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Wayne Grudem: Put this money to work

He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ Luke 19:12-13

“The nobleman of course represents Jesus Himself, who went to a far country to receive a kingdom and then returned to reward His servants. The parable has obvious applications to stewardship of spiritual gifts and ministries that Jesus entrusts to us, but in order for the parable to make sense, it has to assume that good stewardship, in God’s eyes, includes expanding and multiplying whatever resources or stewardship God has entrusted to you. Surely we cannot exclude money and material possessions from the application of the parable, for they are part of what God entrusts to each of us, and our money and possessions can and should be used to glorify God.”

Wayne Grudem in Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003) 42-43.

Jenni and I flew to New England last night and arrived at the home of dear friends, Mark and Kate Whitsitt. This weekend Jenni speaks at the Women’s Retreat at Camp Spofford and I get to speak at the Men’s Retreat next weekend. She will focus on helping women breathe deeply from God’s Word to make it a rich part of their lives. My speaking will relate to the integration of faith and work. This is one of many texts that relates to my topic.

The parable of the ten minas is found in Luke 19:11-27. In summary, ten servants are given a mina, which is three months income, and instructed to put it to work. We hear the report of of three of the servants. Two servants multiply God’s resources and return them to Him while the third sits on the mina and is condemned for not putting it to work.

What about the other seven servants? I concur with many biblical scholars who think they represent the rest of us. Why was the one servant condemned? It was not for making bad financial decisions. In other words, savvy business does not win us a spot in heaven, obedience does. Knowing and doing God’s will, that is.

What’s the significance of the mina? That’s hard to pinpoint, but broadly, it represents what a servant needs to get to work and be fruitful. Jenni and I live on a float of three months income and store up the rest in heaven. We have found that a mina represents sufficient resources for living fruitfully, while maintaining a posture of dependence on God.

How do we apply the lesson of this parable in our lives? God made us to work, to be fruitful, and return the fruit of our labor to Him. It’s not ours. We can’t sit on our hands or on the money God has entrusted to us. By putting ourselves and God’s resources to work and returning the fruit of our labor to Him, we show our obedience and show others how to live.

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John D. Beckett: Difficult even to find time together

So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them? Ecclesiastes 3:22

“A challenge for all of us is to balance work and family. That challenge has intensified in recent years. Not only have work demands increased (especially with the relentless squeeze on profit margins and corporate downsizing), but also spouses and children have greater commitments and involvements. It is difficult even to find time together…Today we can look back and see tremendous fruit from our investment in family. I’m so glad God helped us take this stewardship responsibility so seriously.”

John D. Beckett in Mastering Monday: A Guide to Integrating Faith and Work (Downers Grove: IVP, 2006) 170-172.

Recently I was talking with an oppressed worker who was expected to sacrifice his young family to excel at work. I reminded him, along the lines of today’s Scripture verse, that it is a blessing to enjoy our work (which is not the case on many days) and that each of us will die before all our work is done. I urged him to work for God’s glory, to love his family, friends and neighbors, and to keep work in perspective, lest he lose everything to gain anything at work.

Beckett, a well-known businessman in the town where I was born, Elyria, Ohio, suggests that finding time to say Yes to generously invest in the most important things in life only happens when we learn to say No to things of lesser importance. As a constant reminder, he has this sign posted in his office. It’s called “In Praise of No.”

No may be the most efficient time saver in the English language. What it lacks in grace is more than offset by its brevity. You don’t equivocate when you say No, though you may risk offense. Used with discretion and appropriate garnishes, No can save you hours of time. No returns responsibility to its rightful owner. No enables you to focus on your priorities. No protects you from your own good heart. Do not scorn the pungent clarity of No. It can be your ticket to success.”

The part about No protecting you from your own good heart especially struck me. That’s a battle for generous people, who like to say Yes to everything.

