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Last weekend we wrapped up #LifeMoneyHope. One of the key takeaways from this series is that money is a window into our souls. It shows us our priorities in a way that nothing else does.
In this final message, Gene tackles the question, “Why do I have so much?”
If you make $45,000/year, you are in the 1%. Your income is higher than 99% of the world. If you have a garage, your car lives in a house larger and nicer than the homes that many entire families live in. And if you are on unemployment or rely on a government assistance program, you are likely still far better off than the 50% of the world that lives on under $2/day
We’ve all made our fair share of financial mistakes, whether it was buying the car that was too expensive, purchasing a house just before the downturn, or investing in a “sure thing,” but most of us have made a wise financial decision or two as well. Maybe you chose to cut spending, picked a good investment, or simply made a purchase that has really paid off.
So share with the group, what is the best financial decision that you have ever made?
Have a volunteer read 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19
As much as we’d like to think Paul isn’t talking about us in this passage, the fact is, he’s talking about almost everyone who attends Eastside.
Right away the apostle Paul takes the veil off what’s at the heart of our financial fears. Our financial fears unveil where we’ve put our hope, where we’ve put our trust, where we’ve put our faith.
He’s says you’re either going to put your hope in wealth/money—which is so uncertain, which is why we are obsessed with the question “how can I get more?” and why our fears soar when we have less.
Principle: Financial fears dissipate when faith in God escalates.
Trusting God with our finances, frankly, is hard. But imagine for a moment that you were able to fully do so. How might your life be different?
In this passage, Paul talked about the impact of the love of money. He says that it’s the root of all kinds of evil and that those who want to get rich fall into temptation.
Deep down most of us want to be generous, we don’t want to love money, but something gets in our way: fear.
We’re plagued with the “what if” questions. What if the economy completely collapses? What if I lose my job? What if I can’t buy groceries? What if there’s an unexpected illness? What if I can’t pay my house payment? What if there’s another major terrorist attack? What if Britain pulls out of the European Union?
What “what if” question causes you financial fear?
It is not natural for us to give away. We always want more. And it’s why we seldom stop to ask that all important question, “Why has God already entrusted me with so much?”
Paul gives us the answer in the passage from Timothy that we read earlier. “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”
Gene gave a great illustration of what we often do instead. If you remember, he had two chocolate chip cookies, and Tiago—who had no chocolate chip cookies—came up on stage. And then Gene prayed for God to give Tiago a cookie instead of Gene simply giving Tiago one if his two cookies.
It was absurd. But that’s how ridiculous we look to God when we are financially blessed and we pray for God to take care of the needs of others. It’s like He’s trying to get through to us, “I already have a plan to take care of them…. It’s you!”
Is there a place in your life where you have two chocolate chip cookies, and you need to share with someone else who has none?
Maybe it’s a friend who’s struggling to pay their mortgage. Maybe it’s a sibling who has been out of work. Maybe it’s a homeless person you pass on your way into work. Maybe it’s a co-worker who is a struggling single mom. Maybe it’s a child in Mexico who you need to sponsor. Maybe it’s a well in Africa you need to pay to have dug.
Have a volunteer read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
The apostle Paul knew that we would struggle with sharing because we so often put our hope in money instead of God. And just like money fears dissipate when faith in God escalates, money fears escalate when faith in God dissipates.
So in 2 Corinthians 9 Paul teaches us a way to view our money that is counter-intuitive for us. When you get this view it’s easier to be generous because you realize when you give something away it’s not just gone, but God promises to bring a return.
So Paul gives this generosity axiom “Whoever sows seeds sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows seeds generously will also reap generously.” You see, God sees everything He has entrusted into your management as seed.
He’s given you some seed to eat. He’s given you some seed to pay the bills. He’s given you some seed to set aside for a rainy day, and He’s given you some seed to share and be generous with.
Now when you plant a seed do you say goodbye to it forever? No you expect it to produce a return. So how do you decide how much of your seed to sow? How much should you give away?
It ultimately depends on how much faith you have.
