December 2015 Director's Encouragement Letter [Topic: Financial Gardening]

Dear Friend,

My wife, Jill, loves gardening. She loves seeing plants grow. Even now, with the holidays and snow on the ground, she’s hard at work tending her plants that sit near our corner windows.

In watching her, I’ve learned that gardening is involved, purposeful work. She spends time considering elements such as environment, soil, and the container for her plants. Seeds are selected for the plant types she wants to grow. There’s great care when placing the seed in the soil. The initial flurry of activity gives way to anticipation for a sign of growth. With the first sprout, the attentive watchfulness and nurturing begin. Growth happens and the harvest comes.

In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 Paul writes openly about financial giving. He speaks about it in gardening terms.

"Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving." (The Message)

Financial giving is a challenging subject for me. It’s an area where I’ve been deceived and manipulated. I’ve heard and wrongly believed that my value as a Christian is directly tied to the number of dollars I give. Or that I should give a lot so I can get a lot. I know I have been on the receiving end of manipulative requests for money. I’ve heard the sob stories and I’ve felt the arm-twisting.

Paul says that we can protect ourselves, when giving, by thinking it over and making up our own mind.

As I’ve been thinking over my relationship with money, I’ve realized how easy it is for me to think of money itself as a source of life. After all, money is used for everything – food, shelter, clothing, you name it. It feels impossible to live without it.

But ultimately, money is not what gives us life. 1 John 5:12 says, "Whoever has the Son has life" (ESV). It’s Jesus who gives life. The problem isn’t money – but when we put money in the place of Jesus, and expect it to give us life, then we have a problem.

Maybe this can give us a clue to the difference between the stingy and lavish planters. It’s possible stingy or lavish speaks to the amount given. But based on the context, the bigger issue seems to be the attitude when giving. It’s a burden for the stingy giver to give because giving can feel like a little death—like they are losing their source of life when parting from their money. On the other hand a lavish giver can delight in giving, no matter the amount, because they know that Jesus is their true source of life.

Adjusting our thinking about where our life comes from can enable us to properly handle money. To be able to see that money is a seed, not life. And what’s done with a seed? Is it kept in an envelope on the shelf? No, it’s planted!

Just like Jill with her garden, we have the privilege to prepare by thinking it over, then selecting what we will give, and planting it where we desire. Once planted, we anticipate the signs of growth, waiting for a sprout to break through the soil. When the sprout appears, we increase our watchfulness in prayer and nurture it with great care. By God’s grace it grows and to His praise there’s a harvest.

I know this time of year there are numerous requests and opportunities to give. It can be overwhelming. My hope is that you have a new freedom to see the blessing of financial gardening.

Before closing this letter, I would be remiss if I didn’t invite you to garden with us. As a ministry we function solely on the gracious planting of others. Over the past year our reach has grown ten times in size! The opportunity to meet people where they are is expansive. Year-end gifts and regular giving started at the beginning of next year would see that this momentum continues. Will you join us?

I’ll be writing again next month. Be aware that my letter may look different when it comes. We’re close to an updated logo with new envelopes and paper. In the meantime, if I can do anything to encourage you, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

God’s blessing wherever you decide to garden!
Mike Roncaglia, Executive Director

Mike Roncaglia is the Executive Director of Exchanged Life Ministries. He has been on staff since 2011 but has been connected with the ministry 25+ years. He is a speaker, teacher, writer, administrator, and counselor. He is happliy married to Jill and they have a son Jonas.