At the close of the movie The Maltese Falcon, a police officer gazes at a statuette, cast in lead in imitation of a prodigiously valuable, jewel-encrusted, falcon-shaped original. He asks, “What is it?” Humphrey Bogart’s character replies, “It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.” That, surely, is the perfect comment on the deceptive lure of wealth, in all its forms, to the fallen human heart. Fallen human nature puts a very improper, inflated value on money, treating our investments and bank balances as the supreme source of security, status, significance, respect, and influence in society. Our proud hearts shrink from weakness in all its forms, and they embrace whatever looks like strength, including the goal and the reality of affluence. The result? Idolatry: we end up worshipping our investments, our possessions, and our bank balance. And God—the transcendent triune Lord who is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit together, the divine team that is currently in action for our salvation—comes a poor second in our loyalty and love.
Martin Luther said that everyone needs three conversions: conversion of the mind to gospel truth; conversion of the heart to embrace the Lord Jesus as Saviour and Master; and conversion of the purse, wallet, or pocketbook, the laying of one’s money at Christ’s feet. Luther certainly knew that getting sin out of the driver’s seat in relation to our money is one of the most difficult dimensions of the sinner’s repentance.
2 Corinthians 8–9 provides the raw material for living out the Christian discipline of radical generosity (please go away and read it). The foundation of radical generosity is 8:9: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. The foundation and motivation of a life of radical generosity is the radical generosity of God to us in the Lord Jesus laying aside all of his glory and becoming poor, weak and dead so that we might share in his glory. The good news of the gospel is the foundation of a life of generosity. Radical generosity gets worked out in our life not by looking at a calculator, but by looking at the cross.
Radical generosity is a cross-shaped mind set regarding God’s money. Giving randomly, without wisdom, is sub-Christian, just as is giving nothing or giving far less than one could. Some seem to think that tithing is like paying God rent: when we have given him 10 percent of our income, the rest is ours. But no, it is all God’s. That is what 1 Chronicles 29:14-16 says: But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand…O Lord our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you.
Radical generosity is management of God’s money. When we set ourselves to think about Christian money management, in whatever connection, from buying groceries, to supporting missionaries, to investing, to financing a holiday, the first thing we have to get clear, is that the money that is ours to manage is not ours, but God’s. We are God’s investment managers.
A steward is someone in whom an owner entrusts the managing of his assets. An investment manager is a steward: he has control of his clients’ assets in one sense, but his job is to understand and implement his clients’ wishes and priorities regarding their use. In the same way, a trustee is a steward: his job is to invest, safeguard, and disburse the money in the trust according to the stated purpose of whoever appointed him. When they don’t, it’s called fraud!
Crucial Question: Are you investing God’s money as he has directed it? If you believe in a missions-driven church, St Paul’s is a good investment. It is accountable, driven by a vision to bring glory to God in our mission area, and for most of you it is your spiritual home. Vision 2020 is shaping our future and causing many of us to take risks for the kingdom. I give thanks for your partnership. Some are yet to take that step into radical dependence upon a God by practicing radical generosity. Right now I call us all to sit down with the cross and not just a calculator. we are behind our giving target for the year, the building work is in progress but stretching us financially
William Carey left for India in 1793. Two years later he received his second pack of letters from England. One of them criticised him for working to earn a living for his family as well as doing mission work. The accusation hurt. The fact was that assistance was so slow and sporadic Carey and his family would have starved if he had not worked to earn a living. He wrote back with these words which reveal his attitude to money: It is a constant maxim with me that, if my conduct will not vindicate itself, it is not worth vindicating…I only say that, after my family’s obtaining a bare allowance, my whole income, and some months, much more, goes for the purposes of the gospel, in supporting persons to assist in the translation of the Bible, write copies, teach school, and the like…The love of money has not prompted me to pursue the plan that I have engaged in. I am indeed poor, and shall always be so until the Bible is published in Bengali and Hindosthani, and the people want no further instruction. (Mary Drewery, William Carey: A Biography, p. 91)
William Carey’s life is a challenge to think in a radically heaven-focused way about the resources God has entrusted us with - “After an allowance for me and my family, my whole income goes for the purposes of the gospel.”
Praying with you about the limit of the allowance, Steve Jeffrey