Today we are finishing our Church 101 series. We are continuing our conversation on giving. Last week we talked about giving as an act of worship. That we are called to give out of our earnings, not our excess- in fact the requirement of Israel was to give one tenth of their earnings to God. Not because God needs money, or goats, but because God wants us to remember to worship God and not our own self-sufficiency. We give to because we want to prioritize God in our lives, we worship God alone.
This is one reason why we give, but when the Christian church grew, Paul continued to teach about giving as worship, but he also talked about giving as caring for the community of God. This was not a new concept. Part of the one tenth giving was so that the collective community could assist widows and orphans in need. But in Paul’s mission there was something more, this is where we find today’s scripture.
1. Today’s scripture is an interesting one. Because it’s on everyone’s favorite topic, giving. It starts with a reminder of a promise. The church Paul is writing to had promised a gift to a poorer group of Christians in Macedonia. And Paul was worried that they would have forgotten or maybe gotten frustrated in the time lapse between when they promised and when they came to collect the gift. But it comes down to one thing, they had promised to give.
This requires a commitment in the first place. There is no talk about how much they should give, but they should give what they had settled in their heart to give. But they had made a promise. They decided ahead of time what they could give. They were asked to remember their promise because they had made a promise.
2. So Paul wanted to remind them of their promise, but then he wanted to go a step further. He wanted them to check their attitude about giving. He wanted them to be generous in their giving and happy about it.
He then goes on to say that when people sow a little, they get a little. When they sow generously, you get generously. It is about a thoughtful gift, but God asks us to give generously because God gives generously.
And there is a promise here, God will take care of you. When you give to God, there is an exchange that takes place. When you give generously, God will give you what you need.
Sometimes people get this twisted. Joel Olsteen is a famous pastor in Texas who has a huge church and is on tv. He likes to say that God wants you to be wealthy. I could not disagree more. God wants you to have what you need. God wants you to be dependent upon Him. God wants you to worship God alone. And when you do, God will take care of you. This is the story since the beginning of time, are we walking with God, trusting God, or are we trying to make our own way.
When you give generously, God has got you! God has got you!
3. Finally, he says; Be happy about it, don’t give under compulsion or guilt, give because you said you would. Give because there is joy in giving. Give willingly. This goes back to last week’s sermon. Israel was asked to give 1/10 as an act of worship. As a reminder that God provides. As a reminder that they don’t worship their own self-sufficiency. They don’t worship their income. They worship God alone. They give as an act of worship to a God who provides, not because they provide for themselves.
So, Paul is saying, this is a joyful thing… giving to God. Don’t do it if you are going to be upset about it.
A few weeks ago we had a speaker here asking this church to make a commitment to give to a capital campaign being conducted by the conference. Reach. Renew. Rejoice. There was a lot of hesitation for those who were present, there were concerns by many. I spoke with our District Superintendenct and he said, if this gift is going to cause resentment, don’t give. We don’t want churches to feel resentful about their gifts or to give under compulsion. So the board decided not to make a pledge this year from the whole church, but to review next year if we feel called to pledge. And in the meantime, allow individuals who feel called to give, the opportunity to give.
This is this verse, don’t give out of compulsion, but decide within your heart and give joyfully.
That principle applies to us… give joyfully. If you can’t give joyfully, don’t make a promise.
But there is something that is implied in this section of Scripture that we can miss if we aren’t careful. Paul is asking them to give to a ministry. Give so that others may know Jesus. Give so that the church in Macedonia can continue to do this work, like you are doing this work.
And then in verse 12, we get to the heart of the matter, the service you perform, your gifts is causing an overflowing in thanks to God.
Verse 13, because of your service, people are praising God for your obedience to God, and your confession of the Gospel.
Remember your promise to give. Give generously. Give joyfully.
And when you do, the Kingdom of God will multiply exponentially.
When you give to the ministry of God, the gifts are multiply his Kingdom.
When we make commitments to give, when we make a pledge, it is a promise to multiply the ministry of God.
We saw this a couple weeks ago. Our youth were planning to attend a fall retreat. And we had made a request to this congregation to see if anyone was interested in making a commitment to helping with the financial cost of the trip. We had 8 girls decide to go and we had 10 commitments to cover the cost of their trip. People gave what they felt they could give, they made a commitment and it covered the cost of the trip, with the exception that they had to bring a bit of money to pay for food on the trip up and back. But when those 10 families made commitments, the Kingdom of God was multiplied.
I’m going to invite a couple of our young people to come and share a bit about their trip and experience.
The conversations I had with these young ladies was so good. They experienced God in ways that many of them haven’t before.
But it goes beyond the story of these young people and their fall retreat. There is so much going on here… Lately I have been blessed by story after story of people connecting with God in new ways because of the small group ministries. People asking questions that they have not asked before as we sit for coffee. People connecting with God for the first time in some cases. I had one mother, recently, ask if we would continue with the Sunday School curriculum we are using because she felt like for the first time her kids were learning the Bible, and she desperately wants them to know the Bible. This is not say we weren’t teaching the Bible before, but for some reason, it’s different this year for this family.
The dinner last night, over and over again, I heard about how special this church is to this community, and comments about the generosity of this community. The Fall Dinner is an opportunity to raise funds for partner organizations in the community, but more importantly, it is an opportunity for neighbors to sit across the table form one another and gather. It is an opportunity to give to our neighbors. It is important to our community.
Last we week we learned that we are called to give as an act of worship. We are also called to give to support the ministry so that God can multiply those in the Kingdom.
A few weeks ago, we sat down, after a year long process and decided on a vision statement for Little Prairie. A group had gathered, our board approved it – Little Prairie is creating a welcoming community that desires to worship well, disciple well and serve well; transforming the world for Jesus Christ.
When we make a commitment to give to Little Prairie, this is what we are committing to support, ministry that desires to transform the world for Jesus Christ.
Today in your bulletin there is a lot of stuff today, a lot of noise. Good noise, but noise. I want us to take a moment to pause. In your bulletin there is a pledge sheet and a pledge guide. Some of you may have already completed your pledge. Some of you may feel uncomfortable making a pledge.
Here’s what I’m going to say about that. Only one person in this church knows your pledge. (Our Finance Chair.) But today, I want all of our regular attenders to consider a pledge. You don’t have to sign your name if you don’t want to sign you name. But I have intentionally put the offering after the sermon today, so that, you may consider your pledge.
I’m going to give you a moment to prayerfully consider what you think God is calling you to give in 2015. And be realistic. It’s between you and God. Again, you don’t have to put your name on it, but today you are being challenged to consider what commitment you might make to God this year. Write it on the pledge sheet. Sign your name, don’t sign your name. But consider how our promise to give to God’s ministry may impact the Kingdom of God. And then place it in the offering plate when it is passed.
I am going to pray for us and allow you a moment to consider and then we will sing together and take the offering.
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