Father in heaven, help us all say No to things of lesser importance so we can say Yes to what is best in the days you have given us on this earth, knowing we will die before we get everything done. From this day forward, grant us wisdom to prioritize our stewardship responsibilities by your Holy Spirit for the sake of our relationship with You, our family, our friends and neighbors. In your mercy, hear our prayer we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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David Green: Something greater than wealth

Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense. Proverbs 12:11

“Barbara and I have had to say this to our kids and grandkids: “We love you dearly. Part of that love is to arrange things so you get only what you earn by working. We’re going to give you something greater than wealth, which is opportunity. You are most welcome to work at Hobby Lobby if you wish, provided you do a good job like anyone else. Then you can enjoy the fruit of your labor. But the ownership of this company is a whole different matter…”

David Green with Bill High in Giving It All Away…And Getting it All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017) 110.

God designed each of us to work. One of the gifts we can give our children is to teach them to work and help provide them with opportunities to work. It’s “something greater than wealth” and something we can give them regardless of whether or not we operate a business, which along with everything else, is owned by God.

When our son and daughter, Sammy and Sophie, each turned fourteen, we told them that they either needed to do work they loved or say “my pleasure” when they handed a person their Chick-Fil-A. It was time for them to get to work! Sammy started Sammy’s Fly Shop and Sophie cared for peoples’ pets along with babysitting.

Looking back, that was one of the greatest gifts we gave them. Instead of getting everything as an entitlement, they learned the value of hard work, which has benefited them in other areas of life. What about your kids and grandkids? Give them something greater than wealth. Teach them to earn an income from work.

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Sharon Epps: Grateful recipients

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

“Scripture employs many different images when speaking about generosity and giving, but traditional financial ministries focus almost exclusively on one — the steward. They emphasize God’s ownership of everything and our stewardship of His property.

This idea is solidly biblical and helpful. We wonder if this metaphor is popular because it fits with the business mindset and good management principles that have come to dominate contemporary ministry culture. If we view the church as a factory, then the metaphor of managers makes perfect sense.

While acknowledging the usefulness of stewardship language, Whole-Life Generosity focuses on the more intimate language of God as Provider. He ensures that we have all that we need (2 Corinthians 9:8). He is our generous Father in heaven who provides for His children every good thing (James 1:17) and gives us our daily bread (Matthew 6:11).

Viewing God as the Provider, and not just the Owner, fundamentally changes how we view ourselves and our relationship to God. Rather than fearful stewards who must give an account for how we’ve managed God’s property, we can see ourselves as grateful recipients of God’s blessings, called to share everything with others. It exchanges the sterile owner-employee relationship for the more intimate father-child relationship emphasized by Jesus Himself.”

Sharon Epps with Skye Jethani, Patrick Johnson, and Amy Sherman in “Generosity Reset: From Fundraising to Disciple-Making in the Local Church” a free ebook from Generous Church (10). This is one of many Generous Church resources I commend to meditations readers as well as my students.

In championing “Whole-Life Generosity” to churches, Epps (and company) help recover the biblical view of God that surrounds faithful stewardship with His fatherly love and provision. God not only owns everything but provides richly and cares for us as a loving Father.

In addition to each of us having to give an account for everything entrusted to us, Epps (and company) are rightly emphasizing that obedient stewardship, when viewed in light of God’s rich provision, is no longer frozen by fear, but instead, flows and even overflows from a deep well of faith and gratitude.

My family has personally found this to be true! For example, many people ignore the critical teaching of Jesus to not store up treasures on earth (Matthew 6:19). Why? They hold on to money in fear thinking they will end up empty because they are forgetting who provides all things richly. Fear locks them up. It locked us up for years.

When we instead focus by faith on what is true, that God is our loving Father who provides everything we need, and has given us the kingdom, we stop clinging to money. Only then do we fully and experientially learn how faithful God is and how lovingly He provides.

Don’t be afraid any longer! Disciples are free of fear, because they have taken hold of life in the kingdom.

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Christopher J. H. Wright: Integral to biblical discipleship

But since you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you — see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 2 Corinthians 8:7

“A pastor friend from Singapore once told me that during the remarkable growth among Christians there in the 1980s, his church taught new converts four things within four weeks of discipling: how to read the Bible, how to pray, how to share their new faith, and how to give. Generous giving was seen as integral to biblical discipleship, and so it was taught from the very beginning. Generosity is of course a response to grace and an overflow of gratitude.”

Christopher J. H. Wright in Christ-Centered Generosity: Global Perspectives on the Biblical Call to a Generous Life (Colbert: Kingdom Life Publishing).

