Growing A Culture Of Generosity – Responding to God’s Generous Grace.
Small Group Intro and Discussion points.
Week 1. Matthew 25:14-30. Everything Belongs to God
Topics like this can be uncomfortable. In the upcoming series we’re going to be looking closely at personal practices and decisions. We’re going to be touching on a great British Taboo along the way – money – and for many Christians this is a sensitive issue or an issue about which they have strong views. It’s really important to note the following:
1 – The series is not about numbers and figures. Sometimes there can be a tendency to try to reach decisions on things like appropriate expenditure, acceptable giving levels, what passes for necessary and what constitutes a luxury. Although conversations about these things are fine to a degree, they are not primarily what this series is about. One man’s extravagance is another man’s restraint and it’s important to remember that Jesus does not ask us to all live a uniform life dictated by the lowest common denominator. We’re not trying to lay down a law, instead we’re trying to equip ourselves to live fully and freely in response to God. 
2 – It’s not about passing judgment on anyone. We’re not asked to decide on behalf of someone else what they should do with what is ‘theirs’. In the week 1 study we’ll be reminded that everyone is accountable to God for whatever they have been entrusted with, and so these decisions are a matter for prayer, reflection, and are determined in good conscience before God. 
So, with that out the way, here are some introductory reflections which might provide some good starting points…
Setting the Scene:
Everything belongs to God. Everything. No really… E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G! 
We tend to like the idea that God is responsible for everything, after all he created everything. We also like the idea that God sustains everything, he gives it all life. But he owns everything?  That’s a bit more difficult to swallow.
In a court of law, if two people think they own the same thing they present their cases, fight it out, and one person is proved to be the owner of whatever is in question. The other by default is not therefore the owner of whatever is in question. 

So, if God is proved to be the owner of everything the uncomfortable truth is that we don’t actually own anything! That’s a little challenging for modern day people raised on a diet of personal ownership and accumulation. And even though we’re Christians we’re influenced by the spirit of the age and so it’s challenging for us too I guess. 
If God owns everything I own nothing… 
Let’s unpack this a bit…
If own something I am entirely justified in employing that ‘thing’ for my own ends and purposes. I can decide what I wish to do with that ‘thing’ and I can reasonably demand that the way in which it is used or directed serves my purposes and goals. If I own an asset it’s employed for my benefit and my goals. That’s accepted isn’t it? 
But, if I don’t own a ‘thing’ – if infact someone else owns that ‘thing’ and I merely look after it on their behalf – then I am not at liberty to decide how it is employed and to what end it is used. In this case it is entirely reasonable for the person who owns it to demand that it is used for their purposes and ends, and to ask me, as the steward of that ‘thing’ to ensure that it is indeed used as it’s owner requires. 
If God owns everything I own nothing…
Q – What do we think / feel about this idea?
Q – Do our feelings about this change if we think about house, car, savings, investments, land, livestock (just in case) etc etc…the things that on a day to day basis we treat as ‘ours’? 
But moving on…
If we accept this change of ownership, from ourselves to God, then we also have to look carefully at the change in purpose for which ‘things’ are employed. We are asked to use ‘things’ for God’s purposes rather than our own. 
Let’s look at this idea of the owner being allowed to employ whatever he owns for his purposes and ends. 
Reading the incredibly well known verses from Matt 25 we see this principle described by Jesus. Using a common feature of life at the time, a wealthy man undertaking a long journey, leaves what he owns under the direction of some appointed stewards. He goes away. He comes back as people are prone to do. When he gets back he wants to know that what he’s given over to the care of his stewards has been used to benefit him and his estate. A not unreasonable request. The first two stewards are commended because the way in which they have put to use the ‘things’ that the man owns has made a return and has benefitted him. The third steward however has not. The way he’s used the ‘things’ hasn’t benefitted the owner. It’s not that he’s tried but the grain market crashed, or the lucrative camel export business has dried up – he’s just not tried. We read that he hid the stuff in the ground, and so the owner has not benefitted…and the owner isn’t ever so happy! 
Q – Accepting that God owns everything: 
What ‘things’ do we find it easy to steward and use for his purposes?
What ‘things’ do we find it more difficult to steward and use for his purposes?
Q – If God asks us to steward and use all things for his purposes what is the purpose for which God wants all things to be used?
In light of this what does it mean to be a responsible steward?
What uses of ‘things’ do we need to re-appraise in light of this?
Next steps:
Using the Money Revolution booklet pg14 explore the idea of being accountable to God – in all things – but perhaps especially with regard money and possessions, the things we tend to think of as ‘ours’. 
Ministry and response:
Moving on to pg15 have a time of prayer thanking God for the things he has entrusted to us, ask him to help us to steward them wisely and use all things for his purposes. Perhaps spend some time praying over God’s revealed purposes and goals and commit to reviewing stewardship of some things in life in light of these.
Going Deeper: 
  • Explore what this means for Christians who want to bring Kingdom principles to bear in the wider worlds of business and the political life of the nation. 
  • How can this idea of God owning everything shape economic policy and practice? How can this shape the use of public funds – and what should we be demanding the government do with tax revenue etc? 
  • How does this affect how we operate our business, or seek to influence corporate culture? 
  • What does the idea of God owning everything have to say about environmental issues, shopping patterns, wastefulness etc? 
  • Could taking to heart the idea that God owns everything free us from many of the pressures and chains of modern economic life and the pressure to acquire? 

Simon Butler, 02/02/2011