Overcoming A Poverty Mindset In The Church

Have you ever heard…(or said)

I work so hard, but still can’t make ends meet.
If the economy would turn around, I might have a chance.
You don’t understand what it is like to struggle.  It’s the story of my life!
If I ever have any extra, I’ll be the first to give back and live generously.

You nailed it…that’s the poverty mindset.  And it can be both heartbreaking and frustrating to deal with this mindset as you call people to imitate the generous ways of God.  So, what do you do?

For starters, you can search Google.  There are a ton of articles related to the poverty mindset online.  Some of these resources are developed by churches and ministers…others by sociologists and well-intentioned bloggers.  But, let me save you some time.  They pretty much all say the same thing.  The majority of these resources encourage you to nudge people from an “I can’t” mindset to an “I can” attitude.  Sounds good right?

There’s only one problem.  Momentary motivation rarely leads to long term change.

Other ministry blogs will tell you that the poverty mindset is destructive and they point to a variety of cut and paste verses from Proverbs.  They tell you to work hard, be more disciplined and stop making foolish decisions.

But, here’s the problem.  All of these answers address the surface and the temporal.  They don’t get to the root of the issue.  Each of these suggestions buys into the idea that we are defined by what we have and by what we do…not by who we are.

Identifying the real issue

I have never been in a church that is completely absent of the poverty mindset.  It’s almost ridiculous to see this in the U.S., but there are pockets of it in every group of people that gather for worship.  Additionally, there are some church communities that run their organization out of a poverty mindset.  They are always worried about meeting the budget.  They are uptight about last week’s giving and they don’t know how they will get through another strenuous financial year.

So, what do we tell those disciples who think this way?  What do we say to churches which operate in this manner?  Work harder?  Be more disciplined?  Plead more often?

While those answers may be contextually appropriate, they don’t address the real issue.  Here’s the big question: Who are you?

Are you defined by what you have, what you’ve done…or by who you are?  At its core, the poverty mindset is an identity issue.  And it makes perfect sense that

both people and entire church communities would define themselves by the resources in their possession.  Isn’t that what the rest of society does?  Isn’t that the way of the world?  Doesn’t that fit with the business models and consumer mindsets of our day?

But, listen to the resounding theme of Scripture…

  • The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.  (Psalm 23:1)
  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  (Galatians 2:20)
  • For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)

According to the Bible, our identity is not found in what we possess, it is found in who possesses us.  Our lives are hidden in Him and the actions that we take are actions of faith.  We are not identified by our meager possessions, we are identified by our Father–who created, sustains and rules over all things.

Isn’t that the way that Jesus lived?  Even Jesus said, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me” (John 5:30).  He – our perfect example – said that the only way to find your identity is to lose yourself in the lordship and leadership of the Father.  And no child of the King is poor.

Jesus “had no place to lay his head,” but we would be hard pressed to call Him lacking.  He “had no place to lay his head,” but in spite of that, He called us to join Him in His abundance (John 10:10).  That’s because living on a peasant’s income in ancient Israel didn’t make Him poor.  He was rich in every way as He lived by faith and trusted in the astounding wealth of His Father.

He didn’t have a poverty mindset because His identity was not wrapped up in His (on-hand) possessions.

A story for perspective

A few years ago, a friend made a last minute request that I go to Orlando and attend a conference he was hosting.  I almost laughed at the proposal.  There was no way.  Living paycheck-to-paycheck didn’t provide room for a last minute flight, hotel room, rental car, conference fee and meals.  But days later, I clearly sensed God telling me to go.  So, I crawled out of bed and got on the internet.  I had a small reserve remaining in my bank account and knew that if I used it, our family could potentially run into deep financial trouble.  This was not wise money management.

Through a remarkable series of online events, I was able to book a last minute flight at a deep discount and package it with a hotel rate that was more than fifty percent off.  All told, the trip would cost me about $300.  So, I booked it.

On the last day of the conference, I got a surprise.  No one in Orlando knew my financial situation.  No one knew what the trip would cost me.  But as we sang in worship, a gentleman came up and tapped me on the shoulder.  He told me that someone had been prompted by God to give me a gift.  He wouldn’t tell me who the gift was from, other than to say it was not from either him or my friend that was hosting the conference.

Humbled, I said thank you and slipped the envelope into my pocket.

As the conference closed, I made my way to the rental car and headed for the airport.  When I opened the envelope, there was a wad of $20 bills.  In total, the gift was $300…covering the cost of the entire trip and replacing the meager reserve funds that were left for our family.

That event did not happen because I changed my attitude or mental state.  It did not happen because I tightened up my boots and worked a little harder (I was already working about 60 hours a week at the time).  It happened because I decided to listen to my Father and trust in

my identity as His child.

One note of clarification: Faith is not easy (that’s why it’s called faith).  And I still have moments where I define myself by the resources in my possession.

But, in my healthy moments, I know that my identity is hidden in Christ…not in stuff.

And realizing that identity shift is the key to helping your church members…or your church community…overcome the poverty mindset.  Let me know how this works for you…or simply what you think…in the comments section below.

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Read more from John Richardson by visiting http://www.generouschurch.com/

The Most Enormous Little Subject In the Bible

Generosity feels like such a small topic.

