It seems like every year, about this time, a million charities send out panic stricken letters saying they are short in their budget and can't survive if people don't pitch in to help.
When I get those letters, I ignore them.
Which is why I'm not going to talk about Karis's budget, or being behind in our projected giving right now.
The truth is, our God is big. He owns the “cattle on a thousand hills” and all the dollars in the banks. He knows what He's doing, and He can handle all our problems. He said not to worry about tomorrow, but to seek His Kingdom first, and He would handle the practical things like food and clothes and water and Pastor's salaries and building rent and utilities.
Instead, I want to address giving from a completely different perspective.
I want to acknowledge first that participation in a church can feel draining. Someone is always asking you to give up your time, or give away your money, or hand over some other closely guarded facet of your life. And they offer nothing but vague intangibles in return.
There is a lot to be said about balance, and knowing when to say, “no,” and avoiding burn-out. I've had to grapple with all of these questions myself in the last six months, including facing the reality that I needed to say “no” to several responsibilities that I had handled for the last year.
Who's the Boss?
Yet I think many of us need to sit back and take a hard look at how we view the resources in our lives. When you think of things like, “my time,” “my money,” or, “my life,” do you see yourself as the ultimate authority of how those resources should be used?
Do you get irritated when things happen to disrupt your schedule, when friends call with emergencies, or when the time you wanted to spend mindlessly surfing the web or sports channels starts shrinking? Do you get upset when charities ask you for money, or the pastors start beating the “giving” drum again? Does it annoy you when people point out that God really does have the right to tell you what to do with your life, since He made you and designed you and gave you your purpose?
Who puts air in your lungs?
Who gave you the eyes to not only read this page, but to experience hundreds of thousands of varying shades of color?
Why did you have three square meals to eat today?
Where do your resources come from?
If everything comes from God, doesn't that mean He has the right to have at least some input on what you do with the things He gives you?
In the next few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, take some time to recall the ways God has blessed you and your family and friends this year. And I don't mean just the standard, “no one got sick this year,” or “we paid off our car loan,” or “my spouse is awesome,” thanksgiving statements.
I'm talking about the deep sense of thankfulness that wells up when you realize that you exist only because God made you. The thankfulness that comes when you realize that the rays of sunshine splashing across the carpet in your living room are a gift straight from the hand of an all powerful Creator, that the air filling your lungs comes from Him, and that the fact that you don't have to remember to make your heart keep beating is just another evidence of His thoughtfulness.
Let your mind wander down this pathway long enough, and as it shifts from the temporal to the eternal, you will be left flat on your face in worship. Oh, the joy when you stop and remember that God, in His justice, could have left you condemned for your rebellious heart, yet in His great love sent His own Son to be crushed by the wrath you deserved. The exaltation when you revel in the fact that God chose to adopt you as His own child and heir to His promises. The anticipation as you look forward with baited breath to the glorious eternity of never ending intimate communion with the One who made you.
With such an awareness, how can you hold back? How can giving not be anything less than an expression of gratitude? An act of worship? An exquisite expression of delight?
On a practical note, stop and consider your monthly, or weekly spending habits. If you don't know what your habits are, then sit down and figure it out. I would contend that, as responsible stewards of God's resources, every believer should have a budget. Obviously the level of detail will vary by person and gifting. But each of you should have an idea of how much you regularly bring in, and where it usually goes. Take a hard look at how you handle your money. When is the last time you got a raise? Did you remember to update your regular giving to mirror the increase in income? What was your heart motive in this?
Giving more out of guilt or peer pressure is not the right response.
Giving less out of laziness or a desire for comfort is equally wrong.
God doesn't look at your actions only. He looks at your heart.
If we are honest with ourselves, many of us could easily afford to give 10%, like the Israelites did in the Old Testament. It might require saving a little less than we like. Or spending less on eating out and learning to make some quick, simple meals at home. It might even mean cutting the clothing shopping trips in half, or taking two years to save up for that vacation instead of one. In more extreme cases, it could mean adding a room-mate to your housing situation, moving into a less expensive apartment, or even buying a house in a less expensive part of town.
The amount you are able to give has far more to do with lifestyle choices and budgeting than it does with income.
And remember. You are God's steward. You will have to give an account one day of how you handled His resources. God never asks us to live a life of misery and want. He has promised over and over again that He offers a life of abundance, of joy, and over-flowing blessing. Our confusion comes when we equate abundant life, joy and blessing to lots of money or things. God doesn't want money to be our ruler. He doesn't want us to be enslaved to our impulses. He wants you to be free. Each time you open your hands and give money over to God, it loses a bit more of its hold on your life.
Maybe you're juggling your bills and trying to keep food on the table. You're reading this and saying to yourself, “Oh yeah, it's all my rotten lifestyle choices, living in a worthless apartment, paying too much for my utilities and wasting my money on bread, milk and eggs. (Not to mention the student loan payments!) How dare you say that my lifestyle choices are the problem here! I’m barely making above minimum wage.”
I know, it costs money to live. And living is expensive. Believe me, I know. The good news is that you are God's steward, not mine. You have to give an accounting to God for what you do with your resources, not me. And He knows your heart way better than even you do yourself.
If you're truly overwhelmed financially, find someone who understands managing money and can sit down and help you put together a plan. I'd love to chat with you and show you how a budget works. Maybe the issue isn't how the budget works, but how to actually stick to the budget. If so, then bring it up in your Fight Club. Find accountability, someone who will challenge you with love and compassion to stick to your plan and make it work.
Our God is big. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He has given you resources. Will you usurp Him? Or will you see your resources as a stewardship from God?
How can you give to Karis Church? Log on to karis.onthecity.org/give. Give online immediately or consider setting up recurring giving.