Giving Matters: The Choice To Give

Giving Matters: The Choice To Give

Opening Illustration: Scrooge
Many of you remember Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol”.  There have been several adaptations over the years.  It is one of my favorite Christmas stories.  Remember, it is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge.  Scrooge is the penny pinching miser who refuses to part with any of his money.  He is wealthy.  However, his is all alone with his money.  He reluctantly gives time off to his only employee Bob Crotchet on Christmas Day.  Why?  Scrooge hates Christmas.  As Scrooge goes home for the evening he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley.  Marley informs Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits.  The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.  



Of course you know the rest of the story.  Following Scrooge’s visitations, he is transformed.  No longer does he refuse to give, he gives generously and cheerfully.  He finally understands that there is joy in giving.  He blesses everyone around him understanding that his management over this money he possesses is only temporal.  Why not use our money to bring joy and blessing to those around us who hurt? 

So, what lessons do we learn from miserly and miserable old Mr. Scrooge.  

We learn first that riches are meant to be used, not hoarded away.  

Proverbs 3:27 ESV
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. 

Another lesson we learn is that wealth and prosperity doesn’t bring happiness. Scrooge was wealthy but no one would think that he was happy.  He had riches but it did not fulfill him the way giving cheerfully did.  

Ecclesiastes 5:10 ESV
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.

Lastly, greed closes our eyes to the suffering of those around us.  Scrooge’s employee Bob was poor and hurting.  His son Tim had a debilitating disease that in one vision cost him his life.  Scrooge was not able to see the pain because his eyes were so fixed on his wealth.  Learning how to be a giver pops the bubble of selfishness around us, revealing to us that God can use us to be a huge blessing.  

Proverbs 22:9 ESV
Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor.

When It Comes To Giving, Are You A Penny Pincher or a Generous Giver?

II Corinthians 9:6-10 ESV

6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written,

“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
    his righteousness endures forever.”

10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 

How Does God Want You To Give?

I. Generously vs. 6
II Corinthians 9:6 ESV
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 

Joke:
Ann Landers had an interesting letter in her column. It was from a girl who was writing about her uncle & aunt. She said, "My uncle was the tightest man I’ve ever known. All his life, every time he got paid he took $20 out of his paycheck & put it under his mattress.  Then he got sick & was about to die. As he was dying, he said to his wife, "I want you to promise me one thing." "Promise what?" she asked. "I want you to promise me that when I’m dead you’ll take my money from under the mattress & put it in my casket so that I can take it all with me."  The girl’s letter went on with the story. "He died, & his wife kept her promise. She went in & got all that money the day he died & went to the bank & deposited it, and wrote out a check and put it in his casket."

Point: A Starting Point
“According to Scripture, a tithe is a gift offered in support of the priests and priestly people—the Levites (Num. 18:21). Not all Levites were priests... but the whole tribe of Levi was a priestly people. Today an equivalent might be all ministers and those who serve the Church: religious sisters and brothers, missionaries and groups that serve the Kingdom of God.”

The word tithe means literally “ten,” and 10% constituted a full offering in the Bible. A tithe is also referred to as the “first fruits”: sacrificing to God the best we have to offer. In Old Testament times, this meant the best lambs or the best part of the harvest. Most of us work for money now, so the tangible fruits of our labor end up being figures in a checking account or stock holdings. The concept is the same.

Illustration: Just Like Dad
When I was growing up I thought my Dad was like a super hero.  As a child I remember asking my Dad what he did for a living.  I can remember him telling me that he was the “administrator at the Charles Henderson Child Heath Care Center”.  I had no idea what that mean.  I asked him once what sort of degree he got in college.  He told me that he got a degree in Business administration.  Again, I had no idea what that meant.  

One day, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be.  I told her that I wanted to go to college and get a business administration degree and work as the administrator for the Charles Henderson Child Health Care Center.  

You see, I wanted to be like my Dad in every way.  

The same holds true with God.  Last week we talked about how God was a giver.  From the beginning of time, God gave.  As believers in God we should want to be like him.  We should want to imitate Him in every way.  

