In a recent letter to the Restoration City congregation, I asked everyone who calls this their church home to give a one time, year end donation before December 31st and to make an annual giving commitment for 2019. In the letter, I explained that the year end donation is about our collective vision as a church while the annual giving commitment is about our individual discipleship to Jesus. Understanding the role of generosity in both our collective vision and our individual discipleship is crucial for us as Christ followers. So, I’m going to use this week and next week’s blog posts to dig deeper into each, starting with the idea of an annual giving commitment.
There’s a temptation to see something like an annual giving commitment as nothing more than a fundraising or budgeting tool that helps us operate as a church but that’s really not the case. It’s a discipleship tool that helps each of us as Christ followers be intentional about the spiritual discipline of generosity. In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul writes that each of us should, “give as he has decided in his heart.” In other words, our giving is preceded by an internal, heart level decision. An annual giving commitment gives us a specific opportunity to make that decision. By making that decision now for the coming year, we become intentional stewards of the resources God has entrusted to us.
Jesus helps us see the significance of intentional stewardship in a short section in the middle of His Sermon on The Mount.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”Matthew 6:19-21
We need to pay really careful attention to what Jesus is saying in that last sentence: Your heart follows your dollars. Where we invest our treasure today is where we will find our heart tomorrow. Every dollar we spend points our hearts somewhere. The question is whether we are intentional or accidental about that pointing. If we want to be intentional, we need to ask ourselves three simple but crucial discipleship questions.
- Do you know how your spending is shaping your heart? In my experience, the vast majority of us have only a vague sense of where our money goes every month. We know what our rent is and our student loan payments but most everything else gets a little fuzzy, oftentimes deliberately so. Let’s be clear, not knowing where your money is going isn’t just financial irresponsible. It’s spiritually reckless. If our hearts follow our dollars, we owe it to ourselves to know where our dollars are going. So, start tracking your spending.
- Are you comfortable with how your spending is shaping your heart? When I say comfortable, I mean spiritually comfortable, not financially comfortable. Your budget is as much a spiritual document as it is a financial planning tool. A good budget doesn’t just make sure you spend less than you make. A good budget is an intentional plan to shape your soul. Are you stewarding God’s resources in a way that’s enriching your soul?
- What changes is God leading you to make in the coming year? Maybe it’s time to cut some things out. Maybe it’s time to save more. Maybe it’s time to give more. Maybe it’s time to spend more in certain areas of life. The key is actually having the conversation with God. A lot of times, we want to keep God at arm’s length when making financial decisions and that should be a real warning sign to us that something is wrong. If we’re willing to trust God with our salvation, we should be willing to trust Him with our finances.
That’s what our annual giving commitments are all about – taking control of how our spending is shaping our souls. So, please, have a conversation with Jesus. What is He asking you to do? What changes do you need to make? What is generosity going to look like for you next year? Take some time to pray about it and when you’re done, send in your annual giving commitment, either online or with one of the cards we have available on Sunday mornings. And when you do, know that you’ve taken an important step in your discipleship to Jesus.