This article is a brief summary of my sermon on 9th October.  If you read it I would encourage you to do so with a Bible in the other hand to read the references as they appear OR click on the Bible references to read the verses online.  My words in the magazine are not important, what God says to you through His word is.

You may like to listen to the 9th October 'Stewardship' podcast which is here

Our church is in a rather awkward financial situation as things stand and we may not have enough money to pay all the bills come the end of the year.  Not the best place to be as we look for a new vicar.  So maybe it's a good time to review what the Bible says about our attitude to money.  There are, apparently, over 2,300 verses on money, wealth and possessions in the Bible, so God obviously thinks it is an important subject. We are fortunate to live in a country where we are relatively safe and free; we are not threatened by imminent invasion by a foreign power and the likelihood of some natural disaster hitting us is very low.  So other than health issues, probably the main threat to our personal well being and security is lack of money.  Because of that the greatest risk to God's sovereignty in our lives may
be our attitude to money, wealth and possessions. In the Old Testament...

...a pattern of giving to support the religious leaders and the less fortunate was established by a system of tithing, giving 10% of each persons produce and the first 10%, not the dregs at the end.  This is referred to in Deuteronomy 14 verses 22-29. Other references are Deut. 26 v1-11: giving should be out of grateful thanks, and 1 Chron. 29 v11-14: God gives it all to us but lets us decide what we do with it. Finally in the Old Testament Malachi 3 v6-12, where God warns the Jews that they have allowed the worldly thinking of their day to influence their actions, including their giving, instead of their reverence for God. So the Old Testament teaching is to give to support the religious leaders (the Levites) and the disadvantaged poor; to give proportionately, to give regularly and to give with thanks from the first fruits of what God gives us and He will not leave us wanting. What of the New Testament? Well firstly it is important to note what Jesus says in Matthew 5 v17-18
It's really not on to say that Old Testament stuff doesn't apply any more, Jesus makes it plain it still does.  However my reading of what Jesus says so often about the Old Testament laws and rules is that they are given by God for the guidance and benefit of the people (our benefit).  They are not supposed  to be followed slavishly to the Nth degree like working down an enormous tick list. That's where the Pharisees and other religious leaders were all going wrong. Jesus talks far more about general principles which all stem from “love God with all you have got and love your neighbour as yourself,” the two greatest commandments.  When He talks about giving He talks generous giving out of a generous heart.  Some of His comments seem to support the paying of our dues to the ruling authorities even if we don't agree with them.  Luke 20 v20-25 supports paying taxes to the Roman authorities.  Luke 21 v1-4 is the story of the widow putting her two small coins into the temple treasury. To the temple authorities it was such a small amount that she gave, to her it was apparently everything, not just 10% but all she had to live on.  Will you just note she was putting her money into the temple treasury.  The leaders of this temple had got their teaching all wrong, the leaders of this temple were plotting to kill Jesus.  He knew that the temple was going to be completely destroyed in 70 years time.  But He didn't rush up to her and say don't waste your money giving it to them, because he was only interested in the attitude and motivation within her heart and Jesus could see she had it right.  We are not told what happened to her afterwards (quite deliberately I'm sure) but I can't believe her table would have been empty that night. Money can have such a strong influence on our lives and can so easily become the main thing that gives us security. Jesus tells the story of a rich young man, Mark chapter 10 v17-22.  Again we don't know what this young man did, I'm sure he went away and thought about it.  Did Jesus really want him to give up everything and become a beggar?  Maybe, maybe not, what he actually wanted was for the young man to put his faith in God above his love of money. How should we respond when many of us are feeling somewhat worse off than we were and times are threatening to get worse?  There is only one way and that's to pray to God that He will give us the right attitude to money and possessions and that we will have the courage to act on that.  He knows all our circumstances, when we get it right we will know His peace. Remember this:  Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  2 Cor. 9 v6-8

Christ Church PCC have decided to hold a Gift Day on 27th November 2011.  We will all be receiving details and more information in due course.  In the meantime, if you would like to know more, please ask the Wardens or Finance Committee members. Chris Cole