January 20

Everything Belongs to God (Psalm 24)

Daniel Watts

When I attended a fundraisers training event in Southern California, the facilitator talked about a young fundraiser working for a Christian ministry.

She regularly visited an elderly couple who gave $100 a month to the ministry. She always took them warm homemade bread, talked about the ministry, and prayed with them.

After three years they gave a $1,000,000 gift to the ministry. Then the facilitator asked us to break into small groups and talk about ways to relate to donors. Before sending us off, we had a chance to ask questions. Unable to resist, I raised my hand and asked for the bread recipe!

In all seriousness, I commend the relational approach and know that God uses it—and many other approaches as well—to accomplish His purpose.

However, the point of this relational approach is still transactional: get the donor to give the money. And that whole week I was bummed to think about people being referred to as “donors.” 

I am absolutely not a fan of the “fundraiser” who invites me, the potential donor, out for coffee after doing research about my income, my assets, the value of my house, what ministries I give to, how much I give, and, consequently, what I can be expected to give now.

Instead, I want to be a person to this fundraiser; I prefer to be viewed as a fellow Christian trying to be a good steward of God’s resources. No one wants to be reduced to something akin to an ATM with a face! 

The road well-traveled may get results, but there’s another less-traveled road. This week we begin our walk down the Road Less Traveled in giving and fundraising.

The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled has come to mean independent thinking and not following the “crowd.” It is about considering another way of thinking or action that may be less common or even previously unknown.

It is my contention that the Road Well Traveled is paved with secular marketing, advertising and sales practices with a few Bible verses added to make it Christian.

The Road Less Traveled flows out of biblical teaching and is often at odds with “best practices.” This week’s topic serves to illustrate. 

A fresh reading of biblical principles actually provides a whole theology of giving that is dramatically different from today’s common thinking and practice. This is the fundraising road less traveled.

In this model, the pastor or ministry leader doesn’t ask people to give. Instead, our ask is “Please talk to God about this giving opportunity and then do whatever He wants you to do.”

We communicate our financial need with passion and conviction. We explain the need and all that God is planning to do.

However, obedience to God is the focus. Key to this approach is the truth that God owns everything He has given to you and me; He owns everything we have. Our assignment is to take good care of all that He has entrusted to our care.

So, it follows, we should talk to God about any and every decision we need to make about how to use the material resources He has given us. The issue is not just giving money; the issue is our relationship with God.

He wants to guide our giving and how we use what He gives us, yet at the same time—as I hope you’ve experienced—giving is to be an act of joy and worship.

Much in Scripture supports this less traveled road. Our starting point is Psalm 24. Written by King David, this psalm may have been used in a liturgy or as a hymn. Some scholars believe it was sung when the ark was brought to Jerusalem spoken of in 2 Samuel 6:2:

"The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it." (Psalm 24:1 NASB)

Psalm 24 goes on to celebrate the kingship of God, with the term King of glory appearing five times in four verses.

What is critical for our purposes are two foundational truths contained in this passage:

  • God is personal
  • God owns everything

God Is Personal

God Is Personal

First, David and other Jewish readers knew that God is personal.

He who owns everything is not a landowner keeping an eye on things from afar. Neither is God some vague and distant deity who has set things in motion, left us some instructions, and plans to check back at a later date.

The God who owns everything—all the world, everything in it, and everyone in it—is a personal, loving, saving God who is always near His people. Our God of the Bible created the earth (Psalm 24:2), He owns it, and He has called us to care for it.

He was not simply a personal, loving, and saving God. He was the God of the Hebrew people: He was their personal, loving, and saving God. And He is our personal, loving and saving God.

God Owns Everything

God Owns Everything

Second, this personal God is the Owner of everything. 

David made this point clear by referring to the world and all who live in it. 

The world was likely understood as all inanimate objects—rocks, trees, water, oil, gold, silver, minerals, precious stones, rivers, seas, lakes, plants, flowers, crops. Everything! 

God is also the Owner of all animate objects, of all who live in [the world]. 

God owns birds, fish, farm animals, wild animals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, spiders, and people. All living things.

Imagine describing God’s ownership in today’s terms.

We hear, for instance, about the stock holdings and real estate portfolios of the world’s wealthy. Many of these individuals wear stunning jewels and glistening gold; they have multiple residences and nice cars.

According to Psalm 24:1, though, God’s real estate portfolio includes Manhattan Island and Texas, the Polynesian islands, and the Himalayas.

God owns all the gold, silver, diamonds, and precious metals on the earth as well as all the cattle on a thousand hills. You get the idea.

God is described as the Owner of all. It could not be clearer that the world and everything in it is God’s.

And God’s ownership has at least two real implications for a biblical approach to fundraising:

  • The “ask”—Suggesting that they ask God what He wants them to do with His resources
  • Encouraging people to seek God’s guidance regarding all their resources

Encourage Christians To Ask God What He Wants Them To Do With His Resources

Encourage Christians To Ask God What He Wants Them To Do With His Resources

First, since everything we have belongs to God, pastors and ministry leaders should encourage Christians to ask God what He wants them to do with His resources. 

Rather than asking people to give something that doesn’t actually belong to them, let’s be asking them to talk with the Owner about what He wants them to do with His resources that He has entrusted to their care.

A pastor’s and a ministry leader’s responsibility is to encourage believers to communicate with God and then, in obedience, allocate resources according to His will. 

When pastors and ministry leaders take this approach, we give God’s people the opportunity to grow in their relationship with Him.

We encourage them to seek God’s will regarding which ministries He wants them to support as well as the size of the gifts He wants them to give.

One of my friends and mentors was working in development for one of America’s prestigious military academies, and he tells a great story about letting God lead our fundraising efforts.

He had met a couple interested in making a large gift to the academy, and he decided it was time to take the commandant of the academy to meet the couple and present them with the opportunity to give.

After traveling across the country, my friend and the commandant arrived at the couple’s home. When they knocked on the door, they were greeted only by the husband.

My friend couldn’t help but notice that the man was distracted, unsettled, troubled about something. After praying quietly in his heart, my friend sensed God saying this was not the right time to talk about finances.

After a brief visit, my friend ushered the commandant out for the long return trip.

And the commandant was not happy. He felt like they had wasted the entire day and, being a commandant type of person, was ready to fire my friend. As they returned home, a heavy cloud of tension hovered between them.

The next day, though, the man they had visited called the commandant and told him that his wife had been diagnosed with cancer shortly before his arrival at their home that afternoon.

Impressed by the fact that the commandant and my friend had been both perceptive enough to notice he was disturbed by something and caring enough to not bring up money, the couple had decided that if such awareness and compassion characterized the leadership at the academy, they wanted to make a very large financial gift.

The road well-traveled primarily focuses on securing funds. The road less-traveled is more concerned about ministry to people.

Encourage Christians To Talk to God About The Resources He Owns

Encourage Christians To Talk to God About The Resources He Owns

Second, our goal as pastors and ministry leaders should be to encourage Christians to talk to God about the resources He owns and has put in their care.

God wants to guide and direct them in how to steward all those resources—and I don’t mean just money!

Again, God is not a distant Creator who set things in motion and gave us some basic principles so we could figure out on our own how to live. 

Instead, God is personal and present. He longs for deeper intimacy with us, and that closer relationship can come when we seek His guidance and counsel about giving our time and our talents as well as our treasure for His kingdom work.

If we ask God to guide us in our giving away His money, He will do so.

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