Summary: A lot of us are reluctant to preach on giving. Churches are often criticized for their financial appeals, yet giving is an act of discipleship, devotion, and worship.
A minister wanted to impress his congregation with the need to increase giving. He described extensive repairs required to overhaul the sanctuary. Just as he was about to ask the ushers to come forward for the offering, a piece of plaster fell from the ceiling and hit a man square on the head. He stood up and said, “I'll give a thousand dollars!” The minister then looked heavenward and prayed, “Lord, hit him again!”
People give for a variety of reasons…
-Some see the collection as an admission fee, as dues;
-Some are seeking a tax deduction;
-Others give because of overbearing pressure and manipulative pleas for money;
-Some hope to appease God, but no one can buy their way into Heaven (All My Trials: “If religion were a thing that money could buy, the rich would live and the poor would die”);
-Some give so that God will reward them with prosperity, as though they were making a financial investment;
-And some give out of gratitude for their many blessings.
In sermons on stewardship, we should begin by defining the word “steward.” In a biblical perspective, stewards are managers of the affairs of God on earth. Each one of us is a steward in that we all have unique abilities, assets, and opportunities to put to use for God's Kingdom.
I'd like to offer several Biblical principles of giving this morning, and I hope to exert no pressure other than what the Scriptures teach concerning our giving. Let’s start with…
• The SOURCE of our ABILITY to give: “It is God who gives you the ability to produce wealth,” Deut 8:18. “We brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of it,” I Tim 6:7. Everything we have has been given us as a gift from God. Let’s focus on what God has allowed us to have, not on what we don’t have, and let’s be grateful.
• Our RESPONSIBILITY to the Owner of everything: God says in Lev 25:23, “The land is Mine and you are but My tenants.” Jesus told a parable about entrusting servants with financial resources; the ones who made wise use of these funds were given positions of leadership. It's not how much we have but what we do with what we've been given that is important. I Peter 4:10, “As each has received a gift, faithfully employ it to serve others, as good stewards of God's grace.”
• Our ACCOUNTABILITY to God: “Each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom 14:12). We answer to Him. God appraises our contributions to His Kingdom. How do we measure up? How has our personal financial management changed since we became Christians? If a stranger looked at our checkbook ledger, what would he learn about our priorities?
• Our JOY in giving: “God loves a cheerful giver” (II Cor. 9:7); “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Let’s be happy that we’re able to give. Dave Ramsey says, “Not only does giving of your money or other resources generate good in the lives of others, it also generates contentment in your heart.”
• The act of WORSHIP in our giving: “I urge you in view of God's mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship” (Rom 12:1). Stewardship is a form of worship. When we take up an offering it’s a ritual pleasing to God.
• Our SACRIFICIAL RESPONSE to needs: Paul writes about those who “In rich generosity gave even beyond their ability” (II Cor. 8:2-3). We give sacrificially to support the cause for which Christ gave His life. How much should we give? C.S. Lewis said that “the only safe rule is to give more than you can spare;” enough to make us uncomfortable.
• The INTENT in our giving: We give out of love for God. Giving should come from the heart. II Cor. 8:12, “If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable.” Do we reluctantly give? A minister prayed as he presented the morning offering: “Regardless of what we say, this is what we truly think of You, Lord.”
• The SYSTEMATIC APPROACH to giving: The Apostle Paul wrote Corinth, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” (I Cor. 12:2). When giving is in our budgets, it becomes a non-issue, a matter-of-fact way of life.
• The PROPORTIONAL AMOUNT of our giving: Our reading in Malachi says that we’re to bring our tithes to God’s house. Leviticus 27 says that, “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord” (30). The Old Testament standard was 10%. This is not a burden once we’re convinced that 100% of what we have belongs to God. 10% is the least we can do when we consider all that God has done for us. We then need to seek God's wisdom in the use of the 90% left for us. It shouldn’t require a miracle for us to get through the month with 10% less in our wallets.