It's a common reason from those who do not attend church - "All they do is ask you for your money." We've all heard it. In fact, some reading this may have said it. Sometimes it seems that way. In some cases, it may be true. I've seen some "pastors" on television that seem to always be asking for more faith offerings. Most often the funds are needed to "Keep this show on the air so that many will hear the Gospel." In many cases, their asking for funds to propogate a ministry that teaches and preaches a half-truth prosperity gospel (and we all know the definition of a "half-truth.") Nice, but if all they're doing is asking for money to fund the show, is the show really promoting the Gospel? OK, that's a posting for another day.
Today, we're finally going to wrap up our study of the book of Philippians as our Sunday morning preaching series. It has been a challenging and eye-opening study. We have covered such things as
- soteriology (the doctrine of salvation)
- standing firm in a world opposed to the Gospel
- how to discern false teachers
- how to keep two women in your church who are mad at each other from splitting the church
- how valuable visiting those in the fellowship is
- how to be content in all circumstances
And now what it means to give generously, even when you don't have excess funds. The Philippian Christians modeled this so well. Just take a moment and read the second half of Philippians 4. There was something about these Macedonians. You see their generosity spoken of throughout Paul's letters.
So, here we go this morning, driving head-first into another message about money. Some will be attending for the first time and will leave saying "See, all these churches do is beg for your money." The reality is there is a biblical way to talk about money and according to Scripture, how we think about our "stuff" says much about what we believe. If you look deeper into the passage, you discover that it's not really about money. It's about freedom. It's about life.
I found an article on the Generous Church website that shares interesting information on the barriers to giving that many Christians face.
Ron Blue, a Christian financial planner has authored many books on finances and investment planning. He has a way of taking complex issues and simplifying them so that people like me can understand them. For years, he has been sharing the "Five Uses of Money": give, spend, pay taxes, save and eliminate debt. Simple, right?
In his book Generous Living, Ron uses a graphic to outline seven reasons he believes many Christians do not give. The image shows the foundational element that is the major barrier to giving, then as you work up the pyramid graphic, the barriers become less and less of a factor.
The list is simple, but comprehensive.
Most pastors would tell you that after consulting with their financial secretaries and Finance Committees, the sad reality is that the vast majority of church members and attenders give nothing or very little to ministry through the local church. There are a myriad of excuses, and we have heard them all.
Some get caught up in the concept of the tithe, wishing to argue ad nauseum that it is an Old Testament teaching and therefore, we are not held to it any longer. The argument has some validity and I am definitely not wishing to slide into legalism.
I like what Randy Alcorn has to say about this in his book The Treasure Principle:
I have no problem with people who say "we're not under the tithe," just as long as they're not using that as justification for giving less. But in my mind the current giving statistics among Christians clearly indicate most of us need a giving jump-start. If you find a gateway to giving that's better than the tithe, wonderful. But if not, why not start where God started His First Covenant children?
According to some statistics over fifty percent of church members give absolutely nothing to the ministry.
Another large percentage give two to five percent. These are the "tippers," but in truth, that's a pretty sorry tip. Just ask any waiter or waitress.
There is a small percentage that give ten percent or more of their income. This is the group that often gets audited by the IRS because it's so strange to see people giving so much to their church.
While I'm not ashamed at all to talk about finances and generosity, I want to ensure that people get the entire picture. We continue to be working our way through a financial downturn in our nation. There are indicators that it will get worse before it gets better in our economy. For most people, the best indicator is the price of gasoline. This is causing people to worry and wonder how they're going to make it financially. Even Christians, who previously separated their financial life from their spiritual life, are discovering that the two cannot be divorced.
This is not about the church getting more money. Truly, it's not.
I don't get paid on commission, so I have no agenda here, other than seeking to ensure that my financial life is fully baptized and that we all begin to live from a generous heart that is transformed.
I encourage you to get a copy of Randy Alcorn's little (and I mean little - it's about the size of a postcard and only 120 pages) book The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving. Read it and pray over the principles outlined. We need a change of perspective when it comes to finances. It's not a new perspective. In fact, it's an ancient perspective. It begins with realizing that God owns everything and He allows us to be His money manager. Not only that, it reveals the lie that even many Christians have bought. The lie is that earth is our home and that's why so many of us work to gather more "stuff" here rather than store up treasures for eternity.