Staying Power: Tithing and Giving
This is the sixth and final week of a series that we’ve been calling “Staying Power,” a series about how to grow in your faith as a follower of Jesus Christ and the advantages that brings. Spiritual growth empowers you to identify your purpose and accomplish what God has created you to do. It actually can be more important than any other area of your life, because it can determine success in those other areas. You grow spiritually by the commitments that you make and keep, and “Staying Power” is absolutely essential to the process, because there’s so many obstacles to spiritual growth. Everything else seems more important.
We’ve identified five commitments we believe are essential for people to grow as a follower of Christ. We’ve talked about serving in ministry, engaging in small groups, practicing prayer, and sharing your faith. This week, we want to look at that final step, the most powerful step, tithing and giving.
It turns out that God has a lot to say about money, because he knows how much we need it and how much we worry about it. He knows how essential it is to our daily lives, and, at the same time, how it can seem to just slip through our fingers. Money is in fact a spiritual issue. It’s a spiritual issue because so easily we can grow to trust in money rather than grow to trust in God. It’s a spiritual issue because wherever our money goes, our hearts go as well. And here’s why this matters to you: because money should serve you and not the other way around.
That’s what God intends. That’s the proper place. That’s the proper relationship we are to have with money. God wants for us to be in control of our money and to use it as a tool for good purposes, like helping other people and honoring him. God doesn’t want us to be worried or stressed about our finances. And that’s why Jesus talked about it, and that’s why we talk about it as well.
Specifically today, we’re going to look at one of the parables that Jesus used to teach about money. Jesus taught in parables in order to teach people about the spiritual realities of their lives. Often those realities are visible to God, but they’re hidden from us. The parables are intended to help us better understand.
Today, Jesus starts out just telling a story. It’s a story about a really wealthy guy who’s about to go on a long trip. Before he leaves, he gathers his servants all together and distributes to them a great deal of money, but they don’t all receive equal amounts. One gets five talents, another gets two, and the last one, gets one talent. Now, two talents would have been equivalent to what a worker earned throughout their entire life. So, even though not everyone gets the same amount of money, they all get a large amount of money.
Just as the master in the parable gave the servants money, God gives us money. Just like the master, God does not distribute the money equally. Some of us have a greater capacity, greater earning potential, and more opportunities than others. Here in this country, and in this community, we would say that most of us have been given greater opportunities than those in the rest of the world. God has entrusted his money to us. And the point is that it’s his money, it’s not ours.
God is the master, God is the owner of the money. The source of your possessions and income is not your business, it’s not the company that you work for, it’s not even your investments, it’s God. God is the source, and those are simply the channels that he uses to bless you. God is the owner, and we are his money managers. We are his stewards. The money that we have in our hands is only there for a little while as a loan from God, and then it goes to somebody else.
Notice Jesus uses the word “immediately” in the parable. Jesus says: Immediately, the first two servants do something with the master’s money for the benefit of the master.
Immediately after we receive money, we should use it in a way that benefits our master, that benefits God. This is why we say that giving should be a priority in your budget. It should be the first thing in your budget, so you give to God first.
Whatever area of your life you want God to bless, put him first. If you want God to bless your time, put him first in your schedule. If you want God to bless your family, put him first in your family. If you want God to bless your business, put him first in your business. If you want God to bless your finances, put him first in your budget. It is giving to God first that is the key to financial peace, financial security, and financial success. And it’s giving, not prayer, that puts God first in our finances.
Money is like water. If you don’t contain it, it’ll go everywhere and often will go to the lowest places. We’ve all spent money on things that we don’t even know where they are anymore. So if we don’t give to God first, we find ourselves giving to God last. We give God our leftovers. God wants you to give to him first.
But God does not want something from you, he wants something for you. He wants to bless your finances, and he wants what your money represents, your life and your heart, because it’s in giving him your life and your heart that you will find fulfillment.
At Saint Mary the most helpful way to give and to put God first in your finances is through online giving. You automate what’s important. You make it happen automatically. It is the way I give to this parish, and it is the way 40% of the giving households of our parish give to support the mission and work of this church. If you’d like to sign up for online giving, you can simply go to our website saintmary.life and select the Give icon.
The parable is encouraging us to put God first by investing income in an immediate kind of way in the things God cares about, which are his people, especially his church. So, the first two servants go out and immediately invest the money of their master in a way that benefits their master. They showed his interests were their interests. And that’s what disciples do, don’t we? We share God’s interest in bringing people into a relationship with him. We are for all the things that God is for, and we invest accordingly.
Meanwhile, the third servant didn’t exercise the same wisdom, did he? The man who received one talent, went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. Rather than using the money to advance the cause of the master, to make an investment, to make a profit, he buried it. He wasted his opportunity. We do not want to be like that guy.
