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One of the things we're getting to know about Pastor Tim McConnell as he makes his home in the First Pres pulpit is that he's passionate about teaching that frees God's people to be who God made them to be. Here, Tim tells a little of the story behind his preaching on financial giving and freedom. This piece was adapted from the original interview in the October 2017 issue of First Pres Magazine.
One of the guiding verses in my life has been John 8:36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus teaches liberation, not oppression. Nowhere does our confusion on this issue surface more than around the topic of money. We naturally think: God is trying to get our money, God wants our money, God doesn’t want us to have money.
On top of that, there seems to be a dragon floating through our neighborhoods and whispering in our windows, “Never enough. Never enough.” Though we are the wealthiest and most comfortably resourced people in the history of humanity, we live with a feeling of scarcity. We’re burdened by the constant scramble for more. We feel anxious—even worthless—when our pay rate doesn’t rise and we can’t immediately buy the next phone, the next car, the next vacation.
The teaching of the Bible on how to handle money before God liberates us from overwhelming anxiety, greed and a disordered life. It grieves God to see his children live under false oppression. I preach so forcefully about the Biblical model of the tithe because I know it liberates people who follow it.
Tithing also liberates the church to be what God intended it to be. Today’s Church—in a big-picture sense—is anemic from underfunding. That’s not as true here at First Pres as at other churches I’ve served, but it is sad to see the Church in our times limping along because fully committed Christians have grown accustomed to giving at the rate of 1.5 to two percent of their income. God sees the church as a 10 percent project, and we are running it as a two percent project.
Imagine your vet tells you to feed your dog two cups of food each day, but you only give her two tablespoons. Soon she is anemic and sick. You stop wanting to be around her and she does no good for your family! In the same way, the Church is feeding on much less than God intended— but somehow we blame the church for its inability to innovate and effect change in the world. God's people can change the role of the church in the world simply by changing our habits around giving.
On Sunday, October 22, we'll have a chance to take a step of obedience in our giving—a step toward freedom—as we bring forward our giving commitments for 2018.