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Tim Macready: Refocus our thoughts

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11b-13

“Contentment helps us greatly as we seek to be faithful stewards. It protects us from poor financial decisions like overspending or unnecessary debt, and positions us to give, save, and live faithfully. But the secret of contentment is also hard. By the time Paul writes Philippians, 25-30 years have passed since his conversion. For Paul, growth in contentment took time and perseverance. Same for us. It takes discipline to find contentment in our thoughts and actions.

To learn the secret of contentment I suggest we refocus our thoughts in at least three areas.

1. To what we have instead of what we don’t have — The world teaches us to think about what we want. It bombards us with advertising specifically designed to make us want things we don’t have. But the contentment that Paul talks about is not dependent at all on external circumstances — it reflects trust in God’s provision — whether great or small. God’s Word teaches us to reflect with thankfulness on what we have been given, rather than fearing for the future or desiring what we don’t have…

2. To the least rather than the greatest — Living in Australia, it is easy to compare ourselves to those around us, particularly those who have more than us. The world tells to look ahead and upwards — aspiring to the next salary increase, the next promotion, the next opportunity to climb the material ladder. But the Bible reminds us that we should focus on the least rather than the greatest. When we do, we realise that in a global sense, we are abundantly wealthy. There will always be those who have been blessed with more than us. But there are billions who have less. While we are free to make decisions about which of our wants we will satisfy, many are left unable to satisfy their most basic needs of water, food, safety, clothing, and shelter.

3. To eternity rather than the present — The world teaches us to focus on our present desires, and tells us to seek pleasure now rather than delaying it. But the Scriptures teach us to live for eternity. Paul tells us to set our minds on things above, where Christ is — and to reflect on the boundless riches of Christ (see Ephesians 3:8), and the glorious inheritance that is to come (see Ephesians 1:18). Jesus encourages us to store up earthly treasures in the place of eternal abundance and blessing (see Matthew 6:20).”

Tim Macready, chief investment officer for Christian Super and Brightlight, in his three-page essay “What can we do to foster contentment?” in Purposeful Living: Financial Wisdom for All of Life compiled and edited by Gary G. Hoag and Tim Macready (Rhodes, NSW: Christian Super, 2018) 125-127. Click on the title to download this free ebook today.

In doing research this week, I find that I have to look in the right place to learn what I need to know. That’s how we learn contentment too. We need to look where the Word tells us and not where the world tells us. It’s easier said than done. It took the Apostle Paul nearly three decades to figure it out, so my Aussie mate, Tim Macready is right to say it’s hard!

As we all have room for growth in this area, pick one of these three areas that he beckons to refocus.

If your mind drifts to what you don’t have, pause to give thanks for what you have and see what happens. What happens within you? Does your heart fill with gratitude?

If your attention gets drawn to the greatest, the rich and famous, take a moment to think about who you know may be suffering or going through a difficult time. What happens when you stop to pray for that person or consider ways you could minister to his or her needs?

To put earthly things in the right perspective, spend five minutes in silence and ask God what eternal things should fill your focus. How did the Holy Spirit speak to you?

I don’t know where you are at with regard to contentment, but I know you will find your way if you reflect with thankfulness on what you have, focus your thoughts on the needs of the least around you, and think about things above rather than earthly things, I know you will find your way, because what we think about shapes how we live.

Before we can be generous, we must first learn contentment. That starts with our thought life and not in our wallet or purse.

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Keith Krell: Foolish or Rich toward God

And [Jesus] told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:16–21

“In one of Jesus’ most memorable parables, known as “The Rich Fool” (see Luke 12:16–21), we read about a wealthy farmer who ignored God and lived only for himself. He was not “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).

This farmer made at least four mistakes. Firstly, he failed to acknowledge God’s generous provisions. God blessed him with his harvest, yet he did not express appreciation or even recognize God as the Provider.

Secondly, the farmer assumed that he was in charge of his wealth and possessions. The pronoun “my” occurs four times in Jesus’ story and the word “I” occurs eight. Such independence is often the natural product of “earned” wealth.