A faith-filled Jesus follower fully trusts God’s economic promises and faithfully returns the whole tithe into the storehouse.
“Faithfully” means that I do it without fail. Every time I receive some income from whatever source.
“Return” means I recognize that it already belongs to God.
“Whole tithe” means that I return 10% (a tithe) on everything I make, not 10% of remainder that’s left over after my taxes and mortgage and student loans and pizza budget.
“To the storehouse” means that I give it to the local church that I’m a part of.
What do you think about this concept of tithing to the local church?
Note to Leaders: This could be a tough conversation. Your responsibility is to walk the tightrope between having an open and honest debate and pointing back to God’s plan regarding our finances.
At the end of his sermon, Gene challenged all of us to commit to tithing for 90 days. So that’s our challenge for this week. Commit to returning 10% to God for the next 90 days.
It comes with a money back guarantee. If you get to the end of 90 days and you honor God with the tithe and seek Him wholeheartedly and believe that was a mistake, simply contact the church office, and as long as it’s recorded gift we will write you a check for every dollar you gave and return it to you, no questions asked.
Robert Morris is the founding senior pastor of Gateway Church, a multicampus church in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Since it began in 2000, the church has grown to more than 36,000 active members. He is featured on the weekly television program The Blessed Life and serves as chairman of the board of The King’s University. He is the bestselling author of 14 books, including The Blessed Life, The God I Never Knew, Truly Free, and Frequency. Robert and his wife, Debbie, have been married 36 years and are blessed with one married daughter, two married sons, and six grandchildren.
The principle of first is about putting God first not just in our finances but in our lives.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches us that our heart will follow our money. In other words, if you invest your finances in something, you’ll care about it. If you buy shares of Apple, suddenly you’re interested in the next iPhone, whether you plan to buy one or not. You track Apple’s stock price on the Internet. Your heart follows your treasure.
Have you found this true in your experience? Does your heart follow your money?
Assuming it is true, what does your spending over the last month reveal about your heart?
The Firstborn must be Sacrificed or Redeemed
Have a volunteer read Exodus 13:1-15.
In the laws that God gave Israel to live by, there were certain animals that were clean, while other animals were unclean. Clean animals were used for sacrifices and could be eaten by the Israelites, while unclean animals could be used for work but could not be sacrificed or eaten.
In Exodus 13 God declares that the firstborn son of any person or animal belongs to Him. The first son that any clean animal gave birth to was to be sacrificed to God. And the firstborn son of the family or of an unclean animal was to be redeemed, a clean animal was to be sacrificed in its place.
When we read seemingly arcane passages such as those found in Exodus, it’s easy to forget that the whole of the Bible points us towards the work that Jesus does.
Have a volunteer read Romans 3:23-26.
When God created humankind, we were inherently good. We were clean, pure, undefiled. But our ancestors disobeyed God, and that disobedience caused a systemic corruption of our world and of the human race. Our inherent goodness is gone. (Romans 3:10-12)
But Jesus was good. Jesus was the first person to ever be born clean, and He, as the firstborn who was clean was sacrificed in our place so that we might be spared.
What do you think about the idea that humankind is no longer inherently good? Do you agree or disagree? Why?
The concept of the firstborn male belonging of any animal belonging to God makes sense in an agrarian society like ancient Israel, but most of us aren’t raising livestock. What is the principle behind this rule, and how can we apply it to our lives today?
The First Fruits must be Offered
Have a volunteer read Exodus 23:19
God calls us to bring the first fruits, the tithe, into the house of the Lord. There are three key things to note here.
Tithe means 10%. It’s not 5% or 20%. It’s the same as saying “one tenth.” That doesn’t mean you can’t give more, but saying, “I tithe 5%” would be like saying ten equals five.
You can only bring the tithe, you can’t give it. It already belongs to God. You can’t give someone something that already belongs to them.
God says to bring the tithe into the house of the Lord. Giving to missionaries and a non-profits is a very good and noble thing, but that first 10% is to be returned to God’s house, not designated to someone or something else.
