Category Archives: finances

greed

Ignored Sins Part 3: Greed

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Category : Christian , Culture , finances , Scripture

Ask your pastor how many people he has counseled about their struggle with greed. I would guess that number would be much closer to zerothan it would be to a big number like three.Have you had a heart-to-heart with a friend about how much you need to break the stronghold of greed in your life?

Are you greedy?

In my opinion, I doubt many of us would know how to answer that question even if we were being completely honest with ourselves.

When it comes to the question Am I greedy?most responses would probably be something the lines of, UhI dont think so. Maybe?Its very clear to me that I have real struggles with lust, laziness and gluttony. I dont seem to have much of an inclination toward drunkenness or unforgivenness. But greed? Who knows?

We lack clarity both in definition of what greed is and how to recognize it.

It seems to me, that according to Jesus in Luke 12, there are two major components to the sin of greed. The first is finding your security or self-worth in the abundance of posessions or money. The second is a lack of generosity, which naturally follows the first aspect.

When it comes to recognizing greed in your own life, Jesus knows it is tricky thing. He spoke about greed in a unique way:

Then He said to them, Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Luke 12:15, 34, NASB)

Regarding other sins, Jesus spoke much more matter-of-factly about what was right and what was wrong. But this language of bewareor Watch out!as some translations put it, is unique to how Jesus spoke about greed. This is because it is easy to be habitually greedy and not realize it. By contrast, no man commits adultery by accidentally going to bed with a woman who is not his wife.

But why is greed so hard to recognize? I think the answer can be summed-up in one word: comparison.

We think greed is a problem of which only richpeople suffer. And, as long as someone else is more rich than we, we cant be greedy; but they can. When it comes to generosity and giving, we believe that as long as someone else has a more luxurious lifestyle than ours, then they can afford to be generous. Were just trying to make it, right?

The problem is that according to Jesus, our ability to make itin this world and our inclinations to be generous have absolutely nothing to do with what we can or cannot afford but everything to do with the Fathers ability and desire to be our source of satisfaction and provision.

And He said to His disciples, For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifes span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.’” (Luke 12:22-33)

Greed is inextricably linked to a lack of faith that God is actively involved in your livelihood or well-being. Think about it. If you are unwilling to give in a way that creates some kind of financial uncertainty in your life in other words, you will not give to the point where there is any real risk then you cannot say that you have ever trusted God to provideor that you have ever given sacrificially. What room for faith is there?

Moreover, if we are being completely honest, the context of our American lives cannot be ignored, either. Very few, possibly none, who are reading this are destitute. As Americans, we tend to have no idea how little we really need. The truth is that our ego is wrapped up in our possessions and we feel entitled to whatever we want. Of course God gives us good things to enjoy, the question is, Would you give them up if God wanted you to?Actually, maybe the real question is, Have you even considered that God might ask you to give up your material posessions, or do you think that you have earned them and therefore have a right to them that not even God can take away?

Allow me to offer a few test questions that can give you an indication as to whether or not you have greed in your life:

1. Have you ever felt convicted by the Holy Spirit to give to someone in need, but then didnt and justified it by saying something to the effect of, That person should be more responsible/get a job/get on a government program,or What if they are just ripping me off?or I cant afford to help them right now.

For the sake of argument, lets say that the person who is asking you for help is, in fact, being dishonest or is going to be irresponsible with what you give them. What have you lost? The correct answer is ultimately, nothing. The money you gave came from God, and if you actually need it, He promises to take care of you. You have lost nothing. That money is going to burn up someday anyway. If you have given from a compassionate heart, you will have gained treasure in Heaven. Do you really believe that treasure in Heavenis better than treasure on earth?

I have battled these ideas recently. A friend who was in need but who also has terrible money management skills asked me for help to the tune of several hundred dollars. I didnt want to do it. But I knew God wanted me to. After looking for multiple ways out of it and being really frustrated at the fact that the money I had just gained by selling a camera money I had plans for was going bye-bye, I went ahead and gave it.

With a clear conscience and absolute truth in my heart, I am telling you that not only have I not missed that money, but God has surprised me with financial blessings that I did not forsee and has softened the heart of my friend who, not long ago, was a strident atheist but now is willing to talk about his need for God. 

