JeremyHouck.com

Giving That Feels Good

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

I have a theory that it takes about two years before a preacher knows the congregation well enough to have a clear vision for what needs to be done. Usually if they start making changes right off the bat they are reacting to what they wanted to change or do in their last congregation, and not what’s best for the present one.

I also believe that it takes at least two years for the congregation to see if they trust the preacher and are willing to see the vision that he is laying out for them. That being said, I have asked the Elders if there were things they saw and felt that we needed to study a little deeper. We talked about a few ideas, but they wanted us to spend a little time talking about giving.

I don’t know what your opinion on giving is but I want to start today by making two quick observations. First giving is a personal problem. It’s no secret that we have members of this church that own their own businesses, and members of this church that are living on Social Security. Because we are so very different it’s easy to take our focus away from God and place it on one another.

Those living on Social Security begin to think, well I have so little and there are those who have so much, let them give.  As a matter of fact if they would give like they should then I can use what I have to pay my bills.  Then those who own their own businesses say, "You know I feel like all I am is a dollar sign."  Every time I walk into the building someone wants something; I have worked hard to get where I am, so let someone else give.

And that leads right to the second observation, giving is a spiritual problem.  You see giving is an outside indicator of what’s going on, on the inside. What I mean is that if my spiritual life is good then I fully trust God and gladly give back to Him what He originally trusted me with. If my relationship is not right with God then I cannot give like God desires of me. Studies on congregational giving indicate 20 percent of the members give 80 percent of the funds, 30 percent give 20 percent, and approximately half give nothing at all! What does that say about the spiritual health of the local church?

Usually when we hear sermons on giving the preacher stands in front of the church and says we need to give more so that we can pay our bills and missionaries, and buy Sunday school curriculum. And the congregation hears, “You need to give more so that I can make more money!” You know you do, and the way that some preachers approach the subject that’s what I hear as well.

You see when I was a younger man I was motivated to give because my dad pressed the quarter into my hand and said “Put this in the plate.” As I got older I was motivated to give because my dad would look at my check that I received and said, “How much of that are you going to give back to God?” When I got out on my own I had to find my own motivation to give back to God. You see it all boils down to motivation.

Let me see if I can explain it a different way.  One of the most popular New Years resolutions every year is to lose weight. So I want you to raise your hand if you have no idea how to lose weight.

We all know how to lose weight, but do you realize that weight loss is a multi-billion-dollar industry. If everybody already knows how to lose weight, what's the problem?

The problem is that we don't want to do what we know; it’s motivation, not knowledge. So today I want to take an honest look at our motivations for giving. And see what the Bible has to say about that motivation.

MOTIVATION #1: GUILT "HAVE TO" GIVING

In 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul encourages us to be cheerful givers. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

I want you to know that the word here you Bibles translated cheerful is related to our English word "hilarious." So it literally says “God loves a Hilarious giver” A Belly laughing giver.  Is that the feeling that you get when you give?  In a moment when we pass out the collection plates are you going to have a good laugh as you give back to God. 

In the book When Helping You Is Hurting Me, Carmen Renee Berry gives the following thought: Givers fall into the Messiah Trap when the opportunity to give is viewed as an obligation. If a person has no choice but to give, he or she is no longer giving but is being taken. When a person feels taken, the joy is replaced by resentment. Since Messiah Givers are addicted to giving and therefore unable to place realistic limits on giving, the tendency is to give and give and give, and stop only when there is nothing left but feelings of guilt and fatigue.

But remember we should not feel forced to give, Paul writes not reluctantly or under compulsion, guilt cannot be a biblical motivator, but it is used a lot! I heard a preacher say one time; we have some good news and bad news. The good news is that we have enough money to do everything God wants us to do. The bad news is that it is in your wallet. In Alabama we call that a guilt trip. There are strengths and weaknesses of this motivation.

Strength: Guilt can be effective in bringing in some money.

Weakness. It's actually unbiblical! It brings no joy and doesn't help people out-grow materialism. Remember what Paul says your attitude is what matters to God. So I believe that we can all agree that guilt is not a good motivation for giving.

MOTIVATION #2: RESPONSABILITY "OUGHT TO" GIVING

In 2 Corinthians 8, The apostle Paul is writing to the Corinthians bragging on those in Macedonia and how they were willing to give back to the Lord, while living in poverty.  When he gets to verse 7 Paul makes this appeal. But as you abound in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us-see that you abound in this grace also 2 Corinthians 8:7

What grace is that? Well in context of the passage we see that the grace is giving. Paul is teaching us that we need to grow in our faith, grow in our speech, grow in our knowledge, and even grow in our giving. In this passage we see that every believer has a certain responsibility to trust God by what we give, and as we spend time with God and grow in our faith, we must also grow in our giving.

There is strength in this motivation. Because money is given we feel like we are fulfilling our responsibility and this approach feels so much better than the guilt motivation. Another strength is that people learn responsibility to God and to his local church.  That is a healthy character trait, to take ownership of the local body.

But there is a greater weakness involved. Giving solely out of responsibility takes away our joy our sense of hilarious giving, and makes this act cold and legalistic. When I give out of duty or responsibility it's easy to feel, "I've done my part, and that’s all I’m going to do.”  So I believe that we can all agree that responsibility is not a good motivation for giving.

