Let us pray: Dear Savior, You are the giver of everything we use, own, or possess. It all belongs to You. And You give it to us to use wisely for a more blest life here and for Your glory in the hereafter. Today remind us how important it is to You for us to be a cheerful givers and to use all our blessings in a way which honors You, alone. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO GAVE US HIS ALL!
TEXT: 2 Cor. 9: 6-7: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, nor reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
In between bouts of snow shoveling I was taking a break. I had the TV on low and Tori was sprawled across my lap. Both of us were slightly snoozing. I then heard a new TV commercial for the lottery. The new game they’ve rolled out is called: “Lucky for Life.” If you win you get $1000 a day for as long as you live. To the math challenged, that’s $365,000 per year. Most of you know I never play the lottery. To me it’s voluntary taxation and I pay enough as it is. But, like you, I daydreamed at that point. What would I do with $365,000 a year for life? The first thing that came to mind was: “I’d give a goodly percentage to the Lord’s work. After all, everything we have belongs to Him, doesn’t it?” Then I thought: “I’d have to be careful how I did so because large amounts of money can actually hurt a church.” I recall one church of our synod in CA that received a half million dollar bequest. It killed the church. Many people stopped giving because they didn’t feel a need. After a few years this church closed its doors! When one person bankrolls a church and most others know about it, human nature and personal greed often take over. And greed ultimately destroys faith. Humbleness and the “cheerful giver” mentality Paul alludes to in our lesson are replaced by arrogance. And God does not bless arrogance.
Today we host our annual meeting of the congregation. What better time to talk about monetary giving than now? This is especially true when we’ve exceeded our budgeted giving for last year to the tune of $4000! When a church is struggling in this area and the preacher brings up giving, people naturally see a need and God-willing, respond. Our human approach is: when we see a real need, we give to that need. That’s all well and good, but real Christian giving encompasses far more than merely giving to a need. It’s a lifestyle. It’s the attitude of the heart. God owns everything He blesses us with. He expects us to cheerfully return a portion to Him in Christian love. So, whether we’re “rich” or have humble means, giving reflects the attitude of the Christian’s heart. Today we need to reflect on that fact. We need to give to God, even if we don’t see the apparent “need” because:
EVERYTHING BELONGS TO GOD!
In another section of Corinthians, St. Paul discusses the Macedonian church with them. That northern congregation was dirt poor, while the Corinthians were financially well-to-do. Yet, Paul praises the Macedonians and shames the Corinthians because the Macedonians had the proper Godly attitude about financial giving. They stretched themselves. They set aside a percentage of their wages on a weekly basis and regularly gave that money to God and His work. In Christian love and freedom of conscience, each of those faithful believers set the amount all on their own. But, in the words of our text: all of them “sowed generously.” And they also “reaped generously.” God continuously provided them with sustenance for body and soul. These people did this because they knew the power of God’s grace and clung to it with all their hearts. Just think: God died for all their sins on a cross, rose to a new life for them, and now via that self-giving love put unselfish love into their hearts all across the spectrum of life. They wanted to give to God, they needed to give to God, not because He “needed their money” but because it was the right, the noble, the proper response to His grace. And so it has been for Pinewood and her members, for you, over this past year.
Most of you know that I seldom have preached on money in my ministry. To me, hearing about how far behind a church might be on the budget or how cheap people are with their giving is a huge turn-off and reinforces every negative stereotype about the Church that there is. So, I use my adult classes to briefly instruct people in this area instead. By God’s grace, it’s “paid” off! Most years we’ve run either a slight surplus or a slight deficit, but we’ve managed quite well. We may not be big and impressive in human terms, but we are thriving! God’s people have “sowed generously and are reaping those rewards today!” Why do you think we don’t have discord or discontent in our church? Why do you think the members get along, care about each other, help each other, and actively pray for each other? Could it be that since we don’t sow sparingly, we’re not reaping sparingly? Let’s face it, money troubles in the home or in the marriage are the greatest cause of discord. Everything bad comes out when under financial stress. So, too, in God’s family of the church.
So, today, as we celebrate a great big blessed 2014 at our meeting, we also embark on a new year. Every one of you is beloved by God and blest by Christ. Each of you has it all when it comes to life. You have God in your corner every day. You have the umbrella of His kindness and grace extended over you every day. Unlike the rest of the world, you know exactly where you’re going and what will happen when you shuffle off this mortal coil. And it all comes back to God’s church and revolves around God’s church. Each of you, in Christian freedom “should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion.” Our Christian giving isn’t a bribe we pay to God for blessings. It’s not a church version of “Let’s Make a Deal” with God. If that were the case, it would negate the whole concept of grace and mock Christ and His sacrifice for us. No, Christian giving is our expression each week of gratitude and thanksgiving. We would and should give even if we, as a congregation, had 10 million dollars in the bank. Because no matter how much we have or don’t have, doing our best for God in this area is thankfulness in action. Yes, faith itself is thankfulness in action. And that, my friends, is why “God loves a cheerful giver.” Amen