Last week, we began our Advent series titled Give. The first sermon focused on the generosity of God and how good giving begins with good theology. Our giving is a response to who God is and what He has done. Failure to give is not only unloving, it is a sign of unbelief. Refusing to give means rejecting man aspects of God’s character. Driven by the fear of losing prosperity or security, we reject that God knows what we need, is able to provide or needs, or is loving enough to in fact do it. Good giving begins with good theology–but that is not where it ends.
Unfortunately, the responsibility to give is rarely argued. More often, we are vexed by more practical questions of what to give, how to give, and who to give to. God has given us a clear picture of “generosity” in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In other words, if you’re wondering “What would Jesus do?” or “How would Jesus give?”, you need only to look to the cross…He has already answered the question.
Give until it hurts.
Generous giving is sacrificial giving. Jesus gave until it hurt. His giving was not from what he had left over, rather, it was His best. He gave the most he could give–himself. Giving is not generous unless it impinges on our lifestyle. Our giving should make us uncomfortable in a very tangible way. We should be able to point to what we went without because our money went to the Lord. This does not mean we sell everything we have (though some of us could get rid of a lot with little impact on our lives). My intent is not to encourage people in toward some sort of poverty theology. I do, however, want people to consider whether, regardless of what they say they believe, they live a prosperity theology as a way of life. What excuse to you use for not giving more–and would that fly with God? Are you as generous to God, and to others, as you are to yourself?
Give all you have.
Generous giving is comprehensive giving. Let’s be honest, for some people, writing a check is the easiest thing for people to do. Personally, I think this is probably a minority of people. Nevertheless, generous giving is not just about money and it is not just about 10%; it is 100% of every aspect of your life. I find it tragic how we play games with what we “give” to the Lord. We’ll meticulously measure our service, counting our hours and our pennies as if there is some kind of acceptable quota. Jesus gave 100% of everything to us. He gave us 100% of his time. He gave us 100% of his love. He gave us 100% of his service. Imagine if Jesus only gave 10% of His blood to us…we will still be lost in our sins. We must come to the conviction that ALL we have is God’s. Whatever we have has been given to manage and enjoy. So how would God say you are doing taking care of His stuff?
Give to those nearby.
Generous giving is relational giving. Unfortunately, whenever pastors talk about money it is usually attached to the church. The “money sermons” start springing up with deficits are big and building campaigns are small. I do believe God has called us to give of our time, our talent and our treasure to the church. That being said, giving to the church does not necessarily have to mean exclusively giving to the organization. What about giving to your family–the brothers and sisters you are close to? Yes, we have a responsibility to bless the world with our wealth. There is much goodness in building homes, feeding starving children, and drilling wells. But what about the single mom sitting next to you at church? What about the family with the Dad who has been out of work for a year? What about the single guy or girl who has no family to spend the holidays with? We need to start being generous there. Of course, that implies you have to be close enough to know of their need because it is likely they won’t ask. Then again, if you commit to being close to a church family, perhaps they will share their needs. Do you know those in your church, or your neighborhood, who are in need of your generous giving this year? Why or why not?
Let us not forget the words of the Apostle Paul, who connected our giving with the genuineness of our love in 2Corinthians 8:
8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”