2. Are you giving your first fruits?

Im talking about tithing. Yes, tithing. Tithing, tithing, tithing. (I can hear the keystrokes of angry emails clicking already.) Tithing is described by God as an ordinance; meaning it is an ordinary statute. It was around before the law was given and goes on into the New Testament. It is the first 10% of your increase and is meant to be brought to the house of God for the purpose of provision. Once again, it is meant to be the first of your increase. Its not leftovers, its not, Well, Ill see if I have enough after the bills are paid.

Plan on giving it before you plan your lifestyle. If your bills are such that you literally cannot spare the money, change your lifestyle. I bet there is something you can do. Can you downgrade what kind of vehicle(s) you have? Smaller house? Eat out less? If there is really nothing you can do, bring your tithe (you cant givesomething that doesnt belong to you in the first place) anyway and put God to the test to see if He wont provide for you. I mean it. People get really worked up over tithing, and I understand that it takes the Holy Spirit to sanctify, but if there is one thing I know, it is this:

The only people who hate the idea of the tithe are people who wont step out in faith and do it. Ive never met a remorseful tither.

3. Lastly, do you always have an opinion about how much (other than tithing because that is Gods command, not mine) other people ought to be giving or what they should do with their money? Do you see richpeople and think to yourself that if they cared about the poor, they would give a lot more. Or do you see someone in a nicer vehicle than yours and pass judgement on them?

First of all, this attitude might stem from coveteousness (jealousy). Secondly, you do not know what is in his or her heart, nor how much they give, nor how much God has prompted them to give. Thirdly, youre not the first person to have these thoughts. A very famous man is recorded stating the idea that an extravagant gift ought to be sold and the proceeds given to the poor.

His name was Judas Iscariot. And he didnt really care about the poor. Do not accuse others of not being generous enough because you care about the poorunless youre willing to sell all you have and give it to them.

In summary, the battle with greed is not easily won. It requires a great deal of introspection and a great deal of pain and a great deal of real, tangible trust that God will provide as He has promised. If you are willing to trust Him with your eternity, will you trust Him with your money?


What I Learned from a Missiologist Part 2: Church Multiplication

Several weeks ago, I had a great discussion with Dr. John David Smith, executive director of BMA Missions. If you missed last week’s issue, I invite you to visit lifeinprogressministries.com to read part 1 of this article series where I highlight some of the main things I learned from Dr. Smith.

We must realize that everything about a multiplication culture is counterintuitive to American culture.

A consumer mentality permeates everything in America including church life. When people decided they want to go to church, especially if they are new to a town, they “church shop.” This can be a good thing if you are looking to find an assembly of believers in which you can serve, disciple and be discipled and commit for the long-haul. You certainly want to belong to an assembly that is vibrant and focused on the right things. However, many people are overly concerned with the appearance things like music, service times, youth programs etc. In order to have a really “impressive” facade that will be attractive to newcomers, you need money. In order to get more money, you need more members. In order to get new members, you have to keep on impressing people with your stuff. 

You can see how the cycle just never ends.

What convolutes the situation more is that I don’t believe we can expect non-believers or the spiritually immature to come to church for all the “right” reasons. But we want them to come so they can hear the gospel, be convicted by the Holy Spirit and become disciples. So, it seems to me that attracting those with the consumer mentality can be used to God’s glory as well, right?

Multiplication mentality threatens a church with the potential of sending out some of its most dedicated and spirit-filled families! It can keep a church from maximizing it’s numbers and dollars, which makes it harder to “compete” for new members because you end up with fewer resources.

Imagine a church that has been around for decades, has grown to a large size and has just built a new building. Is there any chance that church is going to say, “You know what we should do? We should take about 10 families and have them leave us to go plant a new church!” It’s not likely or common.

It is for this reason that changing BMA culture at-large to a multiplication mentality (of course, there are church-planting churches already in the BMA) is going to take a true paradigm shift that might not occur for another generation or two. The transition might look something like going from “Hey, we have some resources and a full house, so let’s build,” to “Hey, we have some resources, so let’s send,” to “Hey, God has burdened us with this task and He has the resources, so let’s send.”

“The professionalization of ministry has choked the life out of church multiplication,” Dr. Smith said. We think we need to have the money for a building, a music guy, a full-time pastor/church planter before we can even consider planting a new church.

