Archive for Giving


The Future of Giving

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One of our members who has not for profit board experience shared this infographic on THE NEXT GENERATION OF GIVING. If you are involved in fund raising at any level you need to check this out!

Categories : Giving, Stewardship
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Check out this article from Church Executive Online. Do you write checks to your church? If not, how do you give? Does your church offer online giving or provide a giving kiosk?

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I came across an important article this weekend that is worth your time. Barna has released yet another study on charitable contributions in America, including comparative numbers between evangelicals and other faiths as well as other useful information. If you have interest in church finances either as a minister or a volunteer you need to check out these IMPORTANT STATISTICS.

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According to Ken Stearn, the answer to the question is yes. According to his article published in The Atlantic, the top 20% wage earners in America give only 1.3% of their income to charity while the bottom 20% give 3.2%. Not only do America’s wealthiest give the lowest percentage of income to charity, they seldom give to poverty initiatives. Their gifts are more likely to be directed to private educational institutions, hospitals, et al. You can read the full article HERE.

Categories : Giving, Stewardship
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Recently I’ve been teaching on generosity as a part of our annual stewardship promotion and budget adoption campaign. Through the years I’ve enjoyed teaching on stewardship, and according to my record keeping I could comfortably present on this topic more than I do. I’ve hit all the major passages on stewardship, and a few obscure ones too. But the one thing that I’m convinced of is this: the most important principle in understanding stewardship is that God is the owner of everything. If we can grasp that, much of what follows falls in place.

I believe the Bible teaches that God is owner of all things. Every blessing we have has come from Him. We can’t take credit for anything or claim that we possess anything because we have earned it or deserve it. It’s all God’s and all that we have is from God. God is owner and we are stewards.

Stewards? What does that mean? A steward is a person who manages the owner’s possessions in a way that is consistent with the owner’s wishes. A steward doesn’t manage based on what he or she sees fit, a steward manages in a manner that is consistent with the goals and desires of the owner.

Last Sunday I illustrated this principle by placing 10 apples on the communion table. The 10 apples represented the blessings of God in our lives. If you’re like me, you grew up hearing about stewardship in terms of tithing (the practice of giving God 10% of your household income through the local church). God gives us 10 apples and wants 1 in return. That’s simple math that any elementary student can understand.

The problem with teaching stewardship that way is that it seems to suggest that if we give God His “one” apple, we have 9 remaining that we can use however we choose. That’s simply not how it works. They’re ALL God’s apples. You can give one or none, but they’re all His. Furthermore, people like you and me are accountable to the owner for how we use all 10 of them, not just whether or not we have given one to Him on Sunday.

James 1:17 says that every good and perfect gift we have has come from God. He has entrusted those gifts to us, and we’re accountable to Him for how we use each of them. If we can wrap our minds around that, we’re on the way to good stewardship and free to be generous.

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State of the Plate 3

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This weekend the Washington Post published an article that reveals giving trends in the American church. Citing a 41 year record low in giving, the article explores the uncomfortable statistic that churches are spending less on missions and outreach and spending more on the ministries that take place inside the four walls of the church. To read the article, click here.

Categories : Giving, Stewardship
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Here’s an article that was in today’s Des Moines Register. It shares five practical ways that parents can teach their children about charitable giving and volunteerism. While the article doesn’t target or specify giving to churches, the principles are still helpful. You can find the article here.

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So what can we take away from Jesus’ words about the widow’s gift in the Temple? Here are three simple applications from this great story.

Have you ever noticed how a parent can melt over a picture drawn by their 5 year old? Or how a parent will always cherish the humble gifts given by their kids that they have purchased with their own money? Significance cannot be measured by volume. Sometimes the smallest of gifts add the most value. Jesus witnessed the offerings from the rich and the poor alike. But it’s important to understand that Jesus doesn’t count our gifts, He weighs them.
As a quick sidebar, this story is a good reminder that we should not judge the poor prematurely. Appearances can be deceiving.

Who really meets your needs? I believe the response Jesus seeks from the reader is not for us to run to the bank and empty our bank accounts. The story calls us to wrestle with the question, “Who am I really trusting for my life?” “Who is the source upon which I place my reliance?” The widow gave her last two cents because she trusted God to supply her needs and to be her resource for living.

Jesus sees what is in your hand and He sees what is in your heart. The heart and the hand are organically linked. So it’s not a matter of the amount of the offering in your hand. What is in your heart?

Some hearts are filled with fear. What if I get sick? What if I get laid off? What if an appliance breaks or I have a car repair? What if the economy tumbles further? Fear works in our hearts to curb faith and trust.

Other hearts are filled with a sense of entitlement. I recently watched an interview of Ken Robinson where he shared some fascinating statistics concerning the earth’s ability to sustain the population. He said that according to research, we presently have approximately 7 billion people on earth. If everyone on earth lived like those in Rwanda, our world has enough resources to support a population of 15 billion people. But if everyone on earth lived like North Americans, we only have the resources to sustain about 1.5 billion people! I think many of us realize that we are blessed to live in the USA. But there’s a fine line between blessing and entitlement. Like fear, a sense of entitlement can also crowd out trust in God’s provision for our daily bread.

