ONLINE PLEDGE CARD
What is the Christmas Offering and when will it take place?
Sunday, December 18 is LMCC’s first-annual Christmas Offering. On this date, we’ll each submit pledge cards designating the total amount we’re committing to give over the course of 2017. (Or, you may fill out the Online Pledge Card, above.) Our goal this year is $2 million.
How will this $2 million be allocated?
$1M Annual Operating Budget
$500K Savings and New Initiatives
$500K Outside Giving to Other Organizations
Why does LMCC give money away to outside organizations?
There are a number of causes about which God cares very deeply, but which LMCC is not equipped to address directly. Therefore, we partner with other organizations in order to join in this important work. To see a list of organizations we’ve supported in past years, click here.
Can I make a 'down payment' on my 2017 pledge with a lump-sum gift before the end of 2016?
Absolutely. Pledges should be completed between now and the end of 2017, but how and when you give is entirely up to you. If you were planning to make a year-end gift to LMCC in 2016, go ahead -- just count this gift as part of your 2017 pledge.
Is it possible to give online?
Yes. You can make a one-time gift, or you can set up automatic recurring giving. (Consider taking your total pledge, dividing it by 12, and setting up an automatic recurring gift of that amount for the 1st of each month.) Click here for online giving.
Question One: Spouses & Kids
“As a married person, what’s the best way for my spouse and me to come to a decision about how much we should give? On a related note, I’d like to teach my kids to be givers — is there any way I can involve them in this process?”
First, both spouses should think and pray separately for a week or so, each determining a number that feels right. Then, it’s then time for ‘the meeting.’ Schedule a time to sit down and share your numbers with one another. Some couples like to add an element of suspense by each writing down their number on a slip of paper and then exchanging slips.
If you both had the same number, congratulations — you’re done. If you had different numbers in mind, then it’s time to talk. One thing should be said here: the spouse who had the higher number in mind is not necessarily ‘right.’ Rather, a dialogue (and more prayer) is required to determine the proper amount to give. On the one hand, the spouse with the lower number might be holding back out of fear or pride. But on the other hand, the spouse with the higher number might be thinking recklessly and not counting the cost. The only way to arrive at an answer is to talk and pray. In the end, one spouse may convince the other, or you might both decide to meet in the middle. (If a consensus cannot be reached, go with the lower number. It’s crucial that both spouses can fully stand behind the amount being given.)
After you’ve settled on a number, it’s important to sit down with your kids and talk to them about the fact that you’ll be giving a significant amount of money to your church. If your kids are old enough, it’s entirely appropriate and beneficial to tell them the exact amount. This can reap tremendous benefits in the years to come.
I’ll never forget the time my parents sat down with me and my siblings and told me about a large giving commitment they were making to our church. They shared the number with us, and explained that this was a sum which was above and beyond the 20% ‘double-tithe’ that they already gave away each month as a matter of course. I was in high school at the time, and I remember this conversation making me feel proud to be a member of my family. What I didn’t realize then was that from a rational perspective, this money should have instead been set aside for my college education. Yet by the time I started college, God had intervened and provided that same money through other means.
Seeing this example is what motivated me to want to make aggressive giving a major part of my own relationship with God. In fact, it sparked a healthy sense of competition in me. My parents were in their 40s when they gave this particular amount, and I made it my ambition to give the same amount while still in my 20s. During our first month of marriage, Brittany and I made a commitment for the exact same amount of money my parents had given years earlier — a commitment we were able to fulfill within 18 months, before either of us had turned 25.
Aggressive giving has absolutely changed my life, and I give all the credit to my parents for setting the example. What’s more, Brittany and I are now teaching our girls about giving. So by involving your kids in the discussion of this year’s Christmas Offering, you have no idea what sort of long-term impact you may be having. This simple step may very well be something that ends up impacting multiple generations.
Question Two: Scriptural Promises
“I know God promises in Scripture to provide materially for those who give their money to him, but I always forget where those promises are found. Can I get a list of the relevant passages?”
