Spend Less

by Erin Bird

It’s been one week (most likely) since you enjoyed turkey and football and giving thanks with family and friends. Which means, it’s now the Christmas season! Radio stations are now pumping out Christmas music over the airwaves. Houses are being decorated with colored lights. And loud advertisements on TV and in the newspaper tempt us to purchase gifts for our loved ones.

Well, those advertisements must work. Because Americans spend a LOT of money on Christmas.

Our Addiction to Spending
According to Forbes, last week’s Black Friday saw Americans spend over $6.2 billion – a new record. And Cyber Monday was even crazier, with Americans spending $7.8 billion (of which over $2 billion was purchased via smartphones). Investopedia estimates that Americans will spend around 4.5% more in 2018 than in 2017, meaning we will spend approximately $720 billion for the holidays.

That’s a lot of moola. But what does that equate to for the average consumer? Almost $900. And most of that $900-per-American goes on credit cards, which takes some people months to pay off (making it actually far more than $900!).

But while Americans are making VISA rich, global crises continue. For instance, Advent Conspiracy claims it would only take $10 Billion dollars to provide safe water to everyone on the globe.

So what if we spent a little less on ourselves this Christmas so we could give more to those in need?

The Simple Power of “Spend Less”
As I have for the past three Christmases, I want to once again encourage you to Spend Less. Rather than convey your thoughtfulness to others through the amount you spend, I challenge you to convey your love through creative means such as:

  • handcrafting something rather than buying it
  • writing your loved one a poem or a song
  • giving a gift of food rather than a gift certificate to a restaurant
  • or even giving a homemade “coupon book” full of chores or tasks you will do for them

These types of gifts will be better for your bank account, better for your heart, and quite possibly better for your relationships.

A Real Life Example
I have shared this before, but here is one way my family lives this tenet out: LeAnn and I decided years ago to not give each of our kids 5 or 6 (or more) presents, nor focus on spending an equitable dollar amount on each of them. Instead, we give them only three gifts. Each gift is representative of the gifts the Magi gave the Christ Child in Matthew chapter 2.

  • The “myrrh” gift is something practical,
  • the “incense” gift is something to help them grow spiritually during the next year,
  • and the “gold” gift is the thoughtful, valuable gift – something we know will be meaningful to each of our kids.

We then set a budget for these gifts and stick to it. This helps us to Spend Less each Christmas while making Christmas more meaningful for our kids.

The Purpose of Spending Less
Keep in mind, the tenet of spending less isn’t so we’ll have more to spend on ourselves, rather by spending less, you are freed up to Give More (which is next week’s topic). Until next week’s Notes, though, think about how you can Spend Less this Christmas, while still making this one of the best Christmases you can remember.

Spend Less at Christmas?

by Erin Bird

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s the Christmas season! Houses all around town have lights on them. (I seriously think my house is the only one on my block without them!) Radio stations are pumping out Christmas music over the airwaves. And loud advertisements bombard us to purchase gifts for our loved ones.

Well, those advertisements must work. Because Americans spend a LOT of money on Christmas.

OUR ADDICTION TO SPENDING

On Black Friday last week, Americans spent over $5 Billion. And Cyber Monday was even crazier. America set a new “record” spending $6.59 Billion. If that pace continues, it means, America will break the $658 Billion dollar record spent on Christmas last year.

That’s a lot of moola. But what does that equate to for the average consumer? Over $900. And most of that $900-per-American goes on credit cards, which takes some people months to pay off (making it actually far more than $900!).

But while Americans are making VISA rich, global crises continue. For instance, Advent Conspiracy claims it would only take $10 Billion dollars to provide safe water to everyone on the globe.

So what if we spent a little less on ourselves this Christmas so we could give more to those in need?

THE SIMPLE POWER OF “SPEND LESS”

This Christmas, I want to encourage you to Spend Less. Rather than convey your thoughtfulness to others through the amount you spend, I challenge you to convey your love in creative ways:

  • You might create something rather than buy it.
  • You could write someone a poem or a song.
  • You could give them a gift of food rather than a gift certificate to a restaurant.
  • You could even give them a homemade “coupon book” full of chores or tasks you will do for them.

These type of gifts will be better for your bank account, better for your heart, and quite possibly better for your relationships.

A REAL LIFE EXAMPLE

Here’s one way my family lives this tenet out: LeAnn and I decided years ago to not give each of our kids 5 or 6 (or more) presents, nor focus on spending an equitable dollar amount on each of them. Instead, we give them only three gifts. Each gift is representative of the gifts the Magi gave the Christ Child in Matthew chapter 2.