Jesus still watches the treasury. Yes, He sees the gifts you offer. But He’s not just looking at the size of the check. He’s weighing your heart as well. Does He feel the weight of your trust?

Categories : Giving, Stewardship
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I’ve never had a problem with speaking on the subject of stewardship. I think the best time to teach on giving is when the church is not in dire straits. There is something about being behind in the budget and a mounting accounts payable that tends to make stewardship sermons more about immediate pain relief than the core issues of the heart.

This past weekend I spoke on stewardship from Luke 21:1-4. It’s the famous story of the widow who gave her last two “mites” (KJV) to the Temple treasury. Hence the title, “Giving with All Your Might.”

The passage reads as follows: “While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus said, ‘this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has’.”

According to the story, Jesus was watching as the rich dropped their offerings into the Temple treasury. The treasury was located in the court of women and consisted of 13 trumpet shaped collection boxes, each bearing an inscription indicating the use of each gift. It was not uncommon for the gifts of the rich to be announced publicly. Jesus observed these generous free will offerings without condemnation or criticism.

This image was placed in contrast to a simple widow who put in two “mites.” Widows in the first century were generally considered to be the poorest of the poor. They possessed no rights to property and had virtually no prospects to earn income. They were without advocacy or support. They held no status.
The widow gave two small copper coins, called lepta. The two lepta were the economic equivalent of 1 66th of 1 day’s wage.

Jesus’ evaluation of her act was straightforward: The widow gave more than the rich because she gave all. Literally, she gave all her bios, her life. While others gave out of their abundance, she gave all she had. She didn’t save a cushion. She had no promise for more income. And most intriguing of all, Jesus made no attempt to stop her.

Tomorrow I’ll share three applications on Giving with All Your Might from this simple story that occurred late in Jesus’ ministry. I was surprised at the real point of the story!

Categories : Giving, Stewardship
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Breaking Jars

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Sandwiched between stories of malice and betrayal we find the account of Mary of Bethany who was noted in the Gospel of Mark by her extravagant gift to Jesus Christ. The first 9 verses of chapter 14 describe the episode this way:   1 It was now two days before the Passover celebration and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The leading priests and the teachers of religious law were still looking for an opportunity to capture Jesus secretly and put him to death. 2 “But not during the Passover,” they agreed, “or there will be a riot.” 3 Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had leprosy. During supper, a woman came in with a beautiful jar of expensive perfume. She broke the seal and poured the perfume over his head. 4 Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why was this expensive perfume wasted?” they asked. 5 “She could have sold it for a small fortune and given the money to the poor!” And they scolded her harshly. 6 But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why berate her for doing such a good thing to me? 7 You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But I will not be here with you much longer. 8 She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. 9 I assure you, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be talked about in her memory.”

Here are five observations from the story about sacrificial giving that I have found to be helpful.
1.  Sacrificial giving is our response to the grace of God that we have received (14:1-3).
When someone makes a sacrificial gift, our first question is “how much?”
Nard came from the root of a Hymilean plant that was imported from India. Only the wealthy possessed it. The story states that it was valued at the equivalent of a year’s income.
But the question the Bible makes much of is “why?” What motivated her extravagance? No one prompted her to do it. Jesus himself didn’t request it. It was 100% self initiated because of her thankful spirit for what Jesus had done for her and her family.
2. Sacrificial giving is without measure (14:3b).
In Bible times the customary practice of anointing was measured. Just a few drops. Or, as the old commercial used to say, “a little dab will do ya.” But Mary broke the jar and emptied its contents on Jesus. Her gesture was limitless and boundless. When you break a jar, there’s no turning back.
3. When you make sacrificial commitments to Christ you can expect critics (14:4-5).
When you start breaking jars containing expensive stuff, someone is going to become critical and even judgmental. Do you find it interesting that it was the disciples who were the most outspoken against this act? Instead of celebrating her deed, they called it a “waste.”
4.  Jesus calls our sacrificial gifts “beautiful” (14:6-7).
What the disciples called waste, Jesus called beautiful (NIV). Don’t worry about what the crowd says about your sacrifices. Jesus is pleased and calls your sacrifices beautiful things!
5. Your beautiful sacrifices will make a difference in ways you may not expect or realize (14:8-9).
Jesus told Mary that her act would prepare his body for burial. Furthermore, he said her gift would be memorialized throughout human history. I can’t imagine that Mary could forsee the fact that after 2,000 years she would be studied and discussed. With that in mind, consider these questions:
* What will be your lasting legacy in the Kingdom of God?
* How will you be remembered?
* What will people say about your contributions after you’re gone from this life?
There are many who aspire to change the world and make it a more beautiful place. But that doesn’t happen without risk and sacrifice. It doesn’t come clinging to comfort zones and measure our commitments. It happens when you start breaking jars.
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