Point Continued
A tithe serves two purposes. It supports the Church, and, more importantly, a tithe is a symbolic gesture that all we have really belongs to God. By offering back the first 10% of our income to God through the Church, we literally show that we trust Him. “God’s true desire is to be generous with us, but even more, as a loving Father, He wants us to imitate Him in generous love.” God the Father offered his “first fruit”—His Son—to us on the Cross, replacing the Old Testament sacrifices with His Son on the Cross and at Mass. We imitate the Father’s love by offering the best we have to offer. 
Point:
So, should we be legalistic about 10%.  I would say “no”.  Don’t misunderstand me.  10% should merely be the starting point.  There are some in this very church who give much much more than 10% of their overall income.  They give to missions and missionaries.  We have members who have gone far and above their normal tithe to purchase necessary items for our church.  Some have both carpet, paint and other electronics that helps us make “church happen”.  As a pastor, I am thankful for such generosity.  

So, what is Paul saying?  Is he saying that if I give $10,000 that God will give me $20,000?  Unfortunately no, that is not what he is saying.  Fortunately, God does not just reward generosity with money.  God brings the richness of His presence.  God brings unexplainable peace.  God brings fulfillment when we help the church and one another with our giving.  

Can God reward with material possessions?  Sure.  God can do anything.  However, that is not what this Scripture is promising.  It is simply stating that there is a reward.  A bountiful reward.  

Proverbs 11:24-25 NASB
There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered.

II. Creatively vs. 7
II Corinthians 9:7 ESV
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion…

Give Creatively Using Your…

A. Time

B. Talents

C. Treasures 

Point:
It has been said that at the end of our lives there will be two books, which will reveal who we have been. One is the great Book of Life (cf. Rev. 20). The other is our checkbook. What we do with our money says a lot about our values. However, we sometimes think of our spiritual life and our personal finances as two separate entities. In reality, we are whole persons, made up of many interrelated parts. The analogy can be made that our life is like a house: one structure with many rooms. Jesus wants to be able to have entrance into all the rooms of our house. Is there a dark closet we do not want him to see? Sometimes in the dark closet there is a hidden sin. Or, sometimes, we shove our checkbooks or our credit card bills into that hidden corner. Jesus wants us to bring it all into the light. After all, He sees it anyway. If Jesus is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.
Consider: 
49% of Americans don’t pay their bills on time 
65% of Americans don’t do a good job of staying out of debt 
82% of Americans don’t save adequately for the future 
Charitable giving averages less than 2% for all Americans.
A majority of those getting divorces point to finances as one of the primary causes of their breakup.
Needless to say, in a debt-driven, consumer culture, most Americans have financial difficulties. As much as we would like to keep that “dark corner” of our finances tucked away, many of us desperately need help managing our money for the good of our families and ourselves. Why not give God a chance at having control over our spending?
Jesus manifests His love for us tangibly. He “reaches out and touches us” through the Sacraments: through the laying on of hands, through His Body and Blood which we consume, through holy oils, through the words of absolution. We, in turn manifest our love for Him tangibly. We give our entire lives to Him, trusting Him to lead us and guide us. We come to church; we say “Amen;” we assume a posture of prayer and reverence when we pray. We should also offer Him the fruits of our labor. Cultivating a life of stewardship, offering God our time, our talent, and our treasure, helps us to truly put Him first, as Lord of our lives.
Point: What Does 10% Look Like
What would it look like to give God 10% of our time? In a 24-hour day, that adds up to almost two and a half hours (2 hours, 24 minutes) of time given directly to God.    The time could mental prayer church, spiritual reading, praise and worship, etc. God does not just want our money – he wants our hearts. He wants us to show Him that we are in love with Him, and that He is in first place. Tithing of our treasure, apart from giving God our talent, and perhaps more valuable, our time, is empty, like the husband who gives his wife lavish gifts but never spends time with her.

Acts 20:35 NASB
“In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

III. Cheerfully vs. 7
II Corinthians 9:7 ESV
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Joke:
I heard about a farmer who called the office of the minister asking to see “The Head Hog at the trough.”  The receptionist said, “Sir, if you’re talking about our beloved Minster, you may call him Reverend or Pastor, but I don’t think it would be proper to refer to him as the “head Hog at the trough.’”  “Well, all right,” the farmer said. “I just sold a few sows and was going to donate ten thousand dollars to the building fund, so I was hopping to catch him.”  “Oh, just a minute, sir.” The receptionist said, “I think I heard the little porker just come in!” 

Point: Stephen King On Giving
Let me quote some more, because Stephen King can preach for us this morning. The little piece from Family Circle magazine is called, “What We Pass on.”

