Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Stuffocating

Yep, here's another great message from Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis. The message is entitled Stuffocating and you can listen here.

The message is on Luke 12:13-21, the parable of the Rich Fool. This message makes all kinds of different points, one great point is made through a video found at thestoryofstuff website, explaining how we've been socially conditioned to be consumers. Watch that video!!!!

There's a lot in here, but one line really hit home, especially after I posted this just a week ago.

"What are our excesses today, what would Jesus' parable say to us today? What do we put in our barns today? What pulls you away from being grounded in Christ? (She then gives some example about shoes; I can't understand the female attraction to shoes). What about money? Our tendency today is to save money. Our security is in our money. We aren't excited or feeling good about next year because Jesus is working in and through us but we're excited about next year because we know we've got enough stored up. That no matter what happens, we're safe. So our identity, our safety, our security is coming from something other than Christ. I'm not saying don't have a savings account, but I'm saying wrestle with this issue of where your security and identity comes from."

OUCH!

9 comments:

joe k said...

This is one area where I have a hard time finding the line between relying too much on things like a retirement account, savings, health coverage, life insurance and sacrificial giving and 'trusting'that God will pick up the slack. Is God expected to pick up the slack on that stuff? It seems like the investment experts, even the Christian ones, recommend stuffing as much as you can into those things. How do we know when to say no to the conventional wisdom of saving and yes to real sacrificial giving, where it hurts so much we are not saving any? Does sacrificial giving supposed to eat your money you would usually save??

Donnie Miller said...

Wow, that's quite a question.
You obviously know this, but the tithe is the one non-negotiable of sacrificial giving. We tithe before we pay for anything else.
Then we have to decide how to use the remaining 90%.

Sometimes you'll feel lead to give that to some important cause, other times you'll want to put some extra into retirement. I do think it's really wise to have a consistent plan for putting money into retirement. Money that in some way, you treat like a tithe, in the sense that the money isn't yours and you can't spend it on anything else.
That's what we do, we put a certain amount into our ROTH every month that's a non-negotiable, we don't consider that 'our' money, at least not until we're 65. Unless we got some direct vision from heaven, we wouldn't redirect that retirement money toward anything else.
Of course, when we make the big leap to have kids and have Erin stay home, we may very well not be able to put as much into our ROTH, which will also affect our ability to give beyond a tithe. If we had to choose retirement or tithe, we'd obviously choose tithe. And we may have to find some extra income if we want to continue investing at the level we are. But after we've tithed, if there's a choice between some other type of giving and our retirement, we're going to choose our retirement most of the time. Not choose to invest a crazy amount of money that would make us insanely rich (maybe someday we can invest at that rate) but enough to retire with self-suficciency. So, that's how we'll handle it.

Joe, you've got a sensitive heart toward God's guidance. You'll know when he's calling you to make a special sacrifice. On the other hand, you can't become neurotic about giving either; beating yourself up with thoughts like, "I shouldn't be putting this money into retirement because I could give it to a starving child." God expects us to be good managers of the money he's given us. Part of that management is giving and another equally important aspect is taking care of your family; in the present, in the future (retirement) and in the possible future (life insurance).
It's obvious to anyone that knows you that you have a generous heart. But you're at a stage in your life where you can be okay with the fact that other than tithing and maybe your adopted child and a few little things here and there, you aren't able to give in the way you want to. But you're not always going to have 2 1/2 kids, someday they'll be out of the house and you guys will be bringing in a lot more money. When that time comes, you'll be able to better live out the generous longings in your heart. Also, if you're able to invest some money into retirement now, that money will increase exponentially 40 years from now and you'll be able to invest even more money into the kingdom. Think of what you could do if you're self-sufficient at 65, not needing to work and able to give all your time toward kingdom work?
I think a long-term perspective might help you feel a bit better. You'll probably never be tighter financially than you are right now. If you're faithful with the little bit you've got now, God will increase that and someday you'll have a lot more resources with which you can be faithful.

I went all over the place. Does that in anyway get to what you're asking?

Donnie Miller said...

Okay, I've thought some more and maybe this is more concise. What Erin and I will do if this IVF works out in July and our income is suddenly cut in half will be this order of priorities. I think this is similar to the priorities Dave Ramsey teaches.

1) Tithe - a bibical non-negotiable
2) a. provide basic needs for family, including health insurance and life insurace - a biblical non-negotiable
b. put enough away into retirement that we can retire with dignity.

