After looking together for the last two weeks at does God want my money (no, but he does want our hearts which will always follow where we invest our treasure), and how should I give…and how much (grace giving is generous and better than the Old Testament) – this week we find ourselves asking where should I give my money?
Looking back to when I got married to Ruth, we suddenly found ourselves with a combined income. We are the ones who choose what groceries to buy, what TV package to get, which broadband service, what car/s we would need, what flat packs to fill our house with? I began to realise the cost that goes into shoes, bags, clothes and make-up! At this point I realised my dream of having sky sports and movies might not come true… Amongst numerous other things that we had in our outgoings column, it seemed that giving to the local church was something of an afterthought for us!
We were more concerned with making sure that our fridge was full of diet coke, than how the church would pay its bills, feed the poor, love the lost and disciple young and old.
Money is a funny thing, because it can so easily own you! And our outgoings will point to where our heart is. Whether your scraping around to the pay the bills, or you have plenty to spend – it will always leave you feeling overwhelmed unless you let God guide and lead you with your finance.
Luke 19:1-10 tells us of an encounter that Jesus had with a man whose reputation was one of being a thief, a cheat and a lover of money. The man’s name is Zacchaeus – he was the chief tax collector in a town called Jericho. One day Zach heard that Jesus was coming to town. Being vertically challenged (join the club!), he had to position himself up a tree to see Jesus.
As Jesus passes through Jericho, he sees Zach, and calls him down from the tree, “Zach, come down from there, I’m coming to your house for tea”!
Perhaps somewhat amazed, Zach heads on home with Jesus. There were many who grumbled at why Jesus would want to spend time with Zach. We don’t know how long they were together, what they spoke about, and what they had for tea that day. But what we find is that after his encounter with Jesus, Zach is a changed man!
The lying, cheating, thief has become a man marked by generosity, love and forgiveness. He blurts out that he’s going to give half of his wealth to the poor and then give back four times to people whatever he has cheated them out of.
I bet those grumblers that didn’t think Jesus should be hanging out with Zach were the first in line to get their money back, reminding Zach he said four times the amount he had stolen from them…
The overflow from Zach’s encounter with Jesus was repentance and generosity, the two go hand in hand. When we decide to follow Jesus, we realise how freely he has given to us, and we become marked by generosity. He surrendered to the idol of his life - his wealth. He paid back four times the amount he had cheated, and showered the poor with his wealth.
The overflow from Zach’s encounter with Jesus was repentance and generosity, the two go hand in hand.
The same overflow that Zach experienced in his life, is how God has called us to live our lives financially too.
When Jesus left to go back to heaven after his time on earth, he promised us that God’s Spirit would be with us – and He told us to go and make disciples of all nations. To baptise people in God’s name, and to teach people to follow Jesus.
The way that this command has worked itself out is through the local church – that’s God’s plan for carrying out the great commission.
Zach’s financial overflow would impact the poor, the broken in society, the orphans and widows, the addicts. The people that Jesus has called us as the local church to help, to show compassion and love toward.
The insight we are given into the early church, is that they were “…one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possession was their own, but they shared everything they had” (Acts 4:32-37). The early church was marked by their generosity.
It gets some peoples noses up when we ask for money to support the work of the local church, because you look at the salaries it goes towards, or the utility bills it pays for. And it doesn’t seem exciting to give towards those needs.
The early church was marked by their generosity.
But the truth is, how rubbish would Sundays be if we couldn’t see each other because we didn’t pay the electric bills, or we couldn’t hear and sing together like we do? How many times have we heard people say things like…
“I always thought church was cold and involved an out of tune organ” – sure it’s not about attracting people through these things but it helps make a good impression, it helps encourage people to come back week after week and hear the message of the gospel.
Supporting the local church with your finances means we can provide children’s and youth work, reaching out into this vital area of our society.
It means we can house people who have struggled with addictions and help them find freedom. It means we’ve been able to open up sheltered housing for those over 60, often times people in the later stages of life in need of community, someone to talk to, some healing perhaps after losing a loved one.
It helps us to provide new believers packs for events like SYC where this Summer we saw over 30 young people make first time decisions to follow Jesus. It enables us to run outreach events at Christmas and Easter, to pay men and women to provide frontline pastoral support, bring teaching, lead children’s and youth work, provide admin support, create graphics, websites, promotional material. To run key outreach opportunities in the heart of our community such as The Foundry Shop.
It’s allowed us to support organisations such as Home For Good and Safe Families who are seeking to find a home for every child who needs one, and to support families struggling to raise their children. We were able to donate towards World Vision’s East Africa famine appeal. The list goes on…
The point is this, it’s your generosity that helps to make all of this happen through the local church as God intended it to be.
The local church, called into action by Jesus, equipped by the Holy Spirit, worked out by followers of Jesus and led by the generosity of our hearts, is an incredible force against the powers of darkness in the world we live in.
Let’s be a generous people, that our church won’t just survive, but that it will thrive!