Photo from boston.com
In the last several months, I have been very blessed to see the generosity of our church members. There were specific needs within the church and people stepped up in their giving so that we can accomplish what God has called us to do. Whether it has been with their time, talents or treasures, people have been giving faithfully and fervently.
Back in January (in the hype of Tim Tebow), I talked about the new 2012 budget. I challenged everyone to avoid the “Tim Tebow Tithing.” Translation? It means not waiting until the fourth quarter of the year (October-December) to step up in our giving and fulfill our commitments. What we need is simply consistency.
Also, with the academic year slowly finishing off, it is easy for a lot of the students to stop their giving. But I want to challenge every student in our church to remain faithful even throughout the summer months so that we can continue to transform lives here in Ann Arbor and throughout the world.
Recently, I read an article by Clayton and Charie King called, “The Real Reasons You’re Bad with Money.” It was pretty insightful and it reinforced a lot of the values that we are trying to teach here in HMCC-AA.
They give a short list of questions to help us discover what our true attitude toward money is:
1) On your credit cards, do you currently owe more than you make in a month?
2) Do you buy things to make yourself feel better? Do you get a good, settled feeling after you make a purchase?
3) Do you envy the lifestyle your friends have or the things they own? Do you fantasize about owning those same things and having that same lifestyle?
4) Do you eat out more than four times a week?
5) How much food do you have in your house?
6) In regard to entertainment, do you spend more than $250 per month on your cable bill, going to the movies, video games, downloads on iTunes or the latest technological toy? What about your cell phone bill? Ouch.
7) Do you immediately get defensive anytime someone begins to ask for your money –your church, a charity or a nonprofit organization? (This is a sure sign that you actually want to hold on to your money and that you have difficulty sharing your money with others, even those in dire need.)
8) Are you cheap when you leave a tip at a restaurant, thinking the server doesn’t really deserve the money and you could use it better somewhere else?
9) What percentage of your salary or income do you give away? This could be in the form of a tithe, donations, helping out a local charity and so on. (Donating old clothes you don’t wear to Goodwill or the Salvation Army doesn’t count.)
10) Do you ever have an internal struggle before you make a big purchase (try to talk yourself out of it, think of all the other things the money could be used for), or do you spend freely with little regret until hours or days later?
11) Do you fear what life would be like without the safety you think money brings you? Do you find yourself devoting more time to worrying about money than being concerned about people who have no job, no food, no health insurance or no one to love them and care for them?
12) Do you even know how much your monthly bills are, right off the top of your head? (These include health insurance, auto insurance, rent, tuition, credit-card payments, student loans, phone bill, water and power.) If you don’t know this amount automatically, you are in trouble, because it shows you are not paying attention to where your money goes each month.
13) Could you, in 30 seconds or less, summarize your basic budget? This includes how much you make, how much you save, how much you give and how much you pay out in bills and payments each month. If you can’t, then you don’t have a budget at all, even if you claim you do.
14) How long does it take you to pay a regular, basic bill? Do you let bills stack up on your desk? Do you open them when they arrive or put them off until after they are past due? How much do you pay a year in late fees due to fear, laziness or forgetfulness?
15) Right now, how much money do you have saved up? Add up what you have in your checking account, your savings account(s), IRAs, life-insurance policies, stocks, bonds, cash in coffee cans buried in the yard and loose change on your desk. Now, compare that number to what you currently owe, including all credit cards, student loans, car loans and any other outstanding debt. Which number is greater? By how much?
Wow! It is challenging to answer these questions with brutal honesty. We sometimes go through life without considering a lot of things; therefore we have no direction in life. What would happen if some of us are able to reign in our finances? Would we have more resources to invest in God’s Kingdom work? When as the last time you actually “saved up” so that you can bless someone with something (i.e. meal, dessert, gift, etc)?
Whenever the topic of money comes up, it is always a sore spot for people. It brings up a lot of different emotions. We get uncomfortable because we feel like this is one area that people should not stick their noses in.
I have been telling our members that the same spiritual muscle that is required to give regularly and faithfully is the same spiritual muscle that is required to keep up our spiritual discipline such as reading the bible and praying. In many ways, there is a clear correlation. If we are growing spiritual (exercising our spiritual muscles) then we will be more willing to be faithful in our giving. I have seen this to be true not only in my life, but in the lives of so many members throughout the years.
Ultimately, when we are generous in our giving we are reflecting more of God’s heart because God set the example for us – “For God so loved the world that He GAVE…”