Summary: Part 3 in a series entilted "Keeping the Beat - Heart Healthy Giving for Heart Healthy Living"
Spiritual Angioplasty: Eliminating Obstacles to Giving
A man on vacation was strolling along outside his hotel in Acapulco, enjoying the sunny Mexican weather. Suddenly, he was attracted by the screams of a woman kneeling in front of a child. The man knew enough Spanish to determine that the boy had swallowed a coin. Seizing the child by the heels, the man held him up, gave him a few shakes, and an American quarter dropped to the sidewalk. “Oh, thank you sir!” cried the woman. “You seemed to know just how to get it out of him. Are you a doctor?” “No, ma’am,” replied the man. “I’m with the United States Internal Revenue Service.”
None of us like to part with our money, and at this time of the year we are especially conscientious of our duty to the Internal Revenue Service. There are many jokes about the IRS but the reality is that each of us has a responsibility as a citizen of the United States of America to support our government. We don’t get a choice in the matter. If you want to live here you’ll pay your taxes. And if you don’t there will be consequences to face.
Did you know that the church used to function like that? In the early days of our country members of local congregations in various denominations, including our own, were assessed a fee each year to allow the church to meet its financial obligations. One of the ways in which this was handled was through pew rental, a practice that was still being perpetuated up until the 1950’s in some places. There was a fee set for the rental of a pew depending upon the location of the pew. The pews in the front were the most expense, as they were the most desirable. Imagine that! There was one denomination who formed during the late nineteenth century and advertised that they had “free pews”. They called themselves the “Free Methodists.”
Times have changed. I can assure you that we haven’t sent out any bills for pews lately. And contrary to our behavior no one actually owns a pew. We also don’t force you to give any certain amount in the collection. It certainly would be easier to run the church that way. But while giving is an option and is not forced upon us what we’ve got to remember is that in the same way as it is our responsibility to support our government, so too is it our responsibility as citizens of the Kingdom of God to support the work of that Kingdom.
That’s why we’re spending time in this series on giving. But our sole purpose in examining this topic has not been to drum up more financial support. My primary aim in this series is to help you understand how important giving is to your spiritual lives.
Let’s take a moment and review where we’ve been.
If you’ll follow along in your outlines the first point is this: faith and finances are inseparable. We talked about this two weeks ago. One out of every six verses in Matthew, Mark, and Luke deal with the topic of money. Jesus took it very seriously, and when someone’s salvation was on the line, the determining factor as to whether they had actually surrendered themselves was often their financial condition. You can’t separate your faith and finances. That’s why Jesus said, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”
The second point is that healthy living requires healthy giving. It’s impossible for you to be a spiritually healthy Christian unless you develop spiritually healthy giving patterns. When you and I learn to give in the way the Word of God instructs, our relationship with God becomes strengthened. Healthy giving promotes spiritually healthy living.
And the third point of review that we discussed last week is that we are “stewards” not owners of ourselves and possessions. I had you place a sticker on your wallets and purses last week that said “property of Jesus Christ.” I hope it you made you think every time you spent your money as it did me. As Christians we are not our own, we were bought with a price and we’re simply managers of God’s resources.
I’ve got a hunch that most of us have been convicted by what we’ve been learning. I know I have. And I also know that some of you are in fact fulfilling your obligation of giving 10% and some of you haven’t yet made it to that level. What I want to do today is I want each and everyone of us to leave this place this morning having been afforded the opportunity of eliminating any obstacles that are in the way of giving as we’re being convicted we should give.