Strong Start: Finances, Generosity, and Why Money Won’t Fix Your Life

Twenties on White

On Sunday we opened up a bit of a difficult or uncomfortable topic: money. Most times churches talk about this, it’s because they want more of it. But on Sunday the point wasn’t that I wanted anything from anyone, I wanted something for everyone. And what I believe we all need, isn’t more money, but a better relationship to money.

The truth is that money will not fix your life, or make it better. And while at first glance that seems well…just not true. Who wouldn’t love more money? The truth is we know that it is true.

  • We all know people who make way less than us, but are much happier than us.
  • We all know people who make way, way, way more than us but whose lives aren’t full of happiness and joy.
  • We all know people who have maybe won the lottery, inheritance or whatever, only to see that money…vanish.

The truth is that while our culture tells us that money will fix our problems, the Bible teaches that our relationship to money is the problem. Getting a huge raise, or money doesn’t actually automatically generate more generosity, self-control, or self-discipline. And the truth is if we want financial freedom it doesn’t come from having more money, but a better and different relationship with money.

So we looked at this small passage in Acts where Paul’s preaching says this, “You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” And this is so true! Expect for many of us it doesn’t feel…well true. For many of us it honestly feels better to receive a huge bonus, then it does to give and cut our neighbors lawn. But that’s actually not what Paul is talking about or Jesus for that matter. Paul is not talking about individual experiences or moments, but a lifestyle.

A better way to translate that passage for our context would be this: a generous life is wholer, better, and happier than a stingy life.

And that’s true.

When was the last time you met a truly generous jerk?

When was the last time you met a really happy, fully alive, stingy person?

It just doesn’t happen.

Jesus is right; a generous life is better than a stingy life. The trouble is that generosity is not random, it is strategic and a discipline. And disciplines are hard to create and generate.

So we ended the sermon with a few steps to starting to create the discipline to be generous so that we might find new freedom. The three steps were pretty simple and straightforward: make a budget, choose a % to give, and track your money.

Generosity doesn’t start with randomness but with a plan. So make a budget to examine your life and where you are spending and where you should be spending. Then choose a % to give. The main problem with generosity is that it is not habitual, so giving a % is key. Start anywhere but keep increasing it as you grow. And lastly, track your money. What you don’t manage soon becomes a disaster. So manage your money.

These are three simple steps, and there is so much we could get into but they will give the basis for a strong start this year. And to go deeper we are having a financial course here at the church, and if you’d like to be part of it just email the church office here for details.

So we ended with a challenge: put effort into our finances. Because no one has ever regretted putting effort into it and becoming a more generous person.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: A generous life is happier, fuller, and better, than a stingy life

Teaching Points:

  • The key to financial freedom is not having more money.
  • Having more money will not fix your financial life.
  • Money will not solve all our problems.
  • The problem isn’t money or the lack of it; the problem is us
  • It’s better to give than to receive.
  • A life orientated around giving and generosity is the way to live.
  • Generous people don’t give when they have enough; generous people orient their lives so they will always have enough to give.
  • Having more money doesn’t give us more self-control.
  • A generous life is happier, and better than a stingy life.
  • Generosity is a discipline.
  • Make a budget, choose a % to give, and track your money.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What did you think about Andrew’s statement “The key to financial freedom is not having more money “? How does that relate to your life? Would you say your life is orientated around generosity? How can you maybe start to take some of those steps? Do you have a budget? Who can help you to create one? Can you start or increase your % of giving? How can we support you in this?

Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families

Today rather than talking about generosity, start to teach it. Start to encourage your kids to give money away. If you do an allowance, ask them to give a %. Start to teach generosity from the beginning.

Challenge for the Week: Put effort into your financial life to become generous.

A Fresh Start with Finances ~ A Conversation That’s Needed but Often Not Wanted

O1428100_36158286n Sunday we are talking about finding a fresh start in a very important area of our lives: finances.

And I know the church has a well-deserved bad rap for how we discuss finances. But the truth is it is an area many of us need a fresh start in. Many of us are stress-filled about our finances, we are worried-filled about our futures, or our happiness is so tied to our income that we can’t seem to find joy. The number one cause of divorce is also finances. So finances adds stress to our relationships. And these are many good reasons to talk about finances.

But the truth is there is one more really good reason to talk about finances. Because finances are actually spiritual. Meaning that finances are intertwined with faith.

