Summary: Our level of concern for the Lord’s work, our contentment, and our joy in giving, are all a part of what we can give, not just what we put into the offering plate
After all the trials of study, a little girl finally experienced the major breakthrough in her life of learning to tie her own shoes. You’d think she’d be thrilled. Instead, she was overcome by tears.
Her dad asked her, "Why are you crying?"
"I have to tie my shoes," she said. "You just learned how. It isn't that hard, is it?"
She wailed, "I know, but I'm going to have to do it for the rest of my life."
I’m guessing that some of us feel the same way when it comes to Christian stewardship. We learn that it's exciting to give. But isn't there just a tiny bit of dread because we know then we’ll have to do it over and over again for the rest of our lives? If we say we believe this, we’re at least inwardly committing ourselves…for life. That’s kind of intimidating, isn’t it?
Newlywed couples, who are just in the throes of learning that 2 can live as cheaply as one…elephant, are faced with the thought of taking a chunk of their precious budget and giving it away. And there’s this question: What should we put in?
Parents, from the moment that your little boy or girl first receives a dollar from Grandpa, you have an opportunity. You need to teach your kids from the very beginning that part of what they receive should be given to the Lord’s Kingdom. Explain that some of a child’s money should be given to the Church and they’re going to have a question for you: How much?
Take a person to whom Jesus is new. He’s been reading stories of people who dropped everything and became followers of Jesus. He’s heard the story of a man to whom Jesus says, “Go, sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and come follow me.” He has also heard TV evangelists who tell you to put your hand on the TV screen and send in a check. He’s also received the same phone calls you have, seeking for a donation to some worthy cause. Naturally, this guy is going to want to know – as the offering plate comes around on Sunday morning, what do I put in?
Story - Clara Null, OK City, OK – lived for years in a little town that had 3 churches and one bank. Early one Monday morning, the bank called all 3 churches with same request: "Could you bring in Sunday's collection right away? We're out of one-dollar bills."
I remain convinced that tithing is a good starting point for NT Christians. If you’re going to press for a short answer about an amount to put in, I’d start there. For some, that would mean a big increase in what you’re giving. In fact, if everyone in our churches suddenly started to practice regularly giving 10% of their income, the financial resources of the church in the USA would triple. But tithing can also limit giving. Meet the quota, stop, and don’t worry beyond that. I don’t find where that approach fits into the NT Church. I’d rather introduce some thoughts that generate far more giving than that!
If the issue of our giving attitudes was settled, the issue of amount would be much easier.
So, let me meddle a bit today. Let’s get uncomfortable for a few minutes and talk about what to put in at offering time, and let’s have some fun as we do it…
I. Concern for the Lord’s Work
We’re still in the book of Philippians – the letter of joy, written by Paul while a prisoner. It’s obvious from what he writes that Paul really was concerned about the church doing well.
We’ve already looked at 1:14, where Paul, a prisoner, is rejoicing because on account of his imprisonment, others have been encouraged to speak about Jesus without fear. In 1:21-26, we’ve already read Paul’s sentiments about living and dying. He’d rather die; rather go home to be with Jesus. That would be much better for him, but he’s happy to remain here, struggle, and somehow help people like the Philippians grow in Jesus. It’s pretty obvious that Paul has a concern about the work of the church – which is people, by the way.
But we can also tell from this letter that the church in Philippi also had a genuine concern for the Lord’s work – for what God is doing and what God cares about.
The Philippians had sent Paul money. We don’t know how it was packaged. It wasn’t a cashier’s check. It wasn’t a money gram from Western Union. Probably it wasn’t in an envelope, and I doubt it had lipstick prints on the outside. But it was obvious that they were sending more than just money. Bundled up with that money was real concern for Paul and for something beyond Paul. The financial support they sent happened because they cared about the progress of the Kingdom of God.