As a cohort of Asian Theological Seminary students works through my Faith and Finances onlinecourse over the next five weeks, pray with me that God fills their hearts with grace and gratitude. Today’s post seems fitting as one student is from Singapore. What about your church? Some emphasize tithing from the law so giving feels like a tax. Don’t do that, as it steals everyone’s joy and actually squelches generosity. Celebrate with gratitude and make grace-filled giving integral to biblical discipleship.

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Bob Finley: Send dollars and sense

Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so. 2 Corinthians 11:7-9

“Whatever we do in foreign countries should strengthen the indigenous works that are already there, not compete with them. We should help indigenous ministries in poorer countries without colonizing them . . . Wisdom and experience suggests the following guidelines for helping God’s servants in poorer countries:

1. Never support individual missionaries directly. Choose only those who work under the oversight and discipline of well-established native mission boards or evangelistic teams. Send all support to the parent mission.

2. Hold the mission board accountable. Funds should not be controlled solely by one person. Make sure that both the leader of the group and also a treasurer or other unrelated party knows of funds being sent so that nothing is hidden.

3. Require audited financial statements from each mission showing all funds received from all sources, foreign and domestic, and an itemized report of all disbursements.

4. Obtain reports from trustworthy Christians who have visited the ministry and can vouch for its integrity and effectiveness. The word of the leader should be verified by added witnesses.

5. On the other hand, don’t necessarily be deterred by negative criticism. Every good work will be condemned by someone who is envious or jealous. Evaluations must be impartial and without prejudice.

6. Don’t send too much too soon. Very few works can handle a sudden influx of cash.
And one last note: Think twice before sending support for distribution through a U.S. mission that maintains a branch operation in the same locality as the indigenous mission. U.S. missionaries may be tempted to use the funds to exercise control or even divide the indigenous work.”

Bob Finley in “Send Dollars and Sense: Why giving is often better than going” article in Christianity Today dated 4 October 1999.

This article highlights themes that reinforce what I have been speaking on at the Evangelical Missiological Society conference this weekend. I have found these themes consistent with findings in my work as ECFA International Liaison, as well as in my service as a board member for Pioneers Hong Kong.

In sending funding abroad for missions, rather than giving to individuals, please support structures that have good governance and oversight and that exhibit financial accountability and transparency. When we do this we work to ensure that our help does not hurt the growth of indigenous efforts.

Local churches must support local ministry. There are exceptions to this, however. For example, the Apostle Paul did not take money in ministry situations if there was a chance that financial support might seek to control ministry. In those cases he relied on his tent-making work and outside support.

Upon my return home tonight, I have a two-hour Skype to launch a cohort of students through my online course, Faith and Finances, at Asian Theological Seminary. My ongoing service in Asia has been rewarding as I focus on partner with faithful workers and support organizations following the guidelines above.

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Glenn Schwartz: Entirely on their own

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own. 2 Corinthians 8:3

“One of the most difficult problems facing the Christian movement at the beginning of the 21st century is the dependency on outside funding that has developed in many mission-established churches…There are things which can be done to either avoid or resolve the problem of dependency. The following are a few suggestions for both church leaders and missionaries.

First, we should all recognize that the healthiest churches are not those in which leaders or members constantly look to outsiders for financial support. If you want to see joy and a sense of satisfaction on the faces and in the hearts of believers, don’t look for it among those who are dependent on foreign funds…

Second, begin to recognize the kind of things which cause dependency and seek to overcome the temptation to establish or continue such practices. It will take serious determination not to think of solving problems with outside funds. And remember, the problem cannot be solved if the concept of stewardship is not first built into the Christian message…

Third, it is important to realize that the need for spiritual renewal is at the root of this problem. Do not expect people who do not know the Lord to joyfully support their own churches…

Fourth, there is something else which must precede stewardship teaching. This is what I call a feeling of true personal ownership. Without this, people in dependent churches will often look to someone else to build their buildings, pay their pastors, buy their vehicles or support their development projects…

Fifth, there is sometimes a high price to be paid for moving from dependency toward self-reliance. Some local church leaders may need to say “no, thank you” to the outside funding which has been supporting them and their families…

Sixth, one might ask why it is so important to resolve the problem of dependency among mission-established churches…Is it right to keep on supporting those who have heard the Gospel many times when there are millions of people elsewhere who are still waiting to hear it for the very first time?