It feels small in terms of annual preaching and in terms of overall impact on the church. I mean, honestly, it is important for people to give…but is it really important for church leaders to take a long, hard look at generosity? Is there even enough Biblical material on this subject to make it worth a “deep dive?” On the scale of faith topics, this is one that seems gnat-sized. It hangs around just enough to bother us and distract us from things like love, faith, family and the “big” doctrines of faith.

At least, that’s the way it feels.

For some reason, recent scholarship has made us feel like generosity is a take-it-or-leave-it subject for the church. We know that the church needs money to operate, but we don’t really know how generosity impacts our spiritual lives. We know that God calls us to be generous for the good of others (i.e. The Good Samaritan), but we don’t really understand why generosity is good for us…or even if it’s good for us.

So, how important is this topic in Scripture? Does generosity really matter as long as all of the healthy, growing ministries are properly funded?

Here are five reasons that Biblical generosity will stay at the forefront of the church:

1. The kingdom of God is often experienced – or missed – because of generosity.

Remember this – Jesus spoke more about the kingdom than He did about heaven, hell, salvation or almost any other subject. And according to Jesus, the “gate” to the kingdom is often related to money and possessions. For instance, in the Parable of the Sower (a kingdom parable), Jesus says, “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). For other instances, see Matthew 19:16-25, Matthew 6:31-34, Matthew 13:44-46, Luke 19:11-27 or Matthew 25:14-30.

2. The Gospel comes riding on the back of generosity.

John 3:16 captures the Gospel in a sentence and clearly states the vehicle that God chose for the delivery of His good news: “For God so loved the world that He gave…” There is no way to comprehend the Gospel apart from generosity. He gave Himself. He stepped into the mess of humanity as an infant and purposed to trade His eternal inheritance for our place in death. Beyond that, He extends the forgiveness and grace that are necessary for us to receive the Gospel. So, from the onset of the Gospel to its eternal conclusion, it is characterized by generosity.

3. Generosity is one of the primary defining marks of discipleship.

In Luke 6, Jesus says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back” (Luke 6:27-30).

Later in that same passage, Jesus explains His reasoning for this radical call to generosity. In verse 35, He says, “Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” In other words, Jesus notes that as we become radically generous, people will perceive that we are pupils and imitators (disciples) of the Most High God.

4. Generosity has been God’s plan from the beginning.

Genesis starts with the words, “In the beginning, God created.” Can we quickly dispel a light-hearted myth? God was not lonely. He did not create because He was lacking in some way. In fact, many scholars agree that He created to share…to give.

He created us in order to share His love and joy with us. In the beginning, God sought opportunities to practice generosity.

5. Generosity characterizes the end of the world (as we know it).

As Scripture comes to a dramatic conclusion in the book of Revelation, God is still giving. The created world is not thrown away in a fit of justified rage, but it is redeemed. It is bought back for our pleasure and for His glory. It is re-created and re-fashioned – not because God needs this, but because we do. Revelation 21 says, “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

That’s a subject of Biblical proportions. And apparently generosity only looks small when we are looking at it through a highly restricted lens.

So, how can you unleash this God-sized subject in your church?

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The above article was originally published at http://www.generouschurch.com/

How Much Would I Give Away If…

Let me ask you a provocative question, “How much would you give if you knew Jesus was coming back this time next year?” Please know that I don’t have any insider information by asking the question. But this question does open the door for us to honestly evaluate both our hearts and our motives regarding how we are living and giving. What if we could somehow know without a doubt that Jesus was indeed coming back in one more year? Would your level of giving change? This thought-provoking question ought to cause all of us to soberly pause and reflect on our answer. If our answer is, “Yes,” the amount of my giving would be higher; it might be good to ask yourself, “Why?” Why would the amount I would be willing to give over this next year be greater if I knew Jesus was coming back next year instead of twenty years or a hundred years from now?

I have identified three specific motivations for why I think all our giving would go up and most likely go up a lot! Let’s consider these three motivations.

Motivation #1: “It’s Only a Year”

If there was only one year left before His return, we might be much more willing to make meaningful, personal sacrifices since we now know that it would be only one short year before this world as we know it would come to an end? I think we would all agree that twelve months is a pretty modest amount of time to do without if we knew for sure it would only be for one year.

I know when I work out, I am able to endure much greater physical “torture” because I know that my workout is only going to last for one hour and then I can go back to my non-demanding, sedentary lifestyle. I am willing to incur a good bit of short-term pain to hopefully enjoy a good bit of long-term gain.

If you are like me, you are probably far more willing to give something up for Lent (short term) than you are to give it up for life (long term). But what if you knew this life as we now know is only going to last for twelve more months? Would your willingness to part with even “essential” material possessions increase if there was only one year left to do without?

Ask yourself: “Would my giving increase over this next year if I knew with absolute certainty that Jesus was coming back and then the really good times were going to begin?”

Motivation #2: “I’ve Got Nothing to Lose”

Would our giving to the Lord increase because with only one year left, as the old hymn says, “the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace?” As the new heavens and the new earth get closer, the grip this current world has on us would likely be loosened and its appeal and attractiveness would be greatly diminished.

Think about the value of a confederate dollar in 1861 (when the Civil War began) compared to the value of that very same dollar in March of 1865 (a month before the war ended), we would all agree that a confederate dollar after the confederacy fell was going to be worthless to whoever held it. So, if a person were to give away all their Confederate dollars just before the end of the confederacy, I think we would all agree, that person was not really making much of a sacrifice. Likewise, as the return of Christ continues to move closer, the “things of earth” will continue to grow more and more worthless because in that new day that is coming, nothing of our material possessions will be considered anything of value.

