Leeds Vineyard

It all belongs to God – why we give

Today I would like to talk about how we handle money with particular reference to giving. I aim to give you a context in which to think about your regular charitable giving and how you plan it alongside your regular spending.

Earlier we explained how people who are regulars at the Vineyard tend to give a proportion of their income to the church. Why do they do that? Why would you do that? There are a number of reasons why and I want to dwell on just one today.
stewardship sarcasm

This is everything that is wrong with how we think about giving.

Instead, let’s start with asking and answering the question, “Who does our money belong to?” Our car, house, career, training, holidays, gadgets, savings, mortgage, pension fund, our life.

What does the bible say?

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Psalm 24:1
The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.

Psalm 50:9
I have no need of a bull from your stall or of a goat from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.

Leviticus 25:23
The land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.

Haggai 2:8
“The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” declares the Lord Almighty.

Job 1:21
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.

1 Chronicles 29:14
But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you and we have given you only what comes from your hand.

This is what the bible says, everything belongs to God.

Even if you don’t believe the bible it is pretty clear that what it says is true. Everyone is born naked and dies the same way. A shroud has no pockets. As U2 sing, “You have to leave it all behind”.

If you don’t believe the bible or in God, all you can say is that whatever money you can lay your hands on is in your control only temporarily. A max of say 100 years.

page and laycock 56m lottery
We all wondered “why them” when we saw that couple win the Euro Lottery £56m, didn’t we?

As you look around the world you can see people who have wealth and you are not sure where it came from – or whether they deserve it. Some have wealth and then lose it all – through theft, in a banking crash or a spending binge perhaps.

And you can see people in Haiti with nothing and wonder how they deserved that.

Here is a different way of looking at it.
Daily Telegraph 22/11/2009

Dr Ord

Dr Ord is a Moral Philosopher at Oxford who has decided to live on £20,000 rather than his full salary of £33,000. “The things I gain most from – spending time with my wife, with friends, listening to beautiful music, reading beautiful books – don’t cost much money.” He gives the rest away.

Well he hasn’t got kids yet so we will see what costs money in due course but his attitude is refreshingly different.

Economic collapse or not, job or not, we can do very well on £20,000. If you earn over the national average of £24k you are by global standards a millionaire. The merest Western luxuries – a daily cappuccino, a subscription to Sky Sports would keep someone alive on the other side of the world. We have the welfare net, a doctor, a school, clean drinking water and food.

So it all belongs to God – what does that mean?

If it all belongs to God, what does that make him, legally?
The owner.

If it doesn’t belong to you, what does that make you?
A steward, trustee, tenant, custodian …

It is the difference between owning the house you live in and renting it from someone else. They have ownership rights, you don’t.

So when it comes to money we are dealing with the God of the universe who owns everything and whatever we have the priviledge to see in our bank account or parked on our drive is on loan to us. We are not owners but borrowers or tenants.

So God is rich. What does he do with his universe, wealth and power?

Philippians 1:5-8 The Message
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Jesus went from one extreme to the other, voluntarily.
He owns your stuff, in fact the whole planet, in fact the whole universe.
Creator of all, he surrendered it all and became nothing.
No home, few clothes, no cash, no security. Why?

Because he loves you. The God of all expresses his immense love for us by stripping himself of all. He gives his life sacrificially – eventually suffering a tortured death – because he loves you and is willing to give up everything to restore relationship with you.

And we respond to that wonderful invitation – forgiveness of sins, a new life and a personal relationship with Jesus – by giving him our lives.

We have realised that we are tenants not owners and everything changes.

Let’s think about what this means

A pig and a chicken were thinking of coming to a Vineyard breakfast event on Ilkley Moor where people were invited to bring an offering of food in order to have a shared lunch. “That sounds a crackling idea” said the pig. “I love to hang out with those Vineyard people. What shall we take?”
"Super!" the chicken replied. "Let's take bacon and eggs!"
"Not so fast," said the pig. "For you, that's an offering. For me, it's a sacrifice."

When I married Alison what did we promise?

David will you take Alison to be your wife?
Will you love her some of the time, comfort her occasionally, honour and protect her when convenient, and, forsaking most others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?
I David, take you, Alison to be my wife,
to have and to hold from this day forward - from time to time;
for better or at least for some of it,
for worse - if it is me that’s struggling anyway;
for about 10% of getting richer,
for poorer so long as that’s me being poor,
when I am sick and when you are sick if it is not too bad, and in health,
to love and to cherish quite a lot, for as long as I am in the mood,
possibly till death us do part;
according to God's holy law as amended by me.