There are six passages that come to mind, off the top of my head. I feel like there may be others that I’m forgetting. And my guess is that in addition to the passages I’ve listed below and any others I’m forgetting, there may be even more that I haven’t discovered yet. I have not done an exhaustive search of Scripture on this topic, and I hope to at some point.
These six passages can be neatly divided into two groups of three. The first group is those passages in the New Testament that explicitly and directly teach that this is ‘how it works.’ The second group is those passages that implicitly and indirectly suggest that this is ‘how it works.’ Taken on their own, this second group wouldn’t necessarily make for a tight case, but in light of the clear teaching of the first group of passages, it then becomes fair to give this second group some weight as well.
The First Group: Explicit
Passage One: Luke 12:22-33
(parallel passage: Matthew 6)
Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear… Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! … Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. … So don’t be afraid, little flock. …Sell your possessions and give to those in need.
This is one of the most well-known passages in all of scripture, but it’s also one of the most misunderstood. It’s usually thought of as being a passage about worry, which it is, in one sense. But at a more fundamental level, it’s really a passage about giving. Jesus does say ‘don’t worry,’ but the question is, ‘Why not?’ In other words, what’s so bad about worry and why is Jesus trying to neutralize it?
The answer is not that worry causes psychological discomfort. Rather, Jesus is trying to neutralize worry because worry is the #1 roadblock to the action he is commanding, which is giving. Look at the final verse of the excerpt above: sell your possessions and give to those in need. That’s where he’s heading — everything else in the passage is his argument for why you should do that. But Jesus knows that the main reason people don’t give more is because they’re afraid that if they give, they won’t have enough. And his argument is, “That’s simply not the case — God will provide for your material needs.”
But there’s a condition for this promise to be fulfilled. It’s not a unilateral commitment, but rather a bilateral contract or covenant. Here’s the key verse:
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.
Your part is to seek the Kingdom of God above all else. God’s part — if, and only if you do that — is to give you everything you need.
So what does it mean to “seek the Kingdom of God above all else?” It means a lot of things, but given the context of the passage, it would be odd to overlook the obvious fact that “seeking” the Kingdom of God above all else entails ‘giving’ to the Kingdom of God above all else. In fact, given the surrounding discussion, giving seems to be the exact sort of ‘seeking’ that Jesus has in mind. In other words, the promise is that if you give your money to God’s kingdom work before considering your own needs — ‘above all else’ — then God himself will look after your needs.
There’s an old story ( perhaps true, perhaps not— I haven’t had time to track down the source) that gets this point across well. Queen Elizabeth once told a man that she wanted him to go on a voyage to the New World because his skills were needed on the voyage to make it a success. The man looked at her and said, “But your majesty, my business has been floundering in recent years. If I go on this journey, I’m sure it will fail altogether.” She looked at him and said, “My dear sir: you mind my business, and I’ll mind your business.”
That’s precisely the idea of this passage: God saying, “You mind my business, and I’ll mind your business.” And, just to state the obvious, we’re on the winning end of that deal.
Passage Two: Philippians 4:10-18
How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me… you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.
As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.
At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches…
Again, here’s a case of a famous verse that’s often been taken out of context. The final line of this passage —“My God will supply all your needs from his glorious riches…” — is usually quoted as a universal assurance to all Christians everywhere. But just as with the Luke 12 passage, this promise has a condition. Paul only makes this assertion in light of the generous giving to the Church’s work that has been undertaken by the Philippians.
Notice also the remarkable verse at the end of the second paragraph which says, “Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.” That is exactly how I feel about this annual Christmas Offering. The church receiving the money is a secondary benefit — the real benefit is the ‘profit which accrues’ to the ‘account’ of every individual who gives. This ‘account’ should be thought of primarily in terms of eternity — Scripture teaches repeatedly that giving financially is a way of ‘storing up treasures for yourself’ in heaven. But given the rest of the Scriptural testimony, it’s also fair to see this ‘profit which accrues to your account’ as referring to earthly accounts as well.
Passage Three: 2 Cor 9:6-11
Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop… And God will generously provide all you need, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.
For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.
While the first two passages teach that the person who gives will always have enough — that is, always have their basic needs met — this third passage seems to suggest that God will make sure the person who gives will have more than enough.
