Summary: The incentive to share our resources has little to do with monetary return; however, ther are obvious personal benenfits.

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Title: Econ 101

Text: II Corinthians 8:7-15

Thesis: The economic incentive to share of our resources has little to do with monetary return; however, there are obvious personal benefits.

Steven Levitt argues, in his book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Looks at the Hidden Side of Everything, “Economics is, at root, the study of incentives: how people get what they want or need. If the incentive is great enough, with enough payroll in the end, people will go to great lengths to achieve it.”

Levitt cited the example of how seven million children disappeared in one day: Before 1987, people were only required to put the names of their dependent children on their tax forms. But, beginning in 1987, both the names and their social security numbers had to be listed. Overnight, seven million children disappeared. Suddenly the risk of getting caught cheating on one’s taxes outweighed the incentive of the tax break.

In the field of economics the bottom line is always, “What’s in it for me?” “What do I have to gain?”

• “If I buy a hybrid automobile, will I get a four thousand dollar tax deduction?”

• “How much will you knock off of the asking price if we take it as is?”

• “What kind of signing bonus will you give me to come to work for your company?”

• “If you will move your money to our bank we will give you a new toaster.”

• “We will give you 0% interest for the first six months if you will transfer your credit card balance to our card.”

Whenever you want anyone to do anything or whenever anyone wants you to do something… there is always a carrot or incentive involved. The incentive may not be monetary but there is always an incentive.

I’m not exactly sure what the motive was in the case of the Paul Harvey news story aired on November 22, 1995 about a woman and her frozen Thanksgiving turkey.

The Butterball Turkey Company set up a telephone hotline to answer consumer questions about preparing holiday turkeys. One woman called to inquire about cooking a turkey that had been in the bottom of her freezer for 23 years. The Butterball representative told her the turkey would probably be safe to eat if the freezer had been kept below zero for the entire 23 years. But the Butterball representative warned her that even if the turkey was safe to eat, the flavor would probably have deteriorated to such a degree that she would not recommend eating it.

The caller replied, That’s what I thought. We’ll give the turkey to our church.

The Paul Harvey story reminded me of a lady in one of the churches we served who arrived at the parsonage one weekday with a grocery bag of frozen meat. She said, We just butchered a steer and I needed to clean out the freezer to make room, so I thought maybe you could use it. That was probably the nicest sack of choice cuts of tongue, ox tail, kidneys, liver and heart we’ve ever received.

I’m sure the lady felt good about getting a 23 year old frozen turkey out of her freezer and the knowledge that some poor family would be enjoying her generosity that Thanksgiving.

In our text today, Paul is encouraging his friends in the faith community in Corinth to be generous in sharing their personal resources. And, he weaves into his letter a number of things that he hopes will serve as incentives for them to be generous.

The first incentive is an appeal to their desire for excellence.

He wrote, Since you excel in so many ways; in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in enthusiasm, and in love, now I want you to excel also in this gracious ministry of giving. II Corinthians 8:7

On October 26, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to the students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia. In his speech he said, If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.

But, how does the desire for excellence in all things translate to the Christian life? It is interesting that the scripture teaches us to do all things for the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:17). In other words, the Christian way of life is what instills in us the desire to excel in all of life. But, while we are eager to excel in all of life, we may neglect to excel in the Christian life.

In athletics, we want to excel. We want to win and earn scholarships and perhaps even go pro. In academics, we want to excel. Grades, class ranks, extra-curricular activities and community service matter when it comes winning scholarships. We want to excel in our places of employment. We want good reviews and performance raises. Thirty some of us wanted to win the coveted Best Chili Trophy at the chili cook-off earlier this year. We don’t want to be known as slovenly housekeepers or lousy parents or for keeping the worst lawn in the neighborhood. We want to excel and we work at excelling.

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