Summary: 5th in a five part series about understanding your possessions from a biblical perspective. Part 5 - Giving.
GIVING YOUR MONEY GENEROUSLY
INTRODUCTION: Drama: The Offering
Ah, the offering. It can some to make some smile and some squirm... and some to be just downright angry. In fact, in a survey taken by the Church Growth Institute, the #1 reason for people not going to church is that “church is boring.” The #2 reason is that “church is irrelevant.” (It says nothing to my life!) But the #3 reason for people not coming to church is they believe that “all the church wants is my money.” This can be a very tricky sermon to preach. I don’t want to mislead you and tell you that God cares nothing about how or why you give. Yet, on the other hand I don’t want you to come away thinking that all we care about is how much you give. Neither is true! My prayer for this message is that you will see giving in much the same way our last person in the drama saw it. As a matter of love between you and God.
But let’s be honest. Generosity doesn’t come easily for most of us. In fact Jesus said that it was as hard for a rich man to get into heaven as it was for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Notice He didn’t say it was impossible but very difficult. But just because it is troublesome doesn’t change the fact that the Bible emphasizes generosity. The word believe is used 272x in the Bible. The word pray 371x, love 714x.. but the word give is used 2,162x. That gives us an indication of the importance of what we discuss today. And the Bible makes it clear that God intrusts resources to His people so that we can share with others. 2 Cor. 9:11- "God will give you enough so you can be generous at all times." (TEV)
That’s why, if you read our core values, #5 says “Acceptance through loving relationships should permeate the church by each of us purposely noticing and caring for those around us." You see, we’re not to be cisterns hoarding up what God has intrusted to us but we are to be channels distributing what He has given to us to others. So, let’s talk about 3 ways that we can give generously.
I. GIVE GENEROUSLY TO THE NEEDY AROUND US:
The Bible has always made provision for the poor. The O.T. farmers, for example were told that when they harvested their crop to leave some grain standing in the field so that the poor would come and have something to eat. Duet. 15:7-ff reads- "When you happen on someone who’s in trouble or needs help among you... don’t look the other way pretending you don’t see him. Don’t keep a tight grip on your purse. No. Look at him, open your purse, lend whatever he needs." (MSG) Pro. 22:9- “Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor.”Again in Prov. 28:27- “Whoever gives to the poor will have everything he needs.”(NCV) The O.T. taught sharing with those who were poor.
This concept was certainly carried over into the N.T. Jesus taught his earliest followers compassion to the poor. In Matt. 25 he told His disciples that on the day of judgement, part of the how He was going to determine the sign of the saved was in the way they took care & provided for the less fortunate. And the early church carried that out! They even had their own welfare system that worked! Acts 4:34- "Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person’s need." (MSG) All through the NT letters we are taught to care for the needy among us. 1 Jn 3:17- "Now, suppose a person has enough to live on and notices another in need. How can God’s love be in that person if he doesn’t bother to help the other person?"(GW) The Bible is clear... God honors the sensitive and generous.
Now the Bible also gives some qualifiers in giving to the needy. (1) We are to help those who are not able to work. 2 Thess. 3:10 gives this principle for NT welfare. "Whoever doesn’t want to work should not eat."(GW) One of the problems we have with our welfare is that we are subsidizing a number of people who have the capability to work but refuse to. Those that have the opportunity to work and the ability to work, but will not work should not be given anything. Richard Dehaun tells of a farmer whose farm was located near a large highway and transients from time to time would come and ask for food. Rather than just giving a hand out, he would say, "There’s a woodpile on the west side of my shed, would you move it to the east side?" If they refused to move it then he wouldn’t help them but if they did, he not only gave them food but some money too. And there were several times during the summer that that woodpile would be moved back and forth. He gave the dignity of work as well as helping their need.