Alison, I lend you this ring as a sign of our marriage.
With parts of my body I honour you,
about 10% of what I am I give to you,
and about 10% of all that I have I share with you,
within the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Of course it wasn't like this but we do have a tendency to try and control and hold stuff back.

jesus co-pilotphp

An example from business
When you go into business with someone else one of the questions that always arises is who gets what share of the business. If you have watched Dragons’ Den you will be familiar with the format. Entrepreneur makes a business proposition and in exchange for a investment the Dragon gets a share of the business.

When someone decides to follow Jesus they may have a similar conversation,

Well thank you for giving everything to save me – and for your ongoing help.
In exchange I am willing to offer you 10% of me and my money.
Oh, you don’t think that’s enough?
Well let’s do a deal, I will give you 49%. That way you get nearly half but I still retain control over my life – just in case of dispute, you know how it is, even in the best of relationships.
Oh, you don’t think that’s enough either?
OK. I guess you have paid quite a lot for me so how about I give you 90%.
There, you get loads of me but I do have just a bit I can play with on my own …?

Of course it is not like that. We can’t do a deal with someone who gives us everything and when the only thing we can bring to the table is our sin.
When we get married we don’t give our wife or husband a part of our lives but everything.
When we realise what he has done for us we follow him with 100% of everything: our soul, our heart, our body, our intelligence and career, our bank account.

We have gone through 3 steps:

1. We realise that everything belongs to God. It’s all his anyway. Some of us have a lot and some have little – the amount is irrelevant and has no bearing on how blessed you are or what you are “worth”.
2. As we read in Philippians, we understand that he who has everything, sacrificed everything for us.
3. We become aware that this is an all or nothing deal. There rises up in us a need to say, “thank you”.
”Lord, I can’t get my mind round the enormity of who you are, what you did and how much you love us. But I have decided to follow you and acknowledge that everything I have is yours.”

“OK David, I am convinced, everything belongs to him and I do want to follow him with everything. But if he has it all what is the point of giving - anything?”

Because we express our thanks by giving out of what he has given to us:

1. It is not a religious tax.
2. It is not an insurance premium against disaster – ensuring answered prayer.
3. It is not a way of bribing him into blessing us – the prosperity gospel (he owns it all anyway).
4. It is not in order to solve a need (he doesn’t need your money).
5. It is an expression of intimacy and love – that’s why we give.

Many years ago when our sons were aged about 10 they were the fortunate recipients of my generosity in the form of weekly pocket money. I am a Yorkshireman so it was not lavish it has to be said.

You know what they say about Yorkshiremen – Scots with the generosity wrung out.

I think we gave them 1p for every year of their lives … or it may have been more by then!

Bear slippersIt’s Christmas and the boys have carefully saved their pennies in order to buy presents. Christmas Day, picture the scene, still in our pyjamas, sitting on our bed unwrapping presents. When it was my turn out came a large squashy package which eventually revealed these bear slippers. I was of course delighted and thanked them profusely.

Why do I tell you this? Well, as I opened my present I knew that the money they had used to by my bear slippers was the pocket money I had given them in the previous months.

And indeed, they knew that I knew that the money they had used to buy me a present was the money I had given them.

And, I knew that they knew that I knew that the money they had used to buy me a present was the money I had given them.

Do you think the fact that the money they had used was what I had given them made any difference to value of the gift or to the reason they gave it or to the appreciation I had of the gift?

Of course not. And we give in the same way. We give because we love our heavenly father and as a token of our thanks for his generosity to us.

Why is giving so difficult for us?

1. Power - Money has power over our lives and giving is the only way to break the power of money. We think it is ours and that we are doing him a favour by giving it away. We have not dealt with the ownership issue.
2. Fear - Worried about the future, we try to keep control by holding onto our money.
3. Greed – We think giving is a loss. That we won’t be able to have what we want.
4. Organisation – We just don’t get round to it. We run out of money before we have time to give it away. There just doesn’t seem to be enough.
5. Control - Over how the money is used – we want to influence. We don’t like “our” money being used in ways we don’t like or can’t control.

What should we do?

So I want to give you some basic steps to handling your money which will help you give as generously as you would like to. This is aimed at the fictional person who is starting with a blank piece of paper. I know that if your finances are in a mess it is hard to get back to this but it will provide some pointers. If you need help, do talk with your housegroup leader. A helpful little book – the Money Revolution by John Preston or the Money Secret by Rob Parsons.

