Helping the Kingdom Come about
Last week I spoke about the ministry of fund-raising being a conversion experience as it helps us to realise our vision and mission. Vision and mission is all about extending God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. Likewise, fund-raising is a very concrete way to help the Kingdom of God come about.
But what is the Kingdom?
Jesus spoke on many occasions about the Kingdom. His message was, “Repent for the Kingdom of God has come near”.
Scripture clearly teaches that we are to make the Kingdom our first priority, and when we do, “all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:33).
The Kingdom is where God provides for all that we need. It is the realm of sufficiency where we are no longer pulled here and there by anxiety about having enough.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matt. 6:34).
Jesus also compares the Kingdom to a mustard seed:
“It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’” (Mark 4:31-32).
God’s love is strong enough to sacrifice His Son for our sake. Our response to this is to willingly sacrifice self for Him, and when our love is in line with God’s love we experience Kingdom love, a love we find that it is stronger than death (1 Cor. 13:8). We are called to plant and nurture such love here on earth, and when we do this we are releasing the Kingdom of God here. Our role as the children of God, Christ’s Church, is to create a community of love for all to see. Paul is clear about this: “Follow the way of love” (1 Cor. 14:1). In other words, make love your aim!
Covid-19 has given us all an opportunity to demonstrate this way of love, the Kingdom of God way. Many have given themselves to connecting with friend, neighbour and family in a way that is offering God’s love in both practical and spiritual ways.
The Kingdom of God is all about relationship. How do we relate to an eternal loving God who has come down to us? If fund raising is ministry then what is our relationship with money like? We will never be able to ask for money if we do not know how we ourselves relate to it.
What is the place of money in our lives?
How many of us know how much money those closest to us earn, or used to earn, at the moment?
Do we normally talk with them about their money?
Is money ever the subject of dinner table conversation?
Are family conversations about money usually anxious, angry, hopeful, satisfied?
Did our parents talk with us about money when we were children?
Do they talk with us about it now?
Did they teach us skills in how to handle money?
And in our own turn, do we discuss our financial affairs with our children?
Are we comfortable telling them how we earn it and how we use it?
Often, when it is too late, animated family discussions centre around money. Growing up as a child it was tight and it led to tensions. When I speak to wedding couples, we have discussions about money, and too often they say they have never had such conversations before!
Money is not only a central reality of family relationships, but it is also a central reality in our relationships with people, institutions, and causes beyond family life.
So how do we spend the money we have?
Are we inclined to save it so we will be prepared for emergencies, or do we spend it because we might not have it later?
Do we like to give our money to friends, to charities, to churches, to political parties, to educational institutions?
Where are we, in fact, giving our money?
Are we concerned about whether our gift is tax efficient?
How would we feel if people used the money we gave them in ways other than those for which we gave it?
Imagine giving a thousand pounds to someone thinking the money would be used to help needy children, only to find out that it’s been used to pay for a foreign holiday. Would we get angry?
How does having, or not having, money affect our self-esteem, our sense of value?
Do we feel good about ourselves when we have a lot of money?
If we do not have much money, do we feel bad about ourselves?
Is a low or even modest income a source of embarrassment?
Or do we think money doesn’t matter at all?
How do we feel when people ask us for money?
If you are of a certain age you may remember Pink Floyd’s song Money, from their Dark Side of the Moon album. It highlights how money and power go together, and how it can make you selfish! That’s what money does. There is also a real relationship between power and a sense of self-worth. I’m sure you’ve known times when money has been used to control people or events. Perhaps you’ve done that yourself.
It’s worth asking ourselves, do we use our money to make things happen the way we want them to happen? Do we ever use money simply to give others the freedom to do what they want to do? A few years ago Barbara and I gave some money to another church saying that they could use it as they see fit. A year or so later we heard that they’d used it to take their staff away on a retreat, it was a real spiritual treat for all!
If any of these questions makes us uncomfortable, it may be because talking about money is hard for us, harder that talking about sex or religion! This is most noticeable when we must do some fund-raising, we feel being up front is not easy!
Henri Nouwen (see footnote [i]) says that this has something to do with the intimate place in our heart where we need security, and we do not want to reveal our need or give away our security to someone who might, maybe only accidentally, betray us. This highlights an independent spirit we all have, whose voice can shout very loudly when we’re being asked to financially support someone or a project!! “If I give will I have enough for myself?”
But that is not surprising, after all we live in a culture where we’re encouraged to secure our own future. Such an attitude cannot be supported by Biblical teaching, however. I know I have preached on this numerous times before; Jesus knows our need for security. He is concerned, because security seems to be such a deep human need. Remember His words from Matthew’s Gospel,
‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21).
So what is your treasure? God, or money? This is saying, if our heart is divided we cannot find security. In Luke 16 Jesus says something very radical:
‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.’ (Luke 16:13).
What is your security base; God or Mammon?
So if we believe God, (which we do), is calling us to appoint a paid worker for children’s and families’ work, are we trusting in God or self to fund such a role?
If Jesus were here I think this is what He would ask, “Is your security in God or Mammon?” We cannot put our security in God and also in money. We have to make a choice. Jesus’ soundbite is “Put your security in God, and His kingdom.” We have to make a choice where we want to belong, to the world or to God. Our trust, our basic trust, Jesus teaches, has to be in God. As long as our real trust is in money, the harsh reality is that we cannot be true members of the Kingdom of God.
All the questions I have asked are simply to help us consider whether we are, perhaps, still putting our security in money.
“Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” (Prov. 11:28).
What is the true base of your security?
Is your security base based on the truth of the ways of Scripture, and so of the Kingdom, or on the lies of the ways of the world?
Time to think
Read the two passages from Scripture (1 Corinthians 12:31b – 13:13 & Matthew 6:19-24 & 33-34) and let them speak to you afresh in light of fund-raising as ministry. As God speaks to you why not write down (in your journal) what you sense God is saying to you.
In the text of the sermon there were many questions. Don’t feel that you have to go through them all in one go, instead choose a couple to ponder on each day over the coming weeks.
As you ponder on them why not write down your thoughts and share your reflections with others?
Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.
St. Ignatius Loyola
[i] Henri J.M. Nouwen, “The spirituality of fundraising” published by Upper Room Ministries, (2004)