It is this fact that makes the picture of the streets in heaven being paved with gold so humorous. We take gold that is universally valued here on earth and in heaven God uses it for street pavement. The fact is that what the world values here is worthless there. And conversely, what the world considers worthless here is actually priceless there. Most of us don’t have any trouble giving away what we consider to be worthless – junk.

Ask yourself: “Would my giving increase if I knew what I was giving away was in a very short time going to be worthless?”

Motivation #3: “It’s a Good Deal”

I wonder if we might gladly substantially increase our giving if we realized that “investing” our resources in Kingdom initiatives just makes good financial sense. We could reason that doing so would enable us to enjoy not only a spectacular internal rate of return, but also a spectacular eternal rate of return in just one short year. Then, as we are ushered into the new heavens and the new earth, we will be rewarded handsomely for our sacrificial giving and our “brilliant timing.”

Randy Alcorn reminds of us of the obvious, “You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.” If we knew beyond a doubt that “ahead” would be only one year away (not decades or centuries), might we view the temporary postponement of our current enjoyment of and security in our material stuff a small trade off for the eternal gain that would very shortly be ours.

We have all read Matthew 6:20, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”Jesus commands us to do this “for yourselves.” By knowing the time horizon for actually having our treasures returned to us makes “investing” in the Kingdom for ourselves all the more compelling. I think the appeal of a fantastic and guaranteed return on investment for almost all of us might be just too great to ignore.

Ask yourself: “Would my giving go up if I knew I was going to personally receive back a spectacular return on my Kingdom giving in just one year?

Isn’t it interesting how something changes in how we value our lives and our possessions when we use a shorter timeline? The world and our relationship to all our stuff are viewed quite differently. Life’s real priorities quickly surface out of the clutter of our over-busy lives. Every single area of our lives will be quickly reshuffled and our life priorities reordered when the timeline is shortened. And what could be most unsettling about this list of newly identified life priorities is that they seldom include what currently consumes much of our daily lives.

In life, the tyranny of the urgent is constantly seeking to override the priority of the important. We seem to routinely make time for and overvalue what is really quite trivial and unimportant – often because we mistakenly believe that there will always be time for getting to the “big stuff” later. But, what if there was no “later”? What if there was only twelve months left?

If we only had one more year for Kingdom impact; only one more year to get the message that God has entrusted to us, His stewards, out; only one more year to give to make it happen; would we be living and giving differently than we are right now? I think so. And it might be a very valuable spiritual, mental and emotional exercise to take some time to recalibrate and realign our priorities to focus on an eternal mission and not just a temporal one. Shorten your timeline and watch how it sharpens your focus.

We all need to plan like we are going to live forever and live like there is no tomorrow. If we choose to start living by this mantra, we will find some truly amazing changes in our lives starting to occur. Changes that may resemble a lot like how Jesus lived when He was here.

Obviously, no one knows if Jesus is going to actually come back next year. But I think we will all agree that regardless of when He actually does finally return, within the context of eternity, He will be coming back as the old gospel song says, “soon and very soon.” Are you ready to step up and start living and start giving like you really believe it?

Download PDF:  How Much Would you Give Away . . .

© 2012 Stewardship Ministries | All Rights Reserved.

E. G. “Jay” Link is the President of Stewardship Ministriesa teaching, training, mentoring and content ministry working with churches and nonprofit leaders to equip them with the biblical knowledge and training resources needed to serve all ages and all economic levels of believers to effectively live their lives as good and faithful stewards of all that God has entrusted to them. He is the author of three books, “Spiritual Thoughts on Material Things: Thirty Days of Food for Thought,” “To Whom Much is Given: Navigating the Ten Life Dilemmas Affluent Christians Face” and “Family Wealth Counseling: Getting to the Heart of the Matter.”

Mr. Link may be reached via email at jlink@stewardshipministries.org

Summer 2012 Newsletter

Summer 2012 Newsletter

CHARITABLE GIFT ANNUITIES NOW AVAILABLE

A charitable gift annuity (CGA), administered by Hope, enables you to make a substantial gift to your church, favorite ministry or to your donor advised fund at Hope and receive guaranteed income from those assets for yourself or a beneficiary that you name as long as you and/or the beneficiary lives.

This is one way to put your treasure where your heart is — in your church or favorite ministry — and still take care of your needs and those of your family. A CGA is a contract between you and Hope Christian Community Foundation, which guarantees a fixed amount of income for life. You can fund your annuity with cash or marketable securities.

How It Works

  • You receive an income tax deduction in the year that you establish the annuity for the gift portion of the contract
  • You may witness the impact of your gift while you receive lifetime income
  • You receive a guaranteed periodic income that is not affected by the fluctuations of the marketplace. A portion of your annuity income is tax free
  • You are free from concern about money management and low interest rates

Features: The minimum amount required to establish a charitable gift annuity is $25,000. The minimum age is 65. The annuity rate depends upon whether one or two people will receive lifetime income from the gift and the age of the recipient(s). You cannot add to a charitable gift annuity, but you can establish additional annuity agreements. One key feature of a Hope CGA directed to benefit your donor advised fund is the opportunity to donate to multiple organizations rather than just one.

