May 2 and 3, 2015
Before we talk about Foundational Principle #4, let’s review what we have presented the last three weeks. The most foundational of the four foundational principles of Transformational astern ship is that everything belongs to God and everything we have comes from God…we are not owners of the things we have we are stewards and a steward is someone who manages and cares for someone else’s property. Foundational principle #2 is that stewardship is Not about Fundraising…it is not about raising the financial resources needed to keep the doors of the church open. Stewardship is about our formation and growth as disciples of Jesus Christ…it is not about the church’s need for money…it is about our need to give. And last week we discussed the third Foundational Principle of Transformational Stewardship which is the idea of Proportional a Giving…that what is important is not the size of our gift, but what are gift reprints in terms of our total wealth…out total assets, and the Widow’s Mite is the best Biblical illustration of Proportional Giving.
So with the three Foundational Principles as a kind of platform, let’s talk about Foundational Principle #4: the idea of First Fruits Giving. This principle is related to Foundational. Principle #3 because both are about “how we give” not about “how much we give”! If you search the scriptures you will see this principle running through both the Old and New Testaments. For me the key verse is Proverbs 3:9…”Honor The Lord from your wealth and from the First Fruits of all your produce, so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine“. The practice of many church people is to pay all the essential hills ( mortgage, utilities, car payment, insurance, credit card debt, child care, entertainment) and then to calculate their gifts to the church based on what is leftover ( what some describe as discretionary income). This is what I call “Leftover Giving”, and my guess is that if I asked for a show of hands this morning, and if people were totally honest, that many (perhaps most) would acknowledge that this is exactly how they calculate their gifts to the church. BTW, there is a wonderful YouTube video called “My Money” (there is a link to this video on our website). It is a humorous illustration of what so often happens when folks calculate their gifts to the church in this way. First Fruits Giving is an entirely different way of giving our financial gifts to the church. In First Fruits Giving, the first check that is written each month (or week) is the gift to the church (before the mortgage, utilities, car payment, insurance, credit card debt, child care and entertainment). First Fruits Giving is an acknowledgement…a putting into practice Foundational Principle#1…that everything we have comes from God and belongs to God , and therefore. God is entitled to more than just leftovers…God is entitled to the first and the best of what we have to give! A personal testimony…Susan and I have been practicing First Fruits Giving for 37 years (since 1978) and I can honestly say that in all those years we have never experienced significant financial trauma ( we have faced challenges along the way, but we have never deviated from our commitment to practice First Fruits Giving ), and I think that God has honored that commitment, and our desire to get our financial priorities in proper alignment. If I were to share one word of pastoral advice to anyone who is experiencing serious financial difficulties, it would be to begin to practice First Fruits Giving…I promise that it will not only change your financial reality…it will change your life!
So, there they are…the four Foundational Principles of Transformational,Stewardship. If you are interested in learning more about these principles, plan to attend the workshop on Saturday, May 16th from 9:00am until noon!!