What do you think about this concept that the tithe, the first 10%, belongs to God?
Do you agree with the idea that the tithe is to be returned to God via the church rather than through giving in other ways? Why or why not?
Does the idea that all of the money you have is truly God’s money that you have been given to manage cause you to rethink how you spend money or manage your finances? This isn’t just about tithing but rather about how we use all of our income.
The Tithe Must be First
When God commanded the Israelites to tithe, it was always off of their first fruits. It was the first crop that was harvested, and it was of the highest quality.
Have a volunteer read Genesis 4:3-4.
God didn’t accept Cain’s offering because it wasn’t the first, it wasn’t the best.
Where do you prioritize bringing God’s portion back to him? Do you put it at the top of the list and save and live on what is left over? Or do you figure out how much money you have at the end of the month and then figure out what you can give?
Many American Christians believe that tithing will result in personal financial abundance. While the Bible teaches that we are blessed when we return to God what is His and that God promises to care for us, we are not promised material abundance. Many generous followers of Jesus throughout the world live in poverty.
Dave Schmidgall, International Missions Director for National Community Church, recently traveled to the Middle East and spent three days living in a tent with a family of Syrian refugees who are followers of Jesus. While they have almost no material possessions and no financial security, Dave found this family to be blessed with a connection to God that seems almost inaccessible in the midst of our abundance.
At times God may choose to bless us with financial abundance when we return the tithe to Him, often those blessings take other forms. Other than financially, in what area of your life do you want God’s blessing?
Last weekend we kicked off a brand new series called #LifeMoneyHope, because so many of us feel like our financial situation is hopeless. And we looked at a passage from the Bible in 1 Timothy 6 that challenged us not to put our hope in money, but to put our hope in God, who richly provides.
Sometimes people are critical of pastors and churches when they talk about issues related to money, so maybe you wonder why are we even bothering to talk about it?
We’re talking about it because Jesus talked about it. In fact, when you read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus hardly ever mentions heaven or hell, but He talks about money all of the time.
Do you know why? It’s because the chief competitor with your Heavenly Father for your heart is money. Most of us aren’t trying to choose between following Satan and following God. That’s not what we struggle with.
We struggle with letting money become our top priority rather than keeping Jesus as our top priority. Jesus said “Where your treasure is, your heart is.” He wants your treasure, because He knows that if you give Him your treasure, your heart will follow.
In his sermon, Gene described economic atheists as people who believe in God, who may attend church and small group and might even unleash compassion, but they won’t give God control of their money. They hold that back from Him. Are you an economic atheist? (And let’s be honest, almost all of us are to some degree or another. The real question is how much of an economic atheist are you?)
The first section of the Bible, the Old Testament, is something we often skip over because this ancient text can be confusing to modern readers. The book of Leviticus in particular can be particularly challenging, with its myriad of rules about what cloth mixtures one can and can’t wear and its instructions about how to deal with infectious disease.
While it would be a mistake to try to apply all of the rules we find in Leviticus directly to our lives—goodbye cotton polyester blend shirts—what we can do is look at the why behind those rules. What do they communicate to us about God, about ourselves, and how God has ordered the world?
God has provided us with two economic “fences,” guidelines that, if we follow them, will dramatically improve our financial and spiritual health.
Fence #1: Live within your budget.
Have a volunteer read Leviticus 19:9-10, 13b
Here we see three distinct groups of people:
The poor and the foreigner
The hired worker
In God’s economy, each of those people is provided for. The landowner has their crops, but they’re not supposed to harvest 100% of everything they can, because the poor and the immigrants and the refugees need to have something to eat as well. And the people who are hired to work the land? The landowner needs to pay them on time, so that they’re provided for as well.
But no matter where we look on the economic scale, so many people don’t live within their means, so you have poor immigrants and wealthy landowners alike who don’t have “enough.”
Do you live within your means? Or are you always stretching your spending beyond what is wise? What has been the result of your financial choices?
There is one very simple financial plan that anyone can follow that’s based on the wisdom of God’s Word and the advice of financial counselors. It’s the 10/10/80 plan.
