LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS – Why the Church? (place your mouse over scripture references to read them via biblia.com.)
Let me first set up the next three weeks before I dive into what I feel God is wanting to unwrap for us today.
1 Timothy 6:17–19 (NIV), 2 Corinthians 9:6–15 (NIV)
We understand clearly that God is the giver of all Riches. Riches in and of themselves are not evil, but it’s what happens in and through our lives when we have a closed fist with our wealth vs. an open hand. Even within the area of finances in our lives we have to LIVE LIFE OPEN.
We exist here at Open Life to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus, and one of the most spoken to areas of life in scripture is finances, but yet it is one of the most misunderstood, avoided, and even taboo subjects studied in the church. But we have to look at it if we will truly take hold of the life that is worth truly living, if we will be truly rich.
Over the course of the next two weeks we will unpack these passages, look back to them, and consider the needed action we must take due to their existence in scripture. It ultimately comes down to what vs. 13 said there in 2 Cor. 9. “obedience that accompanies your confession.” We know that we are to not only introduce people to Jesus but teach them to obey all that he commanded. Well, financial wisdom is found within Jesus commands and what a better time in our history than now during our countries darkest financial times to illuminate the truth about riches!
Before I dive into the text that is specific for today, I do want to tell you that we take an offering at the end of every week’s service. We will do the same today….we did not relocate that offering to the end so that we could in some way squeeze more out of you. There is no value in that. It does us no good to take the largest offering ever if you are not giving it out of joy, and obedience to God. Compulsive giving is not valued whatsoever in God’s sight so don’t.
I actually listened to a message on giving this week where the pastor chose to not receive an offering on the day he challenged his church to give more faithfully…and to me that makes no sense. I am not ashamed of your having an opportunity to obey God in giving, discover the truths in scripture and immediately obey. Why would I want to rob you of the opportunity to obey…but we don’t want your money as an act of compulsion.
Well…to the text for today…a message entitled…WHY THE CHURCH? WHY…THE CHURCH?
Mark 10:17–27 (NIV)
There are some amazing truths contained in this passage…some great insights culturally and when taken in context with all of scripture which we will do a quick fly by of in a moment. But the most important thing we must grasp when considering the reality of this text is the foundation of the challenge. IT IS LOVE. On your note sheet just circle that in verse 21…Jesus looked at him and loved him.
Jesus was not out to scold the wealthy, or make someone feel rejected to prove a point. Jesus saw through the lens of love the one area of this young rulers life that was surrendered to one other than God and gave him the way to freedom from commercialism, greed and the love of money.
Jesus was also not out to teach that the poor were better off than the rich.
Jesus was teaching that discipleship is costly, and wealth, if unsurrendered to God, made for an incredibly difficult hindrance to following Jesus.
Now Jesus is on his way to take our place on the cross, when this man shows up on the scene. He asks a question that most everyone would know that answer to…”obey the law.” But he must have heard some of the teachings of Jesus and comprehended that there was something he was missing, something more.
The way he asks also leads many to contemplate his acquisition of wealth. It is said that he was young, and a ruler in all of the gospel accounts. And this is what peeks the interest of writers…that he asks about “inheriting” eternal life. This leads us to believe that he inherited a great amount of wealth…but it had taken his adoration above God.
Now Jesus instruction to the young man was not a universalized command. It was not something to be practiced by all, but more of a way for this young man to walk out the purpose behind the commands he had lived out since he was a boy. Again…Jesus was not looking down on his wealth, but attaching a purpose to it.
At this time the Jewish view of riches was that it was in divine proportion to your favor from God:
Job 1:10 (NIV), Job 42:10 (NIV), Psalm 128:1–2 (NIV), Isaiah 3:10 (NIV)
God, through the wealthy, had always encouraged provision to the poor, and special protection over them
Deuteronomy 15:7 (NIV), Psalm 69:32–33 (NIV)
We are made rich to provide for the poor…both favored, both caring for the other. When the hand closes, the heart closes. “we should not be tightfisted”.
Luke 16:13 (NIV)
There is a close relationship to the heart and wealth. It lures our affection away from the only one who makes it possible for us, in our wealth to be obedient to God. Our confession must be followed by obedient actions, obedience to God while tightfistedness in our finances makes it impossible for us to truly be in right relationship with Jesus.
Let me put all this into plain illustrative reality for you.
At Open Life, we value what we term strategic generosity. We believe in the previous passages whole-heartedly and derive this value from scripture itself. It’s more than our value, it’s the value Jesus attributed to Riches!
We realize that to give, we must have someone to give to and through and the church has proven to be one of the most highly valued and reliable vessels for our generosity to flow through. But even as it would be crazy for me to ask you to run a marathon and then challenge you to do it tomorrow…it is the same with generosity. You build up to generosity. It is the fourth level of giving in the church.
