Fight the Coffee Purchase Guilt!

Visiting the Starbucks headquarters in Seattle last year was like a party for my senses. Delectable sights, sounds and smells emanated throughout the re-purposed train station Starbucks calls home. As part of my MBA program, my cohort had the privilege of visiting with several Starbucks executives–and tasting lots of delicious coffee, of course. Sadly, despite my hopes, there were no vanilla latte water fountains. The visit has got me thinking.

Have you ever been a part of a church service or conversation when someone said something like, “You selfishly spend $20/month on coffee purchases — imagine what good that money could do if you gave it to a non-profit!” I’ve heard it many times and am sure I have even said it more than once. There is some truth to that comment, and I am not writing this post to justify excessive consumerism, but I am increasingly convinced that is a misleading admonition.

Your purchases, be it for your favorite coffee, the car you drive or the computer you are using right now, are doing good. Did you know that Starbucks provides wages and health insurance to over 115,000 individuals people and are supporting over 75,000 rural coffee farmers throughout Latin America and Africa? Learning about the Starbucks Farmer Support program (see video below) was like watching a HOPE International marketing video — incredible how much of an impact the gourmet coffee craze is making on the lives of poor rural farmers.

Many times we assume that all our spending is selfish and detrimental to the world…as if only money given to charities is “money well spent.” That’s just not true. Look at India, Chile, Brazil, Hong Kong and even Rwanda. These countries are seeing massive numbers of people’s livelihoods improved and are seeing the flourishing of many of their communities. Many factors have contributed to these countries’ collective emergence, but the engine of entrepreneurship is leading the charge. We often judge the worth of businesses by how much they give charitably to charities. In my view, the primary good they contribute to our society is their provision of valuable products, services and meaningful employment to the world–from the smallest “mom and pop” shops to the world’s largest companies. Their donations are great too, but it’s their inherent value which is doing the most good.

Next time you buy your white chocolate mocha, use your Blackberry, or read your Bible, think about the people whose livelihoods, perhaps across the globe, you are supporting. Sip that latte with your chin-up. Your habit is putting food on the table for over 75,000 rural farmers in the developing world.

Dig into the ethical policies of your favorite companies, as you are voting with each of your purchases and charitable donations. Are you voting for candidates you believe in?

Name it, Claim it, Poverty Gospel

Poverty Gospel

I am nearly POSITIVE that you’ve read books by the likes of David Platt, Francis Chan, and/or John Piper. These books have caused a radical shift in the thinking of some Christians and have caused some extreme behavior. Many of these books suggest selling all of your belongings to help those in need. This has become known in Christian circles as “the poverty gospel.”

Is the poverty gospel biblical?

Poverty Gospel

That is the most important question… and I know many of you will immediately turn to verses were Jesus tells the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and follow Him. Or maybe the verse in Matthew 19 that says, “if you want to be perfect, go sell all of your possessions, give to the poor and you will have treasures in heaven.”

Well, there’s the answer. You would think poverty gospel is biblical.

Let’s be clear here: those verses are directed towards people that have strong ties to their material possessions… and would rather die than give up everything they’ve worked so hard for.  If you are reading this and you’re thinking about all the crap you’ve accumulated in your home or apartment, then maybe you do need to sell some of it and help out your Christian brother who is hurting. I support that 100%. To the majority of us, however, I do not think we are that tied to our things. I think you should be praising God for everything that He has given you.

God has called some people to sell everything and go join the mission field. If that is your calling, then by all means go for it, and I am praying for you. (Side note: I know many organizations. If you are interested in doing missions let me know I would LOVE to help.) But this isn’t for them.

This is directed at the young single men who are living in a 1 bedroom apartment with 5 guys playing video games all day… and not working… and thinking that you are honoring God somehow.  Or the 30 year old man living in his parents’ basement enjoying being supported by them and claiming the beatitude, blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of God.

I understand that things happen. You are forced to move in with a roommate. Or with your parents after college. The economy is tough and finding a job is even tougher. If that’s you, maybe it’s a good time to look into going on missions or spending two years at seminary.  God will honor you if you are willing to work hard and if you take any job that He provides to you.

