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.

Robbing Greed of its Grip

1361620_16941172On Sunday we looked at this topic of greed – something that is prevalent everywhere. We looked at how Greed plays with our emotions and makes us feel poorer and worse than we always are. We end up comparing our lives with those a few notches above us, without realizing how blessed we are compared to the world. Greed so easily catches our emotions, plays with them, and then cajoles us into habits that aren’t healthy. And Greed can do this with anyone rich or poor. Greed feeds the idea that what will make us happy, secure, and important is money. But this simply isn’t true and has been shown again and again not to be true. The problem is that it feels true. It feels as if more money will make us more happy. It feels as if more money will make us more secure. It feels as if more money will make us more important. But it never does.

Paul says chasing after money in 1 Timothy 6 leads to being trapped, snared, destruction, and difficulty. And this is true, chasing after money always ends badly but we keep doing it.

So on Sunday we tried to break the power of Greed over us by recognizing two things. First, Greed robs us of life.  Paul reminds us that Greed is fickle, unreliable, and controlling. But that God is a giver of abundance. He says in 1 Timothy 6: 17-18 that if we live with generosity, being rich in good deeds, trusting in God, we will experience true life. And I think this is true. The depth of life that God has for us is experienced when we care for others, when we do good deeds, and trust in him. As we serve, live, and work well – as we give generously meeting other’s needs – as we grow deeper with God – we experience the depth of life that God has for us.

So to break Greed we looked at three simple steps. The first is to focus our trust in God. Greed steals trust from God. Greed tells us that no one else can provide for us but it. But we need to give that trust back to God who is our provider, protector, and caring Father.

The second thing we need to do is to be generous. Generosity breaks greed every time. This is why it’s so important to get into the habit of giving. And Paul actually gives us some great advice in 1 Tim. 6:17 he says “be ready to share with others”. Some of us to really break Greed and be free from it need to get our debt, budgets, and balance sheets in order. We need to do the hard work of getting back on track so that we can be ready to share with others. So that when needs come, we aren’t wracked with guilt from Greed, but can overflow in generosity from trust in God.

And lastly, Paul reminds us to be rich in good deeds. We need to continue to serve others, and reach out. A lifestyle of outward focus makes giving easier, and being greedy harder.

So this is where we landed on Sunday but it’s something we need to look at again and again. Because Greed is hard to break. But as we trust, give, and serve I believe not only can we break Greed, but be free from Greed. And that is a good place to be.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Greed robs us of life.

Take Aways…

  • We think that money will make us happy, secure, and important.
  • Greed doesn’t bring life
  • The more greed captures my heart, the less I like myself.
  • Relativation Deprivation: comparing ourselves to those around us unequally
  • Greed plays on our feelings
  • Greed robs us of life.
  • Greed breaks its promises to us every…single…time.
  • We need to transfer our trust from Greed to God
  • God help me to trust in you, and not my bank account
  • Generosity breaks greed.
  • “Be ready to share”
  • Be rich in good deeds.
  • What can you do to deepen your trust in God?
  • Who can I give to this week?
  • And how can I get ready to give?
  • What good deed can I do this week”

Adult / Group 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? When has Greed had a grip on you before? How did it feel? What was it like? Would you agree that many people think money will bring them happiness, security, and importance? What do you think about that? How have you personally seen Greed rob someone of true life? How have you seen Greed break its promises to people? Which of the three steps: trusting, giving, or doing good is easiest for you? Which one is hardest? How come? Which one is God asking you to focus on? How can you “be ready to share”? What are some next steps to take? Who can you share your card from Sunday with for support?

Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families: Today talk to your kids about the sin of greed. Why not take a moment and go through some of their toys and show them online how many kids have nothing. Take a look online and show them the type of houses many kids live in. Talk to them about kids who don’t have any toys. Then maybe consider giving away some of their toys together to a worthy place or doing a little garage sale and giving the money to worthy cause.

Challenge for this Week: Give up on greed by: trusting, giving, and doing good.

 

 

Breaking the Grip of Greed

1390009_45620103On Sunday we are looking at the Deadly Sin of Greed. This may be the biggest temptation that Christians face in the west. It’s also certainly the most mentioned sin in the Bible, we just don’t read it. The sin of Greed is the sin of Idolatry which drives so much hurt in the world. As Paul says, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

But here is the problem with greed. We all know that greed wrecks relationships, businesses, and lives deeper and faster than most other things. We all know how toxic greed can be. How it can drive people to become workaholics, trap people in spirals of debt, and bring about deep insecurity in others.

