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Summary: This stewardship sermon is a play on the children’s book, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie." Main idea of the sermon is tithing our TIME.

If You Give the Church a Penny…

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Laura Joffe Numeroff is the author of a beloved pre-school classic entitled, “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.” Now, some of us may be quite familiar with the book, but others may not… So, let me begin this morning by reading this classic to you…

Now, put yourself in the role of the little boy, who out of his generosity decided to share his cookies with the mouse. And yet the mouse was never happy. Give him a cookie and he wants milk. Give him milk and he wants a straw. Give him a straw and he wants a napkin and on and on it goes until you’re back to the beginning where he wants another cookie! And you know the whole cycle will start again. So, why should you even give the mouse a cookie in the first place? Right?

I wonder how many Christians see giving to the church in a similar manner. If you give the church a penny soon the church will want a dollar. And if you give the church a dollar, then they will not want to ask for more money… but then they’ll want you to lead a Bible study. And seeing how good you are at leading a Bible study, they’ll ask you to work with the youth group. And you’ll be such a hit with the teenagers, that they’ll ask you to start a youth choir. But there’s no funding in the budget for a youth choir, so the church will ask you to give a penny…

Often stewardship is seen as “giving to the church” and each year the church comes back and asks you for more time, more talents, more treasure. Like the never satisfied Mouse, the church always wants more… more…more.

But wait, that’s NOT how it is! Or at least that’s NOT how stewardship is SUPPOSED to be. When we give the church a penny, we’re not really giving it to the church, but we’re giving it to God – to glorify God and to equip and enable the body of Christ to do the work of God in the world.

There’s a verse buried in the middle of today’s reading from 2 Corinthians. Verse 12: This service (of giving) that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Giving to the church (much like attending church) is not to be seen as a chore. Unfortunately we pastors and budget committees and stewardship teams do a pretty poor job of helping God’s people put stewardship and giving into a proper Biblical perspective. We mistakenly lead people to believe that giving is a “chore” and instead of building up cheerful givers who return to God from the abundance God has given, we in turn create people who “have to tithe.” That is NOT what we want. And according to scripture, those are not the gifts that GOD wants! Each person should give what he or she has decided to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a CHEERFUL giver.

Hmmm, how many of us are cheerful as we place our offerings in the plate? Come on, I sit up here in the chancel each week. I see you as the ushers move down the aisle collecting the gifts that we are bringing to God. And I rarely see a smile as you place your gift in the basket! In fact I can’t really describe the looks on most of your faces as you place your gift among the gifts of your brothers and sisters. A gift that represents your entire life – not just your money. It’s certainly not joy! But it also isn’t a regret or mournful look. I guess I could describe it as a passive look. Just another rote thing that we do in worship, another thing to check off the bulletin’s things to do list. Another week, another gift, a few minutes closer to the end of worship…

But that is NOT the cheerful attitude that God desires in his children. God loves those who give cheerfully and who give with a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving for all God has done for them. I’m sure God delights in the African tradition of dancing forward your offerings. The ushers don’t come to you. You bring forward your gifts with dance and song with a cheerful and grateful heart. Can you imagine our church family… no, I won’t go there!

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that God has a standard of giving for his children to live up to – the standard of a tithe (of giving 10% of your treasures AND your time to the work of God in the world). There are people that give more than a tithe and there many people who give a lot less! But again, what can you give cheerfully? What is God calling you to give?

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