In some places the Gospel has been preached for a hundred years or more and yet the people are still looking to others to support their pastors or build their buildings. For those who have not yet heard the Gospel even once, that is just not fair.”

Glenn Schwartz, Executive Director, World Mission Associates, in “Is There a Cure for Dependency among Mission-Established Churches?” (2000).

Last night I flew from Milwaukee (pictured above from Tim Dittloff’s sailboat on which we spent a couple hours before my teaching there) to Dallas to speak at the Evangelical Missiological Society conference on “Sustainability and Missions: A New Testament Perspective Coupled with a Practical Model.”

Few experiences in my life remind me of the Holy Spirit more than riding in a sailboat. You fly a long in peaceful quietness because of power you can’t see but you can feel. I’m grateful that in a busy season of travel to have had that experience. I’d appreciate your prayers for stamina empowered by the Holy Spirit

In my talk today, in general, I will describe the majority world reception of the biblical model set forth in the ECFA Press book I co-authored, The Sower: Redefining the Ministry of Raising Kingdom Resources.  Specifically, I will share about the reception and application of this model by Christians in the Philippines.

Bottom line: God’s design for the financial sustainability of His work, everywhere, whether people are rich or poor, is not linked to support from people globally that creates dependencies, but faithful, obedient stewardship of God’s people locally that results in sustainability. There’s no shortcut!

God’s workers must grasp biblical stewardship truths, model them, and teach them to God’s people over time to sustain ministry. If we do this, we will create healthy churches where we minister, and we will also take the gospel to those who have not heard in word and deed.

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Timothy L. Smith: Six ways to leave a legacy of generosity

One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. Psalm 145:4

“I recently had the privilege of sitting down with David Green, CEO and Founder of Hobby Lobby Stores. David and his family are widely considered among the most generous families in the U.S. with regard to funding faith-based projects…His new book, Giving It All Away and Getting It All Back Again…talks about (among other topics) leaving a legacy.

1. Make generosity a family priority…The habits we instill in our children as they’re growing up become a true part of their identity. Teach them to be generous when they’re young and they’ll grow up reaping all the benefits of generosity and faith. And if you teach them a variety of ways to be generous, then let them follow their own calling — they’ll learn to choose how to give rather than whether to give!

2. Do what the Bible says about generosity…The Bible repeatedly mentions generosity and giving. We need to help our brothers and sisters consistently, regardless of our own struggles and trials. We can’t expect God to reward us when we’re focused on our own well-being alone and not helping those around us. Let generosity overpower greed — and live the life of giving that God has called you to.

3. Understand that generosity is eternal…Invest your life in giving, and you’ll not only see the benefits for years to come — your generosity will also be rewarded in the afterlife. A lifestyle of generosity is one thing money can’t buy — and it will produce super-valuable benefits from this life into the next!

4. Put generosity before your own success…It’s easy to tell yourself that you don’t have enough money to be generous, especially in a culture where so many people define themselves by how much money they have — the world’s definition of “success”. . . As a child of God, you live by a different standard: In God’s economy, generosity has much higher value than success or wealth.

5. You can be generous without being wealthy…Truly generous people don’t let their own “lack” keep them from living a life of generosity. Sometimes money isn’t what we’re called to give. It’s amazing to see how God can work through people in ways that don’t involve money at all. Even when you’re in financially tough times, you can be generous in giving of your time and talents.

6. Generosity is a gift…It’s easy to get caught up in the activities of life and make excuses about why you can’t be generous at the moment. Maybe you’ve had a hard week at work, or your in-laws are in town, and the last thing you want to do is your weekly volunteer shift. But when you feel your generosity is a burden, take a step back and remember Whom you’re working for: The Lord!”

Timothy L. Smith in “Six Ways to Leave a Legacy of Generosity” Crosswalk blog post dated 25 April 2017. Special thanks to my pastor friend, Scott Bailey, for alerting me to this article.

