“It was great, Dad.” “Did you see how poor people live?” the father asked.
“Oh yeah” The son answered: “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.”
The boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, “Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are.”
God’s perspective on wealth and poverty is different from ours. This is the final message of this series on giving. Today, I simply want to say THANK YOU for all you do. Thank you for your generosity, your love, your prayers, your desire to serve God. Thank you for the joy that you bring to others. Thank you for your acceptance of people among us. I thought it good to stand before you to say I am proud of you. I am encouraged by your example in giving. For years, I cannot tell you how many times the board, or the elders have gotten together, the latest budget has been passed out, and as we’ve looked at the giving there is a silent “amazing” because of your generosity. You truly practice generous living.
Drawn from this scripture, I see three ways Generous Living is put into practice ~ Patterned Giving, Proportional Giving, giving in Perspective.
The Clothesline receives regular patterned gifts of clothing ~ dependable people that somehow have taken on the mission of gathering good clothes to give away. What a huge blessing, And after years of watching the pattern, I think the Clothesline crew is as amazed as ever. I like the way we figure out a budget at SACC. Some churches have faith pledges, they make decisions on faith that the money will be provided. That is a way to stretch ourselves. But I like our way too. It fits more the 1 Cor. 16:2 model. We give our gifts and the budget is determined more or less according to what we realistically anticipate what we’ll receive. Paul is commending patterned giving… be patterned in your giving…
“on the first day of the week (ie. Sunday), set aside a certain amount….” In other words, be predictable. One time gifts are wonderful and surely helpful, but in practical terms it is the patterned people that make all the difference. I got a general e-mail from the Frieswicks. As American citizens serving as missionaries in Toronto, they asked for prayer because they have 30 days to prove to the Canadian government that they can take care of themselves financially. While a one time gift is appreciated, they need to show the pledge of regular giving. Patterned giving. Thank you so much for your regular giving that makes a huge difference to the ministry of this work. I bet many of you also support other work, which I guarantee makes a difference.
PROPORTIONAL GIVING: “Set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income” This is proportional giving. In the life of the church, we need to value and appreciate any gifts, not the amount. All proportional giving means is to give according to your income. By American standards, my guess is that we are not a wealthy people in Sumas. But in God’s economy, that makes no difference. Many of you are proportional givers, giving according to what you have…. And that is MORE than enough. Over the years from time to time I am handed money for specific projects and I just know in my heart that the person has very little by the world’s standards, yet here they are giving out of a heart of live. A couple thoughts/ stories:
The first one is wisdom from Richard Foster: “There are three kinds of givers -- the flint, the sponge and the honeycomb. To get anything out of a flint you must hammer it. And then you get only chips and sparks. To get water out of a sponge you must squeeze it, and the more you use pressure, the more you will get. But the honeycomb just overflows with its own sweetness. Which kind of giver are you?
Giving with glad and generous hearts has a way of routing out the tough old miser within us. Even the poor need to know that they can give. Just the very act of letting go of money, or some other treasure, does something within us. It destroys the demon greed.” Proportional giving effects your heart.
I like this story: "I was just a child," related a retired Baptist preacher, "when one spring day my father called me to go with him to old man Russell's blacksmith shop. He had left a rake and a hoe to be repaired and they were ready, fixed like new. Father handed over a silver dollar for repairing them but Mr. Russell refused to take it. 'No,' he said, 'there's no charge for that little job.' But father insisted. ‘And if I live a thousand years," said the preacher, "I'll never forget that great blacksmith's reply. 'Sid,' he said to my father, 'Can't you let a man do somethin' just to stretch his soul?'" Proportional giving, according to your income… I had one person in this congregation without a lot of money tell me “I just want to give something back, I feel good in giving and not just taking.”
Here’s a silly little math exercise one person did that shows the potential of proportional giving. The widow in the Bible that gave her last pennies went far beyond proportional giving and gave everything. Jesus commended her and said that her gift was greater than the Pharisees who gave far more in total. One person calculated out how much the widows mite would be worth today if it has been deposited at the "First National Bank, Jerusalem" and drawn 4% interest. The fund today would total $5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (21 ‘0’s” after the 5). You never know the exponential good from your gift. I’ve seen people among us with so little be such a tremendous blessing. Thank you for your generous living.
