, because it’s a trust issue.
  • For God giving is a central issue, because it is a heart issue.
  • This is a promise tied to priorities

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What were your first impressions to the topic for today? What were your first reactions to the passage from Malachi? How are finances and trust in God tied together? Are you willing to take a giving challenge the next 3 months? What ways might God bless you if you do take up His giving challenge?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Talk to your kids about the importance of giving. Decide as a family on some ways to maybe serve and make money, and then give together. Maybe sell some toys, to give the money to kids across the world. Maybe shovel some drive-ways, and give to the food bank. Serve and give – it’s a great habit to get into at a young age.

Challenge for the Week: To start or increase your giving for the next 3 months.

A Fresh Start with Finances ~ A Conversation That’s Needed but Often Not Wanted

O1428100_36158286n Sunday we are talking about finding a fresh start in a very important area of our lives: finances.

And I know the church has a well-deserved bad rap for how we discuss finances. But the truth is it is an area many of us need a fresh start in. Many of us are stress-filled about our finances, we are worried-filled about our futures, or our happiness is so tied to our income that we can’t seem to find joy. The number one cause of divorce is also finances. So finances adds stress to our relationships. And these are many good reasons to talk about finances.

But the truth is there is one more really good reason to talk about finances. Because finances are actually spiritual. Meaning that finances are intertwined with faith.

So we are going to explore that intersection on Sunday, and how you can leave with a fresh start in your finances. And I know that most churches, when it comes to finances, either beg, berate, or bribe you into giving. And I don’t think any of that is Biblical. Instead, on Sunday I want to let God share with you why finances, giving, and generosity are so closely tied together and how when our priorities get straight he can bless you.

So that’s where we are going on Sunday, I know a topic not many of us like to discuss, but a topic that can be freeing. And that’s my prayer for Sunday that we’d be freed and find a fresh start with finances.

Having a Fresh Start This New Year

On Sunday we are starting a brand new series called Fresh Start. This series is all about finding a new beginning, a new direction, and wiping the slate clean.

It seems that at this time of the year, everyone is talking about making better and different choices. About starting fresh. Whether that’s talk show hosts, to people trying to get you to sign up for a gym membership.

The point is that while it certainly is cultural, to talk about new beginnings, it’s most of all – biblical.

God, throughout the Scriptures, offers us a fresh start. Offers us a new beginning. He offers to wipe the slate clean and start again.

And this is so needed. So often in life we seem to just accumulate hurt, brokenness, mistakes, and baggage. And it can be almost impossible sometimes to work through it all. So instead of working through it all, God chose to deal with it all through the death of his son. Through this one act he gave us a fresh start and a new beginning.

So that’s what we are going to be looking at for the rest of the month of January and most of February. How we can find a fresh start in faith, friendships, family, futures, and finances. And most of all, how we find a fresh start today.

Fresh Start

What’s in Your Wallet?

1361618_19944881On Sunday we are exploring the topic of money, and its related topic of peace. There is a lot of ad’s that promise freedom from finances, peace with possessions, and all sorts of things like that. And that’s what we really want to explore on Sunday. How can you have peace, freedom, and hope in relation to your finances and everyday concerns?

I think this is a really important question because if it is possible to live without worry, to go to sleep without stress, to have hope about the future rather than dread – then we’d want that in our lives.

And as we’ll discover on Sunday so much of society tells us the answer to having that peace and freedom is always…more. Make more money, have more things, be more independent, be more in control etc. But I think the reality is very different than that. Having more doesn’t bring an increase of peace, otherwise most people in North America would be the most happy, and stress-free people on the planet. We have so much in North America, so why doesn’t that translate into more peace and freedom from stress and anxiety?

That’s what we’ll discover on Sunday, how to live life with such assurance that peace, and hope are naturally a part of all you do. We’ll discover how Jesus teaches that peace and hope don’t come from more, they come from him.

Giving Tied to Grace…

Yesterday we talked about money in church. I know a topic that isn’t often talked about in church. We feel uncomfortable and awkward talking about it. I think this is because it’s been talked about poorly in the past, where giving gets tied to guilt and other wrong motives. But on Sunday we sought to look at giving tied to grace.

We looked at 2 Corinthians 8 to discover how Paul deals with money. Here, there is the Corinthian church that hasn’t given what they’ve pledged. Paul rather than coming down hard, judging, and using guilt to motivate, he talks about grace and God. In fact he says, “Let me tell you a story of grace…” In this story of grace Paul tells about the Macedonian church and how they gave and experienced joy and God’s presence. He talks about how they gave what they could as a response to God, not as a response to guilt or judgement.

Paul in his story of grace is trying to change the Corinthian church’s heart. He’s not trying to guilt them into giving, but instead trying to inspire them through grace. Because the Biblical perspective is that when giving is tied to guilt and legalism it quickly dries up, but when giving is tied to God and his grace, giving never ends. The point isn’t really how much you give, but the heart you give with. Giving is important, blessing others matters, but your heart behind the giving really matters. Is your heart like God’s, generous, open, and appreciative?

Jesus says that the Pharisees who gave a tenth of every part of the income still get it wrong because of mixed up motives and desires (Matt. 23:23-24). The Pharisees did the right action but not with the right heart.

So where is your heart today? Why not be generous and give to someone today out of a grateful heart. Consider all that God has done for you, and find a way to bless someone today. When you do this you might just find yourself like the Macedonians…full of joy…and taken care of…

P.S. Since money is an important conversation we’re committed here to not only be seeking to excel in generosity and grace, but also good stewardship. So if stewarding finances or debt is a struggle we have partnerships, and great people who are here to help us steward what we’ve been given well. Let us know if that’d be a help and we’ll help you make a connection.