For this session I want to start with a few questions to get us thinking about the way we view money:
- How comfortable are you talking about money? How willing would you be to share the details of your annual income, or your total assets with friends, family, or your church family? Would you say that these are taboo subjects?
- How comfortable are you with handling your money? Do you have and stick to a monthly or annual budget for your household? Do you understand how to best save, invest and spend your money?
- Where did your beliefs about money come from? Who taught you to handle money? Are these things you have taught your own children?
Here’s one more question: what’s an easy way to see if what you believe matches what you actually do? Just look at what you spend your money on. While we don’t often think of them that way, our budgets are moral documents: they end up being statements of purpose and priorities. And if you have any doubt, just look at the role the annual Federal Budget plays for the Canadian Government. Our elected representatives will say many things about what their priorities are during elections and after, but we look to the budget to see what they will actually do.
So, what would your annual budget say about your priorities? How much would go to basics like housing, food, clothing, transportation (and are these basics truly basic, or do we choose more costly brands and items for our staples)? How much on entertainment, wants and conveniences? How much would go towards saving or perhaps servicing debts? How much would go towards helping others and supporting causes you believe in?
Now we can only do this task if we keep a budget and keep a record of how well we are sticking to it. And from personal experience I can say that it’s a tough thing to do when life gets busy. Because I do my taxes myself and because part of that for me as a minister is keeping track of my housing expenses I at least know that, as well as my charitable giving for the year. One goal I’ve set for when my family and I get settled here in Ancaster is for us to keep better track of expenses, both for practical reasons and to get a better sense of what our spending says about our priorities.
One approach to setting priorities in the Bible is the what the Old Testament calls the Tithe.
- Read Deuteronomy 14:22-29 & 26:1-15
Some have suggested a smaller portion be set apart today in places like Canada because our taxes support the poor and social services – say 5%. It’s also worth noting that the New Testament never mentions a specific proportion to give (perhaps because the writers assume the tithe). At the same time the Apostle Paul speaks extensively about proportional giving in his second letter to the Corinthians, and that this proportional giving should be generous.
- Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; 9:6-15
One other thing the New Testament does is remind us is that we shouldn’t think 5 or 10% is an upper limit – a goal to reach and be proud of (if we set that as a goal). Jesus in his teaching celebrated those who gave incredible proportions of what they had and called on some to give away shocking amounts of their wealth.
- Read Mark 12:41-44
- Read Luke 19:1-10
- Read Mark 10:17-31
In these stories we meet a poor woman who gave a small amount, but one that was a huge proportion of her total income; a rich man who learned justice and generosity in response to Jesus’ compassion; and a rich man who despaired when he heard what Jesus asked him to give away. Each gives a different window on what it means to give proportionally, and reminder that this will mean different things to people in different circumstances.
But whatever we give it should be proportional and demonstrate our priorities: to care for our neighbours (especially those in need) and support the work of God’s Kingdom. We should also remember that generosity is something to work toward and grow with our faith. Jesus takes us as we are and by his grace moves us to where he calls us to be. This applies to every area of our lives, including our money, and we can give thanks that he is generous.