PERSPECTIVE GIVING. Keep a healthy perspective. Tony Campollo has a much loved sermon he has preached 100’s of times over the decades with a message that resonates, It’s Friday…. But Sunday’s Coming….[explain what it means…The Great Reversal, the day of overcoming, the day in which all is declared right with the world, the Day of Resurrection] What a wonderful message… I like Sunday, I am amazed by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, but the Resurrection is to pervade everyday.
There is something interesting in our scripture today. 1 Cor. is a written from Paul to the Church he planted in Corinth. When you read through the entire letter it is clear the church has major problems Paul needs to address. The climax in this monu-mental letter is 1 Cor. 15. Paul is saying to the Church to not get sidetracked by problems that are compromising their Christian living. Get back to the Resurrection; get back to the needed message of Hope and Expectation. Listen to selections from 1 Cor. 15 ~ READ 1 Cor. 15:1-2, 12-13, 20-26, 42-44, 51-58a
There is no thought more transforming than the Resurrection, no truth that more powerful, to believe in the Resurrection changes everything, filling our lives with Hope and Expectation. As Jesus was raised from the dead, you too shall receive a promised inheritance that is far more than you can imagine. Victory is yours in Jesus Christ.
Here’s my question ~ Why did Paul not end this monumental letter with 1 Cor. 15? Why not end on the high note of the Resurrection and victory in Christ? “Therefore, stand firm…Let nothing move you….” That would make a great ending!
But the letter continues for another chapter, the topic changes, the mood is lowered dramatically, and seemingly out of nowhere we are given this instruction: READ 1 Cor. 16:1-2. So what’s going on? After a climactic thrilling inspiring emphasis on the Resurrection, Paul quickly brings the people down to earth. Monday morning falls quickly on the heels of Sunday and the Resurrection. The Resurrection is meant to be lived out in the everyday world. I remember once when I was in high school ~ a daytime track meet in which I won the mile and two mile race. I arrive home after a thrilling double victory and excitedly told my mother. She was happy for me, and then said the dishes needed washing. I never said anything, but I thought she did not really understand ~ how can somebody who just won two races be asked to wash the dishes? Maybe she did understand. Our task is to live out a Monday morning Christianity, when it’s time to go back to work taking the resurrection with us, to live in the daily ordinary world victoriously.
Giving is what we do in response to the Resurrection promise of God ~ when you return home on Monday morning, after the mountain top experience of the Resurrection, live generously. Keep a resurrection perspective. Living generously is the way to bridge the extraordinary things of God with the everyday world. I know that many of you have the desire to bring the message of salvation to a lost world, to preach the hope we have in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ ~ as Christ has been raised, we too are promised new life in Christ, a new creation, the hope of the world. When you give, give with a Kingdom of God perspective. May your gift represent prayers for God’s Kingdom work. Here’s a practical little thought that I bet few of you have ever done: Make the church budget a prayer guide and bathe each line for the Kingdom, the lights, the garbage, the missionaries we support, the salaries that are paid, the improvements…. Thank you for your resurrection passion.
I heard a little story once of a man that wanted to give away money, so he went to the first church on his list and asked the pastor what he most wanted ~ how could he help? The pastor thought about it and described the poor condition of the church bathroom. So the man wrote out a check for $500 to remodel the bathroom. He went to the next pastor and asked the same question. My dream, he said, is to expand our ministry to youth, there are so many youth that are hurting in our community and we need to find a way to bring the gospel message to them. The man wrote out a check for $20,000 to help fund a youth pastor. Yes, we need to pay the light bill, that’s part of the deal. We need to put a new roof on when it blows off. Yet, somehow, it is imperative that we keep a greater kingdom perspective that we are here to share the good news of Jesus Christ ~ He is alive.
Thank you so much to all of you who give so generously: the patterned giving is so helpful so we can make realistic plans, proportional giving means you are all important regardless of the total, the rich man is no more important than the poor man; and the perspective giving ~ as you give generously, it’s all about the kingdom and the message of hope the world desperately needs to hear.
Thank you for your generosity. Amen.