Making Church Matter Stewardship

Money, Money, Money

November 8, 2010

We are in the 4th week of our series all about priorities.  Priorities always come down to time and money.  How we use our time and how we use our money tell the story about what our priorities are.  The past three weeks we’ve been talking about time, and giving some of our time to God, in daily prayer.  

Today, we started talking about money.  It is amazing how my attitude has changed when it comes to talking about money in church.  When I first came here I didn’t want to do it, and I didn’t do it. And that was just as well, because I didn’t really have a message on money, beyond “we want more.”  Unbelievably it was a subject that was never even mentioned, not even once, at the Seminary. Every once in awhile I would bring it up, or at least put something in the bulletin and there would be a backlash of criticism, because people in the pews were as uneducated as I was, and they really didn’t want to hear “give more.”  

Catholics have been so ill-served by their parishes when it comes to this topic, it is no wonder it is misunderstood and a source of conflict.I remember one time using the word “tithing” and a lady accosting me after Mass.  She wagged her finger in my face and said, “I don’t ever want to hear that word used in this church again.”  And, believe it or not, I acquiesced to her demand, I went about 10 years and never mentioned it once.  I remember just a few years ago, Tom and I having long discussions about using the word or not using the word, or even holding it as a value.  

Where we are now is like a different planet, in terms of a clear, consistently repeated message.

We are not about raising funds, we’re raising givers, because disciples are givers. They give as an act of worship.  Giving to God is giving to the poor or giving to fund his kingdom on earth.   Disciples make worship giving a priority, they plan their giving, they plan a percentage and they plan to be progressive givers.  Over the last few years we have repeated this message, over and over again, no gimmicks, no tricks, just the facts.  

Our thinking started to gel on this, with a remarkable passage from almost the end of the Old Testament

“Return to me and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
Will a man rob God? Yet you you rob me.
But you ask ‘How do we rob you?’
In tithes and offerings.  
You are under a curse — the whole nation of you–because you are robbing me.  
Bring in the whole tithe…
test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven 
and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it.”
Malachi 3.7-10
God is very clear about the importance of the tithe and both the blessings that follow it, and the curse that comes from withholding it.  We do not shy away from talking about tithing, because there are blessings on the other side of it, and we want people to know that.  I know that is so, because I know it in my own life.  I did not tithe, or really give to God except for pocket change. And my finances were a mess, I didn’t save, spent foolishly and carried around a pile of credit card debt.  Today I tithe, it comes automatically out of my pay check twice a month.  I have no more debt, I am saving wisely and well and spending a lot less.  
I think the same is true for our church community. Before we started preaching God’s word about tithing we were not in good shape financially.  We struggled to maintain a balanced budget, we had debt, our staff salaries were below par and we couldn’t hire all the basic staff we needed, and our income was not robust. Today, despite the worst economy since the Depression, our church has no debt at all, we have a growing budget, we have raised staff salaries in recent years to much more competitive levels and added a number of full and part time workers, we have been able to set aside money each year for repairs and upgrades to our campus, we have even significantly built up our savings for some big projects down the road. Blessings, big blessings, follow obedience to God with our money.
Here’s an even bigger one: literally as I am writing this, a 17 year old young man just walked up to me to tell me he’s going to start tithing. After today’s message he changed his mind about giving and he wants to be a great giver.  
Wow, so much blessing….

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