MOTIVATION #3: NEEDS "WANT TO" GIVING

I believe that there is enough teaching in scriptures to back up the statement that “God wants us to be concerned about meeting needs.”  Time and time again Jesus taught about the necessity of loving those whom God loves and taking care of the helpless. Look at a wonderful text from the Pen of Paul found in Ephesians 4:28 “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”

In this text Paul is sharing with us the motivation behind work.  We are to work, so that if anyone has a need we can share with them in order to meet that need. Giving is a holy thing, and we are quick to jump to the rescue if we know someone is truly in need. Natural disasters strike and we send millions of dollars and supplies by the truckload. A police officer is shot down in the line of duty and we give freely to his children’s college fund.

Knowing about a need often kindles a desire to provide the resources. We freely give because we all know the feeling of vulnerability and want to help in any way that we can. And in the church we rally and meet needs as well.  I have worked with several different congregations as a member and a minister, and every time there was a great need there was a great response. 

That’s the strength of this type of motivation, giving to satisfy needs feels good. This kind of giving brings a cheerful heart and doesn't rely on compulsion to force people to give reluctantly. This motivation touches our heartstrings and encourages people to learn the discipline of sacrificial giving.

Giving to meet a need will raise larger sums of money and increase involvement because some people give only when they see a need. And that strength also is the weakness. You see there are those who won’t give because they don't see the "need" or worse they don’t approve of it. 

The church has some month to month expenses just like you do at your homes and it is hard to get excited about meeting month to month expenses.  I see the need to have heat in the winter in my home but paying the churches utility bill doesn’t make me want to give. I am willing to pay for garbage pick-up at my home, but having the garbage taken off doesn’t create a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart. I realize the need for insurance on my home, but I am probably not going to pass on buying a new pair of shoes so that we can pay the insurance premium here at the building.

So I believe that we can all agree that meeting needs is not the best motivation for giving.

MOTIVATION #4: THANKSGIVING "CAN'T HELP IT" GIVING

Paul indicated in 2 Corinthians that it was good for the church to supply the needs of God's people, but he wouldn’t want them to stop there because he knew of the weaknesses. So in 2 Corinthians 9: 10-15 he supplies us with another motivation.

Now if I were to have asked you this morning what is the Biblical reason for giving a majority would have probably said that we give back to God because we are thankful.  This is the motivation that I was taught from a very early age, look at what Paul says:

Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:10-15).

Church I truly believe that giving is a holy activity. I say that because giving is a way of thanksgiving and praising God for all He has done. God has blessed me with a job so I will give back to Him as a way of saying thanks. I receive a check for money that I didn’t count on and I give to God as a way of saying thanks. I received a Tax refund when I was sure that I was going to have to pay, and I give as a way of saying thank you God.

That’s the strength of giving out of thanksgiving; it feels good because I am acknowledging a blessing! This type of giving points our hearts in God's direction since we have a tangible way of showing our thanks to him. He has blessed us and in return we bless Him. 

Now while there is nothing wrong with this motivation for giving, its weakness is found in our perception of thankfulness. If I am not aware of the blessings God has poured out in my life then I tend to not be as thankful. Some people can miss the joy of how God has blessed them because they're not paying attention.

There are so many blessings that come our way every day that we tend to take them for granted. Health is a blessing, but I only acknowledge my health when I am sick. My house is a blessing, but I only acknowledge it when I have to make a repair.  My truck is a blessing but I only acknowledge it when I put $60.00 worth of diesel in the tank. God blesses us in so many ways, but some of the blessings I take for granted.

So I believe that we can all agree that thankfulness is not the best motivation for giving. And this brings us to the last, and the greatest, motivation for giving.

MOTIVATION #5: WORSHIP "IT'S MY NATURE" GIVING

In 2 Corinthians 8:5, Paul uses the Christians in Macedonia as examples to the church in Corinth by pointing out a unique quality of their giving. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

These Macedonian Christians "gave themselves first to God." Their financial decisions flowed out of their relationship to the Father. When it's your nature to give to God, giving becomes an act of worship. And this can be seen in the way that Paul describes the act of Giving to us in his various letters. 

Paul writes that giving is a "confession of the gospel" in 2 Corinthians 9:13 While, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men.

Then Paul describes giving is an act of trust in 1 Timothy 6:17-19. Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

And finally Paul teaches that Giving is an offering to God in Philippians 4:15-18. " Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.

I believe that this is the best motivation for giving because it is the only motivation that is devoid of any weakness. Worship is the highest possible motivation. It creates true commitment, pleases God, and allows much work to be done to advance the cause of his kingdom, and feels good, too!

There are no weaknesses to this motivation to giving! The devil can't steal your joy in the Lord or stop your work for Christ.

Today I want to close our time together by asking you what is your motivation for giving?  Or a more important question is what is your motivation for living?

 

 

Questions to Consider

 

1)    Why is giving a personal problem?

 

2)    What spiritual struggles can be seen in the way we give?

 

3)    What are some of the different ways that we can give?

 

4)    Which of these are the easiest for you to give?

 

5)    Which of these are the most difficult for you to give?

 

6)    We named 5 motivators to give this morning: guilt, responsibility, need, thanksgiving, and worship. Where are you?

 

7)    How motivated would you say that you are to give to God and His church?

 

8)    How can you become a “hilarious” giver?  



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