Luke 19.1-10; Philippians 4.10-13
Have you been here? Afraid or unwilling to open the mail because it’s likely to be bills you’re sure you can’t pay or it’s a final demand for something you’ve no idea how to conquer? Have you sat down and had a hard look at where it is your income is scattering? Thinking, how do I stop that, there are so many demands and so many things I want to do? I have! I’ve even been in a situation where a friend sat down with me to analyse what was happening to my stipend, and had him shaking his head about the lack of spare room in our budget for anything urgent. Those were tough times and we’ve come through them by the grace of a generous God. Has money been what made important lifestyle choices for you and your family, and has the fear of losing deprived you of opportunities you might have otherwise embraced?
Rethinking tithing I want to apologise to a number of people, you know who you are, for rather strongly insisting that tithing is only an Old Testament practice that doesn’t belong in the era of grace. I did go on to assert that the era of grace suggests greater generosity is the standard, as is freedom to give as you feel lead – however I was missing a logic step that better research and an inspiring message from my friend David Chadwick put me right on this important and ancient privilege. Go and watch it yourself the link is below. However, suffice to say, that I had not considered how both Paul and Jesus assumed that their listeners tithed as a matter of course and the fundamental discipline was never rescinded by either; further it was a common practice in the first 5 centuries of the church according to church fathers Irenaeus and Augustine of Hippo. So with that out of the way I present you with what follows.
Little Man, huge change Zacchaeus had a god, a mean and demanding god, and as a result was despised in the very town where he lived and worked. His god was money (or mammon), and in it’s service he had become one despised as a traitor and a twister, who not only wrung every last coin he could out of them, but worse, he kept it all to himself. His vast wealth had never blessed the Temple, nor relieved the poor; he was Shylock and Scrooge rolled up into one miserable, oppressive, little man imprisoned and enslaved by his chief interest in life. No wonder Paul told Timothy that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
So when a rumour of personal liberation comes to his ears, he determines he’s got to be there, to get free, even if he has to lose his dignity in the process. So there he is in the sycamore tree clinging both branch and hope, waiting for a sight of his Liberator, Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus spies him in the tree he sees in an instant Zacchaeus’ story, his regrets, and his desperate hope for freedom, so the Lord invites Himself to dinner – this is the ultimate mark of acceptance in middle eastern rules of hospitality. Stunned at such a sign of grace, repentant Zacchaeus looks to make amends with startling generosity; four times whatever he owed anyone. Jesus responds by declaring him saved and declaring Zacchaeus a son of the faithful one; he was lost and now he’s found.
Free yourself from domination of the financial kind, by affirming that Jesus is Lord over all that you are and all the you have, including your financial resources. Wouldn’t it be great to know that not only is your money serving your best needs, but also at work in ways you’ve never seen before? Given that I’m no great master of this, what I share is what I’m learning though it does come from very wise and kindly friends, and great spiritual leaders. This is a series of beliefs for financial liberation:
ALL THAT I HAVE COMES FROM GOD Not one single thing we’ve accomplished is due to our own efforts; our lives, our talents and skills, our resources all started with our benevolent and all-powerful Creator. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights [James 1.17 ESV] So can you affirm to God “all I have has come my way by Your loving hand?” Just when you’re feeling pleased with yourself and your achievements can you remind yourself, in all humility, that all you’ve gained is from God who entrusts you to be a faithful steward of possessions, talents, possessions, and gifts?
I LIVE JOYFULLY WITHIN GOD’S CURRENT PROVISION FOR MY LIFE In our reading from Philippians Paul expresses the great blessing of contentedness; that whatever He has is God’s provision, therefore he is content that this is more than enough for what he needs to accomplish God’s purpose in his life. So many go into debt trying to better what God has already made available, needing the latest, the best, the more sophisticated. In our lifetimes we can break generations of discontent, and desperate “keeping up” and learn and teach the peace that comes from knowing that God has indeed provided for all my needs. Commit today to live joyfully and thankfully, in dependence upon God’s provision, and determining to free yourself from the debt to which discontent has bound you to this point. Further that you will underspend your personal budget, leaving money in the bank for the sake of peace and contentment and to honour God’s generous provision.
I HONOUR GOD BY GIVING THE FIRST TENTH OF ALL I EARN TO HIS WORK IN MY LOCAL CHURCH This is a new promise for me too – but I intend to pursue it at any event. The clear teaching of the prophets is that this belongs in the local church to enable it to give expression to it’s mission and ministry here and now, and it was the understanding and practice of Jesus and the apostles as far as we can determine from what they said or wrote. This means, like the above belief, acting out of faith in God, trusting Him for what I NEED in order to live in obedience to Him.
I ALSO SET ASIDE A PORTION OF ALL I EARN INTO A SAVINGS ACCOUNT FOR EMERGENCIES AND GIVING OPPORTUNITIES AND FOR LATER YEARS As I reflected on this I realised that many of us do some of this with insurance policies and superannuation schemes, and in the way NZ taxes are structured. But it does have application for ongoing altruism and for protection against breakdowns of vehicles and technology and the like. [At this point I want to encourage you to take a CAP money course which will help you gain control over the flow of this precious resource from a faith angle as well as pure common sense.]
I LIVE EACH DAY WITH AN OPEN EAR TO HEAVEN, READY TO RESPOND TO ANY WHISPER FROM GOD REGARDING MY RESOURCES If what you have, all you have become, is truly seen as coming from and belonging to God, then it is available for His purposes; and you may well hear a whisper or two from God. Don’t ignore them, otherwise hearing from God in the future becomes more problematic. So will you become His partner so as to extend compassion and bring in Kingdom of God impact through the resources He has entrusted to YOU?