You give the first 10% of all of your income to God.
You save the next 10% of your income.
You live on the remaining 80% of your income.
Most of us do the opposite. We spend money to live. Then we see if there’s anything we can save. And we give from the crumbs that are left over. We don’t trust that God can do more with 90% of our income than we can do with 100% of it. And we don’t give ourselves margin, breathing room so that when something goes wrong, which it inevitably does, we aren’t ruined.
How would your life change if you were to implement the 10/10/80 plan? What changes would you need to make to do that? If you are already on that plan or one like it, do you need to make any changes to increase your percentage of giving or saving even beyond 10%?
Fence #2: Honor the economic cycle.
Have a volunteer read Leviticus 19:23-25.
God’s economic cycle has three phases: sow, grow, and harvest. You plant, cultivate for growth (which often involves painful pruning), and then reap the rewards.
In the “sow” phase, people are sowing into you. Your parents, your teachers, your professors, your aunts and uncles, people are teaching you, feeding you, clothing you, and housing you. Others are investing in you.
But that investment comes to an end. You enter the “grow” season, when you need to spend time investing in your career, saving your money. You will often have to live more simply than your parents do, perhaps more simply than you did growing up. This is the season that you’re in during your 20s and 30s at the least, and very possibly longer.
But if you grow well, if you invest and save and work, then you find yourself in a season of “harvest,” when you can reap the rewards of your hard work.
We all like the harvest season best, but if we begin harvesting before we should, we end up owing more than we make. And instead of allowing God to control our finances, our finances control us. We find ourselves under constant stress and pressure because of our financial situation. We may compromise our ethics because we feel like we’re drowning financially.
Which economic season of life are you in right now: sow, grow, or harvest? What can you do during this season to prepare yourself for the next season? Is there anything you need to shift to make sure you aren’t entering the harvest season before you’re truly ready?
Virtually everyone could take steps to be better stewards of the money that God has entrusted to us.
If you’re in the sowing season, you’re preparing for the rest of your life. Working hard at school, learning how to make wise financial decisions at an early age so that you don’t dig yourself a hole you can’t get out of for years.
If you’re in the growing season, you’re making decisions about your lifestyle that will impact whether you’re able to thrive during harvest season or whether you have to continue to toil, to continue to plant and cultivate because you have nothing to harvest.
And harvest season is where there’s the greatest temptation to simply say, “Everything is fine. I have enough,” but even then, if you don’t give God control of your money, your money will control you. You may need to evaluate your budget to ensure you’re giving generously, not simply spending everything that you have on yourself.
What next steps do you need to take financially? Do you need to make a budget? Cut back on expenses? Give more? Save more? Find a second job? Go back to school?
Spend a few minutes creating a plan to reach that next step. Make sure that you’re setting SMART goals. SMART goals are:
Specific – You’re clearly stating what you’re going to do. For instance, don’t say my goal is to “Do better with my finances.” Say, “My goal is to cut back on expenses so that I can give more away.”
Measurable – Make sure you can measure whether or not you’ve hit your goal. Don’t just set a goal to cut back on expenses, set a goal to cut the money you spend on going out to eat by 20%.
Achievable – Don’t make your goal so hard that there’s no way you are going to accomplish it. If you’re used to going out to eat every night, deciding that you’re never going to go out to eat is probably unrealistic.
Requires Faith – The goal should be achievable, but don’t make it so easy that there’s no point to setting the goal. Cutting the money you spend on going out to eat by 1% can be done by ordering water instead of soda one time. There’s no point. Your goal should stretch you.
Timely – Put a date on the calendar by which you’re going to accomplish your goal. Don’t just say you’re going to cut spending on going out to eat by 20%, say you’re going to do it by July 1.
We recognize that money can be a sensitive topic, but it’s also one of the issues that Jesus talks most about. How we choose to use our money speaks volumes about our priorities and, consequently, about our spiritual life. We would encourage you as a group to engage these discussions with grace but not to shy away from them, as they could have a profound impact on you both personally and spiritually.