There are 4 levels of givers in the church
1. First Time Givers
2. Regular Givers
4. Generous Givers
1. First Time Givers
- Can be any amount. Might feel like giving toward a strategic partner, but there is no pattern of giving as of yet.
2. Regular Givers
- These are people who either online, monthly or bi-monthly give, but not equal to 10% of their income
- These give 10% of their income
4. Generous Givers
- These give more than the minimal biblical level of obedience requirement of 10%
- This is what the rich young ruler was being challenged to do. The tithe would have already been assumed.
Assuming gets us into trouble doesn’t it? I would assume that our talking about generosity every week stirs generosity in you and that you practice it, but in fact that is not true. I would assume that our modeling generosity would stir a culture of generosity, but again that is not true.
- We could just make copies for you to hand out to others, but we print invites with amazing quality at a very affordable rate
- We could have put an add in the paper last Easter, but instead we chose to put you into Hoodies and become a walking invite for the community all year around.
- We could serve pre packaged coffee from cheep vendors, but generously we provide you with Starbucks ground beans at a very affordable price.
- We could just say thank you in an email to our first time guests, but we give away books
- For the Chamber Trick or Treat we could have given cheep hard candy no kids really wanted, but we gave full sized candy bars which resulted in guest last Sunday at Open Life!
- I could just use the free internet at Starbucks as my office, but I buy an Americano, or Drip coffee
- In all we do we ant to model generosity…it’s a deep rooted value that we will not compromise in!
Sometimes you have to be called to take a growth step in your giving, before you will ever reach the level of being generous. That is what I would like to challenge you to do today!
I want you to go to the next level today. Some to give for the first time, first time to commit to regular and regular to make the decision to tithe. And those of you who have been comfortable in tithing, take the risk of being generous.
Open Life is statistically similar to other churches, and in some ways has been out doing the norm, due to church partners who would give substantially toward the work of Open Life.
Statistics would tell us that we should average $20 per head per Sunday and that we would be able to draw up a budget accordingly as a new church plant. This last month our average attendance was 78 over the course of 5 weeks. That would equate $7,800 in income to do the work of leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus in our city and world. Our actual income for the month of October was around $7,797. Pretty accurate picture huh! Unfortunately this is a guess number. And very difficult to budget off of or predict. But it is what every start up business faces.
Now let’s just take the average attendance of our Adult population on a Sunday over the past three months, 55. If we assumed that the average person was making a minimum wage income and tithed a full 10% we would land at nearly this exact number we currently bring in monthly on average.
But the reality is, our cities median household income is over $80,000 vs. $34,000. That would mean for our community with our average attendance we should be able to budget off of more like $13,300 monthly income as a base level … before generosity kicks in.
Here is our actuals…they may shock you, but then again it may not.
81 households have attended over the past 3 months at Open Life. Of those 42% have never given. Break that down on a weekly basis and you would find that on any given week only 17% of people give in the offering or online.
At first hearing actual statistics like this you might have some personal push back. You may feel it’s intrusive for a church to look at how much is being given or from whom, but let me change the subject on us this morning to understand just how healthy this is.
What if I came to you today and said that it had come to my understanding that 42% of our families were having affairs. Would you be offended if we spoke about faithfulness and/or unfaithfulness in marriage? Then why do people get all ruffled about money…maybe it’s a matter of the heart!
Did we not just read that money becomes an affair to our love of God? We must not pretend that we don’t struggle in the area of financial faithfulness to God!
In the challenging economy we sit down and consider carefully where all our dollars go. I would encourage you to do the same if you have not. Failing to plan is truly planning to fail!
One of the realities in this moment is asking yourself…why should I give to the church? Valid question! The patent Sunday School answer would be, because God says so. But in the context of our talk today let’s look at this…THROUGH US
2 Corinthians 9:11 (NIV)
11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
We will look even deeper into the concept of tithing next week…and we will discover that we cannot tithe to any place other than the church we attend. We can’t designate 10% of our income to different organizations around the globe or even down the road and call that a tithe. Those are gifts, offerings, but the purpose of the tithe is to facilitate the ongoing work of the church. It is in the offering…in that we are able to take on the extra mile. The above and beyond allows us to operate as the strategically generous church we see God allowing us to be in our community.
This ultimately means we will have to take one step after another on our way towards generosity so that when we get up here and thank you for being generous on any given week, we are talking to more than just 6 families.
It’s out of God’s love for you that such a challenge would be given.
When we celebrated the launch of the Middle School service and thanked those who generously supported it with above and beyond giving…only those who gave experienced the blessing of generosity. When we bought the audiometer to test children’s hearing in the Sumner School District, when we gave a $500 check to the Bonney Lake Food Bank this Summer…did you participate…if so that is your story too. But if you are not regularly giving to Open Life, you missed it. The gift and the reward passed you by.