Thirdly, the farmer thought he had plenty of time. He claimed to have “plenty of grain laid up for many years” (Luke 12:19). This man was so busy planning out his comfortable future that he forgot his need for true “life” (Luke 12:15).

Finally, the farmer didn’t share his abundance, but kept it for his own private use. He showed no concern or responsibility for others.

In response to the farmer’s attitudes and actions, “God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself” (Luke 12:20)? Jesus concludes the lesson of the story with sobering words, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).

It’s tragic when people are rich in this life but poor with regard to the next.”

Keith Krell, pastor and professor, in his three-page essay “What does it mean to be rich toward God?” in Purposeful Living: Financial Wisdom for All of Life compiled and edited by Gary G. Hoag and Tim Macready (Rhodes, NSW: Christian Super, 2018) 58-60. Click on the title to download this free ebook today.

When you read Krell’s masterful piece, he keenly advises us not to make the same four mistakes. Instead, when God blesses us materially, he beckons us to exercise humility, cultivate contentment, practice generosity, and forward treasure.

What about you? Regardless of your past, starting today don’t be foolish but be rich toward God.

At the core of this parable we find our role is not just to enjoy God’s provision but to distribute or share it (see 1 Timothy 6:17-19). The rich fool was blessed to be a blessing and decided to keep it all for “his own private use” so God relieved him of his duties.

If God has blessed you abundantly, don’t make the same mistakes. Life is short, enjoy and share generously!

On a personal note, I flew to New York yesterday to meet up with a close friend and Major League Baseball historian, Dan Busby. He’s been coming here regularly for over three decades. He will spend today and tomorrow doing research here in the archives, and I will assist him. As my knowledge is only a fraction of his, perhaps I will give feedback for enhancing an article he’s working on.

The Hall of Fame celebrates the history of America’s favorite pastime for everyone’s benefit. Back in Denver, I’ve been asked to join the board of the National Ballpark Museum, so I am also here to explore the exhibits to learn to create settings that educate and edify all who visit them.

I am praying about this opportunity. If I serve, it will be to bless others richly.

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Jeff Anderson: Giving that pleases God

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 2 Samuel 24:24

“It’s not always easy to view God in our giving. After all, God is invisible. And He doesn’t drop fire from heaven to show pleasure in our cash gifts. Sadly, that’s why giving today often becomes more about having impact than about pleasing God.

When making giving decisions, we wonder: Does the church leadership have vision? Does the non-profit have sound management? Are the funds getting to the poor? How much of every dollar goes to administrative costs?

We want our gifts to make a difference, right? After all, our gifts can change the world. And that makes us feel good. But what makes our gifts especially acceptable (pleasing) to God? Consider two thoughts.

1. God measures how our gift costs us. God values our sacrifice.

Consider two families with the same household incomes. Both give the same percentage of their gross incomes to their church. Digging deeper, we learn Family A receives free medical coverage from their employer and use of a company car. But Family B pays a significant portion of their health care premiums.

Family A also has parents who live nearby — providing regular dining opportunities, occasional vacations and on-call babysitting for the grandkids. Family B does not have assistance from family and incurs significant costs to care for a special needs child.

Though the percentages are identical, the “giving” costs more for Family B. The point is not to undermine Family A’s generosity (their gifts can please God also), but to recognize that God’s calculator goes much deeper in measuring how our gifts cost us personally.

When a man offered to provide King David the land, animals, and materials to present sacrifices to God, David insisted he pay full price, saying, “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24). The question for us is — does our giving cost us in a meaningful way?

2. God measures the gift by our hearts (that is, our obedience).

Giver A is viewed as a “good person.” He attends church regularly as well as occasional Bible study classes. But he doesn’t seem bothered by behaviors such as cheating on his taxes, gossiping at home, cutting corners in the marketplace to inflate sales commissions, or ongoing lust in his heart. Giver B prays and reads the Bible faithfully, seeks forgiveness with her family and others. Maintaining a pure heart is a priority to her.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that if your brother has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go reconcile. Then come give your gift (see Matthew 5:23-24). So, we see that our gifts are an extension of our walk with God.

