A Money Sermon

This morning, I'm sitting in a local coffeehouse, sipping my coffee and working on Sunday's message.  This has been my tradition for the last 18 months. 

This particular morning, I'm working on a difficult sermon.  We're into a 40-day churchwide study (Treasures of the Transformed Life) which has been very good and gotten an excellent response from many, many people.  Weeks 1 through 3 were about our commitment, our prayers, and our presence.  This week I've had a few members make comments to me about how challenged I'm going to be this week - our topic is giving, in particular, our financial giving.

This economy makes for difficult circumstances for the financial stewardship message.  How do you ask people that are already strapped to be faithful with their money?  The rest of the world is coming to us with their hands out and the cost of living seems to continue to go up, despite cuts in salaries and loss of jobs.

Last year, Mike Slaughter published a short book, Upside Living in a Downside Economy.  His timing couldn't have been better and I've read it probably four times already.  He's done a good job of finding the silver lining in a really cloudy market.  The premise of the book is how we can choose to be faithful Christians, even in hard economic times and how those times can be a blessing in themselves. 

Here's one of the biggest points I've gotten from the book:  hard times cause us to reprioritize.  We are pressed to eliminate debt and take a serious look at our budget and our savings.  People are working harder on this now than they were a few years ago - my family is no different. 

How are we honoring God with our finances?

This Sunday's money sermon will have a little different flavor than usual.  Traditionally, we preach about money and we ask people to make their financial commitment to the church for the next year.  We'll ask people to make that commitment because bringing offerings is a vital part of an active faith - its a faithful response to God's love and grace in our lives.

Usually the commitment becomes church-centered.  We work in our committees to gain enough of these "promissory notes" to develop a budget that doesn't look past the next year.  Maybe its time to change that and make it more Christ-centered and person-centered. 

Many of our people aren't honoring God as well as they should because they're slaves to debt.  Money sermons are hard on people's ears because they're already stretched so tight that giving more to God or the church seems like an impossibility - especially when they are considering cutting back on their tithe to help pay some bills.

I've decided that this year we'll ask people to think beyond 2010 - to plan long-term.  If a person is in a place that they can increase their giving for 2010, that's great.  I'm also going to do my best to give permission to people who need to spend 2010 working on debt.  It's not until we are free from debt that we can truly honor God.  What would happen if we spent a year eliminating debt in our households?  What would offerings look like in 2011 and beyond if people had a different focus for 2010?

This year, on our commitment forms, you'll probably see another line next to the financial commitment for 2010.  A simple check box that indicates you will make it a priority to reduce and eliminate your debt in 2010 so that in the years that follow, you can be free to give more generously. 

Erin and I have worked out a two-year plan to be completely free from our debt.  We're tithing now, but in one year, we'll have money to give a little more.  In two years, we'll have a few hundred dollars a month to put away and give away.  I'm excited about the prospect of having the extra breathing room and the added ability to help others.  What would you do with the money you spend on debt right now if you were free?

Share your stories and your thoughts: alexander.stroud (at) gmail.com