This morning I wrap up my teaching session in Milwaukee entitled, “Good and Faithful: Building Good Stewards, Faithful Marriages, and Fruitful Families.” Part of my focus today links to challenging people to leave a legacy by doing intentional, practical things as families to nurture generosity.

Did one of these six points from Smith and Green resonate with you? If so, lean into it. Think about practical ways you can make that point a reality in your life. Talk about it with your spouse or entire family, and pursue applications together. Do this to leave a legacy for the Lord!

Some of you might discuss how to deploy surplus funds you have for God. Others might read through a Gospel together and take turns sharing verses about giving. A few might consider generous acts you could do to bless a neighbor or friend. What will you and your family do?

Legacies are made not by doing big acts but by doing many small ones with love over time.

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Daryl G. Donovan: Godly tools

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

“Jesus came to give us life in every area of our lives, including our finances. If we are to be good and fruitful stewards of the things of God, we cannot allow the thief (Satan) to steal, kill, and destroy even our material possessions.

I do not mean God wants us rich. I am not proclaiming a gospel of financial prosperity. There is a principle of fruitfulness and life that permeates the Scriptures. Whether we have little or much, God desires good fruit to come from what we have.

In the realm of our finances, we are to experience the reality of life-giving, rather than life-consuming. Money and other material possessions are to be utilized as godly tools to see the kingdom of God extended.”

Daryl G. Donovan in Maximizing Your Marriage: A Marriage Enrichment Course for Couples (Lima, OH: CSS Publishing, 2005) 60.

Today and tomorrow in Milwaukee I am doing a seminar with content from forthcoming book entitled, Good and Faithful: Ten Stewardship Lessons for Everyday Living (to be released in October 2017 by Seedbed). We will consider together traits of good stewards, faithful marriages, and fruitful families.

Donovan rightly notes that God desires that finances and material possessions serve as godly tools to grow the kingdom in a life-giving rather than life-consuming manner. He urges people to consider both big purchases and little ones by tracking spending habits. What about you?

How do you use finances and material possessions as godly tools? Make a list of your expenses over one week or month as an individual or couple. Pray about one thing you could spend less on (life-consuming) so that you could use those funds to build God’s kingdom (life-giving). Do this exercise together with your spouse or a friend.

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Robert A. Hill: Divine welcome

Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ Matthew 20:15

“The whole lesson today, and in fact much of the Gospel for everyday, can be stated as St. Matthew, at the end of this parable which he alone records [Matthew 20:1-16]…God is generous. Liberally so. Or so this parable teaches. Agathos is the word: generous, giving, good, loving. God is generous, even past the point of our grudging, reluctant belief…

The main point is that Matthew has a passion: invitation. He invites you to share the divine generosity…Matthew, in this parable as in virtually all, celebrates the generosity of the divine welcome, made in the teeth of economic justice: But aren’t they all, all the parables real about the same announcement?

God is like a man who goes out and sows bushels of seed. God is like a fisherman who casts out a net, wide and open, and catches the kingdom of heaven. God is like a patient king who forgives. God is like a pearl giving, treasure finding hunter. God is like a boss who appreciates talents. God is like a shepherd hunting for a lost sheep. Generous, generous, generous…is the gospel of divine welcome.”

Robert A. Hill in “What Are Our Patterns of Welcome?” in Parish Preaching (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2016).

Having returned safely home from a trip overseas with my son, nothing beats the warm welcome of my wife. It turned my thinking to divine welcome which exceeds all earthly comprehension. It’s generous, generous, generous. That’s what we get to be to others, as God desires that we share the divine generosity, the matchless grace and love we undeservingly received.

I actually head back out tonight to Milwaukee and then on to Dallas for two speaking engagements. Having received so many blessings from the Lord on my recent trip to Asia as well as a warm welcome at home, I am thankful to bless others. What about you? How will you share the divine welcome and spread the good news through your living, giving, serving, and loving in the coming days?

Some may forgive great faults. Others may share kind words. A few may listen well. Some may receive richly from God so they can sow into others. These are examples of sharing the divine generosity. The bottom line for Matthew (and for us) is not to begrudge God’s generosity by measuring it out according to the world’s standards to those we deem deserving, but to lavish it on everyone richly as God does!

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