The first line talks about a farmer sowing and reaping. However much grain is harvested is in proportion to however much seed was sown. But critically, the volume of the grain will always be much greater than the volume of the seed. That’s the nature of sowing and reaping — you always get more back than you put in.
So why does God provide so generously to those who give? Paul repeats the same answer three times in the above passage:
God will generously provide all you need, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.
he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.
In light of those latter two sentences, it’s clear that the first sentence about “sharing in every good work” is referring to sharing financially in ever good work.
The reason God gives back to those who give to him is so that those same people can give even more the next time around. God is not stupid. He sees which people put resources where he wants them to go, and so he directs more resources to those people, with the expectation that they will continue to give them away as they have in the past. So it’s less that God is giving to you when he provides financially, and more that he’s giving through you. Another way of putting that would be to say that he’s not providing for
The Second Group: Implicit
Passage Four: Malachi 3:8-11
Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me!
“But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’
“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me…. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! 11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe…
In some ways, this is the most explicit of all of the passages in which God promises to give back to those who give to him. But I’ve put it in this second group because unlike the passages in the first group, this is an Old Testament promise made specifically to Israel, not to all believers for all time.
So should we dismiss it? No. There are hundreds of promises God makes to Israel in the Old Testament. Many of them apply only to Israel in that particular time and place. Many others, however, should legitimately be interpreted as applying to believers in all times and places as well. Scripture says in several places that the Church should be thought of as a continuation of Israel — like Israel, the Church is ‘God’s people.’
So then the question is, “How do we know which promises apply to us?” There’s a very simple test: if the promise is repeated in the New Testament, then it’s fair to claim the promise from the Old Testament passage as well.
For example, when you ask people what they’re favorite Bible verse is, many people will quote Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
In the context of the book of Jeremiah, this is clearly a promise to a specific group of people in a specific time and place. So are believers today misguided when they read this promise as applying to them? Absolutely not, because the same promise is repeated in different ways all over the New Testament. In other words, it still holds true, so quote it with confidence.
The same can be said of this promise from Malachi 3 — because the promise is repeated in the New Testament, we should see this Old Testament promise as still applying to us today.
Passage Five: Luke 6:38
Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
Again, as with the Malachi 3 passage, this Luke 12 passage at first appears to be a very direct and explicit example of this promise. The complications arise in that the statement comes in a context of Jesus discussing interpersonal relationships — he seems to be talking about giving to and receiving from other people, not God.
However, given all the preceding passages, it seems fair to expand the interpretation and see the passage as applying to giving to and receiving from God as well.
Passage Six: 1 Kings 17:8-15
Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”
So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”
But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”
But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”
So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.
A one-off story in scripture shouldn’t usually be taken as illustrating a general principle. Just because it happened, doesn’t mean that it’s typical or normative. Yet in this case, because the general principle is stated so clearly in other places, it’s legitimate to take this story as being an example of how giving and receiving works for all of us, not just how it happened to work for this one woman.
Question Three: Why Church?
“Let’s say I agree with the idea of giving in general, and agree that I should be giving aggressively — an increasing % of my money every year. Even so, why should I give to a church in particular — why shouldn’t I give my money to some specific cause that I’m passionate about?”
Point 1. Everything I’m going to say below applies to giving to the Church with a capital“C,” which is accomplished by giving to any church with a small “c”. That is, any time you give to a specific congregation, whatever congregation it may be, you are giving to the global Church founded by Jesus. Though I believe giving to the Church has serious advantages over giving to other organizations, as I’ll explain below, I couldn’t care less whether you give to LMCC or to some other congregation. (I do, however, think it makes sense for you to give to the congregation you attend and are involved with. So if you feel a hesitancy to give to LMCC in particular, that might be a sign that it’s time for you to find a different congregation where you find more comfortable giving. Your comfort level in giving to a particular congregation is a good barometer of the health of your relationship with that congregation.)
Point 2. So: why give to the Church instead of giving to some non-profit or charity? The answer is simple: when you give to the Church, you are giving your money to God himself in a more direct way than when you give your money to any other organization.
