Summary: Why does God put such an emphasis on giving? He makes you promises of what He'll do if you give cheerfully and generously... but why would He do that?
OPEN: A preacher told his church this story about an airplane trip he’d recently taken from Chicago to California:
"I was on the plane when they ran into some very severe turbulence. The plane began to shake terribly and the passengers were getting alarmed. Even the flight attendants were looking concerned. Finally, one of the passengers who sat behind him (and who knew he was a preacher) leaned over the seat and said, “This is really frightening. Do you suppose you could… I don't know... do something religious?'"
The preacher paused, smiled at his audience and said: "So I took up a collection."
Money and church… it IS kind of a religious thing. In fact… it’s a BIBLICAL thing.
ILLUS: Someone studied Jesus parables and found that 16 of Jesus’ 38 parables (nearly half) were concerned with how we to handle money and possessions. In addition he found that - in the Gospels - an amazing 1 out of 10 verses deal directly with subject of money. Further, he noted: the Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2000 verses on money and possessions.
So, when God talks to us about how we use our money… it’s just part of the deal. Someone once noted: “a faith that hasn’t reached your wallet, probably hasn’t reached your heart.” (Adrian Rogers)
Last week I said it this way: how we handle our money is kind of a barometer of our faith. AND sometimes the barometer isn’t as much a reflection of the people in the audience as it is a reflection of the faith of the preacher.
ILLUS: I heard of one church where the church was struggling financially. It was one of those churches where the preacher knew what everybody was giving and he knew of certain folks who were fairly well of who were not doing their part. So the preacher got up in the pulpit and began naming names! THEN they passed the plate – not once, not twice, but 3 times… until the preacher was satisfied with what they’d taken in.
What’s that tell us about that preacher? Was he a dominating kind of person? Controlling? Maybe a little creepy? Yeah, probably. But I think it says even more about his faith. The church needed money and this preacher didn’t trust God to supply it. He didn’t think God would supply the need, so he felt he had to do it for God! That preacher lacked faith in God.
Now, at this congregation, I haven’t a clue what any of you put in the plate. I don’t want to know. I figure you put in the plate what you do because you love Jesus. It’s between you and God and I let God worry about the finances for this church.
But let’s flip the coin over - that story tells us a bit about the church this preacher served. There were apparently people out in the pews who were sitting on premises rather than standing on the promises. Why were they sitting rather than standing? Because the moment they stood up, their wallets would have been exposed. Some of the folks in THAT church didn’t seem to have the faith that Paul writes about in II Corinthians. That kind of faith was one where “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
Just to be clear, Paul was not talking about the tithe we take up every week. He was talking about a special offering. The church at Jerusalem was in trouble (there’d been a famine in that area and they were having trouble finding food to eat) and other congregations were taking up money to help them out.
But the principle is the same whether you’re giving your tithe or making a special offering. And here’s the principle: God doesn’t need your money.
There's an old Christian hymn where the first verse says this:
"My Father is rich in houses and lands, He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands!
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold, His coffers are full, He has riches untold. " (A Child Of The King)
He doesn't need your offerings and He doesn’t want you to give it grudgingly or reluctantly. But WHAT we give IS A REFLECTION of our faith… and of our love for God.
ILLUS: I read a church where they’d taken up the offering and brought the plates down front. The man who was supposed to pray took the plates - held them up in the air and he gave this prayer: "Lord, regardless of what we say about you, this is really what we say about you, this is really what we feel about you. Amen."