In America we are programmed to think that the money we make is meant to serve our every whim and pleasure. As soon as the check hits our account or as soon as we get that extra money, we automatically ask questions like: What can I buy with it? How can I be fulfilled better by it? How can we upgrade our house? Our wardrobe? Our food? What new device can I get with it? Our primary question and thought is how will my money serve me best not how will it serve God and others.
The word “begrudgingly” could accurately describe the way a vast majority of people feel initially about giving away “their” money. Bitterness and entitlement creep in and we think to ourselves, “I worked for this so I deserve this,” or “What if I had that money back that I gave away?” This thought process lacks humility and appreciation for God’s grace which has allowed us to have anything to begin with. As the bible says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is” (Matthew 6:21). In other words, where our money is spent reflects what we truly care about, what our heart is really like, and what we are invested in. We can have the lip service all day long that we are devoted to Christ and his church or helping others but if you looked at your bank statement, what would it really reflect?
What if we restructured our mindset from money serving us to money serving God? If our money serves God, it will naturally serve us in a better way. Money in the hands of someone who is devoted to using it for Kingdom purposes is a remarkable force for good. Too often we demonize money when really the demon is the love of money for selfish means and the corruption and greed that can accompany it. Money used correctly could remarkably decrease poverty, homelessness, orphans, terrorism, hate, wars, and other world problems. Most importantly, use it can lead people to Christ which is the answer for every problem under the sun. Even when we do give of our finances, its often to a comfortable level, lacking faith, and just enough to make us feel good about ourselves but not cause a radical shift in our self-accumulating lives.
For the longest time I thought that I needed to pray for God to change my heart to want to tithe BEFORE beginning to tithe. I wanted to FEEL comfortable with it but I learned that often God changes your heart AFTER you obey him. We cannot wait for him to change our heart to obey him when we clearly know what he is commanding us to do. As our pastor has taught, delayed obedience is immediate disobedience, and we don’t have to pray about what God has already made clear to do!
Old Testament Principle
The self-centered money mindset is not a new phenomenon. Over 2500 years ago the book of bible book of Haggai in describes this problem. God speaks through the prophet Haggai about the people’s priorities not being in line with The Lord’s priorities. The people are working endlessly and tirelessly for self-fulfilling accumulation.Their defense of focusing on self instead of building the temple is, “Its not yet time for the Lord’s House to be built” (Haggai 1:2). God replies by saying, “So it is time for you to live in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins? (Haggai 1:4). God points out that the the fruit of their labor doesn’t quite match up to what they are sowing:”You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why? Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new win, the oil and whatever the ground produces on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands” (Haggai 1:9-11).
God then “stirs the spirit of the people” and they begin to work on the Lord’s house (1:14) instead. After this, God fills his house with His glory and grants peace in it (2:7, 9). Then comes the personal blessing – AFTER the people have given priority and attention to the Lord’s house. God says “From this day on I will bless you” (2:19). When the people started building the church, God was glorified and they had access to a place of peace unlike before. After they prioritized their work and finances toward God-glorifying purposes, THEN then Lord started blessing their personal lives.
Although this was written, in 520 B.C., its principles are still applicable today, just as the entire bible’s promises and principles are. The Word of God is unchanging and timeless which is why we can rely on it in changing, uncertain times for clarity, principles, and guidance. The people were working hard to have their money serve them while neglecting the temple–or present day the church. They were working hard enough to enjoy the fruits of their labor but still coming up slightly short in their wants and needs. They were devoting their attention to making their homes nice and acquiring more yet saying that it wasn’t time to devote money and time to building God’s church. Sound familiar? How often are we working endlessly and should have our plenty but come up short? How little of our focus is on the church and instead is on our own lives? “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he said ‘I will never leave or forsake you.'” Hebrews 13:5. God, trust and faith in him, and surrender to him is enough. He will provide, protect, and be faithful when our money, time, and life is surrendered to Him.
The Flip Side: New Testament Principle
Our life’s purpose, and thus how we should spend our money, time, and life, is very clear in scripture: reaching people far from God and teaching them how to follow Jesus. The Great commission reflects this, the original Church in Acts reflects this, Jesus’ teachings reflect this. I never see Jesus say, “go to Church on Sundays if its convenient otherwise just on holidays, live life to accumulate and make yourself as happy as possible, and don’t worry yourselves with reaching others for Christ or the hurting of the world.” NO! I see devote yourself to and love the church as Christ bought it with his blood (Acts 28:20), live your life sacrificially and selflessly, love others, reach others for and teach others about me, and share in the sufferings and burdens of others. Us Christians can be so delusional sometimes about what we were created for. The saddest part is, by chasing after our false delusions of happiness and fulfillment, we miss out on what we were created for and thus what brings ultimate joy and satisfaction.
In Romans 15, Paul is discussing his “ambition”- his God-given calling which is connected to every Christian’s calling but the specifics of it are tailored by God for Paul. His ambition included reaching the unreached and unchurched people in his region by building a NEW foundation, not building on someone else’s foundation. I am inspired by Paul delaying YEARS of personal desires to see friends who know Jesus in order to preach the gospel to those who don’t know Jesus. Paul’s perseverance is incredible as he doesn’t move on to his personal, self-serving desires until his God inspired ambition is complete. “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. This is why I have been hindered from coming to you. But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so…” (Romans 15:20-24).
The relation: Clemson for Christmas
Our ambition, our money, our resources, our work ethic, our careers, our lives are meant to serve God who in turn provides for us. As Haggai teaches us, building God’s church and our calling according to Him should take precedence over other superfluous areas of our lives. After we invest in and focus on building his church, THEN he will bless us. Paul is a great example of one who surrenders his life purpose and desires to God’s will. He commits to the calling God gave him to reach the unchurched and unreached. He denies his personal ambitions until his gospel-ambition is achieved.
In the same way, Clemson is a place with many unreached and unchurched students. Students from every state in the USA and 82 countries attend Clemson. Many have never stepped foot in a church or heard of Jesus. This is a mission field that is ripe with opportunity to hear the gospel. Like Paul’s calling for his missional area on new foundation, so Newspring has been called to build a church campus on NEW FOUNDATION! Jesus commanded us to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey his commands” in Matthew 28:19-20. This presents the perfect opportunity to fulfill the great commission as students from around the nation and world make Clemson their temporary homes.
I was reached and I was churched before I went to Clemson, but my life wasn’t truly surrendered to Jesus until after going to Newspring for a few years and God working on my heart. Three generations of my family have gone to Clemson, my parents and grandparents have given to Clemson for over half a century, and I have loved the Tigers since I was as little as I can remember. However, truly the best part about Clemson for me was walking into Newspring in 2004 on Anderson University’s campus. The turning point of my faith and life happened at Clemson because of Newspring and I can’t imagine where I would be without it. I’m so excited thinking of the impact it will make for thousands of Clemson students in the future.
Life is not about acquiring and enjoying but about people meeting Jesus and their lives completely changing as a result of that. There is no better investment with our money, work, and life than what is wrapped up in Haggai and Romans 15: build the church and reach the unchurched and unreached. Newpsring’s Clemson for Christmas offering gives us the opportunity to be apart of something Kingdom focused, something that will have a domino effect and eternal impact for the glory of God!
****UPDATE: So excited to report that the 3 million for Clemson for Christmas needed to build the new campus was reached before midnight on New Years Eve, as we collectively prayed for. To God be the Glory!!!