“A couple of years ago, I found out what ‘you can’t take it with you’ means. I found out while I was lying in a ditch at the side of a country road, covered with mud and blood and with the tibia of my right leg poking out the side of my jeans like the branch of a tree taken down during a thunderstorm. I had a MasterCard in my wallet, but when you’re lying in a ditch with broken glass in your hair, no one accepts MasterCard.”

“We all know life is ephemeral, but on that particular day and in the months that followed, I got a painful but extremely valuable look at life’s simple backstage truths. We come in naked and broke. We may be dressed when we go out, but we’re just as broke. Warren Buffet? Going to go out broke. Bill Gates? Going out broke. Tom Hanks? Going out broke. Steve King? Broke. Not a crying dime.”



“All the money you earn, all the stocks you buy, all the mutual funds you trade – all of that is mostly smoke and mirrors. It’s still going to be a quarter past late whether you tell the time on a Timex or a Rolex. No matter how large your bank account, no matter how many credit cards you have, sooner or later things will begin to go wrong with the only three things you have that you can really call your own: your body, your spirit and your mind.”

“So I want you to consider making your life one long gift to others. And why not? All you have is on loan anyway. All that lasts is what you pass on.”

Point: Tommy Summerlin
This week, a dear sweet man named Tommy Summerlin passed away.  I visited his home just hours before his passing and spent some time with his wife Barbara.  We prayed and laughed together.  She took me outside to their back yard.  I was created by a beautiful deck and arbor.  Plants and vines had grown all over the arbor providing shade to the deck.  I marveled at the construction of it.  Barbara informed me that Tommy had built the deck. He had built the arbor.  He had even built the garage.  He was an unusually talented man.  

Even though Tommy was sick and dying, Barbara and I took joy in Tommy’s creations.  Have you ever made anything?  Built something?  Drawn something?  Do you remember the joy you took in creating something from scratch?  Why is it this way?  

I think that we take joy in creation is because we leave a piece of ourselves in the work.  Every time Barbara walks outside, she will be reminded of the talent of her husband.  A little piece of him will always remain the work.  The same thing should happen when we give to God’s Church.  We have a vested interest in the work done here within these walls.  When we give cheerfully we are excited about saying “Yep, I belong to that place.”

When Tommy built his garage, he built it with his son.  He was so proud of the work that they wrote their names in the wet cement.  When we give, we do the same thing.  We forever become a part of something that will long outlive our lives.  

So, do you take this sort of joy away when you give to God.  After all, it doesn’t belong to us.  

Deuteronomy 15:10 NLT
Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do.

IV. Faithfully vs. 10-11
II Corinthians 9:10-11
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 

Point: 
“So, you are telling me to give generously, creatively  and cheerfully and now you say faithfully?  Well that is pretty hard preacher because I don’t have much to give. “

I know.  Giving God your finances is difficult.  It takes serious trust.  Remember that I asked what sort of giver you are last week.  Either you are a flint, a sponge or a hose.  Remember the hose, when connected to the sources gives and gives and gives.  As long as it is connected, the hose never runs out of water.  The same happens with your giving.  On some level, we have to trust in God to meet our needs.  Giving faithfully builds our spiritual muscles.  

Point: Testing God?
We know that Jesus told Satan in the beginning of Marks’ Gospel that we should not put the Lord to the test. Scripture shows one exception.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, That there may be food in my house, And try me in this, says the Lord of hosts: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, To pour down blessing upon you without measure?” -Malachi 3:10 

The Lord wants us to trust Him in all things, and He knows that trusting him with our finances is difficult. God specifically asks us in this passage to do exactly that! He also promises that when you do, He will “pour down blessing upon you without measure.” If we can trust God with our finances, it becomes easier to trust Him in other things as well.

Malachi 3:10 NASB
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.

Illustration:
Practically speaking, what does this life of generous cheerful giving look like.  I found a video about a man living in Iraq.  His name is Fahad.  He is a successful businessman living in Iraq.  He became burdened for the people streaming in from Syria seeking asylum.  He saw children living in gutters and living on the streets.  It broke his heart.  So, what did he do.  He gave.  He gave generously and he gave cheerfully.  Because of his generosity, Fahad is saving thousands of lives.  

Today you may not have as much as Fahad.  However you have something to give.  


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