Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Pay It Forward
As I said last week and you have no doubt heard before the last part that gets saved is our wallet!
Our gifts must be the kind of gifts that enable others to give. We are called to lead by example in such a way that the flow doesn’t stop after we have given, but that we encourage gift giving to be reciprocated much like in the movie, ‘Pay It Forward’ where the debt is not paid back but done as a favour to a third party. For believers we could never pay back the debt that we have owed; however we have been called to show that same kind of generosity in our love towards others whether in gift, deed or forgiveness. One of the things that I love about the Ensenada Project is that the gift continuously gets reciprocated as we build homes alongside those pastors who also have had their homes and churches built through the generous giving of others.
Giving is meant to be reciprocal. Matthew 18:23-35
When it comes to debt we are called to be generous. We who have been forgiven an insurmountable debt have been called to show that same mercy to others. We tend to forget that in the situation especially when it is us who have to ‘have to take the hit’. We are quick to forget the price that has been paid for our forgiveness, to wipe our slate clean especially when we have been hard done by. We think and may even say things like, ‘I must hold them responsible,’ ‘I must hold them accountable, no one else will’. I must make sure they pay up! Really, is that our job?
We see giving also displayed in John 15 when Jesus told us to love others the same we have been loved and blessed.
John 4 – the story of the woman at the well begins with Jesus asking her for a drink. He challenges her to an act of giving. Even the unsaved are challenged to give. It is often in the act of giving that we come to faith.
I’ll never forget the time just handing out hot chocolate along with PB and jam sandwiches to people on the street on Vancouver’s east side and having one of my more affluent youth looking at me and saying’ “I’ve never felt closer to Jesus”
Giving is for mutual honouring and dependence A person who receives but in turn does not give themselves misses out on the great exchange. As a river of life flowing through us we actually dignify others by challenging them to be rivers of living water through their gifts as well.
Even as we bless and minister to non-Christians, we are called to challenge them to give love and assistance to others. It is often in these giving experiences that I have seen faith come alive and become real in others.
I was so moved by the story of sponsored children with Compassion and Partners in West Bengal, India who took the money that they received and in turn sponsored children themselves!
We learn in John 7:37 that the giving wasn’t just there for me to receive and say, ‘bless me, bless me, I’m so blessed...It was meant to flow through you like water through your fingers. It refreshes you, but you were not meant to contain it, but to channel it.
Giving is meant to be the great exchange. Matthew 10:38,39
We are called to give up our lives for the One who has given His life for us. We turn into spiritual parasites when we don’t follow through with the great exchange. We do not dignify the life that Jesus called us to live but short circuiting the process and not calling others to lay down their lives as well.
A study has shown that 97% of each dollar given to the church goes to maintaining its own programs! We have to change that stat. We sound more like a container, a pond, than a river! We are called to lay down our own agendas for His agenda.
The average person gives 2.7% of their income to the church. Is it any surprise that we have very little impact on our culture. Another reminder that we are looking more and more like ponds than the rivers we were meant to be.
Giving is meant to be sacrificial Mark 10:21
A man who was devoted to getting, not giving is the theme of the story of the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18. It is David who tells us that ‘I will not offer to God that which costs me nothing. ‘in 1 Chronicles 21:23-25 so he offer Araunah the equivalent of 15 pounds of gold which is worth today about $274 500 for a place to make an offering for the Lord.
Giving is meant to be for gospel growth! Luke 16:9,10
We are called to win souls for the kingdom of heaven and God by using material things to care for the needs of those in need. The act of giving is a platform that God has given us. The cardinal principle according to one ministry is that anyone who knows enough to be saved by Christ knows enough to tell another how to be saved.’
Through generous acts of giving, we are showing the love of Christ. A disciple is one who reaches others to become disciples. There are not two levels of disciples. For me it is about breaking down the barriers that separate the ‘clergy’ from the ‘laity’. These formal distinctions are manmade. It always catches me a little off guard at the ministerial meetings where I’m present with those with the collar. We are all men and women of the cloth. We are all called to the work of the ministry. Now, granted some of us have had a sense of calling to the role of equipping, but we are in this together.
Measure your flow by how many rivers flow out of you. Do you really see yourself as a channel?
