This morning we are sharing an excerpt from our free Generosity E-book. This excerpt is an interview with contributing author, Steve Graves. Enjoy!
Many of the parables related to money in the New Testament are pretty dramatic (you cannot serve both God and money, a camel has a better chance of going through the eye of a needle than a rich man going to heaven, sell all your possessions and give to the poor). How can we reconcile these seemingly extreme lessons about wealth and giving that Jesus teaches?
Here's what we know- no single verse or passage of scripture contains God’s thinking on one thing. There is no single text that is the proof text to show us how God feels about the rich or the poor. The scriptures are pretty descriptive on how people handle their wealth, though. If I have more than I need, which almost everyone in this country has, the scriptures are clear—help others. As a believer I have to hold in tension the growth of my own personal lifestyle with the command of helping others.
That being said, there is one parable that I like to point to as a good example of how the Lord views resources and generosity— the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.
What can we learn about how we relate to money and generosity in the parable of the talents?
There are four main takeaways that I love from this parable.
1. All assets are distributed by the owner. As we see in verse 15 of this parable (Matthew 25:15), all of our assets, financial and non-financial, are owned by God. That doesn't mean that I didn't work hard for what I have, but it does mean that there is a divine allocation system that sits above our harried effort to accumulate more and more. We often don't like the assets we have been given, and we wish that we had other people’s lots. What we must realize is that, as the scripture says, “to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” Once we can find comfort in the fact that our resources are from God and that they are exactly what we need, we can find freedom.
2. We are to steward the assets. In this parable we clearly see that the owner of the assets returns to see how the servants have stewarded the talents he gave them. Similarly, we know that everything we have is under God’s ownership and our stewardship. This should inform what we do with out time, gifts, and finances.
3. Stewardship assumes leverage. When the owner of the assets returns in verse 19 (Matthew 25:19) we see that he those servants who doubled their assets were rewarded with more to steward. Through this we can see that when God talks about stewardship, there in an inherent expectation that we leverage what we are stewarding to the glory of God.
4. Leverage requires more risk not less risk. This of course is a basic principle—if we expect to leverage and multiply that which we have been given, we must engage risk. Of course this is not a call to risk-it-all, Vegas style, but a call to responsibly step out in faith. If we take what we are given and bury it like the one servant in the parable, our faith is not engaged and we are not offered the opportunity to trust God and grow.
Those are amazing insights into this passage. One last question- what advice would you give young professionals or young couples who want generosity to be engrained in their families?
I would say three things:
· Start early and take baby steps. My son is in college and we have been helping him understand giving since he was little – its already imbedded in his system and it has been incredible for my wife and I to see him living out generosity on his own as he becomes an adult.
· Make sure you are activating faith. If you aren’t activating faith, you shouldn't be giving. Slugging your way through sacrificial taxing to God is not the picture scriptures paint of generosity. If this is the emotion that grown in you when you think about giving, keep your money and go pray more!
· Find causes that resonate with you, but at the same time, don't be completely self-serving in your causes. We can use my son for example. He tithes to his church, and also gives to his friends who are in the mission field. He may feel more connection with his friends, and may want to give to them as his entire tithe, but he also knows that he is the man he is today because he has been under the stewardship of his church. When you give, certainly give to causes that make you feel good, but also consider the larger impact of your gifts and diversify those giving assets!
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