Lay and bi-vocational ministers are going to play a much larger role in the future.

The Baptist denomination flourished largely on the shoulders of bi-vocational ministers. In our affluence, we have become so accustomed to the full-time, seminary-trained professional minister that we have made such a position the definition of what it means to be a minister.

Is it any wonder we can’t plant churches when we believe we can’t have a church without enough income to pay a full time, or even part time salary to a seminary grad (who is likely to have a considerable amount of student debt) along with building expenses? It’s wonderful to have such people, but for the sake of making disciples who make disciples, we are going to have to revisit the definition of ministry to re-include those who, as Paul and Silas, work so that they would not be a financial burden to a struggling church.

The good news is that great Bible teaching and pastoral training at low or zero cost is widely accessible. It is very likely that in the future more churches will have a pastor or team of pastors who earn a living in the secular world using secular degrees and still minister to the people of God in Bible studies in the evenings and services on Sunday.   

If this scares you, or you think, “Klint, nobody is going to want to go to a church that doesn’t have all the ‘stuff,’” I have good news. (This next point I did not discuss with Dr. Smith)

The next generation of young adults don’t care about the “stuff” nearly as much as you think they do. 

Did you know we are living in a time where it is actually cool/hip/en vogue to be self-sacrificing, non-materialistic humanitarians? This is one of those rare times in history where the church really being the church is attractive to pop-culture. Taking up a cause such as sex-trafficking or living well below your means so that you can give more to others is in style. It’s also Biblical. You can talk about the gospel all day long but you won’t make much of an impact if people aren’t seeing Christ live through you. Unfortunately, many see churches of today like country clubs that only truly seek new members who can help the bottom-line.

Wouldn’t it be crazy to hear of a church, which had a beautiful campus and wasn’t in financial trouble, selling it’s property and using the money to plant multiple churches and fund multiple missionaries? Maybe what is more crazy is that we probably all think that is a crazy idea.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that is what God wants every large church to do. But I am asking the question, “Would our hearts be even a little bit open to God giving us such a radical idea?” Or have we settled, once-and-for-all, how all churches are supposed to operate? 

Historically, the body of Christ as a whole has never flourished in times of comfort but has always grown under duress. You want a packed church meeting? I guarantee you that if your message is something to the effect of “Instead of building ourselves an empire, we’re going to use our resources to share the love of Christ and live sacrificially,” and then follow up by doing that, you will reach more people than ever.


What I Learned From a Misssiologist, Part 1

Several weeks ago, I met with BMA Missions Executive Director, John David Smith. We spoke for about an hour, and I wish everyone in the BMA could do the same. The man is truly a treasure.

If you’ve been paying attention to “church culture” in 2013-2014, you’ll see the idea of church multiplication is being emphasized, and rightly so. However, it is no secret that many churches are struggling, shrinking, plateauing or feel that they are in the church-saturated areas. The thought of planting a new church seems daunting, if not ridiculous, to many.

While I wish we had the space to print our entire conversation, below are some of the major points, particularly about church planting, that I learned from Dr. Smith.

Multiplication has always been the goal. The New Testament pattern is for churches to support the planting of more churches.

“My definition of a local church would be what we’ve always heard — a group of regenerate, baptized people who gather to worship God and obey the commands of Christ…” Smith said. “And the last part of that definition is that they scatter to make God’s name known. Somehow, in the United States, we have dropped off the scattering part. In my opinion, we have dropped off the very missionary expression of the local church… It has become more about self-preservation than multiplication. It’s not easy, but we’ve somehow got to shake-free from that bondage… It really is extremely distorted from a Biblical perspective and a practical point of view as well.” 

The existence of a “church” does not mean that church is a good expression of the Kingdom of God. “I believe that the local church is the greatest expression of the Kingdom of God if that church is vibrant and multiplying,” Smith said. “But if a church is stagnant and sterile, then maybe the local church becomes the greatest disgrace to the Kingdom of God.” 

Dr. Smith said that if there are multiple healthy, vibrant churches in an area then we should, by all means, seek to plant churches elsewhere. However, that is rarely a reality.

Often, people see lots of church buildings in a town and believe that equates to a strong presence of the gospel in the lives of the residents. But lots of church buildings does not equate to a strong, vibrant presence of the reality of the gospel or the presence of a true New Testament church that is making disciples and then sending out church-planters.

