Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Making Money Work

So what are God’s intentions for us regarding giving?

Rather than a fixed amount or figure, God gives us three guidelines for giving.
1. Give cheerfully (not reluctantly)…
2. Give regularly (not when you feel like it)…
3. Give sacrificially (in a way that requires lifestyle adjustment).

Maybe take a moment to chew over these three things in relation to your own giving at present.

Here are some further suggestions that I have found helpful in my wrestle with materialism & the hold of Mammon on my life, and how I am attempting to bring my use of money into line with God’s intentions.

1. Get in touch with your real feelings about money so you can come to terms with your fears, your insecurities and your guilt.

2. Stop denying your wealth. Don’t compare yourself to others like you and claim relative poverty (e.g. “but she has more clothes”, “he has a bigger car”). Think globally!

3. Create an atmosphere in which confession is possible. Create a climate of acceptance where we can talk about our struggles, and confess our fears & temptations.

4. Let new attitudes to money change how you talk about money. For example, do you “need” a new car or “want” one? Do you “need” new shoes or “want” them? OR do we talk about how much of “our” money that we give to God rather than how much of “God’s” money that we keep for ourselves?

5. Get someone to hold you accountable. Keep a list of all your spending for 3 months show it to someone. Chat it through together.

6. Don’t get all legalistic about it. When God teaches us to give cheerfully, regularly & sacrificially (tithe) it isn’t about dosh… it’s about devotion! The Pharisees gave from their pocket, but not from their heart. A tithe is a good starting point when it comes to giving; and it’s not designed to punish us, but to free us from a misplaced sense of security in stuff.

7. Consider ways to get in touch with the poor. Buy Fair trade produce; campaign with Tearfund; collect for Christian Aid; go on an overseas mission trip.

8. Start giving in a costly way. Not stupidly, but not in a safe way either. Let go of the security you place on your money and in doing so really mean it when you pray “Lord, give us today our daily bread”. Let your giving be an act of confidence in God.

This blog series is not designed to make you feel guilty, but to uncover the beast that wrestles for top spot in our lives. To give as God intends is a call to liberation & life, but it is a challenging call & life-long battle against the values of this world. So let’s wrestle together.

Philippians 4 v11-13… “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Monday, 7 June 2010

Myths about Money: Numero Three

Myth 3: Christians should not have lots of money

Wrong! Whilst our God tells us not to desire money & not to place security in it above Him; He never teaches that it is wrong to have money. He expects us to use the money He gives us to bless others. And a positive side effect of this is that a generous and giving spirit enhances our own lives.

I wonder if you’ve ever found yourself criticising Christians who have lots of money. Is this provoked by self-righteousness, envy or a desire for right living? Have you removed the “plank” in your eye before attempting to remove “specks” from others?

Personally, I’d rather global wealth and resources were in the hands of those who are properly disciplined and informed by the Christian world view than have it abandoned into the servants of Mammon.

However, consider this. You’re walking through town one day & you see a homeless person in great need. Your heart is stirred & you offer them £20 for food. Yet 15mins later see that person coming out of the off licence with alcohol rather than food. How do you feel?

I guess you feel annoyed, frustrated & cheated; this was not the purpose of you giving that person money. But yet we do this to God all the time. We spend money that He has given us on stuff that He didn’t intend for us to have.

So Christians can & should work hard for money, but should consider how & where they invest it.

1 Timothy 6, “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food & clothing, we will be content with that.
People who want to get rich fall into temptation & a trap and into many foolish & harmful desires that plunge men into ruin & destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
Some people, eager for money, have wondered from the faith and pierced themselves with many grief’s… don’t put your hope in wealth which is so uncertain, but put your hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

(Tomorrow “Making Money Work”)

Friday, 4 June 2010

Myths about Money: Part Deux

Myth 2: “Money isn’t a problem for me (I don’t have any yet)”

The danger is not always in having money… the problem is in our attitude towards money. Let me ask a few diagnostic questions to determine if money might be a problem for you.

• When you last bought a new car, IPod, computer game or clothes did you consider whether this was how God wanted you to spend your money?

• When was the last time you gave something away that really cost you, rather than giving safely from what you have?

• Are you more excited when you visit the temple of Victoria Square (or equivalent) & rejoice at the bargains on offer or meeting with God’s people for Sunday morning worship?

• Have you ever spent £100 or more on clothes, a concert, sports event or a holiday without much thought, but considered yourself really generous & sacrificial by giving £20 to church?

• Have you ever said something along the lines of, “I don’t have any clothes, shoes or handbags”?

• When you ask someone what they do for a living do you find yourself contemplating how much they earn?

• Have you ever bought someone a present/gift with an expectation of repayment of some sort? Have you ever complained that someone else’s present to you wasn’t as expensive or nice as yours to them?

• Have you ever found yourself working on a Sunday to earn money or turning down a mission opportunity for a summer job?

• When considering how wealthy you are do you compare yourself with celebrities, with friends who have more than you or with people in the developing world?

• Have you spent more time thinking about what you will buy people for Christmas or the significance of celebrating Jesus’ birthday?

Personally I find these issues very challenging as they expose several fears & insecurities that I have about money & stuff. But if we are to live for the Kingdom and not the Thing-dom, I think it is important (if uncomfortable) to take some time to meditate on one or all of these issues.