So we are going to explore that intersection on Sunday, and how you can leave with a fresh start in your finances. And I know that most churches, when it comes to finances, either beg, berate, or bribe you into giving. And I don’t think any of that is Biblical. Instead, on Sunday I want to let God share with you why finances, giving, and generosity are so closely tied together and how when our priorities get straight he can bless you.

So that’s where we are going on Sunday, I know a topic not many of us like to discuss, but a topic that can be freeing. And that’s my prayer for Sunday that we’d be freed and find a fresh start with finances.

Do Good Deed Publicly, But not For Publicity – Matthew 6:1-4

On Sunday we looked at this teaching of Jesus found in Matthew 6.


Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The point Jesus is making is that we should be doing good deeds. Christians should be doing acts of service, and generosity. And we should be doing them publicly. The point isn’t that our actions shouldn’t be seen, but that we shouldn’t do actions to be seen.

The paradox Jesus is teaching: we are to do our actions publicly, but we aren’t to do our actions to receive publicity.

Jesus is really trying to get at the heart behind the actions. Is our intention in doing good deeds to be faithful to God, or receive admiration from others? Are we giving out a response to God’s blessing, or a response to the recognition of those around us? Are we following God because it’s right, or because we want to be seen doing what’s right?

The only difference between a bribe and a gift ~ are the intentions behind the gift.

So I think Jesus’ main point is that our intentions matter in our actions. Dallas Willard writes “When we do good deeds to be seen by human beings, that is because what we are looking for is something that comes from human beings” And he’s right. Are we doing good deeds for God or others?

Jesus then gives this difficult teaching that we shouldn’t let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. Willard explains what this seemingly impossible teaching means: People who have been so transformed by their daily walk with God, have good deeds naturally flow from their character, are precisely the kind of people whose left hand would not notice what their right hand is doing…What they do they do naturally, often automatically, simply because of what they are pervasively and internally.”

What it means is that as we follow Jesus we can become the type of people who so naturally do the right things, that it’s automatic without premeditation and with pure intentions.

The question we ended with is how do we get there? How do we keep our intentions clear and pure? The answer is really simple: focus on Jesus, not on the action. We are to do good deeds keeping our focus on him, not on others, and not on ourselves. In this way we will actually hide our good deeds from ourselves.

Bonhoeffer in his usual brilliance writes this: “From whom are we to hide the visibility of our discipleship? Certainly not from other men, for we are told to let them see our light. No. We are to hide it from ourselves. Our task is simply to keep on following, looking only to our Leader who goes on before, taking no notice of what we are doing”.

This is the way to follow Jesus’ teaching here. Do good, but focus on him. And that’s the challenge we left with – to go out into the world doing good, but focusing on Jesus.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Your intentions matter

Take Aways…

  • What if we actually did what Jesus said?
  • The temptation: you stop doing the right actions because you are blessed by God, and start to do it because you are seen and noticed by others
  • “When we do good deeds to be seen by human beings, that is because what we are looking for is something that comes from human beings” Dallas Willard
  • Jesus is really presenting to us a paradox: We need to publicly do good deeds, but we must never do good deeds for publicity
  • That our intentions matter
  • Our good deeds are to shine before others, but we are not to do our good deeds so that we shine before others
  • “What matters are the intentions of our hearts before God” Dallas Willard
  • “From whom are we to hid the visibility of our discipleship? Certainly not from other men, for we are told to let them see our light. No. We are to hide it from ourselves. Our task is simply to keep on following, looking only to our Leader who goes on before, taking no notice of what we are doing”. Bonhoeffer
  • When we focus on Jesus we lose sight of ourselves and more importantly of the others around us.

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What did you find hardest about this teaching? What good deeds have become habits in your life? How can you focus on simply doing good, rather than the rewards of doing good? What good actions – giving, serving, praying etc – can you do this week with a focus on Jesus?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Today rather than talking to your kids about this teaching, why not put it into practice with them. Give to them, care for them, really spend time with them. Not because then “you’re a good parent” but because its important. Focus on them and Jesus, and not yourself.

Challenge for this Week: Do good, but focus on Jesus.


Heart, Motives, and Following Jesus

On Sunday we are looking at another difficult teaching of Jesus – we are looking at our heart and motives.1206356_27758998

The truth is that if you follow Jesus deeply and truly, lives will be changed in and around you. And people may even start to notice, respect, and trust you. This is all fine as it goes. The temptation though is this: that as you gain respect and trust you do good deeds not for Jesus, but for others.

Or more succinctly put the temptation is that you do good deeds and right actions not as a response to God, but as a response to others.

