This week : Generosity
I would say that politics, religion, and money are probably the 3 most divisive things people tend to talk about. And I want you to know that I plan on dealing with the subject carefully, compassionately, but also truthfully.
So welcome to Awkward money talk Sunday. Just kidding, that's not true.
Exceptionally clear: Faithfully teach - scripture.
Before we get into it, I need to get exceptionally clear on one thing: What we're trying to do here is to faithfully teach the scripture. This sermon is not me trying to fund-raise for the church. It's me trying to be faithful to the scripture.
16 of the 38 parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions. In the Gospels, an amazing one out of ten verses (288 in all) deal directly with the subject of money. The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions.
Many of you give to the church consistently, and many of you give to the church occasionally, and many of you don't give to the church at all. No matter where you are on that spectrum, we're glad you're here.
So we're absolutely not a church that's OBSESSED with money, but also know that if we NEVER talk about money, it's because we're deliberately avoiding it, and we don't want to do that.
'“Since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you —see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” (2 Corinthians 8:7 NIV)
I love this, so he says 'Since you're doing such an amazing job at growing up in the way of Jesus, in faith, in speech, in knowledge. Since you're doing such an incredible job at all that stuff, make sure you don't neglect the grace of giving. I love that the 'Grace of Giving'. Isn't it interesting that he calls giving a 'grace'.
If you're unfamiliar, Grace is a central concept of Christian spirituality. And it's not just spiritual stuff, Grace is all around us all the time. It flows through everything. We don't have our spiritual life over here and our regular life here. That's one of the definitions of a hypocrite. To be acting.
The NT writers are constantly urging us to follow Jesus with our whole life, and that includes our financial life.
Talking about money in church, of course, is very awkward. But I can't get away from this truth that generosity is a core part of spiritual development.
1. Consistent generosity is a central part of Christian spirituality.
2. Sacrificial generosity is a God-given tool to help us push back against the greed and consumerism of this world.
3. Communal generosity is one of the ways we partner with each other to further the Kingdom of God.
“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches (Notice again that word, Grace). In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2)
I love that. Overflowing joy and extreme poverty, for these people, equaled rich generosity. This is amazing for multiple reasons.
For most of us, myself included, when I'm going through any financial struggle, my inclination is to pause all generosity. But these people that Paul is talking about, they were poor but they were also full of joy. And that produced in them, rich generosity. They were going through a hard time, but they had such incredible joy.
Have you ever been around someone like that? They're going through a hard time, but they're still so full of joy. You know what they're going through, and you go talk to them and they say 'Man, life is so good. I'm so blessed.' And you're thinking "You are?! Doesn't look that way to me." People who are going through real issues, but it's like they're more interested in you. And they still want to give, and serve, and help out.
And Paul is telling us to learn from these people. This is a group of people that had every excuse to NOT give. 'Extreme poverty' - Which is something very few of us have ever or will ever experience. But even then, they were generous.
What happens is this ends up taking away our excuse for why we don't give. I think a lot of people consider themselves the exception when it comes to being generous. We think "I can't give right now, I have student loans." Or "I can't give right now, I hardly make any money." - I totally understand that, but I would say "Never stop giving something."
It may just be a ridiculously small tiny thing. Maybe you work 8 hours a week babysitting and you want to tithe, which means 10% (my wife and I tithe) - and from that job your tithe would be $3.50/month, that's AMAZING.
Whatever you're doing now, you're training your future self.
A lot of people think "I'll be generous with my money once I start making a lot of money." - Jesus actually addresses this directly when he says "If you're faithful in small things, you'll be faithful in big things. But if you're not faithful in small things, you WON'T be faithful in the big things.
“For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4)
Ok, let’s talk about tithing. In the OT, the standard for giving for believers was very clear : 10%. Called the ‘tithe’. “Give 10% to the levites, or the tablenacle, to the ministry, to charity.' However when you get to the New Testament, there IS one place where Jesus says you should tithe. - Luke 11:42-43 - He’s talking to the pharisees about how they tithe, and he said you SHOULD do that, that’s it right. So Jesus is not against tithing. But almost nowhere else in the NT does the tithe even get mentioned. Instead you’ve got statements like this is 2 Corinthians 8:3 “They gave as much as they were able and beyond their abilities.”
So again, the NT instructs us to give to the place where it’s sacrificial. Where it’s you sacrificing something. So to say “I’d like to give, but can’t afford it.” Really what that means is I want to give but I’m not willing to sacrifice. So in the OT, it’s give 10%. Boom done. NT it’s ‘give in a way that makes you sacrifice something.’
Like there’s things you don’t do, b/c you’re giving. That’s the whole point. So I DO believe in tithing. I tithe. But more importantly, I believe in giving in a way that costs you something. That maybe you don’t do something else, b/c you give. And that’s the whole point.
“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15)
So here we have this beautiful picture of us as a community being generous together. Paul is saying 'The goal isn't that you're hard pressed to everyone else doesn't have to give. And the goal isn't that they're hard pressed so you don't have to give.' - No the idea is that we're all generous together.
This church and everything we do is funded 100% by our congregation. The money that I make and the money that our other pastors and staff make, how we pay our electricity bill, etc is 100% funded by our church members.
One time I was asked 'Who funds this church?" - What do you mean who funds the church, I'm looking at em, did you give anything this morning?!
The reason that this church exists is that people have come along side us and they've said "I believe in this ministry so much, that we're going t adjust the way we live so that we can support what happens here." - They adjust their life to not just live WITHIN their means (as opposed to ABOVE their means) but actually live UNDER their means, so they have the ability to be generous. That's how we're here.
(Prepare - Communion)
And in addition to keeping the lights on, and diapers on our babies butts, this church gives many many thousands of dollars to support other ministries and organizations that we believe are spreading the gospel both in word and deed.
Cameron and Micaela Brice
Daniel and Doina Matei
Beautiful Dream Society
Thailand - Charley and Cathy Milbrodt
Just wanted to say “thank you”, I’ve seen first hand how these outreaches have changed lives, etc etc.
Challenge: Give a financial gift (no matter how small) to the church.
'“Since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you —see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” (2 Corinthians 8:7)