From the very beginning we humans were born into a wrestle of epic proportions. We were made by God to be like Him, and to look after the good creation he set us within. But we’ve always been tempted to put our trust in the things God made rather than God Himself. Even in that abundant Garden-gift—Eden—we put our trust in the tree and the serpent and ourselves, rather than the One who made them all.
Fast forward countless generations and we find ourselves in that same, age-old bind: Who will we trust? What will we invest in? This is heightened by the stressful economic reality of a city that seems too expensive to live in and strong competition for jobs and career opportunities. Even within the relative wealth of Auckland, we feel intense pressure to keep our lives and families financially afloat and safeguarded for the future. As they often do, trust and fear go hand in hand. Just look at the US Elections!
It’s within this context that the Gospel blows like a cleansing wind. It challenges us with that original question: Who will we trust? What will we invest in? The Gospel antidotes to the modern fear of scarcity are found in the form of joy, gratitude and generosity. Joy expresses that God holds our ultimate future in His hands, while gratitude keeps us firmly focused on the God who is the source of all good things. Our generosity turns these two gifts around and allows us to be like God by letting His abundance flow from us to others. Scot McKnight calls this the “reciprocity of grace … God gives to us so that we can become grace to others.” The New Testament vision of money is that we would express these three gifts within the church as the family of God and Christ’s body in the world.
I love the way Tom Wright puts it: “Don’t let the parodies put you off. The habit of giving, of giving generously, is not an extra option for keen Christians. It is absolutely obligatory on all – because our whole calling is to reflect God the creator, and the main thing we know about this true God is that his very nature is self-giving, generous love. The reason why “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7) is that that’s what God himself is like. Someone like that is a person after God’s own heart. Making a regular, formal and public practice of giving money is designed to generate the habit of heart which forms a key part of what is meant by agape love.” NT Wright, Virtue Reborn
So, today I want to thank you for what you give to this community of faith and the Kingdom of God through St Paul’s. What our church does is only possible because of your generosity, and the potential of what we’re planting here at St Paul’s excites me. After a long period of transition and change, we now have an opportunity to plan for the future and to start putting those plans into practice.
What makes us unique as followers of Jesus is that we believe in an Age beyond this one—a divine reality that shapes and gives significance to everything we do now. Our firm conviction is that what we sow into and through the church now will pay great dividends in the future—not just in our lifetime but in the Age to Come in a world without end. What better investment could you wish for?
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