An interesting passage on this theme is John 12:3-7, where Jesus is given an expensive gift by Mary of Bethany:
Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume… and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it… But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.”… Jesus replied, “Leave her alone…. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
The point of the passage is obviously not that we shouldn’t give our money to the poor. Scripture commands giving money to the poor in dozens of passages, and a significant portion of the LMCC Christmas Offering goes to organizations which serve the poor.
Rather, the point of the passage is that Jesus himself is more precious than any cause or any need that may present itself. Moreover, there is a certain sense in which gifts given to Jesus will always be ‘wasteful’ — he doesn’t need them, and they could have been given to someone who did need them instead. And yet, Jesus accepts this expensive, wasteful gift as an appropriate expression of gratitude, devotion, and worship.
The Church, you may remember, is Christ’s body. That is more than a metaphor. It is a metaphysical truth. The Church is actually the body of Christ on earth — his presence until he returns. So gifts given to the church should be thought of as being given to Christ himself.
Similarly, in the Old Testament, when God ordered the building of the tabernacle, and then later the temple, he asked the political and religious leaders to lead the people in an offering. They gave extravagant gifts for these two building projects — far above what was asked — which enabled ornately beautiful structures to be erected. But they weren’t giving because they believed in the ‘cause’ of these buildings. They were giving to God himself — as an expression of gratitude, and as a statement of trust in his provision for them.
The bottom line is that Christian giving is not about giving to a cause — it’s about giving to a person. In this it differs from every other type of giving. Ultimately, when you give to the church, you’re giving a gift of thanks to the God who breathed life into you — the same God who poured out everything, even his life itself — in order to be able to welcome you back home with open arms, even after you turned your back on him.
In other words, there’s supposed to be a certain wastefulness and impracticality to the whole thing, somewhat like the wastefulness and impracticality of spending a significant amount of money on a diamond for an engagement ring. Couldn’t the money for that diamond be spent on far more important ‘causes’? Of course. But it’s a statement of love.
When you try to figure out the best or most important ‘cause’ to give to, your employing a calculating, utilitarian form of reasoning. Gifts given to God should come from a totally different place.
Point 3. Notwithstanding everything in Point 3, it’s also the case that the Christian Church happens to be the most important and worthwhile ‘cause’ on earth.
First, there is no ‘cause’ that has done more good for the human race as a whole, in tangible, earthly terms, than the Church. (A lot of misinformation exists on this point — people get away with making the absolutely absurd claim that the Church has done more harm than good. This is a laughable assertion. If you really want to dig into it, check out all of the books by Rodney Stark.)
Second, if you take an eternal perspective, and look at the Church’s work of reconnecting people to God, then nothing even comes close in importance. Someday, the world will be remade and all wrongs will be righted by God himself. The only work that MUST be completed before that happens is the proclamation of the gospel: that Christ has died and risen again for us, and that new life in him is possible.
So the question is, if you are a Christian, what ‘cause’ could you possibly care more about than the Church? If you do care more about other causes or organizations than the Church, it raises some serious red flags about your own beliefs.
Point 4. None of what has been said above should be taken to imply that the work of other organizations and non-profits is somehow unimportant. Rather, the Kingdom of God is likewise advanced by other para-church organizations that are also doing God’s work. Which is why such a significant % of the LMCC Christmas Offering goes to outside organizations. So if there is a cause or an organization you are particularly passionate about, you should advocate on it’s behalf at LMCC and get LMCC to support it with funds from the Christmas Offering. But giving the money through LMCC, rather than to the organization directly, constitutes a double-win — you still get all the spiritual advantages of giving directly to God, as explained in Point 2 above, and at the same time your able to contribute to the causes you care about.
Point 5. Despite everything I said in Points 2-4, I would never suggest that 100% of your giving must go to the Church. Because of everything in Points 2-4, I do think that it is entirely appropriate and permissible for 100% of your giving to go to the Church. Brittany and I have always directed all of our financial giving toward churches, rather than other organizations, for all the reasons listed above. There is simply nowhere else — and no one else — I would rather give to. But having said that, if this doesn’t feel right to you, then don’t do it. For example, if you feel that God is leading you to give 10% of your income to the Church and another 10% to other organizations and individuals, that could very well be the best approach for you. But first, it’s important to take a hard look at your own motives and ask, in light of Points 2-4 above, “Why is it that I would rather give this money to X or Y instead of giving it to the Church?” There may be a very good reason — again, this is entirely legitimate — but you owe it to yourself to at least know what that reason is.
