Grace, Generosity and Money
Jesus’ call to live generously carries with it many questions about our values and how to live wisely. In this short study, I hope to offer you a biblical, and personal, perspective and provide tools to help you uncover your convictions of what generous living looks like in your life.
I am not writing as a financial expert nor as someone who has this ‘figured out’… I write as a fellow disciple of Jesus, knowing that he continues to teach me so much of what it means to be a steward of his resources. My aim in this letter is to share with you what he is teaching me.
To the glory of God,
– Pastor Caleb
DO YOU JUST WANT MY MONEY?
There are many days that I really do want all your money! See, I often wrestle with greed and sometimes buy into the lie that if I had more money, I’d be happier. I am also aware that there are religious leaders and organizations that abuse their positions to grow their bank accounts. It is a battle I personally have to fight, and we, at DSBC, have firm accountability structures in place to protect us from the greed of leaders.
On the other hand, I have often let my concerns about what people think of me cause me to be silent on the issue of money. But, God has shown me that, by fearing people’s opinions, I was hindering our church’s faithfulness and over-valuing people’s opinions. Moreover, the insidious power of money is seen in our discomfort in talking about it.
I don’t want to give money power over me. As your pastor, I desire that you follow Jesus in living generously. I really do believe that you find joy in the process and will flourish in your relationship with Jesus through it.
ARE WE COMMANDED TO GIVE MONEY?
We find various commands in scripture given to ancient Israel about giving financially to provide for community festivals, care for the poor, food for the priests and funding for religious gathering places. This ranged anywhere from 10-30% of a person’s income. Later in the biblical story, Jesus’ followers are told that God loves a cheerful giver and we are warned to avoid giving under pressure or reluctantly (See 2 Corinthians 9).
God desires that we give like he gives his grace, not under compulsion or obligation… but out of a grace-filled freedom. God models generosity in the giving of himself, and calls us to mirror his character in giving freely.
We are also told that all that we have is God’s, and we are called to steward our finances well.
Disciples of Jesus are not called to obey the laws of ancient Israel. Our lives are not merely about keeping commandments, but rather a relationship with Jesus.
Generosity is not meant to be compulsory, like a ‘God tax’ or ‘church dues’. It is a grace-filled, voluntary choice to steward God’s gifts well and actively participate in his work of blessing others.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A STEWARD?
A steward is someone who manages and deploys someone else’s resources in ways that line-up with the values of the owner. As people made in the image of God (Genesis 1), we have been given the responsibility to steward God’s creation, managing and investing his resources in ways that serve others and honor him. When we do this, we become active participants in God’s work. (See 1 Corinthians 4 & 1 Peter 4).
I believe that Jesus calls us to live as generous stewards in order to shape us as his disciples.
HOW DOES GIVING SHAPE ME?
IT REVEALS OUR HEART
where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Your heart, according to the Bible, is the center of all your motivations, feelings, and thoughts. Every aspect of your life has its origins in your heart.
IT INCREASES OUR JOY
Each person should do as they decided in their heart —
not reluctantly or out of compulsion,
since God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7
Contrary to what many in our culture proclaim, it is not the accumulation of goods and services that will bring us joy. Rather, when we invest the money God has given us into the things HE cares about, we receive great joy.
IT IS AN ACT OF DEFIANCE AGAINST EVIL
those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap,
and many foolish and harmful desires,
which plunge people into ruin and destruction.
I Timothy 6:9
By living generously, we defy the lies of the powers of darkness that tell us to hoard wealth for ourselves and pursue selfish gain.
IT REMINDS US OF OUR VALUE
The one who loves silver is never satisfied with silver,
and whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with income.
In a consumeristic culture, many believe the lie that our dignity and value are found in our possessions. When we give, we deny this lie and remind ourselves that our dignity, worth and value are found in who Jesus says we are.
IT REMINDS US OF GOD’S LOVE & POWER
Keep your life free from the love of money.
Be satisfied with what you have,
for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.
When we give, we are reminded that ultimately, all that we have is God’s. When we choose to give freely we put our faith in God’s provision into practice.
IT BUILDS A LEGACY OF BLESSING
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Though he was rich, for your sake he became poor,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
2 Corinthians 8:9
Many of us have been blessed by the love, work and sacrifice of those who came before us. When we live generously, we build a legacy of blessing by investing in those who will come after us.
CHANGING THE QUESTION: GIVE OR KEEP?
As we think about our role as stewards, we are then faced with the question of “How much should I give?
Many wonder if Jesus followers are called to tithe (give 10% of their income). Pastor Tim Keller responds to this in his book ‘Counterfeit Gods’:
“[people] often asked me, ‘You don’t think that now, in the New Testament, believers are absolutely required to give away ten percent, do you?’ I shake my head no, and they give a sigh of relief.