  • The “myrrh” gift is something practical,
  • the “incense” gift is something to help them grow spiritually during the next year,
  • and the “gold” gift is the thoughtful, valuable gift – something we know will be meaningful to each of our kids.

We then set a budget for these gifts and stick to it. This helps us Spend Less each Christmas while making Christmas more meaningful for our kids.

Next week, we will look at the topic of Give More. Until then, think about how you can Spend Less this Christmas, while still making this one of the best Christmases you can remember.

Return to Giving

by Erin Bird

Here in Iowa, we are moving into planting season in the next month or so. Farmers all over our state will be preparing their fields to put seed in the ground.

Every farmer hopes their seed is good, their ground will be fertile, and the weather will cooperate to make a bountiful harvest in the fall. But can you imagine a farmer planting only one-fourth of his land, and yet getting irate when he doesn’t have a record harvest in the fall? You’d look at him like he was crazy! He planted incredibly sparingly, so why should he expect to get a full yield as if he planted all of his acres?

This is exactly the Apostle Paul’s point in 2 Corinthians 9:6.

Sparingly vs. Bountifully

We started a new series here in the News & Notes email last week on the topic of financial generosity. Paul talks about this issue in 2 Corinthians 9, and this week we are going to look at verse 6, which says…

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (ESV)

Paul isn’t talking farming here like I did at the start of this post. The context is finances. And his point is incredibly clear. If you give a little bit of money, you can expect to get back only a little. But if you give generously and bountifully, you can expect a bountiful return.

Some Giving Questions

But this brings up a couple of questions. First, how do we get a “return” and who gives it?

As we’ll see over the next couple of weeks, the “who” is God. God gives a return to us in accordance with what we give as part of our worship.

But does this mean we give for the sole purpose of getting? Personally, that makes me uncomfortable. The giving that Paul is talking about (and that we will see together over the next couple of weeks) is to be for worship to God and for the blessing of others. Giving isn’t to be first about us and what we can get out of it.

And yet, there is a “return” to our giving that we can’t ignore. If we are only willing to give a little bit, then we’ll only get a small return. But when we are willing to give generously, God provides for our needs abundantly.

It All Belongs to God

And that brings me to the last point I will make today. Everything we have is God’s in the first place. Your home, your family, your job, even the air you breathe is God’s, and He happily gives it to you.

That is why when you are stingy with your financial giving, you are acting as though your money is yours. And because you are (in a sense) hoarding His stuff, God isn’t going to entrust more to you. But if you are willing to be generous, recognizing it is God’s and He wants you to use the finances He gives you to bless others and exhibit faith in Him, He will gladly provide for you.

So don’t “sow sparingly.” Instead, learn the joy of giving “bountifully” and generously, trusting that God can do more with your money than you ever could, and there will be a return in your giving.

Let’s Talk About Money

by Erin Bird

There are certain topics that seem taboo to talk about in certain places.
* When you are at a social event, it’s taboo to talk politics.
* When you are at work, it’s taboo to discuss religion.
* And when you are at church, it’s apparently taboo to talk about money.

So Let’s Talk Money

Here on the blog, we just ended a series on The Riverwood Way. So I’d like to start a new series – and yes, we are going to go there. We are going to talk about money.

Which has traditionally been hard for me to do.

You see, I grew up in a church that was influenced by several televangelists who were known for making every sermon about money. No matter where the text started, they often ended up on a discussion about money, particularly how you needed to send them money as evidence of your faith. And if you were obedient and mailed your check to them, God would increase your bank account ten-fold.

I think this overemphasis – as well as skewed perspective – on finances caused me to shy away from the subject. So often, the message seemed to be about what God or the church wanted from you. They wanted your money.

It sounded greedy. It sounded manipulative. And so I stayed away from the subject.

But then one day (years ago), I heard a message by Andy Stanley, where he said the subject of finances isn’t about what God wants from you, it’s about what God wants FOR you. When you look at the gospel, you see it isn’t about these rules and regulations that you have to live up to in order to please God. Rather the gospel leads us to gladly follow Jesus because of what He has done for us through the cross. And this gospel-fueled motivation should naturally extend to our wallets as well.

So that’s why I want to go there. I want to take a few weeks to look at the topic of finances, because my desire as the pastor of Riverwood is that my church family would follow Jesus in every area of life. Our text over the next four weeks will be 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (feel free to read ahead!). And my prayer is that God will use some of these words to help you find joy in generosity, so that He might use you to be a blessing to others.

So let’s go there together. Let’s talk about money.

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