We know this. We’ve seen the effects of greed. We’ve seen good people make awful decisions because of it. We’ve seen relationships suffer from it.

What I don’t think we know is how to break it.

Greed happens so easily and quickly, and we don’t know how to break it. Or even more importantly to stay free from it.

We have a nice house, and go to someone else’s nicer house and like ours less. And all of a sudden greed catches us. We watch TV, see a lovely vacation spot and start dreaming about how happy we would be with more money, and greed catches us. We save, go out to a great restaurant, have a great meal, and then see regulars there and wish we could be them. And again greed catches us.

It is so easy to get caught up in greed, so on Sunday we are going to look at how to break it. Because I think that’s worth finding out.

How Do We Change Our World?

This Sunday we are really exploring a difficult, if not life-changing, topic. The topic is this: how do we live as follo

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wers of Jesus in our world?

Because if you haven’t noticed so much of our world isn’t Jesus-like. There is hate, anger, greed, self-interest, materialism, environmental abuse, violence, and difficulty. These are things that are both prevalent around our lives and affec

t our lives.

The truth is that our world in many ways is far from the Kingdom of God. In God’s Kingdom people don’t go hungry, in our world they do. In God’s Kingdom people are valued, in our world people are left out and alone. In God’s Kingdom

violence has no redemptive power, in our world we think it does. In God’s Kingdom the marginalized are

welcomed, in our world they are forgotten. This isn’t though a case of pessimism because Jesus is clear that his Kingdom is here, it is growing

, it is moving, and it is always also coming. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we can have hope in a better world, and not just one we find when we die, but one we can have while we live.

The question then is how do we change the world we are a part of? Because Christianity has been about chan

ge from the beginning. Transformation of personal lives, of communities, of neighborhoods, and even of the entire world. So in light of the major difficulties of the world, how are we to live so that we partner with Jesus in bringing change?

Well on Sunday we are going to be looking at a story that is all about changing the world around: everything from our communities right up to the world of politics around us.

We are going to be looking at the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den.

I remember a prof once joking that we shouldn’t talk about sex, money, or politics in church. And since I’ve already covered sex and money, I thought why not cover the last one.

So that’s where we’re headed on Sunday, but before we get there why not think about this question and post an answer if you have it. How do you change the world? And where does change start?

God Doesn’t Want Your Money…He Wants Your Heart

1390009_45620103On Sunday we looked at the issue of money and wealth from Jesus’ perspective. The big idea was pretty simple, that God isn’t interested in our money, but in our hearts. The point is that our lives organize around our hearts. So if greed holds our hearts, our lives will end organizing themselves around greed, wealth, and more possessions. When this happens our lives shrink, anxiety increases, and fear abounds. Dallas Willard writes: If we value [money or wealth] as normal people seem to think we should, our fate is fixed. Our fate is anxiety. It is worry. It is frustration. The words anxious and worry both have reference to strangling or being choked. Certainly that is how we feel when we are anxious. Things and events have us by the throat and seem to be cutting off our life.” When our life is controlled by greed that is how we feel cut off, and chocked by an insatiable desire that never lets up.

So we talked about how Jesus really isn’t interested in our money. He has lots. What he is really interested in is having our heart so he can give us freedom and life. As long as greed controls us our lives will never be full. If our focus is on money then it’s not on God. So we ended with a simple challenge: Give. Give. Give. Giving breaks greed. Giving ensures that God has our heart. Giving is a way to keep God at the centre. I think one of the reasons that Jesus talks so much about money is because where our money goes, so too does our heart. So if we give our money away, we are also giving our heart to God.