FOUR (MORE) REASONS TO GIVE
1. Give Because You’re Grateful
One of the best questions to ask yourself when you're trying to determine how much to give is, “How grateful am I?” You should give in proportion to your gratitude. Though you may say you’re grateful, giving is the only true way to prove and adequately express a thankful heart.
The reason we give as much as we can to God isbecause has God has given as much as he can to us. The most famous verse in the Bible is probably John 3:16,“For God so loved the world that he gave.”
God is a giver. He gives to us freely and abundantly and sacrificially. Paul says in Romans 8:32, “Since he did not spare even his own Son from us, won't he also give us everything else?”
Likewise, he says in II Corinthians 8:9, when encouraging the church at Corinth to give: "You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich."
Someone might ask, ‘Why do we do this offering again and again every year?” And my answer to that is simple: because God does it again every year. God took care of us, again. God listened to our prayers again. God forgave us, again.
So I’ll make a deal with you: as soon as God stops taking care of you, why don’t you pull back on your giving. But not until then.
In the book of Exodus, there’s a description of the offering that the people bring to support the building of the Tabernacle in which God’s presence would dwell. During the days leading up to the offering, Moses repeatedly says, “Only give if you truly want to — your giving must come from a place of gratitude.” When the day of the offering finally arrives, the people begin streaming to the designated place in droves. They keep coming, one after another, laying down their offerings, and in so doing, laying down their lives. Eventually, the administrators of the offering have to go to Moses and ask him to tell the people to stop bringing so many gifts, since they had already given far more than was needed for the building project.
They gave because they were grateful. This was the same God who had rescued them from slavery, and they wanted to prove that they knew whose hand it was that had saved them. Likewise, I see something very similar every year on the day of our offering: a grateful people, coming one by one, joyfully giving above and beyond, to the God who has saved them and continues to sustain them.
2. Give Because You’re Building God’s Kingdom
When you give to the church, you are giving your life to the cause of building the Kingdom of God and advancing God's work in the world. This is the prayer of Jesus – “May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Through the money you give…
… the Gospel is being proclaimed.
… marriages are being healed.
… faith is being restored.
… the hungry are being fed.
… the captives are being set free.
… grace is being experienced.
… community is being established.
… children are being built up.
… minds are being transformed.
… hearts are being mended.
… God's name is being honored.
… and his kingdom is coming.
God is doing something in the world and in this city, but he chooses to do it through people. And when you give, you become one of those people. He is then doing his work through you.
Personally, I’m tired of hearing this idea that contributing your money is somehow less important than other ways you might contribute. This simply isn’t true.
You only have four things that you could possibly give:
1) Your time
2) Your energy
3) Your abilities
4) Your money
Those are our four assets. One is not more important than the other, but among those four, what's unique about money is that it's a proxy for the other three. Your money represents your time and your energy and your abilities, because you had to use all of those things to get it.
So in that sense, your money is a proxy for your life.
Recognizing that puts everybody on a more even playing field in terms of the role they can play in building God's kingdom.
Because not everybody is going to be hands-on doing all the work I just listed above — not everybody is going to work for a social-justice nonprofit, and not everybody is going to be a pastor or a missionary.
But the question that raises is, “So when we all get to heaven, is it going to be all the pastors and missionary's and non-profit workers that are all at the front of the line, and all the business folks will be second-class citizens, sincethey devoted their lives tomaking a profit for their corporation?”
And the answer is No, it's not going to be like that. The reason it’s not going to be like that is because giving your money counts just as much as giving time or energy or abilities, because it represents time and energy and abilities.