An Example: Sara, age 75, has considerable savings. She seeks to increase her income, reduce taxes and do something substantial for her church’s endowment program. After discussion with a representative of her church and her own financial advisor, she decides to make a cash gift of $100,000. In exchange, she will receive $5,800 per year. Her advantages are multiple: She guarantees income, generally larger than a savings account, for the sildenafil prix moyen mg rest of her life. She receives a one time tax deduction of the gift portion of the annuity. A significant portion of income is free from taxes. Her church will receive a significant gift.

To view more examples and learn more about charitable gift annuities from the Hope Christian Community Foundation please visit: http://hopememphis.givingplan.net/ or call us at 901.682.6201.

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WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO THIS WORD?

[This message was originally tailored for Pastors]

If word-abuse was a crime, many pastors/ministers would be in jail over how they have abused one of our most important, biblical terms – the wordstewardship. If you were to poll your congregation and ask them what the word stewardship means, I suspect that if your church is like most, the overwhelming majority of them would tell you it has something to do with money and giving. Part right and part wrong. And as my grandmother would tell me, “If something is partially wrong, it is all wrong.”

I spent eight years of my life in Bible college and seminary and majored in theology. I can tell you that in all those years, I never took one class or even had one lecture on the theology of stewardship. So, everything I share with you I have learned since those days long past. Since very few institutions of higher learning include this topic in their curriculum, the overwhelming majority of pastors/ministers have either no stewardship theology or worse yet, a bad stewardship theology. Consequently, it is really no surprise that our churches are at best theologically adrift in this area of stewardship and at worst being falsely taught.

Let me give you a few examples of how the word stewardship is being abused in many churches. Church bulletins and newsletters often have a stewardship report. Of course, it always includes the amount of the offerings. Churches have fund-raisers/capital campaigns, but often refer to them as stewardship campaigns. A stewardship campaign sounds much more spiritual, don’t you think? We use the term “good stewards” to refer to people who are “good givers.” We teach that tithing will make a person a good steward. Many larger churches now have stewardship pastors who are really financial pastors. I could go on, but I think you see my point.

Many churches use the word stewardship as if it is a synonym for giving. But let me suggest that stewardship is not a synonym for giving. It is actually an antonym (opposite meaning). Let me explain. Giving has to do with what we deployStewardship has to do with what we retain. Stewardship is not about what we put in the offering when we go to church; it is about what we do with what is left in our check book after we have done our giving. Stewardship is about what we are keeping.

So, what exactly does the word stewardship mean? Let me explain stewardship as if it were a three legged stool and all three legs are essential for the stewardship stool to properly stand.

Leg #1: The first “leg” of this stool is the fact that God owns everything because He created everything. For example, King David tells us in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” I think that about covers everything we will ever get our hands on in this life.

Leg #2: The second “leg” of this stool is the fact that not only did God create us, but He also redeemed us from slavery to the prince of this world through the death of His son, Jesus Christ. Paul tells us in Titus 2:13b-14, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” We now belong to Him again. So, God actually owns us twice: Once because He made us and twice because He bought us back.

Leg #3: The final “leg,” the one that enables the stool to stand, is the fact that we own nothing: We have been called by God to be stewards, to carry out His wishes for His property.

So, Stewardship accurately defined is: (v) “to plan, to manage, to administer;” (n) “a manager.” The concept of stewardship repositions us from being the owner to being merely a manager of a very small portion of the Owner’s vast material holdings. For many believers this idea is a revolutionary concept.

One Sunday I was preaching at a church that had just completed taking their entire congregation through our thirteen-week life stewardship, small-group study. Prior to the start of the service a distinguished, older gentleman came up to me, shook my hand and said, “Jay, the one thing in your study that has had the single greatest impact on me was this idea that God owns everything, including me.” He went on to say, “I have been in the church all my life, but somehow this truth had escaped me entirely.”  He confessed, “I thought I was the one getting up each day and going to work and I was the one making the money. It wasmine. But when I came to understand that God owns me and everything I have, it has changed everything in my life!”

I hear this kind of comment routinely from believers once they are finally presented with the true, biblical, stewardship message. The truth be known, it likely wasn’t that this gentleman missed the stewardship teaching in his church, it is more likely that his church had never preached or taught on it before. This radical, biblical concept of life stewardship is easy enough to understand intellectually, if and when we finally do hear it. It is, I will confess, exceedingly difficult to consistently apply and live out practically speaking.

This “we are only the managers and not the owners” mindset forces us to ask one, critical question. And it demands that we ask it on a daily basis. The life-transforming question is this, “Lord, what do You want me to do with all that You have entrusted to me?”

It is no longer “How do I want to spend my day?” “It is now, God, how do you want me to spend Your day?”

It is no longer, “How do I want to spend my money?” It is now, “God, how do

you want me to spend Your money?”

It is no longer, “How much of my money do I want to give to the Lord?” It is now, “God, how much of Your money should I be keeping for myself?”

It is no longer, “How do I want to care for and feed my body?” It is now, “God, how do You want me to care for and feed Your body?”

It is no longer, “How do I want to raise my children?” It is now, “God, how do You want me to raise Your children?”

It is no longer, “What kind of house and car do I want to have?” It is now, “God, what kind of house and car do You want me to have?”

Do you see how this owner/manager issue impacts every single area of our lives?

