Relearning Extravagance

On Sunday morning, I was in Birmingham so I found myself at Church of the Highlands instead of being at Cross Point for the culmination of Faith, Hope, and Love. And candidly I was somewhat relieved because Pete Wilson has been packing each Sunday full of punches straight to my gut.

God has been seriously speaking to me this year about my finances, or as he keeps reminding me, His finances.

Wad of Cash

I grew up surrounded by wealth. (Really for those living in the United States and reading this on a computer screen, we all grew up surrounded by wealth.) And I’d be the first to admit that generosity is not something that comes naturally to me. Well that is not quite accurate. I am generous with my time and with my knowledge, but not so much with my money or my things. I tend to act all stingy, like they are “mine.”

But for some reason this year God has said “enough.”

First through watching several friends go to India on the Compassion Bloggers trip, next through the pages of Richard Stearn’s The Hole in Our Gospel, then through Catalyst’s 143million.org campaign, and finally Sunday at Highlands through guest pastor Robert Morris.

The pastor of Gateway Church in Dallas, Texas, Morris was introduced as “the American pastor who most embodies the concept of generosity.”  His message was simple enough, “give extravagantly.” But it’s funny until Sunday, I only thought of extravagance as a descriptor for your living, not your giving.

So here I sit knowing that I need to be more faithful, more generous, and even more extravagant with my giving, but wondering what in the world that looks like. I have a feeling that it looks a little more sacrificial and a little less dutiful. Ouch!

Anyone else struggling with this?

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Lindsey has a sincere love for her precious dogs Molly and Maisy, a good red wine and the Delta Sky Club. She spends her days (and some nights) laboring to end childhood hunger at Feed the Children and to gather, equip and unleash women at IF:Gathering.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Hmmmm…talking about hitting in the gut. What about when giving becomes mechanical? And…when giving is more than monetary (i.e. time, compassion, attention, serving the needs of others that get me "dirty"), I wonder how extravagant I am. Thanks for sharing.

  • I loved to give and give, but kept spending like always. I always just thought it was a quirky, lovable why-I-always-am-in-debt characteristic. Now that my husband and I have made serious in roads in getting out of debt, we are watching every penny. When we give, I think about it taking money away from something else. That's maturity. And a call to be a faithful, deliberate giver. After sitting here thinking a moment, I don't know how well I'm doing??? Certainly can't use the word extravagant. Not even, the "extra" part. Not even close.

    • @Jamie, Yeah, struggling to find the balance between good stewardship and extravagance seems to be my struggle.

  • tam

    i was just thinking this morning about how little we give. we, like you, give much of our time and "other" resources…but not so much on the financial end.

    what is it about the money part that we white knuckle so tightly? i guess for me, its a trust issue…as well as a heart one. im a giver…but not extravagantly.

    • @tam, i know. right? giving extravagantly? really? really?

  • I was talking with our staff about this today. We are dreaming/praying/planning towards an amazing building some day that will bless our community as well as give us a place to continue our growth as a church. The concern in my heart right now is that we not become so caught up in a building or in our "stuff" that we do not continue to be the church where the most hurting people feel welcome and where our people are not willing to leave their comfortable seats to reach a hurting world. Good stuff.

    Love your folks at Crosspoint BTW. We learn a lot from them. (And your folks at Thomas Nelson)

    Ron Edmondson
    http://www.RonEdmondson.com

  • You are absolutely right about the tension between duty and sacrifice. My husband and I give faithfully but the sacrifice element is hard to discern. And I want to give extravagantly and with joy so thanks for this reminder.

  • I'm gonna start calling you Hammer, cause you nailed this one!

    Yes, I too struggle with this. I'll give you all my time, all my advice, all my spotlight, but just leave the dollars alone. I have to manage that myself cause what if…(fill in the blank here).

    It's a control issue for me. In my head and in my heart I know God's will and the fact He is faithful to provide over and above what I need. Even though I believe that it's still hard to act on. That's why one of Donald Miller's lines from one (or more) of his books sticks in my mind like chewing gum – What you believe isn't what you say you believe. What you believe is what you do. BAM! So obviously I have an issue or two or a thousand…

    Thanks for the reminder though! 🙂

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  • I have thought often about this question. What is enough? Ironically my pastor here in California also talked about money this weekend too. (and will do so again Sunday.) He made the point that giving (financially) is encouragement, not sacrifice. Forgiveness is sacrifice. I often struggle with forgiveness so this was interesting to me. I struggle with money too.
    I also read an interesting article (http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/holy-pos… that made me think. It was about wealth and if it was bad in for a Christian to have wealth, and what is necessary and what is excess. I think it's hard because we all have different view on what is "necessary". Is cable TV and an HDTV set necessary? Is putting money away for my kids college funds a necessity? Is eating out? Having a nice car or having 3 cars? Is my Mac or iPhone necessary or……..