How to enjoy your money without feeling guilty

Sit down with your bible, your bank statements, cheque book and cards and budget (with your spouse) and decide how much of what God has given you should be allocated to giving. This is between you and God. I will give you some suggestions which I believe are biblical but you need to do what he says – bearing in mind that the Lord may well invite you to be a great deal more generous than this!
1. If you have a reasonably predictable income (earned or investment income) set up a standing order for 10% of your gross income to the church.
2. If not predictable, estimate what it will be for the near future and give proportionate to that and then review.
3. If you receive a bonus or make money on the sale of a house or receive an inheritance, give 10% of that too.
a. You can download the forms or bank info from the web site (go to opportunities/give) or get a yellow standing order from the resources desk;
b. You can set up an account with Stewardship who reclaim the tax for you and give as you direct;
c. You can instruct your employer to deduct giving from your payslip and give through Stewardship or other giving agencies;
d. You can always send cheques or cash too (although cheques are better).
4. If you wish to give offerings on top – either regular or lump sum – these can be given to the church or elsewhere as you feel God is directing you.
5. There is much to discuss around these issues. These are my views and others may think differently. Talk with your housegroup leader if you would like to know more or go to the money section of our web site whether there are all sorts of resources including a pod cast called “A Generous Heart” in which I expand on this.

If you have not yet taken on debt then approach it very carefully. Again, this is a big subject and we have many resources to help.

48% of Britons have been particularly worried about debt and money this year, with 23% describing 2009 as a bad year or their worst year ever.
December 2009 YouGov/Samaritans

If you are in debt then ensure you have a plan in place to get out of debt. Simplistically, this involves two key stages:
1. Avoid going further into debt – adjust your spending accordingly;
2. Start paying off debt month by month. Expensive debt first and small ones first.

The bible is full of guidance on the importance of saving. Saving, not hoarding. Saving means identifying what your future financial needs will be and starting to make provision for them.

Most obviously things like pensions and if you have children – further education costs. I would also put repayment of a reasonable mortgage into this category. First though, build up a rainy-day fund. Sufficient to see you through a period of financial difficulty. If you have a safe, regular job you can afford to have less put aside for emergencies. If your job is at risk or you have fluctuating income then you need to put aside more.

I am aware that some people’s income is very low and makes this difficult – if not forever then for periods.

The rest of your money can be allocated toward your lifestyle. But remember, who does it belong to? God. And therefore the conversation with God needs to go something like, “Well, Lord, this is what I have left over. How much of what you have given me to look after should I spend on holidays, clothes, houses, education, entertainment, gadgets, communications, food and drink?”

If the Lord gives you a big house and luxury car and fantastic holidays – that’s great. Enjoy them, share them, thank him for them by being generous (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

If you can order things in the way I have described then you may find that you have some leftover after Step 4. That is a wonderful place to be and carries some responsibility.

Bill & Melinda Gates have of course got to this point and are being generous – they have recently given $10bn to invest in the distribution of vaccines to children in Africa – expected to save 8 million lives (Equals the GDP for Botswana for a whole year).
Davos Economic Forum January 2010

If you have surplus then you can either: spend more, invest for the future or give it away.

Our temptation is to get into step 4 first. To start spending and getting used to a certain lifestyle first. And then sometimes we take on debt to help us maintain the lifestyle. And then we are forced to service the debt and the lifestyle.

No wonder the money runs out before the month runs out and we struggle to find enough to give. We haven’t given God an entry point into the deal.

But going through this sequence will help you to enjoy what God has given you without guilt.

SUMMARY - So to recap

We have looked at how the bible reveals that everything belongs to God and how this means that our relationship with money and possessions shifts from being one of ownership to one of stewards.

We don’t express our commitment to Jesus by giving him 10% and keeping the rest – remember the wedding vows and the business deal? We acknowledge that it is all his from day one and that we can’t manipulate him through our giving.

We then start our stewardship by the expression of our love and gratitude in giving a token back to him (remember the Christmas present bear slippers) and the way we do that is primarily by giving to the church.

When we get the order right the maths works differently and we invite God into our finances and life in a radical way. God’s maths is different from ours and we find that he provides in ways we don’t understand.

Everything we have belongs to God and that’s why we give.
David Flowers, 28/02/2010