Let me offer you a personal challenge. For the next 30 days as soon as you wake up in the morning, even before you put your feet on the floor, ask God this one question, “God, what do You want me to do todaywith all You have entrusted to me?”  I am quite confident that if you start asking this one, prayerful question on a daily basis, it will change everything in your life just as it has in mine.

Can you see how if this life stewardship message were to be powerfully, effectively and boldly communicated to your congregation on a consistent basis, it has the potential to radically change the culture of your entire church? Can you imagine what your church would look like if everyone from the youngest children to your most senior members were to begin living each day of their lives asking this one, life-changing, stewardship question and were humbly and earnestly seeking to carry out the wishes of their Owner on a daily basis?

What would happen to their marriages, to their families, to their finances, to the number of volunteers, to their physical health, to the amount of their giving and to the impact and outreach of the church? This one word STEWARDSHIP has the power to change everything!

But let me be quite clear here. This stewardship message will never impact your people and the culture of the church if it doesn’t start with you. You must first personally embrace and adopt a stewardship lifestyle. In other words, you need to first practice it before you preach it. The impact of this life stewardship message all rises and falls with you.

Many people over the years have suggested that I abandon using the term stewardship because it is so badly used and carries such negative baggage in churches and among Christians. But there are

some things in life worth fighting for. And for me, the word stewardship is so profoundly important that it is worth trying to rescue from the mire of misuse, abuse and negativity – restoring it to its proper place of honor and respect with the other great theological concepts we so fiercely defend.  It is a word that has the power to transform believers, to transform churches and yes, to even transform pastors.

Every sermon you preach and every lesson you teach should be grounded in and built upon this foundational truth that God is the Owner and we are His stewards.  Remember, God has graciously entrusted the care and feeding of His church to you. Let me exhort you, steward it well!

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© 2012 Stewardship Ministries | All Rights Reserved.

E.G. “Jay” Link, is the President of Stewardship Ministries, a teaching, training and mentoring ministry for professional advisors and ministry leaders to equip them to effectively serve believers who have accumulated surplus, material possessions.

Tithings and Offerings – Spring 2012 Newsletter

The following article was highlighted in the Fall 2012 Hope Newsletter

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In his recent newsletter Jay Link of Stewardship Ministries explains how churches today struggle to teach Christian giving. “Having spent eight years in Bible college and seminary, I can tell you I did not take one class or even hear one lesson on the theology of giving.” Link goes on to explain that his theology of giving was carried over from what he had been taught in his church and he accepted it without question – a 10% tithe goes to the church.

It wasn’t until he decided to do an exhaustive, comprehensive study to support the doctrine la viagra caduca of New Testament tithing that he realized that tithing is not biblical.

Link goes on to explain that nowhere in the New Testament is their even one verse stating that Christians are to tithe – not one verse. “Keep in mind that almost all the New Testament was written by practicing Jews who certainly knew well the Old Testament law on tithing, but none of them ever mention tithing as a basis for Christian giving even when they were talking expressly about giving.”

“Old Testament tithing, simply stated, was a tax that the Jews had to pay to underwrite their theocratic nation whose King was God. The three Old Testament tithes were the taxation system used to underwrite Israel’s national expenses. The Jewish taxes were never once applied to non-Jewish believers in the New Testament – never once.

So if tithing isn’t the basis for our Christian giving, what is it? Freewill offerings were the standard for the Old Testament Israelites and the same is true today for us. Voluntary offerings, contrary to taxes, motivated out of grace and love and in whatever amount the giver chooses is the giving standard for today.

Paul sets the giving basis for believers in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Paul is very careful not to give a formula or percentage for how much we ought to give. The amount of our giving is decided upon after carefully searching our hearts.

Read the full article: Stewardship Ministries Tithing and Offerings [pdf]

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Please leave your thoughts of comments below.

Tim Keller: What We Owe the Poor

Tim Keller has helped lead many small group studies in the City with his recent barrage of books. Since 2005, Keller has released five books with various topics from apologetics to idols.  In his 2010 book, Keller offers a persuasive plea for evangelicals to embrace social justice efforts in his book Generous Justice: How God’s Grace makes Us Just.  Recently  Kristen Scharold sat down with him to discuss the topic and learn why Keller believes every Christian’s mission should be about helping the least of these.


Tim Keller has strong words for people who do not care about the poor: “All I know is, if I don’t care about the poor, if my church doesn’t care about the poor, that’s evil.” The head pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church and author of Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just (Dutton) spoke with New York-based writer Kristen Scharold about why helping the least of these should be every Christian’s mission.

Why do you think generosity is crucial to biblical justice?
I used the term “generous justice” because many people make a distinction between justice and charity. They say that if we give to the poor voluntarily, it’s just compassion and charity. But Job says that if I’m not generous with my money, I’m offending God, which means it’s not an option and it is unjust by definition to not share with the poor. It’s biblical that we owe the poor as much of our money as we can possibly give away.

What do you hope readers will learn about the relationship between God’s grace and justice?
Cause and effect: God’s grace makes you just. The gospel is such that even though you’re not saved by good works, you are saved by grace and faith—and it will change your life and lead to good works. According to the Bible, if you really have been changed by the grace of God, it will move you toward the poor.

Many Christians hear “justice” and think about issues like sex trafficking, HIV/AIDS, and so on. Would you include those in your definition?
My definition of justice is giving humans their due as people in the image of God. We all agree that everyone deserves not to be enslaved, beaten, raped, or killed. We are not just talking about helping the poor but helping people whose rights are being violated. What people are due is not an easy thing to determine from the Bible. I’m urging Christians not to be so certain that they know how the Bible translates into public policy.

