Money, finances, giving, budgeting, tithing, offering — however which way we try to spin it, it leaves most of us, especially in the church planting world, feeling uncomfortable.
I wonder if the focus of our conversation is amiss when we talk about money, and instead, we, as shepherds of our missional communities, should actually be honing in on something more powerful than mere currency.
What if our focus was more in tune with what Jesus focuses on: Generosity. One of the marks of the Kingdom of God, that certain something that easily delineates who is a Jesus follower and who is not, is generosity.
What is it about generosity that marks His people? I believe that especially in the culture that we live in and how a revenue stream can speak more volume and give more credence than character, this mark of the Kingdom of God contrasts even starker than anything else.
As the old adage says, money talks. And right now, our culture is listening.
Money talks when a local craft beer tasting joint publicizes that, apart from the overhead costs, all profit goes to non-profits that highlight getting people out of poverty. Money talks when business tycoons from South Africa decide to invest 90% of their entire assets to establishing a paradise retreat center in Kauai for troubled teenagers – free of charge. Money talks when a CEO of a construction company decides to pay for every employee and his/her family to come vacation with him, with no pay cuts.
The Voice of Generosity
And in these real life examples, I can tell you why their money talks loud. The owners of that brewery – they used to live the dream life in SoCal, traveling to exotic places around the world, enjoying the best that life can offer. And they attended one of the largest established churches in the world. But, they stopped and said, “This isn’t how life is supposed to work. Something’s wrong. We’re not living like we’re a part of Jesus’ Kingdom.”
So, they left everything they knew, moved to a small town in Hawaii, opened up a craft beer place, and now work seven days a week to make money that they’re not even going to use on themselves. They’re giving it all away because they were struck by the way Jesus has compassion on those in need. And if you’re working seven days a week, guess what you can’t do anymore? No more traveling to exotic places. No more living it up and taking for yourself all the luxuries that life offers you.
Another couple involved in owning five different companies in the US and South Africa, but upon retirement age, instead of hitting the golf courses and daily spas, they decided to spend nearly all of their money to purchase land in one of the most beautiful yet expensive places to live and build a retreat center to host experiences for teenagers who wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to experience nature, but more importantly, to experience God’s love and the love of others. “Through this life-changing experience [troubled teenagers] see that there can be much more to their lives than the circumstances in which they may now be living.” All free of charge.
The reason why the general contractor decided to pay for his entire employee base to come on vacation with him was not to simply rest, but experiencing Jesus’ heart for people compelled him to build a deep family dynamic within his own company, one of restoration and addressing his employees’ hearts and not just their performances.
Money talks in our culture. And when people living in missional communities in the way of Jesus begin to reframe how their money talks to the culture around them, the culture listens. The culture around us listens to generosity.The culture around us listens to generosity. – Eun Strawser Click To Tweet
In Acts 5, when God’s people are being clearly marked by His character with the power of the Holy Spirit, we learn of a couple who tries to fake generosity.
“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
When confronted, they both in turn, fall down and breathe their last. Did you catch that? Did you catch the most important word in this passage? “But.” But a man and his wife knowingly withheld and faked generosity. How do we know that they faked it? Because of the “but”.
Just before this, we hear that “the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.”
And one man in particular, Barnabas, “sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” Ananias and Sapphira responded to Barnabas’ act of generosity by selling their property as well and gave the proceeds away.
The Heart of the Giver
Here’s the thing about generosity that’s so very important. It has nothing to do with the amount. It has nothing to do with the value of the gift. Instead, it has everything to do with the heart of the giver. Both givers gave a large amount.
Land, much as it is today, was tied to one’s worth and inheritance and security for the family. It was a big deal that Barnabas gave up those rights and gave the value of the land away. It was also a big deal that Ananias and Sapphira sold their property and gave up the rights to it and gave the value of the land away. It was probably a HUGE amount of money. A lot of money that would help so many people. A large sum that would sure up the believers and continue to help all those in need.
So, what was the difference? Barnabas was generous, BUT, Ananias and Sapphira faked being generous. Generosity doesn’t have to do with money. Generosity has to do with giving away all rights to something to benefit someone else, not even for the receivers’ sake, but for the Kingdom of God to grow. Ananias and Sapphira gave in a way where they craved personal recognition and financial gain from deceit.
So, why is generosity a mark of the Kingdom of God?
Money eradicates the need to worry about things unnecessarily when resources are shared and pulled to a purpose which the King determines – for the benefit of not just a few but everyone. What we do with our resources speaks volumes about what we actually value. And when we value the King and his Kingdom, we begin to reorient and rearrange our finances and resources in order to prioritize King Jesus in our lives.What we do with our resources speaks volumes about what we actually value. – Eun Strawser Click To Tweet
Regardless of the amount, profitable or not, the act of generosity will speak about the goodness of the ultimate Giver for the flourishing of the culture around us.
In our missional communities, how are we addressing money and generosity? Are our resources being pulled together in a way that brings about the flourishing of those around us? Is the way we use our funds marking us as a people of generosity?
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
2 Corinthians 8:9
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