Money, Money, Money

 Some years ago, I was in a tough financial situation on the back end of a really difficult season in my professional life. I had started working at EBC and absolutely loved my job which, at the time, involved leading our work with seniors. But it was a part time job and it earned me just a fraction of what I had previously been earning.

I heard recently that some research has been done into men’s mental health and that the biggest fear many men have – often not recognized at first – is the inability to provide for their families. Rightly or wrongly, traditionally in our culture the man has been the main ‘breadwinner’ and again, rightly or wrongly, provision for and protection of the family has been (and, I suspect, remains) deeply ingrained in the male psyche.

When bills come in or there is something the family either needs or really wants, many men feel pressure to provide and feel the pain of failure if they are unable to do so. The same is true when it comes to giving – we’d perhaps like to be more generous, but there are all these bills to pay… and we come away feeling mean.

I well remember – and will never forget – that with Christmas fast approaching, a friend who knew my financial plight came up to me unexpectedly and just handed me an envelope which had £200 in it. That made a big impression on me – not just financially, but, well… you can imagine. Years later, and in a much better financial state, I was able to report back to my generous friend that the £200 he had given me had made its way to someone else who needed it much more than I did.

On another occasion, when I was still pretty skint, I remember my lawn mower and strimmer had both packed up. I felt utterly dispirited and then got really cross and decided that I’d blummin’ well buy a proper petrol mower and strimmer and make them pay for themselves by doing some mowing for other people. With a bit of luck and fair amount of hard work, that mower and strimmer paid for themselves many times over and eventually my final year of semi-pro mowing proved to be a nice little earner for a favourite charity.

I’ve often heard preachers talk about the principle of tithing (giving 10% of your gross income) and that we are now under grace not the old laws of Judaism (under which tithing was required). So we are free to give less, or indeed more, than that 10%.
Giving, we are told, is a matter of faith – and I agree, it is. But my experiences of being on the one hand flush with cash and on the other hand being stony broke and in debt, have told me that it is far easier to give from your excess than from your poverty. My experience has been that giving 10% of your gross income when you are in debt and really struggling to make ends meet is a very different prospect than giving 10% of your gross income when it’s coming in faster than you can spend it!

So, reality check here – the two cases are different. However, we are under grace, not the Law  and it remains true that giving is a matter of faith and it also remains true that it is a far, far better feeling to give money than it is to receive it. It is, as Jesus said, more blessed to give than to receive.

My very generous friend (who gave me that £200 all those years ago) once shared with me that he prays that God will make him really rich so that he can give much more money away. And, by the way, this friend doesn’t tithe his money, but get this… he DOUBLE tithes it! Yes, that’s right – for years he has given away 20% of his gross income, and he is by no means a rich person.
Except of course, by much of the world’s standards, he is – and so am I, and so are you.

About a year ago, I was able to help out a guy who was in horrendous circumstances – partly through his own serious errors, it’s true. Having fed him and listened to his (horrendous) tale of woe, I drove him from EBC to the electrical cupboard he was living in, and gave him some cash. He gave me a massive hug and as I got back in my car to drive home, I burst into tears. Why? Because here was this guy, about my age, whose life was a complete mess, and here was I, being paid well to do a job I love and about to drive my nice modern car back to my comfortable home and my beautiful wife and two fine sons… how blessed am I?
Why am I sharing all this? Because I want to be generous and to know ever better and more often that feeling of generosity , and I want those things for YOU too. At EBC, we rely on our members and regular attenders to give generously and sacrificially, so that we can do all of the work we do as a church, locally and overseas.

I need to be open with you in saying that our Treasury team has reported that the trend in our regular giving has been a downward one, no doubt in part at least due to the effects of the ‘covid years’. Yet, at the same time, we have been blessed with lots more people coming to church, and also by some extraordinary individual acts of generosity. So it’s not like we’re in trouble, or anything close to it. But the regular giving trend is down and we need to correct that. We are committed to the vision of “living within our giving” such that the income we receive from our lettings can, eventually, be the cherry on the top of our finances and we can give it all away! We’re a long way from that, but if we are ever to achieve it, well, we need to talk about money because we need to be giving regularly, and reviewing our giving regularly.

One way to do this is to set a percentage giving target. It might not be 10% of your gross income, but it might be 1% or 5% or, lucky you if you can do it, 25%! From there, we can aspire to set a new percentage target.

When we get a pay increase or some kind of financial windfall, is our giving the first thing we think of? I want to challenge you that it should be.

It’s not about money, it’s about faith and trusting God for His provision. Not to be foolhardy, or saddle ourselves with debt, but to be good – and generous – stewards of our finances.

In closing, I have asked Rob Lea, our Treasurer to make sure that the church is kept regularly updated about our giving trends, starting with a half year review once our June figures are in next month. In the interim, you can find out more about giving by talking to Rob, Kat or Maggie in complete confidence.

The financial future of EBC is in our hands – unless it’s still in our wallets of course…

We want to continue to be a generous church but, as good financial stewards, we can’t give out what we’re not bringing in. So, to borrow a phrase from one of my predecessors - I’m not telling you off, I’m just telling you. We need to increase our regular giving. Don’t say no-one told you – this is me telling you!

Let’s be generous, let’s be faithful, let’s be blessed… because it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Simon Lace, 15/06/2022