Many Christians say that the best way to do justice in the world is to be a Democrat, others say to be a Republican. I’m trying to shake people loose and say that you need to be involved in your political party without that kind of triumphalism.

Can you elaborate on the relationship between preaching and justice?
The heart of what I’m supposed to do is preach the Word, win people to faith, and then disciple them. But I can’t disciple people without telling them, “Help the poor.” To believe in Jesus is to obey all he commanded, which means helping the poor.

There is a division between evangelicals. Some feel that doing justice is not what the church is supposed to be doing; on the other hand, there is an overreaction to that among many younger evangelicals who would say the job of the church is word and deed equally. I want people to remember that the impetus for helping people comes from the experience of grace.

What part do you see Generous Justice having in the conversations that people like Ron Sider and Tony Campolo have had for several years?
Tony and Ron have been writing great stuff for years, but they’re assuming that their readers basically agree about the importance of the church’s involvement with justice. My book is trying to move people forward and inspire them without leaving behind folks who have questions about the mission of the church and the relationship of social justice to evangelism.

In Counterfeit Gods, you wrote about the cultural idolization of money, romance, and power. What idols might prevent us from doing justice?
First, race. People look at people who are different and see them as inferior and deserving of their problems. It’s a way of feeling better than others, because our hearts don’t want to rest in the gospel of grace. Power is another idol, because justice requires being involved with people of other races and sharing power with them.

Another idol would be money, which serves the idol of security. In Deuteronomy 15, God says that if you care for the poor, he will provide for you. God knows that the reason people aren’t generous is that they are afraid. They say, “I need a lot of savings.” But God is saying, “That’s distrust. You’re looking to money to give you a feeling of confidence that I should be giving you.”

[the original interview was posted on christianitytoday.com and can be found here]

Go deeper in this subject by visiting the following links:
Interview with Tim Keller on Generous Justice by Kevin Deyoung
American Idols: Tim Keller explains why money, sex and power so easily capture our affections

How the Gospel Makes Us Generous and Content With Our Money

The danger of wealth has been a prominent theme in the teaching of several pastors in recent years. John Piper’s chapter on money in Desiring God has shaped me and many others to a great degree. More recently, authors David Platt and Francis Chan have championed a similar message with their books Radical and Crazy Love.

Their message has met considerable resistance with counter warnings against embracing a “poverty theology.” Should we not rejoice in what God has given? Shouldn’t we want to take care of our families and provide for them? Shouldn’t pastors be paid well so their wives don’t have to work and they are not continually stressed out with financial pressure?

I’m afraid the framing of this discussion leads us to ask the wrong questions. Like the junior high boy who wonders how “far is too far” with his girlfriend, we are quickly caught up in questions about how rich is too rich, how poor is too poor, and the like. Where is the line? Do I feel guilty for having too much? Do the kids have enough? What does “enough” even mean? Should I feel guilty about not giving as much as so and so? If I give more, does that mean I am more spiritual? The hamster wheel of comparison, propelled by our spring-loaded legalism, keeps spinning unto exhaustion. We are all tempted to be prideful about what we give or feel guilty about what we don’t. Neither response befits the gospel, which crushes pride and erases guilt.

Financial Peace

Still, the question remains: how should we handle money? I’ve learned a lot from Dave Ramsey, an extremely popular radio host,author, and speaker who teaches people how to manage money so they can attain “financial peace.” He is also a Christian who loves to motivate people to cease being a “slave to the lender” (Prov. 22:7) and manage their money so that their money doesn’t manage them.

Ramsey markets his successful 13-week program, Financial Peace University, to churches, schools, military institutions, and others all over the world. My wife and I used his program a few years ago to pay off all her graduate school debt and our minivan (total: about $50,000) in roughly four years. We have lived in the past with big debt. Now we are living with zero debt, as we rent a house. The debt-free lifestyle has given us freedom and removed the stress of money from our our marriage, even when times are tight.

When counseling young couples, we plead with them to obtain a plan for their money. If we would have heard about Ramsey when we were 22 instead of 30 years of age, our financial outlook would be much better today. But there is a point of grave danger that I always communicate when we talk about Ramsey. If you follow his principles, most likely you will have more money. You will perhaps get really rich. In fact, Dave emphasizes this every day on his radio show when he regularly says, “Debt is dumb, cash is king, and the paid-off home mortgage has replaced the BMW as  the status symbol of choice.” Is it wrong to be rich? No, but it IS dangerous.

When I read the Bible I don’t see the pursuit of riches as a worthy goal to pursue as an end in itself. I don’t think Ramsey believes this, either, but I wish he would state this clearer and more often.

Think of all the warnings from Jesus about money:

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matt. 6:24)

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. (Matt. 13:22)

Even so, we shouldn’t respond to these warnings by resolving to be dumb with our money to make sure we remain poor. Rather, pursuing a biblical perspective involves three things: 1) financial wisdom, 2) contentment, and 3) generosity.

Seek Financial Wisdom

Said plainly, I would get Ramsey’s book and do what he says to get out of debt and manage your money. You might not agree with everything he says, but most of us need a much better financial plan.

