I came across this terrific sermon (click on the series “In God We Trust”) by Andy Stanley, pastor of Northpoint Church in Atlanta.  He was a visiting speaker at Willow Creek as they started a new series on stewardship.

As someone who’s wrestling with the issue of living and communicating values of faith and generosity (and all the complexities therein), I was struck by how clear and compelling the sermon was.

In sum, he said his principle for money-management comes down to three steps:

1. Give

2. Save

3. Live off the Rest.

The problem is, we often have the order reversed.  Stanley comments that we pay off necessary bills (housing, health, etc.) and then we use our “extra” to consume.  Whatever is leftover is… well, most of the time, there’s nothing leftover because we’re such rabid consumers.

We use phrases like, “I need to have this or that…” when more often than not, this or that is a luxury and not a need.  Hence, the massive debt most people find themselves in.

I found this blog by Jim Sheppard to be helpful and in one post, he reiterated many of Andy’s thoughts.  This is what he writes:

Our money goes to one of three main categories: giving, saving or living. Wise counsel is to give first, save second and live on the remainder. In America, we have been conditioned to practice it in reverse: we live first, then save and give. The problem with that is, if you are living on 100% or more, there is nothing left for the giving or saving categories.

The main enemy for many of us is lifestyle. To the extent we can live under some form of restraint, we are freed to give more and save more. Though the case could be made that it is simply a matter of discipline, I submit that it is deeper than that. It is about our hearts. Our hearts are more consumed with “what would make me happy” (yep, it happens to me and I spend my whole life trying to help people understand generosity). As a result, we forget our greater responsibility to manage what God has put under our care. In essence, our hearts become lukewarm to what God wants to do through us. When our hearts are on fire and we are convicted about something, we find a way to get it done. For almost all of us, we can give more if we really want to.

I think most of us think we’d give more if we made more.  Statistics have shown that a higher income doesn’t make much of a difference in the percentage giving department (the poorest bracket making less than 20k actually has the highest percentage of tithers.  It’s the middle class $20k-100k who tend to have the lowest percentage of tithers).  SN: I haven’t done extensive background checks on the veracity of any of these links, but I’ve heard these trends in various settings.

Also from Jim’s blog:

Money does not change us. Not really. It only makes us more of what we already are. We think having more money will change us, but it is a rare occurrence.

The greedy person only becomes more greedy.

The generous person becomes more generous.

Money makes us more…

Money can have such a stronghold on people, and the same can certainly be said of me.  At NLF, we’ve been having more deliberate discussions about the topic.

I know it can be a sensitive topic to some, and I used to have an aversion to talking about it.  But I’ve become more convinced that issues of money, greed, lifestyle, debt, and generosity are crucial to one’s overall spiritual health.

As a pastor, I realized that I used to fear being labeled as someone who’s fraudulently asking for money.  I don’t fear this anymore because I truly believe I’m not teaching this for my benefit.  Instead, I’m convinced generosity will transform peoples’ lives!  I think this principle is true for Christians and atheists alike – it’s good to give to charitable causes.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions…


5 responses to “Giving

  1. Hey, bro. Thanks for the very kind inclusion of quotes from my blog. I am honored!


    • Jim, thank YOU for your blog. I’ve found it a great resource and I’m so thankful for people like you who have done so much reflection on the subject.

  2. New Lifers have historically been generous. From the anecdotal evidence I understand it remains so.

    What of New Life itself? Does it, too, practice Giving first, Saving (or paying off debt) second, and living off the rest? If so, is this well communicated as an example to follow? Does the congregation know what percentage of the revenue NLF takes in goes toward charitable giving, both inside and outside itself?

    In short, does NLF model itself as a giving body to be emulated by others, or does it present itself primarily as an object of charity to be given to with little or no responsibility to give to others?

    If the former I believe it will be much easier to speak to others about the importance of the adage to: 1) Give; 2) Save; and 3) Live off the rest.

    Respectfully submitted.

  3. Thanks for this post, Drew. I think generosity is a pivotal component of the gospel. It is in God’s generosity that he extends grace to us. His generosity compels us to be generous. I think the world at large would agree that there is unparalleled beauty in giving.

    My hope is that the church and individuals (including myself) would exemplify such a spirit… that we would be at the forefront of giving, not trailing in the back.

  4. There was an article in the 2007 July/August edition of the Church Herald (Reformed Church in America publication) on the subject of tithing. The following excerpt is from the last paragraph of the article:

    “So give generously, proportionally, systematically, sacrificially—not because your church needs it; not because you can afford it; not even because you have been greatly blessed and others are less fortunate than you. Give because you know you need to give to keep your life’s priorities straight; and give to keep your heart and soul focused on your need for the priceless gift of salvation that God has provided us through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    As for me, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I accepted the tithing challenge a number of years ago. About five years ago, my wife left me, cutting my household income in half, just one year after buying a home with a mortgage based on two incomes. Two months after that, I made a career change and saw my income cut again by half. Trusting the Lord as my accountant, I continued to tithe my income. Today I still live in that same home, have clothes on my back and food in my stomach. More importantly, my relationship in the Lord has grown as I am overwhelmed not just by the blessing I’ve received materially, but also by my growing relationship in the Lord who has been faithful to me.

    No, tithing is not God’s means by “funding” his work on earth in the church. It’s really one of the methods He uses to refine us to become more Christ-like.

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