I hadn't been a Christian for very long before I found myself sitting next to an extremely old (they were probably about fifty and I was twenty!) 'time served' member of the Baptist church I had just come to faith in and become a become a member of. We'd had the notices, the opening prayers, a couple of hymns and had just finished the Bible reading when the Pastor stood up to preach. I can remember it now, the Pastor began with the words, "Jesus is God's gift to us, how can we respond to Him? . . . "
"Oh no," said the person next to me, "We're going to have a sermon on giving again!" And with that they promptly closed their eyes and nodded for the next twenty minutes! Since then I have sat through endless sermons on the subject of giving and have found people doze off, write shopping lists, slide out of the pew (never to be seen again during that service) and play sermon word bingo (cards available from me on request).
Some of these have gone down the, "You can't outgive God," route - but as this is plainly true, what's the point of trying in the first place, here's a fiver, let's move on!
Others have tried the, "Man the pumps, we're sinking," approach; which causes one to search for. Lifeboat rather than throw money.
Others still have tried the, "Giving is a commandment, do as you're told or Jesus will know you're a naughty Christian, and you know what that means!" Yes indeedy, if all else fails, threaten and scare them with the bogeyman and the grim prospect of hell where there is a wailing and gnashing of teeth and England are always on the TV playing football.
My favourite has always been the approach favoured by former Pastor of Kensington Temple and leader of the Elim Church in the late nineties, Wynne Lewis. His approach was to proclaim that, "The Lord loves a cheerful giver," and pass round the bucket - and I think he might have been more on track than most of the other approaches I've suffered.
The words come from 2 Cor 9.7 and I like the way the Amplified Bible (once a sound engineer, always a sound engineer) puts it:
'each one give [thoughtfully and with purpose] just as they have decided in their heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver [and delights in the one whose heart is in his gift].'
In the Baptist church in which I came to faith I soon learnt that we would get the 'giving' sermon every time the Treasurer found it difficult to pay a bill; as the need arose the people paid and when the storm abated the level of giving returned to whatever it usually was.
The problem is that we tell people that we have 'a God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills' and yet all too often we live as if we have a god who is either totally unable to support the children he has fathered or has withdrawn his support (financial, spiritual and practical) from the body we call Church.
When I was a pilot I would pay my annual subscription and the bar bills and the additional costs for ground school, flying hours, and whatever else was asked because I wanted to be flying, and flying from that place. Seems that some people don't have the same attitude towards the place they haunt on a Sunday?
When it comes to giving, I am always drawn back to some words (Matt 6.19-2) that struck me as a twenty-year old new believer (and I'll use the Amplified Bible here too for consistencies sake):
'Do not store up for yourselves [material things] treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart [your wishes, your desires; things on which your life centres, the things important to you] will be also.'
Aren't the words of the two passages here enough to help us to get a right perspective and work out how we can, cheerfully, give to God that which is right and proper?
I'd relish your responses, insights, anecdotal stuff and good practice regarding this area as I struggle to find a way that comes out of the people of God rather than is dragged out of them by stewardship schemes and the breaking of arms, hearts and trust.
|Help and encouragement to give are always available upon request!|