Giving That Feels Good
2 Corinthians 9:6-7
I know that some of you are looking at the screens and immediately thinking, oh great here comes another money sermon. Why does the preacher always want to talk about money? Well, actually this is my 80th sermon standing in this pulpit and the first time we are addressing the issue. I have intentionally waited to talk about this issue for a few reasons. First, I believe that it takes a while for a congregation to see if they trust the preacher. If you cannot trust me, then what I say up here doesn’t really matter, it won’t make a difference.
Secondly, I know that while preaching is important; it might not always be the most effective way to express what God desires from His children. I mean there have been thousands of sermons on forgiveness and we still don’t forgive one another. I have preached extensively on the need to Model Love in the Model City and some of you still don’t like a few of folks sitting around you this morning.
I fully understand that just standing up here and revealing what God desires for His children in regards to money doesn’t mean that next week we will be fully invested in giving to the Kingdom because money is a heart issue. Jerrie Barber is fond of saying that money is an outside indication of what is happing on my inside. In other words my wallet is tied to my heart. That’s why the Humane Society plays that Sarah McLaughlin song while showing pictures of puppies and kittens. Or, why they use a video of little kids carrying heavy water buckets across the hot plains in Africa. They know if they can tug on your heart strings then they can also tug at your wallet.
It’s no secret that we have members of this church that have great jobs, and members of this church that are living on Social Security. 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 with great jobs 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.
Both of those attitudes show that it is a heart problem. Money is very spiritual, there are those who have made it an idol and worship money and the things they can acquire. The truth is that if your relationship is not right with God, if He doesn’t have your heart, then it is impossible for you to trust God with your time, talent, or treasure. I believe it’s a cultural issue, not a Greenbrier issue. We have not emphasized the fact that God comes first, that we are called to love God with all of our hearts. That’s why 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!
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 be a light in this community, but what 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. I am not looking for a raise, I am looking for people who are motivated by their love for God to be involved in what He is doing in this community.
When I was a child I was motivated to give because my dad pressed the quarter into my hand and said, Put this in the plate. When I got my first pay check, my motivation came when my dad asked me, 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. We all know if we want to lose weight we need to burn more calories than we eat, and last year the weight loss industry made 68.2 Billion dollars selling pills, gadgets, and food plans. But, 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. That;s why I wanted us to begin this series by taking 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).
Did you know the word your Bibles translated as cheerful is related to our English word hilarious. It would be a proper translation to say that God loves a Hilarious giver, a belly laughing giver. Is that the feeling that you get when you give? This morning when we passed the collection plates did you have a good laugh as you gave back to God?
We have a pretty alarming habit here at Greenbrier. Dr. Ready, who does a fabulous job taking care of our finances, will tell the Shepherds every couple of months that we are are not going to have the money to pay our bills. Then the Shepherds put out a phone tree saying we need to give $5,000 the last Sunday of the month. They meet to pray that God will make sure we get the money we need to keep from defaulting on some bills and then you meet that goal. Everyone breaths a sigh of relief and we pay our bills only to repeat the process a few months later. It’s hard to be a hilarious giver when that’s your pattern.
Paul says that we should not feel forced to give, or give reluctantly or under compulsion. God doesn’t want you to be guilted into giving, but guilt seems to be the go to emotion or most churches. 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. That’s the language of guilt. And while it may be effective in bringing in some money, it’s actually unbiblical! Giving through guilt not only steals our joy, it doesn’t address the real issue of 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: RESPONSIBILITY "OUGHT TO" GIVING
In 2 Corinthians 8, The apostle Paul is writing to the Corinthians bragging on the Christians 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 the grace of giving. The problem is that all growth, especially growth that leads us away from our human nature, is difficult. Think about it this way, if you were to take an umbrella and try to put it into a tube handle first, it would be difficult. The umbrella would fight you, I mean you might be able to get the handle in, but then you have to actually deal with the canopy, the metal arms, and those little metal ends. Even if you could squash everything down so that it will fit, but you will probably break the umbrella because it just feels unnatural.
But what if you turned the umbrella around so that the pointed end goes in first? What you will find is that even if the umbrella isn’t folded up properly, it will still go into the tube with ease. When we tell folks they have a responsibility to give at first they act like that umbrella going in the wrong way. You might succeed but they won’t enjoy it. The trick is to help people grow in grace and turn their minds and imaginations around so that what at first seemed forced, becomes natural.
Some of us are guilty of teaching people that they have a responsibility to give. The struggle is that why people will fulfill their responsibilities, giving solely out of responsibility takes away our joy our sense of hilarious giving, and makes this act cold and legalistic. Anything I do in order to fulfill my responsibility might get done, but it is done without love, or joy. So 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. Paul says 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.
We were given the ability to work so that we can share with people who have needs. Giving is a holy thing, and it feels good to meet a need. We are moved to action 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 give because we all know the feeling of vulnerability and want to help in any way that we can.
When I was talking with the search committee about coming here 20 months ago, I was told one of your strengths is that this church family always rallied to meet the churches needs. I was told every time there was a great need there was a great response. And I have found that to be true, if we can show you a need you will meet that need and give large sums of money.
But this type of giving is overrun with weakness, which is that there are those who won’t give because they don't see the need or worse they don’t approve of it. We understand the church has some month to month expenses just like you do at your home. But it’s really hard to get excited about meeting month to month expenses. I mean 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. That’s why 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: 11 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: You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. (2 Corinthians 9:11).
Giving is a holy activity, because it is a way of thankfully 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. God blesses us in so many ways that we get blessing exhaustion and start taking our blessings for granted. Which 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.
We were created to worship, and worshipping is the noblest act mankind can perform. We all freely give to the thing, or entity that we worship. If you worship comfort, you tithe to the god of comfort. If you worship technology, you tithe to the god of the latest and greatest gizmo. If you worship sports, you will tithe to the cable companies and ticketmaster. If you worship speed, you will tithe to a faster car and probably the police department.
We were created to worship, and it is our highest possible motivation. We are committed to what we worship with our time, our talents, and our treasures. That’s why giving is an outside indication of what is happening on your inside. If you are truly giving your life to worship God, you will live your life being committed to God. You will freely and joyfully dedicate your time, talent, and treasure to the work of His Kingdom.
When it becomes our nature to give, we understand that we are not merely giving to a church so that they can keep the lights on or pay the preacher. It becomes our nature to give to God’s Kingdom so that we can be a part of what He is doing in this world. We see giving as a way to participate in the redemption of our community and the world. But before giving can become our nature, we must first accept and understand what God has already done in our lives.
As we close this morning you need to answer, not only what is your motivation for giving, but what is your motivation for living? May we all live in thankfulness for our God who would not give us up in His unfailing love.