So is money a struggle for you?

“Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?'
Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” Proverbs 30v7-9

(Myth 3: Christians should not have lots of money)

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Myths about Money

Myths about Money

We had an interesting post-Bible study discussion in our Young Adults group last night about money – and in particular giving & tithing. So I thought I’d fire out a few blog posts over the next week with the hope of sparking chat, thought, debate & a search for God’s truth.

First… let's start with some commonly accepted myths about money.

Myth 1: Money is neutral and depersonalised
Our survey says “eh-eh.” If money was neutral we wouldn’t give status to people who had it or ever be tempted to covet our friend’s salary, car or house. If money was neutral it wouldn’t be possible to be embarrassed about what type of mobile phone you own or what clothes you wear.

Jesus teaching on the matter is simple and hard-hitting (Matthew 6:19-24).

  • Money is a power with a life of its own; it must be taken seriously.
  • He uses the word “Mammon” which is translated Money (note it has a capital “M”) and by doing this Jesus gives it a personal and spiritual character – it’s a rival god!
  • It is a power seeking to dominate us… it is a force capable of inspiring devotion… it is seductive and can win your heart.
  • And like all demons… it wants us to deny its existence.

The love of stuff is a real threat to our relationship with God… here are a sample of Jesus warnings.

“Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.” Luke 6:24

“No-one can serve two masters. Either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God & Money.” Luke 16:13

“Be on guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

God is not neutral or quiet on money... it is dangerous... it seeks to control you... it wants to make you its servant. His teaching is very clear and challenging and I often find myself tempted to tone it down because it makes me feel uncomfortable.

It is not difficult to understand what the Bible has to say about money… but it is difficult, challenging & scary to live out. Jesus’ counter-cultural words not only fly in the face of everything society, family, friends & even the church at times teach us, but also challenge our privileged status in the world.

(Tomorrow… Myth 2: Money isn’t a problem for me -I don’t have any yet)

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Cleaning up the Crap

It's not unusual for me to be woken up around 1am by a screaming child; unfortunately last night's episode even more gruesome.

I lifted Jacob to discover not only was he crying for some milk/attention, but that he had inconveniently sprayed himself from head to toe in poo. A nasty dosh of the squirts - that even metal plated nappies could not contain - left me with a baby who wreaked of a death & a stomach curdling with nausea.

So I put him down and shouted, "Get yourself cleaned up you filthy little creature. How dare you cover yourself in this horribleness. You repulse me. Get out of my sight until you are washed, cleaned & sorted out. I don't want to know you until then."

Ok, before you contact social service this is clearly not what happened. I hate poo & I love my son. I changed his soiled clothes, washed him in the bath & comforted him in my arms until his distress left & he fell asleep again.

But which of these father images do you hold of God? If you take a honest moment of reflection, who do you see?

Our God has revealed Himself to us as a perfect, loving, Heavenly Father desperately desiring relationship & intimacy with us. Longing to clean up our dirtiness, our uncleanliness, our sin through faith in Jesus. Taking delight in lighting us from our helpless states, rebuilding a broken relationship with Him and comforting us in our distress.

Many factors in our personal lives & faulty understandings of the Person of God may cause us to hold an other image. But these are wrong.

If this is an area of confusion, why not take some time to read through the Gospel of Mathew, Mark, Luke or John & see our God through the eyes of Jesus?

Or why not pause for a moment & praise Father God for being a loving, perfect Daddy willing to clean us up & hold us in His arms again?

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

A scary, but safe prayer...

Psalm 139 fires off with some pretty strong words that have be swishing around in my consciousness since our Young Adult group studied them last week...
"You have looked deep into my heart, Lord, and you know all about me..."

All about me... all about my resting, my working, my family life... all my thoughts, the holy ones & the stinkers .... all my words before they're even on my tongue, the hurtful ones & those that encourage.

As Christians we often nod in agreement to this theology, but fail to follow it up with the invitation of the final verses in this Psalm. Not because we think too much of ourselves, but because we think too little. How difficult it is to pray these words sincerely... "Look deep into my heart, God, and find out everything I am thinking. Don't let me follow evil ways, but lead me in the way that time has proven true."

Through this prayer God invites us to look, reflect, listen, see & experience what is happening in our daily lives & sense the footprints of the Divine.

I invite you to practice this now, but ensure that you do it with God, not alone. I believe that deep down we all struggle with self-acceptance & seeing our true selves with the blinkers off, so to self-examine without Him is to end up excessively praising or blaming ourselves... on one hand is justification, rationalisation & evasion of responsibility, on the other is self-flagellation, merciless self-beating & unnecessary guilt.

If it helps write your discoveries in a journal, and let the external events of your life be the springboard for a deeper understanding of God in your heart.

And once you have let the Lord of grace examine you, why not offer yourself as a "living sacrifice" to Him once more (Romans 12:1)... offer yourself just as you are (warts & all), not what you want to be.

"Precious Saviour, why do I fear your scrutiny? Yours is an examen of love. Still, I am afraid... afraid of what might surface. Even so, I invite You to search me to the depths so that I may know myself - and you - in fuller measure." Richard Foster, "Prayer"