I Timothy 6:17-19
Responding To A Recession
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

In our text, Paul told Timothy, a Pastor, to deal with money issues. The Apostle instructed Timothy to speak to the rich. Since almost all of us here live far above the standard Paul had in mind in our text, his words apply to us.

I Timothy 6:17-19 (Holman) Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real.

When a nation is in an economic Recession, how should a local church respond? Should it rail against people adversely affected as if their own sins are to blame for their downturn? No.

During a Recession, since everyone else is obsessed with talking about money, should a church be stone silent on the subject? No.

In economic hard times, should a church apologize for bringing up the subject of money? No.

In fact, reports indicate church people are, in our current Recession, more open than ever to hearing sermons about money. These are troubling times.

People are uneasy and want a clear word about personal and family finances. A Recession is no time to avoid money sermons.

Economic troubles do not thwart a believer’s interest in giving. In fact, in Recessions, churches remain the number one recipient of household dollars given to charity. I’m glad people, even in hard times, prioritize God.

Now back to the original question. How should a local church respond to a Recession? Our best reaction is to preach what the Bible teaches about how to handle money wisely.

Granted, a Recession may not be the most opportune time to try to raise money, but sometimes even this has to be done. For instance, despite our current Recession, Victory Mission is doing a fundraiser to help house the homeless.

In 2007 Victory Mission had to turn away 300 homeless women. In Fall 2008 they turned away in one month 99 homeless women and children.

Victory Mission needs money now, not later, because homeless women and children are never in a Recession. They are always in a Depression, and people, including those in a Recession, are required to help people in a Depression.

We know 2009 already has been, and will continue to be, a challenging year for many of you financially. Our church is trying to respond appropriately.

During the last four USA economic Recessions, giving to churches has dropped an average of 1.4%. Thus, we feel we were prudent in presenting for this year a budget 1.5% below what we gave last year.

We are grateful our church is in good financial shape. Many churches would be thrilled to have spent $150,000 less than receipts last year. Most churches our size would also be glad to be within one year of being debt free.

Thank you, dear people of Second, for being generous. Your staff knows and appreciates the fact every penny Second receives to spend is available because someone chose to give their hard-earned money to God through our church. Pray God will enable us to be good stewards of your generous, faithful gifts.

Our text, I Timothy 6:17-19, speaks to me in a very personal way. It reminds me a Pastor, whether he likes it or not, bears the chief responsibility for all matters related to giving in a local church.

This can be a tough assignment. If you hate hearing a money sermon, you should try preaching one someday.

My own pilgrimage in preaching on finances has been a saga. I spent the first 35 years or so of my ministry afraid to mention money. I feared people would think I was self-serving, interested only in padding my own pockets.

Due to this fear, I preached on money only when I had to, usually during a fundraiser. This actually did make me look like a money-grubber, because the only time I ever preached on money was when begging people to give it.

A few years ago, Rich Miller, our church’s Minister of Finances, and I started talking about a trend we had begun to notice. More and more of our church people were miserable due to making unwise money choices.

We were hearing from people who wanted to give a tithe, or even more, to God’s work, but credit card debt was stifling them. Some said they were feeling God’s strong call to missions, but debt was making them ineligible to serve.

Since Rich and I both have a Pastor’s heart, this sadness in our people made us sad. We felt compelled to do something constructive.

Rich and I became convinced we must help people survive in the wild, dangerous jungle of money. He and I concluded the way our church had been preaching and teaching about money needed an extreme make-over.

We decided we should talk about money more, not less, but needed to change our emphasis. We felt we should preach fewer sermons about raising money, and more about helping people know how to wisely handle this potentially explosive commodity known as money.

In response to our current Recession, Rich and I feel we at Second should discuss money in terms of how it can best be used as a way to help people grow in their walk with Jesus. The way we use money has spiritual ramifications.

Money is powerful not only for what it accomplishes in the world, but also for what it accomplishes in our spirits. There is a correlation between the level of our giving and the level of our spiritual vitality.

If we doubt a powerful connection exists between money and spirituality, we need to think again. Ponder the New Testament stories of Zaccheus, who gave, thereby making himself and Jesus happy, versus the rich young ruler, who hoarded, thereby making himself and Jesus sad.

Rich and I sense a need to emphasize a vital truth. The act of giving money is a spiritual discipline.

Spiritual disciplines are habitual outward actions we practice to encourage inner growth in holiness. We use them not because they have merit in and of themselves, but because they serve as stepping stones helping us grow toward spiritual maturity. The purpose of each spiritual discipline is to help redirect some part of our lives to lead us to spiritual growth and transformation.

The spiritual disciplines include Bible reading (a recent Lifeway study of mature believers showed that reading the Bible is their most helpful spiritual discipline), prayer, corporate worship, small accountability groups, fasting, and meditation. Another of these spiritual disciplines is the act of giving money.

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Too many of us use only the reverse meaning of this verse, saying where our heart is, there our treasure is.

This is true, but not what the verse says. Matthew 6:21 teaches that the act of giving has a reverb effect on our hearts. It is true that as we give God more of our heart, we give Him more of our money. It is also true that giving God more of our money results in our giving Him more of our hearts.

Each time we give, addiction to stuff weakens. We find ourselves more and more feeling like giving is what we were created to do.

God often determines our spiritual usefulness by how we handle money. He decides whether He can trust us with eternal things based on how well we do with mundane things. “If you have not been faithful with the unrighteous money, who will trust you with what is genuine?” (Luke 16:11).