Summary: God loves the person who gives generously and cheerfully.
Title: Asking for Money
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 (quickview)
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?