Summary: Give and bring praise to God, participate in the sharing of the Gospel, and profit from it yourself.
A church was getting ready to receive pledges to their building fund, when the pastor thought of an ingenious way to get everyone to pledge. He called in an electrician and wired the seats. Then when the collection time came the following Sunday, he announced to the congregation, “All pledges to the building fund will be made publicly in the worship service.”
Then he added, “All those who will pledge ten dollars per week, please stand.” At that moment a switch was thrown that sent the juice through the wires in the pews. The response was immediate – about half of the congregation jumped to their feet.
Then the pastor said, “All those who will pledge twenty dollars please stand.” One of the ushers raised the voltage, and a second, stronger shock caused more people to rise.
The whole process was repeated several more times. Each time the amount was raised and so was the voltage. The ushers had to work frantically to get all the names and pledges written down.
Later, after the service, the pastor and his staff were busy adding up the totals and congratulating themselves on the great success of the campaign – until the head usher appeared and announced that four people had stubbornly remained in their seats and were still there. They had been electrocuted. (James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited, p. 459)
It seems that some people refuse to give no matter what. Now don’t worry; we’re not going do anything like that here, but I believe more people would give if they just knew how fun it is! There is a great benefit to giving not only to the recipients of the gift, but to the givers, as well. Generosity brings great joy to everyone!
At least that’s what the believers in the First Century church at Philippi discovered. They had supported the Apostle Paul in his missionary efforts. So Paul writes them a thank-you note, expressing his gratitude for their gifts. Only in the note, he does not tell them how much the gift helped him. No. He tells them how much their gift helped themselves!
Philippians 4:10-17 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. (ESV)
When the Philippian believers gave, there was “fruit that increased to THEIR credit”. And the same is true for everyone who gives. So…
GIVE AND BRING PRAISE TO GOD, first of all.
Give and increase God’s fame in the world. Give and cause people to rejoice in the Lord.
That’s what Paul did when he received a gift from the Philippian believers. In verse 10 he said, “I rejoiced greatly in the Lord”. Their gift made his day. It lifted his spirits. It caused him to praise God, even though he was sitting in prison.
And do you know? Your giving will do the same. Your generosity will cause people to rejoice in the Lord and bring glory to God.
Just last year (2015), Harvard professor Robert Putnam, criticized “organized religion” for being useless. His criticism reflected the attitude of many non-believers. Putman said, “The obvious fact is that over the last 30 years, most organized religion has focused on issues regarding sexual morality, such as abortion, gay marriage, all of those” without addressing in his mind “real needs” in the world.
However, an article in The Washington Post countered with the facts about what is really going on in the American Church. Rob Schwarzwalder and Pat Fagan, the writers of that article said, “Broadly speaking, American churches are incredibly generous to the needs of a hurting world.” Then they presented some stats to back up that claim:
In 2009, overseas relief and development supported by all American churches exceeded $13 billion.
That compares to $5 billion sent abroad by foundations in the same year, $6 billion from private and voluntary relief organizations apart from church support, and $9 billion donated internationally by corporations.