Summary: God loves the person who gives generously and cheerfully.
Title: Asking for Money
Text: I Corinthians 8:7-15
Thesis: God loves the person who gives cheerfully. II Corinthians 9:7
On their way to church on Sunday, a mother gave her child a one-dollar bill and a quarter. "Sweetheart," the mother said, "you can place either one in the offering plate. It’s entirely up to you."
As they were driving home, the mother asked the daughter what she had decided to give.
"Well, at first I was going to give the dollar," said the daughter. "But the man behind the pulpit said God loves a cheerful giver, so I felt like I would be much more cheerful if I gave the quarter instead."
Phillip Yancey tells of a friend who says the bible asks three things of us about our relationship to money:
(1) How did you get it?
(2) What are you doing with it? and
(3) What is it doing to you?
At the heart of our ability to be generous is what our money is doing to us. Is it withering our hearts and making us stingy? Or is it making us big hearted and benevolent? The intent of the message today is to encourage us to let God give us big and benevolent hearts.
The first thing we learn about giving is that God wants us to excel at it.
I. Giving is a ministry and God wants us to excel at it.
“…now I want you to excel also in this gracious ministry of giving. I am not saying you must do it, even though the other churches are eager to do it. This is one way to prove your love is real.” II Corinthians 8:1-9
When we speak of excelling at something we think of surpassing a goal or for being superior at something or scoring a noteworthy accomplishment or being known for or distinguished for something. The word used in the bible that we translate “excel” does not merely mean to be superior at or better at than another person, it means to “abound” or “overflow.”
Overflowing in generosity does not exactly come naturally to us. In a survey conducted two years ago, Forbes Magazine identified 946 billionaires in the world. Warren Buffet was named among them and Warren Buffet is duly credited with giving away 44 billion of his dollars. However Forbes Magazine noted in their survey that billionaires donated only 1.2 percent of their earnings to charitable causes. (Luisa Kroll and Allison Fass, “The World’s Richest People,” Forbes, 3/8/07)
I know that 1.2 percent of a billionaire’s billions is a considerable amount of money. The 1.2 percent of a billionaire’s billions makes the 10 percent tithe of devoted follower of Christ look pretty paltry. However, I assure you that the 10 percent shared by a middle class wage earner is considerably more sacrificially than that of the 1.2 percent billionaire. However, before we begin to feel too smug, 20 percent of all Christians give 86.4 percent of all charitable donations given by Christians to charities. (Ron Sider, “A Lot of Lattes,” Books & Culture, November/December 2008)
The richest people in the world give a huge amount of money yet their generosity is really a very small proportion of their wealth. And apparently the vast majority of Christ’s followers are not exactly excelling their giving either. So what does excelling in generosity look like? What does it mean to overflow with generosity?
In 2005 Thomas Cannon died. He was 79. When he was three yea
rs old his father died, his mother remarried and raised their family in a three room shack without running water or electricity.
As an adult Thomas went to work for the postal service. He never made more than $25,000 a year. Upon retirement he and his wife lived in poverty. Yet over the course of his life he gave away more than $156,000. His gifts were mainly in the form of checks in the amount of $1,000 to people he read about in the newspaper who were going through hard times.
His biographer commented, “Not many people would consider living in a house in a poor neighborhood without central heat, air conditioning, or a telephone, and working overtime so they could save money to give away.” (Thomas Cannon had Little Money to Give,” Omaha Sunday World Herald, July 2005, p. 13A; Margaret Edds, “Cannon’s Canon,” HamptonRoads.com, 7/24/05)
This is the point: When we learn to excel in giving, we will overflow with generosity.
A second thing God wants us to learn is that you can only share what you have.
II. Giving is a ministry that arises from what you have.
“Give whatever you can according to what you have. If you are really eager to give, it isn’t important how much you are able to give. God wants you to give what you have, not what you don’t have.” II Corinthians 8:10-12