Church-attendance saturation is a myth. Even in the most conservative, “Christian” regions of America, the percentage of the population who regularly attend a Sunday church meeting is very small. David Olson, author of The American Church in Crisis, conducted a comprehensive church attendance study from the years 1990-2006. Olson categorized attendance records from a database of 200,000 churches across many denominations. He compared the records with census data, church roles and basically every conceivable way to parse it. While self-reporting polls claim that around 40% of Americans “regularly” attend church, Olson’s data shows that on any given weekend, only about 17%-18% of Americans attend church. Even in what would be considered very “Christian” areas, 20-22% attendance is about the best you can hope for. 

Young adults, the future of the church, represent the smallest group of attenders.

Bryce Holmes, the assistant college minister at Central Baptist Church in Conway, conducted his own survey in which he called more than 100 churches/associations/para church organizations and compared their attendance numbers with the Arkansas Department of Education statistics for college students in Conway.  He found that of the 14,000+ college students in Conway (an area where there are 60+ Baptist churches, not to mention other evangelical denominations, within easy driving distance) only an optimistic estimate of about 9.5% of those students have a church home. 

The bottom line is that there is always room for another good church.

Check back next week for more from my time with Dr. Smith.


Let Me Help You Get Organized and Save Money!

So, several years ago my husband and I read Dave Ramsey’s book, Total Money Makeover.  Nathan had become a regular listener to Ramsey’s nationally recognized radio program.  Through our Total Money Makeover experience, we discovered emeals.  Emeals is a meal planning system that I found extremely helpful.  As of yesterday, I learned there is now a new emeals APP!  I was so excited, I must share!

A quick history…

While my hubby and I were not in financial disarray, we had the desire to launch our own business.  This meant big changes. We wanted to be successful entrepreneurs and knew enough to know that most entrepreneurs fail.  Starting with no personal debt is what has allowed us to continue growing our businesses without the fear and pressure that comes with trying to keep all balls in the air.  Financial freedom is…well…it’s freeing.

That said, as a young wife, I needed help managing our grocery budget.  I barely knew anything about cooking, much less grocery shopping effectively or organizing meal plans for the week.  However, my husband desperately wanted to continue eating.  So, I needed a plan and I needed to spend as little money as possible.

That has not changed.

Today, we have added two children to the mix, I have come to enjoy cooking —sometimes — and use emeals often to do the work for me.  I think I like it most because it makes this Choleric/Sanguine look organized, efficient and food savvy.   I quickly learned that meal planning was a huge part of maintaining a tight grocery bill and keeping us on track financially.

Here are my top 10 reasons for recommending this to you:

1) It is totally done for me.

2) I can choose how we want to eat.  We have been on a low fat diet for years now.  You can choose everything from organic to low-carb to classic meals.

3) I can choose my grocery store.  Emeals helps you find the right brands, actually available at your store, to cook a meal that tastes good but costs little.

4) I can choose how many people I want to feed.  With pre-school age children, we are still able to eat off a menu for two.

5) The recipes are easy!  I hate using fancy cookbooks.  I never know what they are talking about.  Emeals keeps it simple and easy to follow.

6) I can easily eliminate meals I know my family won’t eat or when I know I won’t be cooking every night.

7) The plan updates everything automatically and accordingly, so I really don’t have to think too hard.

8) Perhaps my favorite part: the grocery list is itemized by department at the grocery store.  This makes it easy to find what I need, fast.  Very helpful with two toddlers in tow!

9) The menu tells you what staples you should already have.  A quick mental check or physical check and I never get home and get mad because I forgot something for a recipe.  (You know how that can frustrate a cook!?)

10) And now…everything is on the app!  I no longer have to print the menu and carry those papers around the store.  Yippee!  This makes me happy.  I can check things off the list, add extra things I need to pick up, like bread and milk, and I can quickly eliminate things I know I have at home with the delicate touch of my index finger.

Yep.  I’m a fan.  I’m sure there are similar meal plan systems on the market that are also good. But, if you are like me and you don’t have time to research it out…here’s the only link you need.  http://www.emeals.com/welcome/index.php?source=app

Or, search your app store.

Here’s to simplifying life!

 

 

 


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