If a seemingly “generous giver” is living a life of sin or conflict, the gift may be nothing more than Christian philanthropy (literally, “love of man”). A gift might be effective (at meeting needs) but may not please God. Ananias and Sapphira learned this the hard way (see Acts 5:1-11). They sold their land and gave (part of) the proceeds. The gift might have been effective, but it did not please God.”

Jeff Anderson in his three-page essay “How does God measure our giving?” in Purposeful Living: Financial Wisdom for All of Life compiled and edited by Gary G. Hoag and Tim Macready (Rhodes, NSW: Christian Super, 2018) 70-72. Click on the title to download this free ebook today.

When we look at giving from God’s perspective we discover there’s something far more important that meeting needs or solving problems. Anderson alerts us to the fact that God desires sacrifice and obedience. God cares more about what we keep and what that says about our hearts than what we give. Further digging reveals that sacrificial giving is the only kind of giving that Jesus celebrated (see Mark 12:41-44). God also cares about our obedience. We can be so focused on making money to give it away to meet a need or solve a problem that we miss the point of giving. God does not need the money. He wants our hearts, our obedience.

So how can our generosity please God? Realize the sacrifice Jesus made for you and respond gratefully by obeying all that He says to do with money, rather than picking and choosing which commands you will follow.

Giving for many people many people looks like this. They either hold back a portion from God like Ananias and Sapphire, or they give to assuage their guilt for sins committed against God or linked to unreconciled relationships. If you fall into those categories, then leave your gift at the altar today and be reconciled with God or with a brother or sister. And never ever hold anything back from God, as only sacrificial giving and obedience please Him.

We can trace this through human history. Acceptable giving comes into view with Cain and Abel (see Genesis 4). Cain brought a sampling of his produce. Abel sacrificed his first and best, implying that his entire flock belonged to the LORD. Abel did what was right. Cain succumbed to the sin crouching at his door. The pattern continues today. Some give a sampling. Others give their first and best. Hold nothing back. Sacrifice and obedience pleases God.

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Todd Harper: Giving can break the power of money

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35b

“These simple words of Jesus provide the key to freedom and joy in our relationship with money. Though this is a well-known verse, few Christ-followers truly know, understand, and apply this truth in their everyday lives.

In more than 20 years of working with givers, I have observed that ambivalence towards the words of Jesus is not due to lack of belief, rather it is because we have been caught up in the power of money for far too long. The term “blessed” isn’t even all that accessible anymore due to its overuse, so I prefer Randy Alcorn’s helpful definition — he translates “blessed” as “happy-making”.

Money, or the love of money rather, breeds many things that are anti-blessed or not “happy-making”. Money has the tendency to isolate and cause anxiety. It has power in our lives because we believe it can fulfill, protect, give control, and ultimately satisfy. It whispers in our ear that without it, we won’t be happy or secure. The love of money or the pursuit of ever-more money creates an atmosphere that all too often takes God, and our dependence on Him, out of the equation.

So how can giving break the power of money in our lives?

I would suggest that giving can break the power of money in three ways, firstly, through revealing the power of grace, secondly, by challenging our self-reliance, and thirdly, in welcoming us into a conversation with our Creator.”

Todd Harper, President of Generous Giving, in his three-page essay “How can giving break the power of money in one’s life?” in Purposeful Living: Financial Wisdom for All of Life compiled and edited by Gary G. Hoag and Tim Macready (Rhodes, NSW: Christian Super, 2018) 55-57. Click on the title to download this free ebook today.

This is one of those spiritual lessons that we don’t figure out until we live it out.

The power of money is real. It crosses the line and takes control of our lives when it promises us things only God can deliver. Sadly, all too often we succumb to it’s temptations and live like we believe the lies. It whispers to us to hold on to money, telling us that it can “fulfill, protect, give control, and ultimately satisfy” our deepest longings when in reality, only God can do that.