Open Life is an amazing organization to give to and through!
Reality is, we have the most amazing financial accountability and strategic teams in place here at Open Life. This is what you can expect with your giving in and through Open Life.
When you give this is how it is disbursed at Open Life. We tithe off of your giving back to “Missions” or the Mission. 10% of your $7,800 goes toward funding our strategic partners in ministry.
- Bonney Lake Food Bank
- Sumner School District
- Sparrows Nest
- Church Multiplication Network
- Northwest Ministry Network
That leaves the 90% that we disburse between $1,200 weekly rent for this Regal, bookkeeping, operational costs, and then from the remaining amount we as your pastors receive wages and benefits.
Anything you designate, to a specific strategic partner or ministry area will be spent within that designation. Say we take an offering for the earthquake in Haiti and bring in $3,000. $3,000 goes out to Haiti. The cost for bookkeeping, and operation are paid for within your tithe instead of pulling a percentage out from your designation, as many organizations would do in our world today.
Most charitable giving watch dog organizations would suggest you ask what percentage of your gift makes it to the cause being marketed. They would tell you that more than 85% is great. The 15% is going toward marketing, wages, infrastructure…etc.
In the church the wages and infrastructure are generated from less than 50% of your tithes.
Now on a month where our income matches our target budget of $12,000 we will have more for marketing, departmental expenses and we will receive a full time wage, but on months where we receive less …operate from within our means. Is this easy to predict and live by, no, but don’t we live by faith and not by sight?
Some of your wheels are turning and you might be thinking, well then why not forgo giving 10% back towards our strategic partners in order to pay our bills without living month by month or sometimes week to week?
Here is a principle you should live by, you can cut a lot of things from your budget, but never cut generosity! In fact when times are tough we should not ask what we can hold onto, but what are we not giving to that we should be!
Luke 6:38 (NIV)
Don’t choose your expanded menu of cable stations and skip tithing or giving towards injustice in your world? Don’t step out from under the covering of God for stuff!
We have painted with a pretty broad brush today…hopefully you see the purpose of the church as one to not only give to, but give through.
Hopefully you see God’s heart of love toward you, wanting to challenge you to give strategically and take a step forward in your giving today.
And hopefully you sense that the mission of Open Life combined with the obedience it takes to add onto your confession generous giving would equal Giving to the Church Regularly!
This leads us to today’s offering. But let me add some additional vision to the offering today. I think we should all be giving…and by not giving the only person it is hurting is yourself. Don’t have an affair on God…affairs always get caught.
But in a season where we have made cuts to include our wages, in order to live within our financial realities, we must not forsake generosity and the obedience to the leading of God to be a blessing to our city and world. That leads me to introduce to you an appeal.
We are in Thanksgiving season, where we plan a great meal and gather around with family and friends and look back with grateful hearts for a year of blessing and overcoming. But some families don’t have the means to even supply their children with coats and shoes let alone the luxury of a meal on Thanksgiving.
Last year alone there were 714 requests from the Sumner School District for Thanksgiving meals for families here on the plateau schools. Elementary, Middle and High School combined. This number keeps me awake at night. Because I have known that in past years I have been able to inspire the generosity of businesses and grocers to partner together and provide full huge delicious Thanksgiving meals for under $30 per family.
So, under the leading of the Holy Spirit we set out to begin meeting this huge need within our community. We asked the Sumner School District which school in our area represented the largest number of those needing meals and we were given the contact information for Liberty Ridge Elementary School. After meeting with the school we found out that they have 200 families who would be overwhelmed with such a generous gift as this…so we have stuck our necks out there and put the ball in motion to deliver 200 meals on Monday afternoon November 22nd to the families who are in need this year at Liberty Ridge Elementary School. (clap, clap, clap, clap)
We have been pounding the pavement and have partnered with Albertsons for the purchase of our meals; 10-12lb turkey, 5 lb. bag of potatoes, stuffing mix, corn, beans, olives, cranberry sauce, gravy, rolls, onion, celery, margarine, and an apple or pumpkin pie! AND ALL OF THIS FOR UNDER $25 PER FAMILY
I want you, above and beyond your giving to Open Life today to dig deep and give generously toward what we are calling the Big Give. It will take over $4,200 to make this happen. Remember how I said we give 10% back to the mission every week when you give in the offering? Well, that has allowed us to already have over $1500 to go towards this event.
So here is how we will give. Today, on your connection cards write the amount of your regular offering towards Open Life in the Tithe line and then in the other line…writ the words Big Give and the amount you are putting in your connection card to go towards this event. We will accept your gift online as well if you did not come prepared to give today, just logon to your giving account and select missions and the sub fund of Big Give.
I believe this week, we will close the gap of $3,500 through your generosity and Jesus will get all the praise. Impossible with us, but possible with God!