Published April 8, 2010
2 Cor. 8:15; 9:6-11
Related Sunday School Lesson, Bible Studies for Life, Apr 25
As a pastor, I spend a good portion of my time helping or “counseling” those involved in our church and those from our community. Unfortunately, the number one issue I deal with is not “How do I grow in my relationship with Christ?” or “I believe God is calling me into ministry.” Rather, my days of counseling are filled with those in situations and predicaments that they would rather not be enduring.
Most often the subject matter “drifts” toward financial duress – oftentimes situations where the individual or couple cannot see or does not feel any hope. Incidentally, 90 percent of marriage trouble stems from financial stress.
The following two thoughts are critical for understanding the people who fill our churches and Sunday school classrooms. According to Dave Ramsey, 70 percent of Americans, including our church members, are one paycheck away from financial duress – that’s 70 percent of those in the pews as well. Finally, Larry Burkett from Crown Financial Ministries, used to say, “You can know all you need to know about someone by looking at their checkbook.”
You and I were designed to be givers, just like our Heavenly Father (John 3:16). This lesson demonstrates why.
Giving demonstrates sincerity - 2 Cor. 8:8-11
While a vocational evangelist I had many opportunities to preach in churches that were pastorless. Once, while in the Midwest, a gentleman shared a story with me about the offering for a building project they had had in the past.
He said an elderly and stately man in the church was to offer the prayer before the church collected an offering for a new worship center. After months of preparation, advertisements, and “focus groups” the following prayer was all that was needed, “Lord, no matter what we say, no matter what we do – what we are about to give says what we think about you.”
Whether the previous story is factual or mythological does not really matter. What really matters is this – giving of our financial resources to God demonstrates what we think about Him regarding our sincerity toward serving him. I have heard all the excuses for not giving, but have never heard a replacement idea for an action of sincerity toward God of more significance and impact than giving.
Giving meets needs - 2 Cor. 8:12-15
Have you ever heard, or said, the following phrase regarding a pastor or minister’s “pay”: “Lord you keep him humble, we’ll keep him poor.” Unfortunately, when it comes to the church’s financial needs oftentimes many see this area as limited to salaries and the physical well being of the staff.
Yes, these needs are important and addressed within the church budget, but most would be pleasantly and surprisingly “shocked” at all the ways that the giving to the Lord through the local church is utilized.
The needs met by most local churches include, but are not limited to, the following: benevolence, missions, utility bills, insurance payments, Sunday School materials, repairs on the building, sheet music for the choir, food for student and children ministries, scholarships for retreats and camps, repairs on puppets, postage, the provision of staff-led counseling, office supplies to send out newsletters and keep records, etc.
Honestly, the list could go on for “line item after line item.” The point is this, when we give to the Lord through the local church we meet needs of many in and out of our church.
Giving benefits the giver - 2 Cor. 9:6-11
I mentioned counseling “financially distressed” couples earlier, here is any interesting perspective: I do not remember the last couple who came into my office under financial stress who faithfully tithed and gave to the Lord. Yes, we should give without any desire to have it returned – it is called “giving” for a reason, but God’s math is not our math – I call it supernatural accounting.
Here is a challenge that many pastors would like to give publically, but do not for obvious reasons – maybe you will take it today. I would like to challenge you to give biblically (10 percent of your financial resources to the Lord) for a year and if you are not better off financially after one year you will be given the money back.
No, the following challenge is not “real,” and do not call me after a year trying to collect, but I will tell you this. After years of counseling people to begin giving I have “jokingly” offered that challenge. Interestingly, I have seriously had many people come to me after a year telling me they were better off giving away 10 percent to the Lord.
I want to conclude with a phrase I pray almost every week at our church before the offering is collected, “Lord, we confess that you are able to do more with our little than we are with our lot.” Would that be your prayer and course of action today?
By not giving you are saying to God, “I know how to do it better than you do.” This is not only an arrogant statement I believe it is foolish. When I give to the Lord – yes my wife and I are faithful to do so – it not only shows our sincerity, it meets the needs of untold thousands who we may never meet, but it also helps us. Giving helps us by trusting our resources to God.
Question: Would you continue to give, or would you begin to give even if the Federal tax break for giving were retracted?
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