We only realize these are lies when, instead, we listen to Jesus and do what He says. He’s not trying to rob us but help us. It’s like we are in an Escape Room called “Money” and giving is the mystical, counter-intuitive key that unlocks the only pathway to freedom and joy. As Harper notes, it reveals the power of grace, challenges our self-reliance, and welcomes us into a conversation with our Creator.

I am convinced that the first followers of Christ did not settle for the anti-blessed life. In today’s Scripture, Luke recounts Paul proclaiming this saying of Jesus to the Ephesian elders in his farewell address to them in a way that reveals to us that these disciples wanted everyone to know the freedom and joy it offers. Do you? Have you discovered experientially how giving breaks the power of money in your life?

Once you live it out you stand in awe that you get to serve as a conduit that enjoys and shares God’s generosity.

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Chuck Bentley: Ordering

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

“Good stewardship is not about ordering our lives in such a way that we are free to spend whatever we want. Rather, as faithful stewards, we order our lives in such a way that God is free to spend us however He wants. As we work to keep God’s heart central to our approach to allocating what we have, identifying Him as our true treasure, our financial choices will follow.

The Bible contains extensive wisdom about giving, saving, and spending, so that we can allocate wisely and avoid being entrapped by money. The Scriptures set forth guidance to help us as we explore these categories and how we can live fruitful lives…

How God leads each of us to allocate money will likely be different. But you can use these standards as a guide — giving 10% or more, saving 20% or less, and spending 70% or less — to avoid financial bondage and be free for God’s purposes to remain the focus of life.”

Chuck Bentley, CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, in his three-page essay “How do we make decisions about how much we should give, save, and spend?” in Purposeful Living: Financial Wisdom for All of Life compiled and edited by Gary G. Hoag and Tim Macready (Rhodes, NSW: Christian Super, 2018) 43-45. Click on the title to download this free ebook today.

For the many people who don’t live on a budget, a good starting point is to decide to will no longer follow the pattern of this world and spend whatever you want, but to renew your mind with the idea that Bentley sets forth that “as faithful stewards, we order our lives in such a way that God is free to spend us however He wants.”

We do this “ordering” to show what God’s will is and to reveal that we are not here for us but for Him. That said, I appreciate the guides Bentley gives, especially for people who do not yet live on a budget: “giving 10% or more, saving 20% or less, and spending 70% or less.” My wife and I have used a simple spreadsheet to do this for 25 years.

We start by giving to the church, some ministries and missionaries. Then, we list spending we anticipate in different categories, and we also have columns for saving. This is not hoarding like the rich fool, but for paying cash for purchases, to have margin for helping others, and/or to pay unexpected bills like car repairs or medical bills.

If you want to mine the Scriptures further to dig into the wisdom it offers, read Bentley’s essay or visit the Crown website, which features Bible reading plans and more for exploring what God’s Word teaches about the handling of money. When finances are ordered rightly, stewards are no longer slaves to money, but “free for God’s purposes.”

That’s what ordering is all about.

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Greg Henson: Budget

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:34

“If you want a snapshot of where you are in your walk with Christ, pull out your budget and walk through it with a spiritual director, your pastor, and a fellow Christian who is not part of your family together, at the same time, in the same room.

Take a few moments to think about that conversation. What would these people learn about you? For the two-thirds of people who studies show do not live on a budget, what does that say? For those who have a budget, what would your spending habits reveal?

When I have done this in the past, the exercise revealed many things about myself. Some were good. Others not so good! For example, the experience showed that I was afraid of losing my job and concerned that my peers would perceive me as unsuccessful. It also brought to light how I would justify adding additional work to my schedule — sometimes too much work — to earn extra money for a wide variety of purposes.

So why is budgeting important for Christians?

A budget is perhaps the best window to see into one’s relationship with God. It shows what an individual, family or ministry values, where they spend time, where they place their trust, and where they allow God to reign in their lives. At the same time, it shows what they fear, where they are vulnerable to attack from the enemy, and
how they understand their participation in God’s kingdom mission.”

