Summary: World Hunger Sunday, 1989: We will find joy in giving if we make our giving a priority, if it is done proportionately and sacrificially, and if we see it as a privilege.
The notion is going around in some circles that poor people are happy people. Have you heard that? It’s a kind of romantic idea, that poor people are happy people, that when you have nothing you at least have each other, you at least depend on God … you know all the usual things that are said.
I believe it’s what they call "genteel poverty". The idea that we may be poor but we are proud, that while we have no treasure here on earth, that we have a good deal of treasure laid up in heaven, and that makes it OK to be poor. Poor people, it is said, are happy people.
Well, if you can make it work for you, more power to you. If you can sit down at the desk and struggle with the bills and wonder how the mortgage will be paid and determine which kid to put shoes on this time, and still find happiness in that, more power to you. I rather suspect that most poor people are not all that happy, and that if they are happy with nothing in the kitty, they would be even happier with the bills paid up!
In fact, wouldn’t it follow that if poor people are happy people, then, conversely, that rich people are miserable people? I don’t know. Donald Trump doesn’t look miserable. I just haven’t found a whole lot of folks willing to give it all away in order to gain happiness! Somebody said that it may be true that with money you get misery, but at least you can afford it.
I should add that if you want to give it a try, I would consider it my duty as your pastor to assist you by relieving you of all that green stuff that is making you so miserable!
No, it’s very doubtful that you can say, as a generality, that poor people are happy people.
And yet it is possible to link poverty and happiness, but it has to be done in a very special way. You can be poor and be happy, but you have to work at it in a particular kind of way. In fact, in the Scriptures there is a formula to describe what I’m talking about. It goes like this: Joy plus poverty equals wealth. Joy plus poverty equals wealth.
If you take equal parts of joy and poverty and put them together, you will create wealth, a very special and important kind of wealth.
Let me take you to the scripture to discover how Paul said it. He writes to the Corinthian church, "The churches of Macedonia … their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality."
If you listened to that verse carefully, you heard the formula I’m trying to teach: Joy plus poverty equals wealth. "The churches of Macedonia ... their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality."
Let me set the backdrop here for you. The apostle Paul has been crisscrossing Greece and Asia Minor, trying to gather an offering from the churches out there in order to help the poor and destitute mother church in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem church, so far as we know, had exhausted its resources by caring for the huge numbers of poor people who had come to the city, had become Christians, but who then had no means of support.
And so Paul is trying to help. The Corinthian church, to whom this letter was written, wasn’t doing so well. They had started to collect this offering, but they stalled. They quit. And Paul is trying to jump start them. In order to convince them of their obligation to take this offering, he tells them about the church in Macedonia, not very far away. The church in Macedonia, though they have little money, though they have been persecuted and plundered, though they are small and weak … still the church in Macedonia has responded beautifully and has given generously. And Paul says to the Corinthian Christians, who seem to lack for nothing, I want you to learn from your brothers and sisters in Macedonia. I want you to learn this principle: joy plus poverty equals wealth.
"Their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality."
What really happens to make this true? How can it possible be that joy plus poverty equals wealth?
First, we learn that the Macedonian Christians made this work by setting the right priorities. "First," says Paul, "First … at the top of the priority list … first they gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God."
The secret of the Macedonian Christians was that although they were poor themselves, in great poverty, yet they believed that if they gave themselves to the Kingdom first, then other things would fall into place. They set the right priorities and thus began to blend this joy and their poverty and create wealth.