Summary: The Lord is THE Cheerful Giver - ready to bless us to be a blessing
THE CHEERFUL GIVER
1. This year our stewardship emphasis has been “Holy (H-O-L-Y) obligated.” We are focusing on what it means to be a Biblical – Chrsitian steward. A steward doesn’t own anything – a steward manages what belongs to someone else. And the text we have been using is 2 Corinthians 12:14, “What I want is not your possessions, but you…” But, what does this mean? In part it means that the one who is holy obligated is the cheerful giver.
2. Not like the old joke about the Roman Catholic priest, the Baptist minister and the Lutheran pastor. They were discussing how they decided what portion of the offering should come to them personally. The Priest said, “Well, I draw a circle on the ground – step away ten yards and then I toss the collection at the circle. Whatever ends up in the circle is mine.” The Baptist minister said, “Well – that’s almost what I do – but I keep whatever falls outside that circle.” The Lutheran pastor then spoke up. “You are doing it all wrong” he said. What I do is I throw all the collection up into the air – and let God keep whatever He wants.”
3. Paul’s second letter to the Christians at Corinth addresses, among other things, a collection he has been taking. The church in Corinth (Corinth was the capital of Greece at that time) was made up mostly of gentile Christians. The collection was to go to the Jews in Jerusalem – where a severe drought was causing starvation. But this was a time of strained relationships between Christians and Jews – and these gentile Corinthians weren’t very eager to participate. Furthermore, some in the Corinthian congregation were accusing Paul of wanting the money for himself!
So Paul writes to them, “Each of you must give as you have decided in your heart – not reluctantly or under compulsion – for the Lord loves a cheerful giver,” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The Cheerful Giver is (I submit to you) the one who is holy (h-o-l-y) obligated.
I. If you want to be “holy obligated” – if you want to be the Cheerful Giver - then three things are required: give out of joy , give without expecting anything in return, and give more than expected.
1. The Cheerful Giver gives out of joy. Not reluctantly. If you cannot be joyful about what you give – give God less – or maybe more. Some studies show those who give more are more joyful.
United Healthcare surveyed 4,500 American adults about their volunteer time. 41 percent of Americans volunteer an average of 100 hours a year. 89% of those reported that "Volunteering has improved my sense of well-bring." 92% agree that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life. 72% characterized themselves as "optimistic" compared to only 60% of non-volunteers. Does giving more make us more joyful? It would seem so.
The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem could not get over their angry fights with Paul When Paul took the money he had collected and brought it to Jerusalem – he was arrested and ended up in jail. But, even from jail, Paul could write to the Philippian Christians, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice.… Do not be anxious about anything.” Paul put together a great gift – and that gift was rejected – but he could still be joyful. What about you? Are you anxious, or joyful in giving? In life?
*The cheerful giver gives out of their joy – and thankfulness for all they have received.
2. And the cheerful giver gives without expecting a return.
The 12th century Jewish physician and philosopher Maimonides described one way to give to the poor, “Do so without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from whom he received. For this is performing a good deed solely for the sake of Heaven. This is like the “anonymous fund” that was in the Holy Temple (in Jerusalem). There the righteous gave in secret, and the … poor profited in secret.”
Jesus says it this way, in Luke 6, “And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend expecting nothing in return,… and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. “
*The cheerful giver expects nothing in return. And you – is that how you give? Expecting nothing in return?
3. The cheerful giver gives out of joy, gives without expecting anything in return, and gives more than is expected.
Marischen Nordmeyer was right. Last week I explained the pledge cards that we put in with the bulletin – and said that the average Christian gives back to the Lord 2% of the blessings God entrusts to us – but that the Lord asks us to return 10%. Afterwards Marischen sought me out and corrected me. She reminded me that the tithe, giving 10%, is something recommended in the Bible in the Old Testament. In the New Testament the Lord wants us to give Him 100% - that means remembering that all we have, everything, is a gift from God – to use wisely – to serve Him- not ourselves.