As Dave Ramsey shares in the lesson on ‘The Great Misunderstanding, The Power of Generous Giving’
Water like giving money is supposed to flow through us. When water flows into a pond and not out, it eventually turns into a swamp and then you know what happens, the scum starts to float to the surface and that is what happens to people who hold their money with clenched fists, they become ‘scummy’ as he says.
You know what those people are like who are so tight with their money that make excuses every time when they are asked to give or to be generous with a worthy cause.
It is like the story of a family that came to church and everyone left complaining about something ....whether the music was too loud, the preacher was too long, the coffee wasn’t strong enough only to have their child pipe up and say, ‘I thought it was pretty good for a toonie’...
If you keep your fist clenched, you can’t receive any more neither, but if you keep your hands open, yes money will disappear, but you always be ready to receive more like verse 10 is getting across.
Through the power of the HS, we are called to pray, give and proclaim!
Penn Jillette, an atheist stated the following,
I’ve always said, you know, that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that, well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward... How much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that...’ WOW!
Giving is systematic and it is measureable. Acts 5 Ananias and Sapphira
It was just the other day that I overheard someone talk about winning the lottery. She really believed that if she could just win the lottery that all her problems would be solved and in this story, Ananias and Sapphira had definitely come into a great windfall.
They obviously were already well off and they made the bold claim that the church was going to get the whole ‘shabang’ but it is a funny thing how money changes us when it finally gets into our hands. So, what was their sin, that they didn’t give all their money? It was still a very generous gift at that, but it was the impression and attitude that they were giving off. They wanted to appear totally 100% sold out to the mission when in fact they weren’t and they were called on their honesty. It was a very sobering time for the early church that was barely off the ground.
However, it was clear that God demands honesty even before gift giving. If we have promised God that we will give, then we need to honour that commitment and take it very seriously.
Giving was always meant to be simple. Genesis 14:17-20
The definition of tithe is 10% and we first see the example of this in Genesis 14:17-20. So we can correctly identify that the tithe is ‘pre-law’. Some people write it off and say well, that is the OT law, but no it wasn’t. It was always about ‘firstfruits’ 22x it is spoken of and being an agrarian culture, they knew that this is the place that we begin. It is the first line item on our budget.
If you say well the NT doesn’t mention tithing and I will say that you are correct; however to be technical if you say you are bringing your tithe, it should be 10%.
People ask do I tithe 10% on my gross or my take home....As Dave Ramsey says, ‘I don’t care’ how you decide...just do it because only 2.7% of the church are doing it!
Mark 7:11-13 We are called to take care of our household as well and honor our families and recognize their needs and in doing so not nullify what the Lord has commanded us to do.
Now offerings are what we give that is above and beyond our normal giving.
Giving was meant to bring freedom 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
It is about a level of trust with God with our finances and once again we are faced with an incredible test to trust God with our level of giving. How serious are we about believing these verses.
Can you imagine a ‘belly aching’ laugh when you went up to give? The fact is that we are to be hilarious givers! We really do win the lottery in the ‘Christian’ sense when we can be set free to give.
I mentioned that I really believed that most believers want to really do well in this area, but they don’t know where to begin. They are up to their eyeballs in debt or the feel the heavy weight of their ‘line of credit’ upon them and they just can’t seem to get there.
One of the ways that God has been preparing me for this series is learning to pay it forward instead of in reverse and by that I mean how freeing it has been for Sharon and myself not to always look back with our finances, but to look forward. We have been so blessed by the teaching of ‘Financial Peace University’
We are now more intentional with all of our money than we have ever been before. We now pay it forward instead of trying to catch up to the expenses at month’s end. We have gone to an envelope system along with commissions for our children and the rewards are already being paid off.
Check this site out on how to get started with a simple budget...
We are excited about seeing Financial Peace University run again this fall.
We receive in order to give in order to receive more in order to give more.
The more we understand this truth, the more we will be free with our money.
Questions For Discussion
1. Have you ever took the opportunity to ‘pay it forward’? What led up to that event taking place?
2. Share about a time when you really felt the spiritual connection to giving, that rivers of living water were flowing through you?
3. Do you have a family budget? How have you set that up?
4. Has there been a time where you have seen an opportunity to share the gospel through an act of giving?
5. What are ways that you can be more intentional about giving or how have you learned to be more intentional in this area?