    Personally, where I live and with the decisions we made in regards to saving, we have very little left over for even basic things. (my husband has temporarily deemed Diet coke as NOT a necessity in our new budget)

    Have you read Timothy Keller's newest book Counterfeit Gods? On page 67 Keller writes:

    "Jesus gave up all his treasure in heaven, in order to make you his treasure – for you are a treasured people (1 Peter 2:9-10). When you see him dying to make you his treasure, that will make him yours. Money will cease to be the currency of your significance and security, and you will want to bless others with what you have. To the degree that you grasp the gospel, money will have no dominion over you. Think on his costly grace until it changes you into a generous people."

    • @torybee I think all the pastor's must have gotten together and determined Sunday was money day. 😉

      Diet Coke not a necessity? Oh my!

      I'll checkout Keller's book.

      • I have a slight, well, not so slight, diet coke addiction so yes; I definitely deem diet coke as a necessity! But not all do.

        I loved Keller's book; in fact, he's a favorite author of mine.

        It's funny that so many pastors talked about money last Sunday! 🙂 I love your posts, btw.

  • Its funny I don't have a hard time with giving of my time and talents but at times giving extra money is hard. BUT, in the past couple of months I have been re-working my budget and learning how to spend my money wisely so that I can give more! I shared this with some of my friends, one of my goals is to get out of debt so that I can freely give more than I have ever before!

    • @becky, yes. i think getting out of debt is a critical first step.

  • I love to give extravagantly… my bank manager doesn't like me to though!

    We struggle to make ends meet so I have to rein in my giving but then… whenever I do give, somehow God always helps us to make ends meet anyway. Maybe I should trust him and start giving the way O feel prompted to give!

  • Lindsey,
    Great post. It’s amazing what each of us struggles with. I truly enjoy monetary giving.From sacrificial gifts to little things, I have always loved to share. But I am a lazy “time-giver”. And to me, those of you who offer that to others make a bigger sacrifice than I do parting with money. I think God wants to stretch the weak parts in each of us, so that we are willingly extravagant in any area He calls us to.

    • @Jennifer, from an outsider's point-of-view you look like you do a great job sharing your time.

  • I'm convinced that unless it "hurts" or there's a sacrifice involved, it's not giving. Be that time or money. So many times, we give from our abundant pile and never really feel the sacrifice. If 10% isn't a sacrifice – where's the faith. If you've got it, give till it hurts. Our God is a God who knows our hearts – and the numbers in our bank accounts.

  • ugh, I used to be so good at giving as a kid… weird enough> I was trained to give 10% to my church even when I only made 20$ babysitting. But as I have gotten older and the amount to give is larger and is much harder. Sinday was a big struggle for me. But I trust I did the right thing and that God will help me through it. I love this Post! and I love you 🙂

    • @Jessica Right back atcha. Jenni told me about your Sunday…you are amazing. Looking forward to some Edward and Bella on Friday night.

  • As a kid, I faithfully put fifty cents in the offering plate every Sunday morning, and I never gave it a second thought. Now, every time I write a check to my church, I start thinking about my bills, the student loans I'm still paying back, the current state of the economy, etc. And – even though it kills me to admit this – I worry that God might not catch me if I take that financial "leap". After all these years, I'm still learning to trust that He has every area of my life under control, including my finances.

  • I got hit hard with this a few weeks ago. After spending a weekend with the homeless in our city, I went home to pack for a business trip. I did laundry, then looked at the huge pile of clothes I had available to choose from, and it hit hard. I met people all weekend that probably were in their only outfit, and I had enough clothes for at least two people.

    It's amazing how different the definition of extravagance can be depending on your situation. I've been hit a lot lately with the fact that I should be adjusting mine.

  • yes. Mainly because I'm living paycheck to paycheck at the moment. I'm struggling to keep sponsoring my Compassion child. And I don't buy fancy clothes, I certainly don't have an iPhone or blackberry or even a contract phone for that matter. I buy food, bus fares, car insurance, petrol, eyecare, and pay minimal rent to my Mum who has given me a room. I only work part-time (officially) because that's all the christian charity I work for can afford to pay me for.

    But I do not tithe, and I think I should be. Bottom line is that I'm too scared of not having enough money to live on if I do that.

  • Alece

    i love your transparency and authenticity, lindsey.

    after eleven years on the mission field, i'd like to think i've got this extravagant giving thing down pat. but more often than i'd like to admit, generosity isn't my first (or even fifth) reaction.

    as is most things, it's something i need to choose.

    and choose again.