Summary: In order to experience the joy of giving: 1. We must recognize God’s ownership of everything. 2. We must live a life of stewardship. 3. We must want to bless more than we want to be blessed.
The church service ended at the Lutheran Church in New Sweden, Maine as everyone “passed the peace.” It was the first Sunday after Easter, and the 50 people in attendance headed to the fellowship hour to have some coffee. Some of the people complained that the coffee was bitter, but people usually complain about church coffee, so they didn’t think much about it until some people began to get violently ill. By the end of the day, 16 people were hospitalized and one of them would die by the next morning. Police discovered that arsenic had been dumped into the 30-cup coffee maker, making this the nation’s worst case of mass arsenic poisoning. The next shock was that a well-respected member of the church, 53-year-old Danny Bondeson, a potato farmer, was found dead at home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He left a note implicating himself in the poisoning. The investigation is now expanding to other members of the Bondeson family, whom police suspect may have been involved in the poisonings.
The story behind the story at this point seems to be that there was a disagreement in the church about a communion table. For years the church had a communion table that was against the wall, and the blessing of the bread and wine was done while facing the wall. The Bondeson family had donated a new altar so that the bread and wine could be done while facing the congregation. But traditions die hard, and the board seemed unwilling to replace the old altar, even though a new one had been donated, because they did not want to offend some of those who wanted the bread and wine blessed while facing the wall like it had always been done. Speculation is that not only Bondeson, but other members of his extended family, had become as bitter as the church coffee and decided to teach some people a lesson.
Was the Bondeson family giving for the glory of God or for their own glory? There is a lot of poison going around because people get their eyes off of Christ and onto the wrong things. The Bible says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3). We often have very wrong ideas about money and giving.
This morning I want us to take a spiritual journey through the Scriptures in order to get the right perspective on giving. There are people who have a special gift of giving. God has given them a heart to give. They love to give and are always looking for ways to give. They give lovingly and sacrificially. They see giving as a ministry. If we are to receive the gift of giving then we are going to have to have a proper understanding in place. The first thing you have to do if you are going to experience the joy of giving is this: You must recognize God’s ownership of everything. Somebody at the Lutheran church in New Sweden, Maine failed to understand that the church did not belong to them — the church belongs to God. The building belongs to God. The altar belongs to God. The people belong to God. The whole world belongs to God. Even what we give to God is already his. It is a gift from him to us. Part of the ritual in the church where I grew up had the choir sing as the offering was brought forward: “We give thee but thine own, / Whate’er the gift may be: / All that we have is thine alone. / A trust, O lord, from thee.” The Psalmist exulted, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1).
Whatever we give, we should give it as though we were giving it to God — not to the church or to a budget. You should not give because you want recognition or your name on a plaque. Jesus said, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:3-4). What we give is not ours anyway, it belongs to God. If you give something to the church it does not belong to you, whether that is money or some furnishing. You should think of your giving as giving to God, not the church. When we are giving to God we do not give to the things we agree with and not give to the things we may not agree with, we give as unto the Lord and we let him sort it out.