After a long time, what was the very first thing the master did when he returned? He wanted to know what the servants did with his money. Two of the servants did very well by returning the money with an increase. The master gives them three rewards when he says: 1) Well done! 2) You get a promotion, and 3) come share your master’s joy.
When disciples, like you, take the next step and make a new commitment to Jesus, he promises some kind of reward over and over again. He promises a reward for prayer, he promises a reward for serving, and here he promises a reward for giving. In the earthly kingdom, it might not look like much of a reward, but when we look at the world in light of the coming kingdom, in light of heaven, it’s a huge reward.
The parable tells us about three rewards of investing our finances to build God’s kingdom. The first reward is affirmation, Well done, well done, my good and faithful one. Well done. The master is pleased with the servant, and the servant is affirmed. The first reward of giving is that we please God. Jesus promises us that we can please God, we can please the almighty maker of heaven and earth, we can please our heavenly Father. What’s even more amazing is that we can take some of the money that God has given to us, that is only temporary and give it back to him, and in exchange we feel his pleasure. The first reward of giving is affirmation.
Before this master mentions the second reward, he says this: “Since you were faithful in small matters.” This highlights the paradox of money. In God’s eyes, money itself is a small thing, but how we handle our money, that’s a big deal. The amounts given to the servants in this parable, would have seemed like incredibly large sums of money, but God calls them small. We would all agree, that our money in comparison to our family, and our friends, to our relationships, to our integrity, to our eternal lives, money is a small thing compared to those things. But in other ways, we say, “No way!” We need money. We absolutely need money just to survive, to provide for our families and our basic needs. And not having money or not having enough money, can feel scary.
In light of eternity, money is a small thing, but how we handle it matters to God. And because these servants handled the master’s money well, the master offers a second reward as he says, “Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.” So the second reward is a promotion. He receives a promotion. That servant gets the opportunity to do greater work that gives him more pleasure and more fulfillment.
When you get promoted, you share a sense of greater ownership in the organization. When you give to the work of building God’s kingdom, you become more and more a partner in that very same work. When you give to Saint Mary parish, you’re making disciples, and helping to share Jesus with the world. You support our complete Sunday experience of Mass here and Mass online. You are also teaching kids and encouraging teenagers. You are supporting our school. You are welcoming newcomers to faith and caring for the brokenhearted. When we give, we’re rewarded, we’re affirmed, we’re promoted. And then…
There’s the third reward; the master invites the servants, when he says: Well done, well done, good and faithful one. Come share your master’s joy. The servants are introduced to the riches and the joy of the master himself and the master’s household. They’re invited into a celebration. Scripture promises the rewards of giving are: 1) affirmation, 2) promotion, and 3) celebration. So the rewards you receive from investing FAR outweigh your investment.
This is what we want you to know. God is a giver, and he has already given us everything we’ve got. We can’t ever earn it, deserve it, or repay it, and most of the time we don’t even recognize it. There are only two things we can do. We can bury our treasure in convenient, comfortable, or ultimately, worthless things, and essentially waste our opportunity, or we can invest. When we invest through giving, God matches our giving, and then he surpasses it. The only boundary to God’s giving is the one we create in our giving, because we can’t outgive God.
Here is what we want you to do. Take the next step in your financial giving. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, we all have the opportunity to thank God by taking this Next Step. When you take the next step and thank God in this way, you will be affirmed, promoted, and invited to share your Master’s joy.
If you are already giving to the weekly collection, thank you. Can you take the next step? On the screens there is one chart showing the range of our parishioners’ offertory gifts, organized by steps, and another chart where you compare your weekly income with your weekly gift.
Both of these charts are also in your pews today, in the book racks, in front of you. Please pick one up and take a look at it. (pause and hold up card)
There are two sides to the card. Please first take a look at the side with the green and blue steps on it. What step your family is on? We encourage you to take the next step up. (pause) See how that works?
Look at the other side of the card please, and note the blue graph. Here you can indicate what kind of step you would like to take. For example, if you are giving at the 3% level, might you move up to the 3.5% step or even 4% step. (pause)
If you put a check or cash in the offertory basket each week. Thank you. Going forward, I ask you to please use our online giving system, so we can create a more accurate budget to fund our mission and ministries.
Imagine God saying to you: Well done, well done, good and faithful one! Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy. We encourage you, and challenge you, to use your offertory commitment card to take this next step.
The cards and pencils are in the pews. We are going to pause for a few minutes and give all of you an opportunity to take this next step. You will see there is also a section for you to include your prayer intentions, so we know how we can pray for you. Please let us know how we can pray, by your name, specifically for you.
Just fill your card out, and put it in the offertory basket today. If you are at home, we ask you to also complete your commitment to take this next step. You should have received it in the mail. As you complete this card, can’t you hear God saying to you: Well done, well done, good and faithful one.
(If you are reading this online on our blog, you can see the graphs we are discussing at saintmary.life/giving)