Greg Henson, president of Sioux Falls Seminary, in his three-page essay “Why is budgeting important for Christians?” in Purposeful Living: Financial Wisdom for All of Life compiled and edited by Gary G. Hoag and Tim Macready (Rhodes, NSW: Christian Super, 2018) 37-39. Click on the title to download this free ebook today.

Henson is a faithful friend. He’s direct and deeply committed to Christ. It takes a person like that to shine light on a huge issue associated with our spending that often adversely influences our giving. Let’s consider two of his pointed statements further.

“If you want a snapshot of where you are in your walk with Christ, pull out your budget and walk through it with a spiritual director, your pastor, and a fellow Christian…” What would your budget say to those closest to you about what you treasure or where you place your trust? 

For those of us that have a budget, ask yourself if there is anything you’d want to change before going into this meeting. If so, change it now! Why? Someday each of us will give an account of our stewardship to God. Living on a budget is merely preparation for that day.

Henson adds another profound thought. “A budget is perhaps the best window to see into one’s relationship with God.” Ponder the implications of that for a few minutes combined with the reality that two-thirds of people don’t live on a budget. If you are one of those two-thirds of people, might this be the month to start?

It’s not difficult but it requires discipline. Living on a budget is keeping track of your income and expenses and making sure your cashflow stays positive. Spend less than you make so you have margin for giving and other priorities. This may explain low levels of Christian giving. Most people do not create margin for giving.

If you want to learn to budget or you need resources for assisting others, here’s two free options for you. Read his entire essay in Purposeful Living and/or click to watch my Faith and Finances videos. Henson requires all Sioux Falls Seminary students to watch all 12 videos that stream freely, and the budgeting video is number 7 of the 12.

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John Preston: Self-control

Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control. Proverbs 25:28

“There’s a danger that Christians can think that God is only interested in what they give to church. It is common for people to give a percentage to God, and then feel and even act like the rest of their money is theirs to do with what they please.

Yet we’re called to steward wisely everything that God gives us — doing so requires us to be good stewards in all our financial decisions, not just giving ones. As most of us spend more than we give or save, it is vital that we put our faith into our spending!

Yet it’s hard. Really hard. Buying decisions are complex, with a number of factors to sift through, and we make these decisions all the time, on the go…The best spending decisions will not always result in us buying the cheapest products. There are many factors to consider.

• Does a $10 pair of jeans allow a decent wage to those involved in the manufacture of the clothing?
• Might the higher cost of organic or free-range food be worth the expense in light of creation care?
• What significance do you place on buying recycled or recyclable products?
• What is the environmental impact of your purchases, including for example, flying fruit or toys half way around the world?

The ways that we spend our money can give testimony to our Christian values, and can have as great an impact as our giving. Whilst individually we may feel that we are powerless, caught up in a society where we cannot make a difference, together Christians have the scale to make their influence felt.”

Dr. John Preston in his three-page essay “Putting our Faith into our Spending” in Purposeful Living: Financial Wisdom for All of Life compiled and edited by Gary G. Hoag and Tim Macready (Rhodes, NSW: Christian Super, 2018) 40-42. Click on the title to download this free ebook today.

Before serving as the Church of England’s National Stewardship Officer, Preston had a background in marketing — everything from sandwiches to soap-powder, so he offers keen insights for putting our faith into our spending.

His thoughts are timely, at least for folks in the United States. Over the holiday weekend, my email box was flooded with advertisements for sales. If we don’t exercise self-control with spending, we will have no margin to give.

When we put our faith in our spending, the cheapest items may not be the best purchases, especially when we take into consideration factors such as the treatment of workers and the impact on the environment.

If you don’t have margin today to read his three-page essay, at least download the ebook and read it the next time you evaluate your personal budget or before you make a major purchase. Why?

When we as stewards exhibit self-control and put our faith in our spending, “the ways that we spend our money can give testimony to our Christian values, and can have as great an impact as our giving.”