If we don't have enough money for 1 and 2, we'll have to find some more income. If we have to fudge a bit on 2b, we can take a couple years off knowing we'll catch back up when the kids are older.

3) Give offerings to other worthy kindgom causes

4) Have some fun with our money, maybe a family vacation or something (but this is down the list of priorities)

5) Put more money into retirement so we can retire not just with 'dignity', but maybe a bit of 'style.'

3,4 and 5 are interchangable, depending upon the season of life and God's direction.

Most families with young kids are at a point where only 1 and 2 are even close to attainable and that with a lot of work. But you won't be young forever. In aother year or two, Corbin can get a job and you can start to move into the latter steps.

As I said in the other post, being faithful with where we're at now means we'll have greater opportunities in the future. Some guy named Jesus said that.

joe k said...

Good stuff The idea of the big picture and seasons of family finance issues helps. Thanks for the insight!

Donnie Miller said...

Glad to know I helped. And just think, there's so much more wisdom where that came from!

Ben said...

I don't know if I would call tithing a "biblical non-negotiable. How often is tithing spoken of in the New Testment. As far I as know Jesus only speaks of it once, and it's sort of in passing, like he acknoledges that it's a good thing but he never teaches on it directly. And it seems that Jesus teaching is more about getting to the heart of issues rather than emphasizing a certain rule-so that perhaps instead of stressing tithing Jesus would just say-Be generous, or have a generous heart, and leave it at that. Perhaps he would stress it, but I don't know for sure, he still hasn't gotten to me about that one on one interview in the flesh.

Ben said...

I think I did this wrong before-
Anyway, I don't think I would call tithing a biblical non-negotiable. It's mostly an old testament thing. I think Jesus only mentions it once, and even then he mentions it in passing. He acknoldges that it's a good thing, but he doesn't really address it directly. Jesus' teachings seem to be getting to the heart of issues rather than stressing rules. So I think instead of teaching a rule about how much to give, Jesus would simply say, "Give generously,", or "Have a generous heart", and leave it at that. What do you think?

Donnie Miller said...

Ben,
I struggle with the same thing because the NT is about the heart, not about the law. I think the fact that Jesus affirms the tithe, says a lot about its importance. Check out my post on "those are my jelly bellies" to see some of my thoughts on the NT's passages on giving.

I think we always have to keep the attitudes of our heart and the disciplines of our lives held together. Tithing doesn't earn us favor with God nor does it automatically make us into generous people. But on the other hand, if we aren't practicing the discpipline of tithing, we aren't giving any room to God to shape our hearts into generous people. It's just like accountability. While the deepest desires of my heart is to love and honor my wife, I still need another close Christian friend to kick my butt sometimes or to hold me accountable to the desires of my heart.

I think tithing does the same thing. It's an accountability structure that opens up the opportunity to allow God to shape us into generous people. We do it when we don't feel like it or when we can't "afford" it because that opens us up to the means of God's grace working in our lives. But neither do we view it as something on a 'checklist' of sorts that once we're done, we've "done our good deed for the day."

I do believe that with the kind of radical generosity called for in the NT and Jesus' affirmation of it, the tithe is the bare minumum level of generosity for Jesus' followers. Especially in our affluent culture. By the way, I learned in "God's Politics" that the richer a group of Christians become, the less they give. Which is why giving in American churches is going down, because our affluence is going up.

So we have to avoid two extremes. The extreme of "I can't afford to tithe" (although I've heard that hundreds of times, I've never met a person that really can't tithe, only people who don't want to change their lifestyle). And the extreme legalism of "I've paid my tithe, the other 90% is mine to do with what I will." One extreme is failing to grow into who God wants us to be and the other extreme is legalism.

So yes, it's ultimately a matter of the heart but there are accountability structures we put around ourselves to create the opportunity for the heart to grow. There could very well be a place in one's spiritual journey where generosity simply flows naturally out of their lifestyle, but I'm not there yet. So, I'll continue putting that line at the top of my monthly budget entitled "tithe."

What do you think?

Ben said...

I think tithing can be good as long as it is kept in the picture of genourosity. And I think TF does that when instead of saying we should tithe, we say we should give sacrificially. Tithing should be a choice of how generous we are choosing to be at a point in time, not an end rule in itself.