Summary: Does God care about how we give as a group? Shouldn’t giving focus on what I give? After all, it’s up to me as to what I decide to give and how to give it, right? But does the Bible ever address “group giving?”
Intro - John Young moved into an apartment tower in Chicago. The apartments had seen better days. All the colors had faded, the maintenance had been neglected and the mood of the place was downright ugly. It was just a real rough part of town. One of the things John noticed was that hardly anyone had any plants at all on their patios that overlooked a vacant lot. So John bought some geraniums and wicker furniture to set out on his patio. It made the patio look so much better, but from the outside, the building still looked like a plain concrete box. He then realized that changing his patio wouldn’t do it. He had to get everyone involved. So John went door to door of the tower, talking to people about cleaning up the place and making it more inviting. Soon he had every single resident improving the look of their dwellings and patio and soon the place began to take shape. And John and everyone also noticed that as their tower began to look better, the attitudes of the people got better too. They began to acknowledge one another and build friendships. Next, John and the residents of Lake View decided to tackle the vacant lot and turn it into a garden, a place where they could escape the concrete jungle of the city and have a place to enjoy nature. John’s garden creation transformed the look and the spirit of the community and caught the attention of Mayor Daley, who awarded him the Gardner of the Year award for the City of Chicago. Most people would have said “All I can do is work with what is mine…I can’t change everyone else…but John knew that for a real transformation to take place, they had to get everyone involved and everyone to take ownership.
Over the last few weeks during this “Firstfruits” series, we’ve talked about “giving our best”, “making a commitment” and “extreme giving”…all these focus on individual giving. But does God care about how we give as a group? Shouldn’t giving focus on what I give? After all, it’s up to me as to what I decide to give and how to give it, right? But does the Bible ever address “group giving?” In the past, God spoke to His people as a nation about giving. Look at Deuteronomy 26:1-2…“When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, 2 take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you….” Again, talking about giving our firstfruits, but notice Moses when he says “When YOU”…He’s talking to the nation. Not individuals. If he were from the south, He’d say “when Ya’ll” have entered….He means everybody. As a group. This is something the nation was supposed to do. So God held the entire nation accountable. And likewise, when God gave the nation instructions, everyone was to follow and it was important that EVERYBODY complied. And even when only a few did not do their part, He judged them and it hurt the nation. In Joshua 7, we read a story about how when Joshua was leading the people to take over the promised land, one of the men named Achan decided to keep some of the things for himself when God strictly forbid them from doing so. But this was not just an ancient idea or one time deal. God will also do this in the future. In the future, God will speak to His people as a church about giving. Read Revelation 3. In Revelation 2 and 3, God allows John to see the judgment that is coming upon the churches in the future. 7 churches to be exact. And in Revelation 3:1, He says to the church at Sardis “…I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God…” The people had a reputation for doing the right things, but lacked completing what they were commanded to do. This can be true of the church in giving. We all agree we should give, and we may have the reputation of doing it in the past, but if we are not honoring those commitments, then God holds us accountable. And again, God looks at us as an entire church, not just individuals. Basically, God is saying that if even only a few don’t do their part, then the whole church falls short of what God has called us to do.
So what does God expect, not just from us individually, but what is God looking for from churches when it comes to giving? Look at 2 Corinthians 8. Paul speaks about a church that is getting it right and he commends them for the way they give. And just like we’ve been trying to emphasize with individual giving, the same is true here: It’s not about the amount. In other words, Paul is not praising this church because they were the number one givers. Instead, he is pointing out what is good about their giving. We can take some lessons from this and have a better understanding as to what God is looking for when it comes to OUR giving as a church.