This is the temptation that I think we all face if we follow Jesus, and that’s what we are going to be looking at on Sunday.  Jesus says, “Don’t do your good deeds for publicity…When you give don’t even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:1,4). We’re going to be exploring how it is even possible to follow this teaching of Jesus. Because normally it seems pretty impossible to give with your right hand, and to not have your left hand know what you’re doing. Jesus isn’t talking here about split personalities, but actually a whole and integrated heart.

So we’ll get into all of that.

But before we get there here is my question for you today, that I’m asking myself as well. Do I do good deeds for God, or for others? Do I do the right thing because I love God, or I love the recognition and admiration of others?

In essence the question is: What are the intentions with my actions? To be committed to God or to get credit from others?

Good question…

Outburst of Love and Encouragement

Sunrise on Fields

Want to know why I love our church? Because of this:

Quite a few weeks ago, I was trying to think of how I could show my care for a family in our church. They had an important doctors meeting, so I thought I’d go leave flowers with a note of my prayer while they were away at the meeting, to get when they got home. I thought it would be a good way to surprise and encourage.

And as I’m placing the flowers, I saw a car drive into the driveway and I thought my little surprise might be ruined. Except it wasn’t them. It was someone else from our church with the same idea. They had brought homemade muffins, and food (which made me wish I’d thought of that).We both smiled as we both placed our little gifts and left.

Here is the thing – I hear of stories like this all the time. Of people dropping by with groceries for people who are in difficulty, I see people bring flowers to bless a friend on Sunday, I hear stories of people showing up to fix things, to give away money, time, and love.

I love our church because they seek to creatively care. Because they take Galatians 5:6 seriously, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love”. What is important is our faith moving us to loving actions. What is improtant is us showing our care for others.

Our church is far from perfect, I am far from perfect. We mess up and miss things. But we continue to try to put that verse into practice. To have our faith express itself in love, and this is why I so love this place.

So this week why not try to express your faith in love? Why not try to come up with a creative way to show you care? Hebrews talks about us encouraging one another in outbursts of love and encouragement (Heb 10:24). So why not do that today – leave a note, drop off a meal, send a card, offer to babysit, bring by a coffee to a friend at work. Today let your faith express itself in love and let the stories of life and love spread.

Giving Tied to Grace…

Yesterday we talked about money in church. I know a topic that isn’t often talked about in church. We feel uncomfortable and awkward talking about it. I think this is because it’s been talked about poorly in the past, where giving gets tied to guilt and other wrong motives. But on Sunday we sought to look at giving tied to grace.

We looked at 2 Corinthians 8 to discover how Paul deals with money. Here, there is the Corinthian church that hasn’t given what they’ve pledged. Paul rather than coming down hard, judging, and using guilt to motivate, he talks about grace and God. In fact he says, “Let me tell you a story of grace…” In this story of grace Paul tells about the Macedonian church and how they gave and experienced joy and God’s presence. He talks about how they gave what they could as a response to God, not as a response to guilt or judgement.

Paul in his story of grace is trying to change the Corinthian church’s heart. He’s not trying to guilt them into giving, but instead trying to inspire them through grace. Because the Biblical perspective is that when giving is tied to guilt and legalism it quickly dries up, but when giving is tied to God and his grace, giving never ends. The point isn’t really how much you give, but the heart you give with. Giving is important, blessing others matters, but your heart behind the giving really matters. Is your heart like God’s, generous, open, and appreciative?

Jesus says that the Pharisees who gave a tenth of every part of the income still get it wrong because of mixed up motives and desires (Matt. 23:23-24). The Pharisees did the right action but not with the right heart.

So where is your heart today? Why not be generous and give to someone today out of a grateful heart. Consider all that God has done for you, and find a way to bless someone today. When you do this you might just find yourself like the Macedonians…full of joy…and taken care of…

P.S. Since money is an important conversation we’re committed here to not only be seeking to excel in generosity and grace, but also good stewardship. So if stewarding finances or debt is a struggle we have partnerships, and great people who are here to help us steward what we’ve been given well. Let us know if that’d be a help and we’ll help you make a connection.

Giving from the Grave

This week I got a gift from my grandpa and grandma, who we call “Nanny and Poppy”. The odd thing is that both of them passed many years ago.

So how did they give me a gift? Well it happened in a round about way, but also because giving lasts.

Hudson came downstairs with my favorite book as a little boy. It’s “Little Squirt the Fire Engine”. This was a book that I loved growing up. Inside the book was a card given to me from my Nanny and Poppy for my 1st birthday. Inside of that card was a crisp $2 bill and a $5 bill that I had never seen before. We don’t know why it was there, but it was a fun surprise because what was a gift for me, became a gift for their great-grandson.

