It is that time of year! A season when many or even most churches begin to talk about budgets and income and giving for the next calendar year. Unless, of course, some official word or unspoken edict is widely understood: “We do not talk about money in this church.”
No position could be more inappropriate to the Good News. About 500 verses in the Bible are about prayer. Another approximate 500 verses are about faith! But over 2000 verses are about money and possessions. Jesus spoke more about money and possessions than any other topic other than the Kingdom of God. And Kingdom living reflects responsible use of what we have.
Many recorded parables of Jesus reflect money or possessions.
Money is about discipleship. God is very interested in knowing how we use whatever has been entrusted to us. Someone has said, “The aim of stewardship development is not to finance the church’s annual operating budget, but to change lives.”
Consider this statement: “The record is clear. Generous givers are typically more spiritually vigorous and happier than those who are not generous. And it has nothing to with the size of the gift. It has to do with the level of generosity with whatever we happen to have.”
I learned about tithing (giving 10% of my income to the church) as I grew up in a tithing home. My wife and I have been tithers for all 55 years of our married life. I have learned (and deeply believe) that I can live better on 90% of my income than on 100%. Over the years, we have expanded our understanding of this spiritual discipline to include all income—including the value of such things as housing allowance, pension contributions and medical coverage. We have joyfully carried that practice into our retirement years.
I heard a sermon this past Sunday on “More is Less.” Such thinking is a valuable spiritual truth which cannot be “proven” mathematically! Living better on less is God’s promise. Remember the hymn: “Tis a gift to be simple.” Remember the parable Jesus told about “overstuffed barns.”
A tithing (or more) practice is not a rule or a law from on High. It is an invitation to faithful and joyful living. One of the bishops of the United Methodist Church writes about “five practices of fruitful congregations.” One of those five practices is extravagant generosity—with an emphasis upon the word “extravagant.”
God does not expect us to give what we do not have. But faithful and fruitful discipleship has much to say about giving.
Practice, lead from, disciple, teach and share the fruits of extravagant generosity! Such is the way of Kingdom living and following Jesus.