So that’s where we went on Sunday ending with some simple practical ways to give. First, give as a priority. Make it first not just an after-thought. Second, give a percentage. God cares more about giving as a percentage than a dollar amount. So make a practice of giving to protect your heart from greed. And lastly, give progressively. Keep giving more and more, deeper and deeper. The path of discipleship, it’s also the path of generosity.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: God doesn’t want our money, he wants our hearts

Take Aways…

  • God doesn’t want your money
  • Jesus point in Matthew 6 isn’t practical living, but the intentions behind your life
  • Life organizes itself around your heart
  • Greed leads to smaller and less fulfilled life
  • Focus on placing your heart in heaven not what you have
  • “Jesus is very clear. Wealth is a problem” Stanley Hauerwas
  • whatever you value most will direct your life.
  • If you heart is focused on wealth, then it isn’t focused on God.
  • Giving keeps God at the centre of our hearts and lives
  • Giving breaks greed
  • “Generous giving is one of the best external indicators for measuring transformation and spiritual growth” Chris Willard, and Jim Sheppard
  • Three Keys to Giving: Make it a Priority, Make it a Percentage, Make it Progressive

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What did you take away? What was new? How have you seen it true that life organizes itself around your heart? Would you say that money has a hold on your heart? What can you do to break that hold? How much is generosity a part of your life? How much would you like it to be part of your life? What can you do to make a habit of generosity to give you heart to God?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment and talk about your kids about the importance of generosity. Talk with them about how giving changes not only others but also us. Ask them about their favorite gifts they’ve ever gotten, and also given. Ask them if there is someone they know who could use a gift to encourage and make them happy. Follow through on any ideas they have.

Challenge for this Week: Give. Make it priority, a percentage, and progressive

Why Does Jesus Talk So Much About Money?

On Sunday we are exploring a difficult topic. We are talking about money. Here is the difficulty though with this topic. Whenever money is talked about people can get defensive and uncomfortable. This has often been because the church has talked about money so poorly, seeming like all we care about is a bigger offering. But money, wealth, and finances do need to be talked about in church because of how it can affect our lives. Whether or not we acknowledge it money has a huge influence on our lives. Here are just a few examples:

  • Marriages often split over finances and fights about finances
  • Financial stress can bleed out into all sorts of relationships that we have
  • Many of us are scared about our future in relation to money, wealth, and security

And so we should talk about how to find peace, life, and hope. The truth is that if Jesus talked about money so should we, and he talked about money a lot:

  • Jesus talked about money more than anything else, other than the Kingdom of God
  • Jesus talked about money more than heaven and hell combined
  • 25% of all the parables have connections with money

I think the point is that Jesus knew that money is a stress, it is a focus, and it can steal our peace. So he talks about it to give us freedom, life, and a new perspective.

So here is a sneak peek into the big idea for Sunday. It has two parts but I’ll share the first part now: God doesn’t want your money. This is true, and on Sunday we’ll be exploring Mathew 6 to find out why that’s true. Why God isn’t really interested in your money, why we won’t be having a second offering, and why money isn’t the issue, it has something to do with our hearts.

Kingdom Currency

The gods all around us…

945751_89422954Sometimes I think it would be easier to live in Jesus’ day and age than ours.

At first such a statement seems ridiculous. I mean the church was facing persecution, you could be martyred, you would be dealing with famine, poverty, and immense struggle. And this is all true. But at least you’d know the enemy you’re facing.

Here is what I mean. In the time of the early church you knew that following Jesus meant that you couldn’t follow the gods of Zeus, the emperor, or Dionysus. Those gods were explicit, seen, and prominent in culture. In essence, those gods were named.

Yet in our culture our gods are just as powerful, pervasive, but are so much more subtle. We don’t think twice about following Jesus all the while working 60 hours for more money, a better office, or new promotion. We don’t think twice about following Jesus all the while filling ourselves with entertainment based on sex, hate, or anger.

The point is that our gods hide in our culture.

So on Sunday we are going to look at how Jesus calls us to follow him and him alone. We are going to name some of the gods around us that vie for our attention and pull our allegiance from Christ the King.

The question I have for you is this: what gods do you see around you?

It’s easy to name the gods of Greed and Sex. But what other gods are there out there? Because before we can resist and reject them, they need to be named.

So take some time and look at our culture, and see who is asking for your allegiance? What demands your time and attention? What gods are all around us that Jesus might say to us, ‘you can only follow one master’?

That’s where we’re going on Sunday. Maybe not the easiest topic in the world, but being prophetic and imagining a different world has never been easy. But often the hardest things in life are the most worthwhile…

The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us. We need to ask if our consciousness and imagination have been so assaulted and co-opted by the [culture around us] that we have been robbed of the courage or power to think an alternative thought.

Walter Brueggemann– The Prophetic Imagination