"The Grace of Giving"
The next aspect of our collective worship is that of communal need. The reason we give and heart behind giving are very important to God. It is a testimony of our heart.
The Grace of Congregational Giving
(2 Cor. 8:1-5)
A. You were given a lottery ticket and won a million dollar jackpot, what are the top 3 things you would do with that money? A generous friend gives you $10,000 as a present, what would you do with that money? You find $20 on the ground while walking, what would you do with that money? For many people the answers are different for each question. People are much more willing to share the unearned money when they won a million dollars than when they found $20. Why is that? Could it be that giving is not as deeply a part of our nature, our natural reaction as we might profess?
B. Giving is a topic most preachers dislike preaching about. The reason is simple. I am a paid employee of this congregation. A large portion of our church budget is set aside for hiring me as your preacher, minister, and teacher. I appreciate the kindness given to me by this church financially. So preaching about giving can sound very self-serving.
C. Another reason why preachers dislike preaching about giving is that people who listen dislike the emotional manipulation that is often done to get them to give more to the local congregation. We have become hardened by the emotional ploys used by law enforcement, veterans, children’s charities and such. We see the pictures of people in wheel chairs of starving children with bodies that have flies all around them and we no longer are moved by such images to give to different social causes.
D. The truth of the matter is I am rich. I have more things than I need, more food than I can eat in a week, a roof over my head, two cars in my driveway, I have traveled on a vacation, my kids are not lacking for any need and I yet I can tell you why I don’t have the money to support some charity. I can explain away my income and in my mind convince myself that I am poor or at least not as rich as others. Yet, the truth is I am rich by standards of people living around the world and even those in the USA.
E. So why talk about giving? Because God talks about giving. Because Jesus teaches about giving. Because the HS enters into the heart of the giver. Because what we choose to give to (self, God, society) and how much we choose to give speaks about us.
F. Now take that to next level of collective giving. Why does a church pass the plate, put a box in the back or do anything about taking up a collection? That is the story I want us to focus on today. So let’s start with two stories.
I. The Jerusalem Church
A. The first story opens for us in the very first church which belonged to Christ – the Jerusalem church. This new group of Jewish believers had a life change starting on the day of Pentecost that year. They saw Jesus as more than a Jewish rabbi, but now as the Messiah. They claimed him and the blood of the cross to bring them into a covenant relationship with the Father through baptism. They were filled with the HS and that life change, cause them to see each other as family.
B. Acts 2:42-47. Here they are devoting themselves to God through the apostles teaching, fellowship, the LS and prayer. Never forget that fellowship is one of those big 4 openers to the Christian life. Fellowship moves us from one group and into another. These people were in each other’s home on a regular basis. They saw value in each other. So much so that they were will to sell their possessions and belongs and the church was distributing them where needs arose. It was a joyful experience to give as part of a church fellowship – not forced, not manipulated, not by guilt, but as a way to seeing family needs met. It was life changing to belong to such a family. It wasn’t a perfect church, and there were people who didn’t look at giving the same way.
C. In Acts 4 we read again about their idea of community as a church family and meet one disciple of Christ whose name is Barnabas (Acts 4:32-37). I won’t pretend or hide from you that even this church had people who gave with ulterior motives. Acts 5 tells the story of one such couple: Ananias and Sapphira.
D. Acts 5:1-11. Did you catch all that was said? First, it was their money. Second lying to God has consequences. Third, when you give be honest with yourself and God.
II. The Macedonian Churches
A. Our second story is told from a different perspective. Some might even say that Paul was manipulating or using guilt to get the Corinthians to do what other congregations were doing. But let’s go back to our text. 1 Cor. 8:1. STOP. Giving, you and me, opening up our pocket books, giving for the collective work that this congregation does is THE GRACE OF GOD. I want that to sink in. Here is how that works. When people come together as a church family and the family, through the collective giving, blesses some need – local church, area congregations, mission works, or anything else, the end result should be that the one receiving the gift receives it NOT from the church but from God.
B. I will never complain about the ministries of this congregation. There is not one activity supported with the collective money of this congregation that I see as sinful. But the teaching needs to be that God is at work, and we are simply supplying the needs of others with the gifts God have supplied us. Or as Paul puts it in 2 Cor. 9:10-15. What an incredible ministry collective giving can have.
C. One reason collective giving is important is it takes you and me out of the picture. The focus is not on the individual and the amount that individual gives. It is now on the collective church family and how the church behaves as part of God greater family. Do you see the shift from you to God?
III. My Heart
A. The only way it works is to have the right attitude about money. In our text we read how the churches in Macedonia “first gave themselves to God and then to us.” Throughout chapters 8-9 we read how giving is an “act of grace.” Grace is a God characteristic, not a human or Satan characteristic. The worldly point of view “what am I going to get out of giving money to this group, activity or social need?” The grace of giving point of view is “How is God being glorified and how do I glorify Him?”
B. For Paul, collective giving was a teaching that a church needed to understand as well as individuals. It was not manipulation, but seeking to get them to think bigger than themselves. That lesson still needs to be taught.
C. Paul would teach in 2 Cor. 9:7-8 that God wants people who love to give, not are forced to give. For those people God is able to make grace abound in all aspects of ministry.
A. I am glad the collection has already taken place. My challenge for you today is to think about grace, family, and God. The grace of giving to meet the needs of family and give thanks to God. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about money, it’s about grace. It’s not about me, it’s about God.
B. In a previous letter, Paul said this to the church in Corinth: 1 Cor. 16:1-4. Congregational collection done each week to meet needs. The reason for weekly was that it is simply easier to give small amounts often than a larger amount one time – today we call that budgeting. The concept (not a doctrine) is still done today.
C. But it is not about how much money you put in the collection plate today. I ask you look at yourself and decided if you have first given yourself to God? If you have, then ask yourself if you give with joy in your heart? If those two things have not taken place then you are simply doing an action that has little personal spiritual benefit for you. But if you have given yourself to God and have joy in the collective giving then grace has come to you.
D. Thank you for what you do. May God’s grace be upon you and give you peace. If we can help you in receiving that grace, then please come forward as we stand and sing.