Pursue Contentment

Contentment is a more biblical goal than getting rich. Paul writes about this 1 Timothy 6:6-10:

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

This is where I have a problem with Ramsey’s emphasis on getting rich. It doesn’t seem to square with what the Bible teaches. Is it wrong to be rich? No, and “rich” is a very relative term. No one thinks he is rich, because everyone knows someone who is WAY wealthier. Ramsey is a millionaire many times over, but his wealth doesn’t hold a candle to Bill Gates or Michael Jordan. So what is “rich” anyway? Who knows, but however you slice it, the Bible tells us to be content with what we have and pursue simplicity (Heb. 13:5). The goal needs to be freedom with contentedness, not a yearning for more stuff.

Be Generous

To Ramsey’s credit, he frequently emphasizes the joy of extravagant giving. Look at how Paul exhorts the rich in 1 Timothy 6:17-19:

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. 

If you have the ability to make lots of money, maybe you should. But as you do, be sure to constantly check your heart along the way. Jesus’ words cannot be trifled with. Be constantly on the lookout for how you can be a blessing and how the kingdom of God can be furthered in our day through your resources.

Gospel Emphasis

Rather than debating between “radical” living for God and the dangers of “poverty theology,” we learn from 1 Timothy 6 that contentment and generosity should be our emphasis in light of the gospel.

God has already provided all that we will ever need (Rom. 8:32). He cares for grass (Matt. 6:28-30) and birds (Matt. 10:29), so we can be content with or without stuff. God has been infinitely generous with us in Christ so, rich or poor, we can be joyfully generous in a way that makes our neighbors scratch their heads and say, “Who are these people?”

Generosity is not a poverty theology. Contentment with thankfulness is not a prosperity theology. The gospel motivates us to be generous and gives us ultimate contentment.

Photo of Dave Ramsey by Thomas Petillo for American Way magazine.

Zach Nielsen is one of the pastors at The Vine Church in Madison, Wisconsin, where he serves in the areas of preaching, leadership development and music. He is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa and Covenant Theological Seminary and blogs at Take Your Vitamin Z.

[this article originally appeared on The Gospel Coalition blog]


The Hope Foundation also endorses Crown Financial Planning as a excellent resource for those interested in learning more about Biblical Stewardship.  For more information on Crown in the Memphis area, please contact Travis Moody, (901) 832-8340, tmoody@crown.org.

Generous Giver of Obedient Courier?

The following article was used in the Hope Spring 2011 Newsletter.  For more information on Jay’s ministry, please view the bottom credits.

Over the past few years, I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the termgenerous giving.  In spite of that, I personally like the term. Both the wordsgenerous and giving are used in Scripture, albeit not in the same place very often (Psalm 37:21, James 1:5). However, as I continue to try to personally embrace and consistently apply the concept of biblical stewardship in my own thinking and life, the use of the term generous giving has been creating in me more and more uneasiness. Here’s why.

If someone labels a man a generous giver, it seems to imply two things about that man; (1) what he gives is his to give and (2) he decides how much to give [making him generous]. Within the context of biblical stewardship, however, both of these implications would be, at the least, misleading if not patently incorrect.

Let me make this point by asking you a question. Is it appropriate to describe a person as a generous giver if what he is giving is not his to give in the first place? Let me frame the question to be even more personal. “Would you describe a man as a generous giver if what he was giving away was, unknown to you, coming out ofyour personal checking account and not his own?” I suspect you might have a few descriptive terms for him, but generous giver would not be one of them.

Consider this hypothetical scenario. Imagine a very rich man decides to give his nephew $1,000,000 in cash.  He calls his nephew and informs him that he is mailing him a certified letter with a cashier’s check in it for $1,000,000 and the check will be arriving tomorrow.  The next day the door bell rings and there before the nephew stands the postman. The nephew can barely contain himself as the postman asks him to sign for the letter. The postman then hands the young man the envelope. The young man burst forward grabbing the postman in an enthusiastic embrace, gushing with thanks at how generous he is and how much the nephew appreciates his kindness for giving him such a generous gift. He repeats over and over again, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, you are just so generous!”

What is wrong with this picture? The truth is the postman did indeed give the nephew a cashier’s check for $1,000,000. What is wrong is that the postman is getting all the acknowledgment and appreciation for making a gift that he merely delivered for someone else. He was in reality nothing more than the individual charged with the responsibility of delivering the gift to the proper person. I suspect the postman would have likely been quite surprised by the nephew’s overflowing gratitude for simply making a normal delivery as part of his routine duties.

Do you see my point? If we are merely stewards (managers) of our Master’s property and not the owners, then nothing is ours to give away in any amount. And if our Master, the Owner, instructs us to deliver someone a gift from His abundance of which we are caretakers, then we are really being nothing more than obedient stewards commissioned to make the delivery to the designated recipient as instructed by the Owner.

When I was a young boy there was a television show called “The Millionaire” (1955-1960). For some reason that show had a significant impact on me as a child. In the series a very wealthy gentleman named John Beresford Tipton, Jr. would randomly give one million dollars, tax free, to people that were complete strangers to him. How Tipton delivered his cashier’s checks was through his executive secretary, Michael Anthony. In each episode Anthony would deliver Tipton’s check to a different individual. The rest of the show followed what happened to the recipient because of the gift. (It was almost always a bad outcome as I remember.)  As he delivered the check, Anthony would make it quite clear that the gift was not coming from him, but from someone else who insisted on remaining anonymous.  He was simply delivering the gift from this unknown benefactor.