So even though they never met their great-grandson they did impact him. Krista and I used the money for something special that my Nanny and Poppy would have loved. We took our little boy skating for the very first time. We donated the $5, strapped on some bob skates, and took him out on the ice for an hour. He loved it, and I know in heaven Nanny and Poppy love it too. My Poppy loved hockey, loved skating, and even tied the skates for the leafs way back in the day. So here he was passing along his love to his great-grandson years after he had passed. Here was my Nanny passing along her love for me, to her grandson. They both somehow, 27 years ago, gave a simple gift of a book, a card, and $7 that lasted.

That’s the amazing thing about gifts – they have the potential to change not only people but generations. Gifts can last and linger long after they have been given. My Nanny and Poppy never thought their $7 gift would change a great-grandson, but it did. They had no idea how long their gift would last, or how far the impact would reach. But that is the beauty of giving ~ we never know how far or how long the impact will last.

So today why don’t you think of someone special and give to them. Who knows who it might impact, and how the gift might last and change someone. I surely didn’t expect this gift from my Nanny and Poppy. But aren’t those the best gifts? The unexpected ones that shape you. So do that for someone else today, give a meaningful gift that lasts.

And in case you’re wondering…we kept the $2 bill to give to Hudson when he’s older, so my Nanny and Poppy’s gift continues to last and linger just like them…

Generosity Should Hurt

I like to think of myself as a generous person. Really who doesn’t like to think of themselves as a generous person. But it’s easy to think you’re generous, sometimes practicing it is hard.

Last week a friend contacted me with a need. It was real, it mattered, and I could really help him. It would just cost me some money. But here’s the thing giving when it costs is hard…

Inwardly I had a little struggle. I knew I should give but was reluctant. Not reluctant because the need wasn’t real or worthy, but because it would be hard and might hurt a bit. Krista and I just came through Christmas, Hudson’s birthday, and didn’t have a lot of disposable funds lying around.

And that’s when I learned something about generosity. Generosity shouldn’t just come out of our surplus. Giving out of our extra is good, but giving when it’s hard isn’t just better it’s godly.

Jesus gives up everything to give to us (Phi. 2:7). He doesn’t give out of his extra, but out of his very self. His extra doesn’t determine how much he gives us. He gives till it hurts, and is hard.

So generosity should hurt a bit. That’s hard to learn, and even harder to live out. But the more I look at Jesus the easier I find it. And here’s the funny thing. After I gave to my friend, I found Jesus right there as he shook my hand and said thank you.

So all in all…it hurt a bit…but was so worth it…

And Jesus knew that all along…

Where I Saw Jesus This Week…

Yesterday driving home I was thinking about how much I didn’t want to shovel the driveway.

Normally I enjoy it. But I wasn’t in the right mood. I wanted to go get Hudson so we could play, and hang out before I had to go out later that evening. So I was really almost dreading shovelling the driveway.

And then I get there and get ready to pull in – and someone has already done it!

A neighbor, a friend, or someone else shovelled my driveway and made my day. I haven’t found out who yet, but for me they were a lot a like Jesus. Blessing me when I wasn’t expecting it…changing my mood and attitude when I needed it…giving me more time with my family…and showing love and caring in a practical and real way.

So that’s where I saw Jesus this week…what about you where did you find him?

Love Can’t Be Wasted…

Last night I participated in a funeral. It was a mixture of beauty and sadness. Community, friends, and family gave such love in such a difficult time.

When I got home I reflected on one thought from the service with my wife: that love is never wasted.

Sometimes when you love, give, and care and the result isn’t what you hoped for we feel like it was in vain. When we give love and someone passes, or they don’t change, or toss it aside we wonder if it had any meaning…But I believe that love that is given always has meaning.

Love that is given can’t be wasted.

As Paul says love is what will truly last, everything else will fade away. 1 John reminds us that love is all that matters. And Jesus most of all demonstrates that love is meant to be given even if the results or reception aren’t what we would have wanted; because that is what he has done with us. He gives love to each of us because we matter to him regardless of how it is used or its outcome.

But when you give love in this way, you run the risk of experiencing pain and hurt. That’s what happened last night. People loved deeply and so they felt the hurt deeply. But even when you feel hurt, or the outcome isn’t what we would hope: love still remains. Love still matters. Love still lasts. Despite the up and downs of our lives, love can steady us.

So today go out and love. Give love. Be love. Show love.

And invest in something that lasts…