I apologize if this sounded like a rant… but I am tired of people reading books like Radical or Crazy Love and then deciding that they need to sell their car, and only because having it pushes them into the top 1% of the wealthiest people on earth.  Then they realize that they needed the car to get to work. And then they get fired… and through all of it they think they’re honoring God somehow.

Personally, I see that as being a terrible steward of your resources. Go read the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and see what Jesus said about not being responsible with the resources that He has freely given you.

In my next post: I want to show you biblically how God wants to bless you and multiply your resources… if you will trust Him.

(And no, I am not going to talk about the prosperity gospel.)

Tithing… What’s that all about?

Tithing: What's that all about?

An exciting topic in all Christian circles is giving. Many times, we don’t think about tithing… we just do it. This article will get your mind thinking about all types of questions, like:

Do we tithe or do we give sacrificially? Does it matter where you give? Why waste the time passing the plate?

And although this article will pose more questions than answers, you will be better equipped to articulate why you are excited to give what you give.

Let me preface this by saying that I do not believe there is a right and wrong way of giving. God looks at the heart. He would rather have a cheerful giver that gave a little then someone who begrudgingly gave his 10%.

Romans 10:4 says that Christ is the end of the law. That’s why we no longer sacrifice animals for forgiveness of our sins, or crazy things like that.  Tithing or giving 10% is also part of the old law that Christ fulfilled. In Mark, you see that the gift given by the woman who gave everything was worth much more than the rich people who threw in their tithes.

So what should you do? Give only 10% if you be could comfortable giving 20%? Should you give to the point that you have to rely on God to provide for you each week? One pastor friend I know believes the minimum is 10%…. but if you can give more you should.

But what if 5% is a stretch for the single mom of 4 kids? What should she do? Honestly, I don’t have the answer to that, but I do challenge you to pray and figure out what you believe is right. Remember all your money is God’s… and He’s just loaning it to us.

With all of the new organizations asking for your money each year… where should it go?  Is sponsoring a child in Africa the same as giving to your local church? Should you tithe to the church each week and then give on top of that to other mission organizations?

The New Testament commands us to help our brothers in need. Let me clarify: that is the not the homeless man that doesn’t know Jesus. It is our Christian brothers and sisters that cannot afford to provide for their families. You need to ask where the money that you give to your local church is going. If the money is going to organizations that you endorse, by all means give generously and with a cheerful heart. So often, far too many Christians give to organizations that are “Christian” …and do not even realize that the Gospel is not even being presented when those organizations hand out food or water. It is your responsibility to be good stewards of the money that you give. Don’t just give to an organization because you see a cute little kid that needs your help.

Tithing

When the wisemen in Matthew came to worship baby Jesus they did it through giving gifts. Through new advances in technology, Christians are able to pay their tithes in all types of ways. There’s the automatic bill pay, where money goes from your bank account to the church without you even thinking about it. Or you can just swipe your debt card at the ATM (Automatic Tithing Machine) before service as you are talking to your friend about yesterday’s football game.

Giving your offering is one of the most important forms of worship for the church body and is not one to be taken lightly. Giving your money to God shows total dependence on Him that we will truly be provided for.

My hope is that this article has stirred up some questions in your own life, and it challenges you to be good stewards of your money.

What’s your giving strategy?  Let us know in the comments below.

C. Fred Bergsten is the MAN.

C. Fred Bergsten

My boy C. Fred Bergsten wrote a snippy little op-ed for the New York Times on Wednesday, entitled, “An Overlooked Way to Create Jobs.”

I’ve never met good ‘ole C-Fred before, but part of me thinks we’d be BFFs. All of the clamor these days is surrounding jobs…

“I want a job.”
“Where’s my job?”
“I need work.”
“Screw unions.”

Ok, I added the last one, but you get the idea. What’s more, everyone’s clamoring for jobs and Obama doesn’t have the sorriest clue how to create them.

Enter: C-Fred. Like his rap-worthy name, C-Fred started dropping bombs in the name of job creation. Let’s take a gander… Continue reading “C. Fred Bergsten is the MAN.”