You may also find that some people in your group are relieved to know that others don’t have everything figured out financially either. Because money is often such a taboo topic, it’s an area where many people who struggle are isolated.
Contrary to what you may have heard people say, the Bible doesn’t condemn money or wealth, but it does condemn the love of money and ill-gotten gains. And it warns about the dangers that come along with having wealth.
We all like the idea of having more money, but if you were to suddenly find yourself rich, do you think you’d be a good rich person or a bad rich person? Why?
In his sermon, Gene talked about how if you make $45k/year, you are in the top 1% of wealthiest people in the world. The reality is that even if your salary is half of that, you are still among the most highly paid people in the world.
Often, people who are wealthy (and by world standards, most Eastsiders are wealthy) aren’t content with what they have. There’s this constant desire for more, a fancier car, a bigger house, a nicer kitchen.
Are you someone who is content with what you have? Or are you always looking for something bigger, better, or nicer? (Try to be honest with both yourself and others when answering this question. If we won’t own up to areas where we need to grow, we never will grow.)
Have a volunteer read 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19.
Do you trust God for your daily bread? Or do you feel the need to store up enough money to account for everything that could go wrong?
Why is that? Is there something in your personality or past that leads you to trust or not trust God with your finances?
Americans may give away more money as they make more, but they actually tend to give away a smaller percentage of their total income. Has this held true in your own life? Have you found yourself more willing to give generously and sacrificially during seasons when you’ve earned less?
Paul talks not only about being generous with your finances but also with your time and strengths, about getting involved personally. Are there ways God might be calling you to serve Him or serve others? What is holding you back from doing so?
Have a volunteer read Haggai 1:6.
Do you ever feel like you put some money in your pocket or your purse or a bag, and it’s just like you’ve got holes in it? You fill it up with some money each month, and no matter how hard you try there’s never much left over. You think you’re just starting to get ahead and the water heater goes out. You’re starting to make some headway and the transmission goes out. You’re starting to get some breathing room and it’s time to send a kid to college or it’s time for a daughter’s wedding.
Has there ever been a time when you’ve felt like your money was going into a bag full of holes? What impact does/did it have on your generosity?
Have a volunteer read Luke 6:38.
Gene talked about having a “basket” mindset instead of “bag” full of holes mindset. A person with a basket mindset believes he or she can give freely because we serve an abundant God who we can trust, a God who fills our basket so that it is pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing.
The difference between the bag mindset people and basket mindset people is that bag mindset people just can’t get over the edge of trusting God to keep His promises. Basket mindset people know God never breaks His promises, and He can be trusted.
Some of us have a complete bag mindset, and a few of us may have a complete basket mindset. But most of us fall somewhere in the middle or even drift back and forth between being a bag person or a basket person. How can we begin to replace our bag mindset with a basket mindset?
Have a volunteer read Proverbs 3:9-10.
Has there ever been a time when you have given sacrificially, given up something you needed or wanted so that you could give more? Why did you make that decision? What was the result?
Gene shared some of the impact that basket minded people have had at Eastside. Because of their generosity:
We’ve built a water bottling plant in Kenya that is not only giving people clean safe water to drink but giving older students jobs so they can save for college.
When the vehicle owned by our compassion partners in Niger was totaled this year, we were able to help them buy a new one.
There’s an orphanage in Mexico where we’ve invested a million and a half dollars and thousands of hours providing a city of refuge for orphaned children, children from broken families, and children plucked from the human and sex trafficking industry.
We have a campus in Park Rapids; a campus in Anaheim; and we’ll soon have a campus in La Habra.
We’ve been able to give away nearly $3 million to compassion causes over the last year.
All of these outcomes, and Gene and Barbara’s own example of giving away over a quarter of their income, challenges us to at the very least follow the Biblical principle of tithing, of giving the first 10% of our income back to God.
If you are not currently tithing, what is holding you back?
If you are currently tithing, is it possible that God is calling you to give more, perhaps even to give sacrificially?