I love this question. Perhaps it's because I believe that most of the decisions we make are choices to draw near to God or to move away from him. So, this question gets at the heart of why we want to do something - what is our motivation - what kind of people do we want to become?
Throughout this financial stewardship discussion I hope you have seen that our giving and the way we approach it is an aspect of our spiritual growth and development. Money is a gift - a tool we are blessed with to continue God's work in this world. The way we use this money-resource communicates our values, and as people who have experienced God's grace - as people who steadfastly follow Jesus, we commit our lives to him - and our financial resources naturally follow to bless others for the sake of the kingdom.
Giving is part of God's nature - and as his people, his children, his image, giving should be part of our nature. In our lives we need to work to cultivate an attitude of abundance, not scarity. We are so often told by culture that there "isn't enough". But we need to remember that we serve a God who bestows blessing upon blessing upon blessing.
The "fear of not enough" will choke the joy out of your life. If that idea is prevalent among your church people, then it will also diminish the posibility of congregational dreaming, growing ministries and spiritual development. The tangible action to take to prevent the weed of "not enough" from overtaking the harvest of "plenty" is to give generously. We have the privilege in our giving to become the mode of God's blessing in another's life.
When I was a student I had a friend who was really tight on cash, and she didn't know how she would make ends meet one month. It was a tense situation but she was confident in God's provision. Another friend at the time was praying for her, and was compelled to give, even though she herself did not have much money. In an act of faithfulness, she anonymously sent the friend in need a sum of money via the school mailboxes. It was absolutely delightful to witness God's blessing through the sacrifice of another. And at the end of the month, each had enough to meet their expenses.
God knows our needs - and he is faithful - and he will provide. He also knows where we need to be challenged - and he is faithful - and he will provide opportunities for us to step out and trust him fully.
My challenge for us - in our personal lives and in our congregations is to put money in it's proper place. If it has become an idol, then we need to acknowledge that and take steps to get rid of the money-god. We can do this by talking about our use of money more openly. We should be talking about our temptations, our fears and our desires. When we treat money as a private issue it gives it additional power and makes bad habits difficult to break alone. Our openness to discuss the struggle for integrity between faith and finances begins to break destructive power and builds accountability for new and better choices. It starts with us - we need to bring all of our lives into the light, and our finances are part of that!
So - what kind of people do we want to become? Do we want to be tight fisted, worriers, fearful that the resources are scarce and we need to provide for ourselves? Or do we want to become like Christ, a generous facilitator of God's abundant wealth?
Here are some books that talk about this topic further:
Alcorn, Randy. The Treasure Principle
Claiborne, Shane and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Becoming the Answer to our Prayers
Durall, Michael. Creating Congregations of Generous People
Vincent, Mark. A Christian View of Money – Celebrating God’s Generosity
Wilson-Hartgrove, Jonathan. New Monasticism – What It Has To Say To Today’s Church