But then I quickly add, ‘I’ll tell you why you don’t see the tithing requirement laid out clearly in the New Testament. Think. Have we received more of God’s revelation, truth, and grace than the Old Testament believers, or less?’ Usually there is uncomfortable silence. ‘Are we more ‘debtors to grace’ than they were, or less? Did Jesus ‘tithe’ his life and blood to save us or did he give it all?’ Tithing is a minimum standard for Christian believers. We certainly wouldn’t want to be in a position of giving away less of our income than those who had so much less of an understanding of what God did to save them.”
Keller reminds us that Jesus has been radically generous to us, and calls us to be radically generosity with our time, energy, social capital, financial resources. This truth has compelled many Jesus followers to lives of radical generosity. Zacchaeus gave over 50% of his stuff. Many in the early church gave all they had, even their lives for the sake of the Gospel. These Jesus followers lived generously, resting on the truth that , God always provides for what we need.
In his book, The Joyful Christian, C.S. Lewis states:
“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give.
I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”
Jesus calls his disciples to give their whole life to him. Instead of asking “how much should I give”, we may be better served by asking ‘how much should I keep?’
By asking this question, we nourish a healthy relationship with our money. We recognize the money we have is a gift from God, and that our role is not ‘consumer’ but ‘steward’.
HOW DO I START GIVING?
I think God has given the principle of the tithe (10%) as a clear, understandable way to begin to live generously. It is not the ‘ultimate’ way to give, but it is, by his grace, a clear principle to start with. I encourage disciples of Jesus to start with giving 10% of their income to God’s work and go from there as God leads.
WHAT IF I THINK GIVING IS HARD?
Pain is part of the growth process. Like dieting or exercise, the first step is the hardest. As we discipline ourselves in pursuing a generous life, we will find that both our faith and capacity grow as God provides.
As you have hard conversations and engage in the difficult task of analyzing your finances and values, consider what God may be showing you in the process. It may be that he is calling you to take a step of faith. In fact, in the book of Malachi, God even tells ancient Israel to ‘test his faithfulness’ in financial giving. As you take your first step in giving, ask that God would reveal his provision, power and grace in your life.
WHAT IF I CAN’T AFFORD TO GIVE?
So, there is a tension here for me. There are some within our church family that, because of job loss, systemic injustice, debt, sickness, abandonment, etc. are not able to ‘make ends meet’, and are not in a position to give. In fact, giving may hurt them or their family in ungodly ways.
However, there are some that will be tempted to say, “When I have enough, then I’ll live generously”.
I feel this way from time to time. However, I know that if I’m not currently living generously with what God has already given me, it’s likely that there won’t ever be ‘enough’.
The simple truth is that our income has little to do with our generosity.
In fact, we see in our own church family that it is often those who have the least that give the most sacrificially. Generosity doesn’t start with our bank account. It starts in with our heart. Jesus calls us to live generously, regardless of our income or net worth.
WHAT IF GIVING IS EASY?
If the amount we give is ‘easy’, or at least not requiring a sacrifice, we probably aren’t doing it right. Jesus calls us to sacrificial generosity… this involves hard decisions, difficult conversations and a profound reliance on God’s goodness. I HIGHLY encourage you to listen to this story about two Harvard grads who had a radical change of mind related to giving.
WHERE SHOULD I DIRECT MY GIVING?
We are called to steward the funds God has entrusted to us in ways that line up his values. We can begin by asking “What does God value?” & “Where do I see God at work?”.
Based on my understanding of scripture, the local church serves as the primary organism God works in the world. In light of this, I direct the majority of my giving to the work that God is doing in and through DSBC. While I greatly value the work of other organizations (many of which DSBC as a whole invests in), I am personally compelled to give to my local church family.
There is a secondary benefit to me in this. I LOVE being in control. I love it when I get MY way. When I direct my giving to the local church, I am submitting to God and trusting that he will work through church leaders that prayerfully choose where to direct those funds. In a sense, it removes me, as a giver, from a position of power and influence. It’s not MY money, and at the end of the day I don’t have final say on where the money goes.
For a guy like me, this is a humbling experience (especially when I don’t see the value of how certain funds were used). As I strive to live as a good steward, generously giving to DSBC, I am actively engaging in Jesus’ mission, through his body the church. I am honored that he would see fit to invite me into this process and allow me and my family to minister in this way.
My prayer is that you would find that living generously is a beautiful, Jesus-centered, joyful practice and one of the ways we actively engage in the work God is doing in our city and around the world.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
Below are some questions designed to help guide you in discovering your perspective on generosity.
1. What difference would living generously make in my life?
3. Does what I spend money on reflect what I truly value and love?
4. What things can I afford, but can intentionally choose to live without in order to live with Jesus-centered generosity?
5. Am I praying for God’s guidance as to how he wants to use me to invest in the work he is doing?
6. Am I thinking about generosity in a way that is easy and effortless or more challenging and requiring more discipline?
7. Am I thinking creatively about a plan that represents what I am capable of giving?
8. Am I discovering a new joy in giving through this process?
9. Am I leaving a legacy of blessing to those that come after me?
Here are some recommended next steps. Our church family has leaders and coaches that would love to connect with you and help you take your next step.
For more info, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.