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Henry Kaestner: Identity

Now I commit you to God and to the word of His grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Acts 20:32

“Successful entrepreneurs who just happen to be Christians (entrepreneur Christians) are often praised, celebrated, and asked to serve on ministry boards either because of their business prowess or their deep pockets and ability to give funding. These people are sought after as mentors to the next generation. Unfortunately, the entrepreneur Christian’s values are passed down through the gene pool of the church.

What is far better, of course, is to find great Christians who just happen to be entrepreneurs — then and only then can we really get somewhere. I see this pattern of equating business success with Christian character frequently unfold among the folks that I know in Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley, Silicon Prairie or Silicon Anywhere.

Why am I on my soapbox about this? In my organization, we meet hundreds of Christian entrepreneurs who struggle with anxiety. Why? It relates to identity. They think of themselves as entrepreneurs first and Christians second. They’d never admit this out loud, but that’s how they operate. They’ve bought the world’s narrative and here’s how it goes: Society gives them kudos for being the next big thing who’s growing a company at 20% each month, or who just secured a $15m investment, or just inked a deal with Google. They hear this message from their friends, their parents, their investors. They believe it without ever knowing when they crossed over from being a Christian first to an entrepreneur first. It becomes a feedback loop that most assuredly doesn’t come from their time in Scripture, but from society at large.

They have mistakenly located their identity in their role as entrepreneurs, oftentimes successful ones, and this only becomes evident when their growth slows or they can’t find funding. Then, the “Protestant Work Ethic” they celebrated as a noble virtue appears as the ugly idol it has been all along. They act like they can earn their salvation and deliverance. Lest circumstances beat them with many blows, they redouble their efforts, only to find the predictable outcome of ever-increasing anxiety and the near total absence of joy.

What’s the solution? Acknowledge the problem for what it is — an identity crisis. Every entrepreneur or worker in business needs to understand that their identity comes from being a beloved child of God with full inheritance rights to His kingdom. They must take hold of the gift of life for now and forever. They need to reflect on that, stew on that. For how long? Well, for as long as it takes for them to have their minds blown by this awesome and indescribable gift. It’s not enough to get this intellectually. It must permeate every aspect of life.

If it takes time in Scripture to get there, then they need to take that time. Once they get there, they realize that they’ve been given the greatest and most meaningful gift and reality imaginable. The Work (capital W) has already been done by Christ, so the most logical thing to do is to bring all we are and all we have to the altar before God, not because He needs it, but because we can’t help but be overcome by gratitude; it consumes us.”

Henry Kaestner in his three-page essay “What does it mean to be a Christian entrepreneur?” in Purposeful Living: Financial Wisdom for All of Life compiled and edited by Gary G. Hoag and Tim Macready (Rhodes, NSW: Christian Super, 2018) 19-21. Click on the title to download this free ebook today.

Coming off Labor Day in America, it’s important to remind ourselves that our work must not be the basis for our identity. Our identity must be located only in who we are in Jesus Christ. The same is true with our generosity. It flows not from wealth we make but from an abundant God who supplies all things for us to enjoy and share.

So, as you head to work today, remember this: base your identity and your generosity not in your work but in Jesus Christ alone. Then, like Paul shared in his farewell to the Ephesian elders, by His grace our Lord will “build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

In plain terms, everything else fits abundantly into place when our identity is fixed on who we are as sanctified or set apart for Jesus Christ. May your identity in Christ also permeate your giving so that you are a joyful giver for God, a conduit of His rich generosity.

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Alex Cook: Reliability

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

“Whether we own a business or work for one, our role carries significant ethical responsibilities. When we promote our goods or services to the public, we must use clean, clear and honest messages. When we manage and remunerate staff, we must treat them as fellow image-bearers of God. We must act with integrity, obeying the law of the land in our business dealings, and honouring contracts while also paying taxes. We keep our promises, both verbal or in writing, and price our products or services fairly and reasonably — these decisions have a substantial effect on our witness, and clearly impact whether we bring glory to God through our actions at work. Even something as simple as reliability at work can impact how we are perceived in the eyes of man and God. Reliability shows we respect and value others. We bear witness to Jesus when we honour God with both our words and our actions in the marketplace. This glorifies God and may win people to the Lord.”