So even though you spend the better part of your waking hours working for a bank ora law firm or a tech company, it doesn’t matter, because at the end of the year, you get paid. And when you get paid, what that means is that all that time and energy and ability you gave to your company, they give right back to you. Now, it’s liquid. Now, you hold it in your hands — you hold your very life in your hands — and you’re free to transfer it to whatever cause you want.
When you transfer it, it's then as if you worked all those hours for whatever causeyour giving to. So, if you end up taking the money you earn at your job and giving it to God, who are you actually working for each day? Him. When you go to work each morning, you’re no longer working for that company, you’re working for the expansion of God's kingdom, because that's where your paycheck is going to end up going.
3. Give Because it’s the Only Antidote to Materialism
What is materialism?
It’s the name of a religion — by far the most widely practiced religion in New York City. The vast majority of New Yorkers are devout materialists.
The main tenets of the religion are as follows:
1) If I have more, then I'll be happy.
2) If I have more, then I’ll be safe
3) If I have more, then my life will matter.
The problem is, those are all lies. Materialism is a false religion that worships a false god. It's not true that more can make you happy, or that more can make you safe, or that more can make you matter, but Money — money with a capital M, the god of this religion — wants you to think that. That’s because Money wants your worship. And to get your worship, it must get you to believe that it’s the answer to your problems.
How do you break free from this religion of materialism? There’s only one way. The only way to slay the beast — to drive a sword into the heart of this dragon, this false God, and save your own life in the process — is by giving.
You have no idea how gratifying it is for me to see more and more people in this church, year after year, gain financial freedom for the first time.
We all hear that phrase thrown around — “financial freedom.” But what does it mean?
I'll tell you what it doesn't mean. It doesn’t mean “having enough money to buy whatever you want.”
Rather, “financial freedom” means being free from financial worries and concerns. In my experience, the richest people are often the least free from financial worries and concerns, because they worry more about money than anyone. The people with the most money often think about money the most.
That's how money is. It tells you it's going to make you free, but then it makes you a slave. It says, “Just a little bit more and you'll be out of the hole,” but really, you're just digging yourself deeper and deeper. You don’t own it, it owns you.
Giving is the only way out. It’s the only way to have money without being had by it.
4. Give Because it Draws You Closer to God.
When it comes to their relationship with God, what a lot of people want to know is, “How do I 'feel it' more?”
I’ve heard many people say thingslike, “In my head, I believe it, but it hasn’t translated to my heart. I don’t know how to make it more deep and visceral and genuine.”
So how do you bridge that gap between head and heart? How do you start to feel closer to God? One of the easiest ways is to give.
You'll hear people complain sometimes, “All churches want is your money.”
And what I'd say in responseto that is, “At least at this church, that's basically right. All I want is your money.” Why? Because if I can get you to give your money, then everything else will follow.
One of the most famous lines of the sermon on the mount is when Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
But listen carefully to what he’s saying — notice the the order of clauses, because it matters.
He doesn't say, “Where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.” If he had said that, it would be an observation — a proverb. He would be pointing out that people tend to put their money into the things they care about. Which of course is true. And I could say the same to you. I could say, “If you really loved God, and if you really cared about his kingdom, you would give. Because where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.”
But what Jesus says is much more profound and interesting and provocative than that, because he reverses it. He doesn't say, “What you care about determines how you use your money;” rather, he says, “How you use your money determines what you care about.”
If he's right, then it would mean that what you care about — what you feel emotionally connected to — is up to you. It’s not some deep mystery. You can choose how you use your money, and your money is a lever that you can use to control your own heart.
We assumethat everything always must start on the inside and work it's way to the outside — inside-out. But in this case, it doesn’t work that way. This is outside-in.
You don't become more generous and then give;
you give, which makes you more generous.
You don't develop more faith, and then give;
You give, and it grows your faith.
You don't grow closer to God and then give
You give, and suddenly, as if by magic, you start to feel closer to God.
Because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
And that’s the reason why this topic feels so high stakes to me: because I know that I can get you to just give, it's over. You're in. The rest will take care of itself. I have seen life after life after life transformed by just taking this step.
But on the other hand, I know that if you don't give, there's very little God can do for you. Because God will never have your heart until he has your money.