I was out for a little walk one day when I saw a small boy trying desperately to reach the doorbell. He just couldn't stretch enough to reach it, so I crossed the road to give the little guy a hand. As I rang the bell, I looked down at him with a smile. He looked at me and said, "Now run!"
OK, that's not a true story, but that's often the advice I hear from people when the pastor considers teaching on money and giving: "Run!" Jesus didn't run from it though, and neither did the writers of many other books in our scriptures. In a recent survey conducted at CCC, nearly three-quarters of us said it's something we should talk about in church.
So here we go.
First, I want to say how grateful I am for the faithful (and often sacrificial) giving of our people. I am encouraged by the generosity and support for this life and ministry we all feel called to. We are in this together. No single person can bankroll a church or fill every need or serve every person. As Paul said in Galatians, each one should do their part.
In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul thanks the church for their generosity and encourages them to continue in their support of God's work. From this chapter, we can pull some great guidelines for giving. Here are a few of them:
1] We give as we are able [8:1-3]. Jesus told a humbling story about a rich man who boasted about his tithe while a widow quietly brought her "two mites" (which was all she had). Jesus asked, "Which one gave more?" To some, they would never miss 10% of their income...or 20%...or 50%. Giving is costlier to those who have less, but we are all encouraged to give as we are able. We don't teach a prosperity gospel at CCC. We don't give so that God responds. We give as a response to what God has already given!
2] We view giving to God's work as a privilege [8:4-5]. There's a big difference between giving because you have to do it and giving because you are glad to be part of it. Giving brings us joy. Why does it feel so good to give? Because giving is part of the character of God. If giving to God's work is a privilege, then those who manage those gifts have a tremendous responsibility to be good stewards.
3] Giving is best from the heart [8:6-9]. "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" [2 Corinthians 9]. Giving is an act of grace, not the result of guilt, shame, force, or pressure. We give because choose to in response to what God has given. I once worked for an organization that bragged 100% of their employees donated to charity. What most people didn't know is that 100% gave because 100% were forced to. To avoid being blacklisted or written up, we popped a few bucks into the kitty. There was no joy in the giving.
4] Generosity comes from faith [8:10-12]. It's not about the amount, it's about the willingness to give and the trust that God can do more with that money than I ever could. We like to believe it's In God We Trust, but I find it so easy to be tempted to put my trust in my bank account instead. Giving and generosity is an act of faith and trust in the God who is greater.
I have a hands off approach to who gives what around here. It's none of my business. I do not want to know. I trust God's Spirit is at work among us to either meet these needs or cause us to adjust our direction. We give as we are able, because it's a privilege, because it's in our heart, and because of our faith in God.
We are in this together.