Alex Cook in his three-page essay “Does it matter how we earn our income?” in Purposeful Living: Financial Wisdom for All of Life compiled and edited by Gary G. Hoag and Tim Macready (Rhodes, NSW: Christian Super, 2018) 25-27. Click on the title to download this free ebook today.

It’s Labor Day today in America. Be sure not to spend money you don’t have on Labor Day sales. Many go broke saving money! It is, however, a good day to reflect on our work. Often we separate in our minds how we earn our income from what we do with it. Cook reminds us that God cares deeply about both in his must-read piece.

We must always think of ourselves as workers for God, as today’s Scripture reminds us. Dealing ethically, behaving responsibly, acting with integrity, pricing goods and services fairly are all aspects of our reliability. What about you? Are you reliable? Would people say you work responsibly with integrity? Can people count on you? 

As people spend the majority of their time working, work comes into view as one of the greatest avenues for you and me to express our generosity. Whether or not you take the day off, take five minutes to reflect on your work. Does your reliability glorify God and bless others? What needs to change for this to become your reputation?

Sit with the Holy Spirit, ponder these questions, and respond in obedience as a faithful worker for God.

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Amy L. Sherman: Imitate the “public habits” of Jesus

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with Him and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13

“Imitate the practical exercises or rituals of spiritual formation that we find in what I call the “public habits” of Jesus. Consider three of them. Jesus practiced seeing. As He engaged in the culture and marketplace of His time, He intentionally saw; He paid attention to things that many others failed to see. Jesus could identify injustice. He could spot suffering. He could see the cultural entanglements that nurture idolatry. He was wide awake to the places where His Kingdom confronted and clashed with the kingdoms of this world. Jesus also regularly crossed boundaries. He deliberately sought relationships with people on the margins. He reached out across ethnic, socio-economic, religious, and cultural divides in order to create new community. Jesus confronted systems of injustice. He came not only to set individuals right but to set institutions right. He opposed, for example, unrighteous economic behavior not in accord with His Kingdom of shalom, which envisions peace, wholeness, justice, and harmony.”

Amy L. Sherman, Senior Fellow at the Sagamore Institute, in her three-page essay “What does it mean to integrate our faith and work?” in Purposeful Living: Financial Wisdom for All of Life compiled and edited by Gary G. Hoag and Tim Macready (Rhodes, NSW: Christian Super, 2018) 13-15. Click on the title to download this free ebook today.

These three “public habits” of Jesus, as Sherman describes them, provide a construct for looking at His earthly ministry, and for thinking about our own generous living. I browsed through the four Gospels and found a stunning number of verses that report what “Jesus saw” when walking along. He saw what other people missed, walked by, or even ignored.

As Sherman rightly notes, Jesus not only saw, He crossed boundaries of culturally appropriateness, and in today’s Scripture, even tips His proverbial cards and tells us why He does this. He came to bring justice and righteousness, or in plain terms, to make things right. Now brace yourselves. When he saw a rich person, what was His public habit? Lovingly, He told the rich man to share his wealth with those who had insufficient resources to live.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” He said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” Mark 10:21-23

If you are rich, notice the instructions comes in the imperative tense. This is not a suggestion. Also don’t miss the sympathy. Jesus knows it’s hard. He had the riches of heaven and saw the poverty of people on earth, and set it aside. You can too, by grace. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9

Will you imitate the “public habits” of Jesus? Will you practice seeing? Will you cross boundaries? Will you bring justice and righteousness wherever you go? We must apply all we are and all we have to this framework to learn what it’s means to be a disciple of Jesus. As Jesus Himself said in today’s text, “Go and learn what this means.” We have found that you don’t figure it out until you live it out. We never arrive as He puts new challenges before us.

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