Dear Friends, this month’s e-teaching is the re-publishing of a ‘classic’ that I wrote in 2006. It seems to have just as much relevancy as it did then, and I do hope it ministers to you. Every blessing, David
It was reported by the Associated Press that, near the town of Gavas, eastern Turkey, one sheep among a large flock walked to the edge of a cliff and jumped to its death. A second sheep quickly imitated the first, also leaping off the cliff to its death. Then a third sheep followed. Then a fourth. Then a fifth. The AP reported that “stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff.” When it was all over, 450 sheep had died and 1,050 survived, but only because those sheep that jumped later were saved as the pile of sheep got higher and the fall more cushioned.
Imagine the peer pressure that last sheep must have felt. Surely 1,499 sheep can’t be wrong…can they?
In November’s e-Teaching, I made the case that all nonprofits and charities incur inevitable expenses for fundraising and administration. That was true when Paul raised funds for poor saints in Jerusalem (a fact I elaborated on in my last e-teaching), and it has been true every time funds have been raised ever since. Even in the case of an all-volunteer organization, there are still expenses incurred for fundraising and administration, expenses that are often paid by the volunteers themselves.
So let us admit it: It costs money to inform potential donors of needs, and it costs money to use donated funds properly in order to meet the needs for which they were given.
I don’t think that “fundraising” is a dirty word. Rather, fundraising is biblical. You can find examples of it in both Old and New Testaments.
Paul, for example, was quite a fundraiser. He devoted two chapters of his second letter to the Corinthians to communicate the needs of poor saints in an attempt to persuade his readers to give sacrificially to meet those needs. That is fundraising. When people sometimes tell me that I shouldn’t communicate needs or attempt to motivate people to meet those needs—but instead just pray about them—I point them to 2 Corinthians 8-9.
God knows I love pastors. I was a pastor, off and on, for about twenty years. I’ve spoken to thousands of pastors around the world and expended myself on their behalf. I know something about the challenges they face. But sometimes they say things that I’m certain they will one day regret.
For example, have you ever heard a pastor say, “Your tithe belongs to the local church”? I’ll bet I’ve heard that hundreds of times over the past 40 years of my Christian life. That familiar claim is often followed with, “If you want to give to other ministries, you can give offerings over and above your tithe.”
In last month’s e-teaching I shot a sacred cow about tithing to the local church. I pulled the trigger with fear and trepidation.
My fears, however, proved to be baseless, as most of the feedback I received was very positive. We emailed that e-teaching to 9,000 subscribers. We also posted it on our website here, where about 4,500 people have since read it. 888 Facebook subscribers “liked” it and 529 of them “shared” it. That made it our most popular e-teaching ever.
As I endeavor this month to address some final questions that have followed April’s e-teaching titled, Five Modern Myths About Jesus’ Conversation with the Rich Young Ruler, I suspect that some readers will be surprised by my answers. Did Jesus expect the rich ruler to liquidate business capital? Is it wrong to save or invest money? How much should we give? What did Jesus mean when He said that no one can be His disciple who does not give up all his own possessions (Luke 14:33)? If you have not read my initial and subsequent articles in this series, it would be best if you did. As always, your feedback is appreciated. — David
Last month, we began to explore the degree of dispossession that Jesus expected of the rich ruler if he was to inherit eternal life. This is of interest to us, as I have shown that Jesus’ words to the rich ruler have undeniable application to every one of us, rather than uniquely to him, as is often thought.
We’ve been giving away free copies of my little book Forever Rich for some months now, but at the end of this e-teaching, we’ve got a free offer for a much more significant book that I wrote on stewardship some years ago titled, Through the Needle’s Eye, and subtitled, An Impossible Journey Made Possible by God. It covers everything that the Bible has to say about stewardship, from Genesis to Revelation. I hope you’ll take advantage of our free offer. — David
This e-teaching is another follow-up to April’s e-teaching titled, Five Modern Myths about Jesus’ Conversation with the Rich Young Ruler. I would strongly encourage you not to read this e-teaching unless you’ve first read that one, otherwise you will likely be confused. In that e-teaching, I presented compelling biblical evidence that Jesus’ words to the rich ruler have application to all of us, contrary to what so many professing Christians think. I made a very strong case, and I wish that I could persuade every professing Christian in the world to read that e-teaching and the two that followed (The True Grace of God and All Christians Believe “Works” are Essential for Salvation), because neglecting the poor, according to Jesus, is a barricade to eternal life. If you are shocked by that statement, then I beg you to read Five Modern Myths about Jesus’ Conversation with the Rich Young Ruler.
We’ve covered a lot of ground so far, and I’m glad you’re still with me. That’s a good sign. You know that your life is a journey to stand before Jesus, the Venture Capitalist before whom you will have to give an account of your time, talents and treasures. You understand that you are among the world’s wealthy elite, and “to whom much is given, much is required.” You are taking action to eliminate foolish debt, to self-dispossess, and to scale down in Disneyland so you can lay up treasure in heaven. You are an intelligent investor, leveraging your time and resources for maximum earthly gain. And you have long-range investment plans for the remainder of your life and on into eternity. Feel good! You are on the right track!
It is, generally speaking, impossible to lay up treasure in heaven unless you first have some treasure on earth to transfer. That is why we’ve been considering ways to eliminate debt and reduce expenses. We want to free up funds to deposit into our heavenly bank accounts.
Besides reducing expenses, the only other way to secure funds for heaven is by increasing income. If you can remain contented with your current standard of living, increasing your income can enable you to lay up in heaven 100 percent of that increase—as you demonstrate your love for the Lord and build His kingdom on earth. In such a case, earning money becomes pure ministry, just as much as anything else that can be labeled “ministry.”
Once you realize that your life is a journey to give an account before the Great Venture Capitalist, and once you’ve begun to understand how wealthy you are by comparison to most people in the world and learn contentment, and once you’ve started to obey Jesus’ commandment of self-dispossession (which is actually just a prudent transfer of wealth from earth to heaven), life becomes much different. You begin to truly act like one who is a steward of what belongs to God, evaluating your financial decisions in light of the truth.
You probably will, as I have, wrestle over many decisions that relate to your stewardship. I have to admit that it hasn’t been easy for me. My heart seems to still be at least partially tied to this earth. I live here, so like everyone else, I want to be happy here. Consequently, I need continual reminders that my earthly sojourn is infinitely short in comparison to my eternal future in the Kingdom of God.