Scripture: Deuteronomy 15: 1-11; 1 Timothy 6: 3-19; 2 Corinthians 8: 1-15
In this chapter McLaren writes again from the perspective of someone in 51 AD looking at what they were gaining through the impact of Paul’s teaching. Not only was Jesus entering into people’s lives, but they were thereby learning to live differently. Choosing to put love into action through how they used their time, their finances, their lives.
Here are two of his insights:
“Stewardship applies to all areas of our lives -- how we use time, potential, possessions, privilege, and power. Whatever we do, we try to give it our very best, because we work for Christ not just for money” (194).
“When it comes to how we spend our earnings, stewardship means living below our means. We do so by dividing our income into three parts -- the percentage needed for our basic needs, then, the percentage to save, and finally the percentage, the largest portion we can, for God’s work of compassion, justice, restoration and peace” (194). That final part went also to help with the expenses Paul and Timothy had as they traveled for the Gospel.
Here are some of his questions. How do you respond to these? Go ahead and write your response into a comment, or email the office at email@example.com:
Share a story about a time when you got mixed up about what really has value?
How do you respond to the idea of dividing your earnings into three parts-- to spend, save and give?
For me, I’ve gotten mixed up about money much of my life. I have attached too much value in some moments and too little in others. When a young pastor at my first church in San Jacinto, CA, I remember a young woman hitting the straits of her own life, coming and asking for help with rent. My wife, Karen, still remembers the exact amount, to the penny, that I loaned this woman when we were strapped ourselves. It was around $240. This woman promised that she would pay it back as soon as she got paid. A story that I have heard hundreds of times since. And she, as is often the case, didn’t. She disappeared. Never saw her again and we never saw our money again. And that month and the next were really stretched for us to the max because of my poor judgment on finances, believing that I had to give everything my family needed, without actually saving for my own needs first. It was tough for Karen to release that one, but of course, she did release it, except for remembering the amount down to the penny. :-)
One of the lessons I learned, well, I admit, I have had to learn it multiple times since, was this: I need to be on the same page as Karen when giving. I cannot offer without first coming to agreement with her. I cannot give without her saying yes as well. This decision has helped her feel a part of the adventure of giving and assisted us with being able to be more free in giving.
Another situation illustrates the opposite extreme. We were living in Banks, OR, and Karen was making dinner and sent me to the store to pick up Teriyaki sauce. She was specific: “Get the Veri Veri brand, it will be on the top shelf.”
I left and en route I began to think, “What? Top shelf? Aren’t the most expensive things on the top shelf?”
Sure enough, it was the most expensive of all the brands there. I could have bought one from the middle shelf that was $3 cheaper, but instead, after a huge struggle with my will, picked up the Veri Veri brand, bought it and headed for the door. As I was leaving, I was thinking, “I’ll get it, Karen, but when I get home I will tell you what I think about this extravagance!”
You remember, I was the one who could give away hundreds of dollars, but now could not spend $3 to bless my wife? Looking back, I find this ridiculous, but it shows just how off I was with money, how much I got the equation wrong on what it meant to be a wise steward of God’s provisions.
I drove out of the Jim’s Market parking lot thinking about what I was going to say when I got home, when Jesus intervened.
“You will not say a thing!” I heard in my heart, loud and clear, is if out loud in the car.
“Not say a thing?” I complained! “Jesus, this is a horrible waste of money?”
But Jesus wouldn't budge. That was the longest short drive ever, as Jesus said to me:
“Don’t you think she deserves this? What has she done for you? Raising the kids. Schooling them. Helping them get to all their events. Creating a home. Caring for you…” Jesus’ list went on and on. By the time I reached Depot Street, I was thoroughly humbled.
“Ok, Jesus, I won’t say a word.” I walked into the house and offered her the sauce, she thanked me, and gave me this big hug. And Jesus and I continued our conversation as I learned that I needed to walk in humility.
Money -- I’ve dealt with mythical thinking being a miser and an extravagant giver, but have learned, slowly, over the years how to simply deal with money as a tool that need hold no part of my heart captive. John Wesley used to say, “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” In his own life he managed to die with nothing but pennies to his name, yet had built many chapels and churches, schools, hospitals, and multiple ministries along the way out of his own earnings. With his book royalties, Wesley in today’s dollars made in the neighborhood of $160,000 annually, yet he lived on what would be comparably $20,000 annually and gave the rest away. “My own hands have been my executors,” he wrote. Remarkable in many ways how Wesley was a steward of all the gifts of time and money God had given him.