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.

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.

Money, Peace, and Prosperity

1222896_52704774On Sunday we looked at how to have true peace, freedom, and hope in relation to our finances. It might sound a bit funny to talk about money at church like this, but this is something that Jesus spoke a lot about and also causes a lot of stress in our lives. My bet is that if you could have peace, hope, and freedom in your finances you would want that.

The trouble is that our answer to finding peace is always to have more money. But more money doesn’t bring about more peace or freedom. The reality is that you might even have experienced this personally. That perhaps a few years ago you thought you only needed a bit more and you’d be set, but it hasn’t brought a deep transformation of peace. The truth is that if our life is based on having more, then our peace is always out there before us rather than residing with us.

So we looked at Jesus’ discussion on possessions, worry, and life in Matthew 6. He begins by saying not to worry about everyday concerns. The problem is that for many of us this seems like an impossibility or a fantasy, but we’ve forgotten that many of us at one point in our lives lived this way. And we lived this way because of trust. My two boys trust me to make sure that they have cheerios, goldfish, and raisins to snack on. Worry and stress does not consume them because of the trust they have.

This is similar to what Jesus is teaching, that if we can trust deeply in the Father who knows all our need, peace and life will flow into us. Peace comes from trusting the Father who knows and cares for us, not in having giant savings, RRSP’s, or salary increases. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t’ be prudent with our financial planning, spending, and habits. What it means is that peace doesn’t come out of good financial planning, it comes out of trust in the Father who knows and cares for us. Peace doesn’t flow out of having more, but deeper trust in God.

So we landed on the fact that until we get the trust piece right with God, the rest of our lives won’t fall into place. So the question is do you trust God? When and how has he been faithful in the past – so that you can be reminded – that he will be faithful today? Can you say you trust him? And if so, what is he asking you to do to put that trust in action?

So that’s what we explored on Sunday – that having more doesn’t bring peace – trusting in God brings peace.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea Peace flows from trust in God

Take Aways…

  • We base our financial freedom on having more
  • Having more money doesn’t bring more peace, freedom, or happiness
  • God doesn’t want our money he wants our hearts
  • You cannot serve both God and money Jesus
  • Trust provides peace and freedom
  • Peace comes from the creator caring not what we own and have
  • We don’t trust our futures to our finances but to our Father
  • How big is your God? How much do you trust him?
  • Peace flows from trust
  • Steps for Trust to Grow
  • Decide and declare to trust God
  • Remember times of God Being Trustworthy
  • Put trust into action by following God

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What did you take away? What was new? What did you think about the idea that “more” doesn’t bring peace? Have you seen that true in your life or friends lives? How deep is your trust in God? How can you start to deepen your trust? When has God proven his trustworthiness to you? What next steps is he asking you to take?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment and talk about your kids about today’s sermon. Talk to them about how life and peace comes from trust in God not the stuff they have. Ask them to think of when God has been faithful to them, when he has answered a prayer, or spoken to them. Focus on building their trust in God.

Challenge for this Week: Trust God, Be Reminded of his Trustworthiness, and Practice Trust

 

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.

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

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.

Money Can Buy You Happiness

Money can buy happiness. It’s true and if you’d like to see the study that shows it I’ve posted the video below.

But for the quick version here’s how you can buy some happiness. Spend money on someone else.

Studies have shown that giving and spending money on others actually increases your happiness more than if you would spend it on yourself. Basically the social sciences are now catching up to what the Bible has always taught us: that being generous leads to a fuller life.

So on Sunday we’re actually going to look into this a bit deeper. We are going to be talking about money and finances. Now often when this has been talked about in the church it has been done poorly. This leads people to thinking that the church is just in it for money, that the pastor is trying to get a raise, or that giving gets tied to guilt. But this isn’t the picture of money and finances that the Bible paints. In the Bible guilt isn’t to drive our giving, instead grace is to guide our giving.

So on Sunday we are going to be looking at the topic of money from a different angle: through the lens of grace. We will explore how, when money and giving gets tied to grace, new life forms, how joy explodes, and how you connect not only with God but others. So I hope you can join us.

To prepare why not try this today: take the money you would have spent on yourself for coffee, for lunch, or something else and spend it on someone. See how it makes you feel when grace gets tied to giving. And then we’ll explore it deeper on Sunday. But today why not go out and buy some happiness…