It seems to me, this is the way it should be with us and our giving.  We have been entrusted with assets for the purpose of delivering them to the intended recipient as per the directive of the Benefactor.  When I watched “The Millionaire,” I never thought of Anthony as being personally generous simply because he was the one delivering the checks.  I only thought of him as doing his job – a fun job, no doubt.

Jesus describes this very idea in Luke 17:7-10 when he says, “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’ ” (nasb)

No matter how much we ultimately deliver of God’s resources to the intended recipients, would the description of generous giver ever be appropriately applied to us because, “we have done only that which we ought to have done?” Maybe instead of using the term generous giver, it would be more appropriate to use the termobedient courier. This term, I believe, more accurately describes the proper stewardship mindset we should have in delivering generous gifts from the one and only Generous Giver.

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:16), Jesus expresses this very idea when He says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works (the delivery of the generous gifts) and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (the provider of the generous gifts).”

As we all seek to be good and faithful stewards, carefully and responsibly carrying out the delivery assignments of the Generous Giver, may we never lose sight of the fact that at most, “We are unworthy slaves…having done only that which we ought to have done.”

As we complete the remaining days of our life-journey, may each of us come to fully appreciate and joyfully embrace the sacred honor of humbly serving our Generous Benefactor as His obedient courier.

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E. G. “Jay” Link, is the President of Stewardship Ministries, a teaching, training and mentoring ministry for professional advisors and ministry leaders to equip them to effectively serve believers who have accumulated surplus, material possessions. He is the author of three books, “Spiritual Thoughts on Material Things: Thirty Days of Food for Thought,” “To Whom Much is Given: Navigating the Ten Life Dilemmas Affluent Christians Face” and “Family Wealth Counseling: Getting to the Heart of the Matter.”  Mr. Link may be reached via email at jlink@StewardshipMinistries.org.

Is Tithing the Enemy of Generosity?

The idea of tithing (10%) as the standard for acceptable giving has so permeated the church that no one (including Pastors and Elders) even question it validity or application.  Many pastors and preachers, emphasize tithing in hopes that their congregations will increase their giving above the national average of 3% by evangelicals.  They believe that if they could just get everyone in their congregation to start tithing the church would have more money than it needed to do all that it wanted to do.  Consequently, they fervently teach tithing as the floor that every Christian ought to start their giving at – the minimum entry point.  Pastors are not really aware that while their efforts to promote tithing will increase giving for a few, it actually ends up doing more harm than good to everyone in their congregation.

Take any congregation that is being consistently and regularly indoctrinated with tithing as the giving standard.  Those who for whatever reason (good or bad) are not able or willing to tithe are made to feel guilty that they are giving less than they “owe” God.  So their giving is accompanied with feelings of guilt because they are told they are “robbing God.”

Then you have those who are tithing to the penny.  They are content to give exactly what they have been taught God has prescribed for them to give.  Their giving will only increase as their income increases.  Then there are those rare few who have broken over the tithe standard taught by the church  and are now giving over 10%.  They often look upon themselves with some sense of pride because they are actually exceeding the required, minimum standard of giving.
[pullquote_left]WHICH OF THESE ATTITUDES OF GIVING IS HEALTHY: GUILT? CONTENTMENT? PRIDE?[/pullquote_left]
As soon as you employ some mathematical formula to determine how much someone ought to be giving – what God expects – you actually create a spiritual, psychological and emotional barrier to encouraging generous giving.  We are all fallen, sinful creatures and consequently we want to know what the “rules” are because we want to “please” God. So, if we are given a formula for giving, we will use it as the predetermined acceptable standard and no longer feel any need to seek out God’s will for our personal giving.

Our giving is to be arrived at by careful, personal self-examination and seeking the Lord’s direction in how much we should give as we evaluate this crucial area of financial stewardship.  Paul instructs in II Corinthians 9:7, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give…” In other words, the amount of our giving proceeds from our heart, not from our calculator.  Our giving is to grow out of a personal relationship with Christ and not merely a prescriptive formula arrived at mathematically.

Many pastors I have talked with about generosity vs. tithing express a concern. They fear that if they tell their people they are not required to tithe, the church’s weekly offerings will collapse.  I disagree.  If believers were properly taught and really came to understand and live our the idea of generous giving by faith instead of legalistic giving by math, I believe that congregation’s giving would actually explode.  Once people really understand they need to go to their knees to decide how much to give instead of to their calculators, we will likely see another outbreak of generosity that might compare to the what the Israelites experienced in the construction of the tabernacle.  Their giving was so “over the top” Moses had to command them to stop giving. (Exodus 35:20-36:7).  Generosity is neither clean nor simple and requires genuine soul searching, faith testing and wrestling with God.  In our struggle to find an amount we might find ourselves feeling compelled to ask, “How much can I present to the Lord in order for my giving to be both generous and sacrificial?”

Jay Link is both an ordained minister and the President/CEO of Kardia, Inc.  Find out more at www.kardiaplanning.com.

The Year of the Steward

The New Year is always an exciting time for me.  It is a time for new beginnings, to start from a clean slate and a time for new diets and New Year resolutions!  I want to encourage you to set aside some time to be alone for several hours and ask God what He wants you to do in 2010.  Where does He want you to go?  Whom does He want you to serve?  What attitude does He want you to change?

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