Do We Believe It is Better to Give than to Receive?
It is not unusual during this time of the year to hear charities making a plea for your donations presumably because people are just more generous this time of the year. Not to jump on that band wagon, but I want to share with you some of the convicting realizations I found compelling as I have attended our annual budget planning meetings. For the budget year 2010 our budget was $162,000. This seems like a tremendous amount, if we expect to have one person or just a few people give this total amount. If we take that number and divide it weekly the amount comes to roughly $3116 a week that is needed to fund our church ministry. This number still may seem too large so let’s divide by 60 which is a rough estimate of the number of members voting in questions coming before the church last year. That comes to $52 dollars a week per member which still may seem convicting. I make that suggestion because this year we have not met our budget, so someone must be giving less that $52 a week. Perhaps you are paid monthly, so these weekly figures are not helpful. Each member in this situation should be giving $224. Is that still uncomfortable? Let me offer one additional number $52 a week or $224 a month per member is a tithe on an income of $27,000 a year. Are you still uncomfortable? Perhaps you look at these figures and pat yourself on the back because you give far above these amounts. Let me suggest that both the discomfort some feel and the pride others feel both result from what the Bible in 1 Timothy 6:10 call the love of money, a sin that leads to many others. I also think the obsession with gift giving and generosity at this time of year while not following the same pattern throughout the years shows the same love of money. Why?
Let me explore my own heart with you. As I think of reasons that I feel guilty when it comes to financial contributions to Kingdom, I know in my heart that I have spent what I have been blessed with so frivolously. I wasted my time, money, and talents on efforts that were not eternal, and the most convicting way I waste money is on things like credit card or loan interest that has no tangible benefit even to me. Pride often creeps up when I know I am giving more; however such pride normally indicates the belief that I have done something truly good on my own. Pride in giving is so destructive because I take credit for God’s work. He blessed me with finances, He laid down principles for managing money in His Word and in Christ He transformed my heart so that I can offer rightly. Finally there is the pleasure this one time a year in giving, as if one month of generosity to make up for an entire eleven month period for worshipping self. Such temporary pleasure in generosity the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is little more than devilish deception! Our guilty, prideful, deceived hearts desperately need the gospel truth that we can see these feelings crucified with Christ and us be raised to a new Christian way of financial living.
What does this new way of living look like? Well, might I suggest that it will look like Christmas all year! Think with me about Acts 20:35 Paul records for us the purpose of working hard is that we might help others with our generosity. Then Paul records for us a saying of Jesus found only here in the New Testament. He tells us that Jesus said it was more blessed to give than to receive. If this is true, then we should be a giving people. Now before I go too far let me make it clear that this does not mean that we should not pay our bills or reconcile our debts. No, this means that we should work hard to make sure that we have enough left from our bills and debts that we still can be generous with the remainder. This may mean we have to merely tithe until we can pay off a debt and give more. It may mean we have to give up a service to lower the amount we pay in bills. If we have money to be generous with, then we can give rather than receive. When we hear the church needs $52 a week per member, then we will not feel guilty or prideful, but give generously taking into account how Jesus has blessed us. When we hear it would take a mere $2 commitment a week per member to exceed each of our mission offering goals, we will give. When we see a charity in need, or are asked by a cashier for a donation to a charity sponsored by the store, we will give. When we see others suffering or not able to make ends meet after working as hard as they can, we will give. Even if we give simply because we love a brother or sister and want to show that love, we will give. We will trust Jesus at his word that it is more blessed to give than to receive, knowing that where our treasure is there our heart is also. Let me share a quote of Lottie Moon to close, “I wonder how many of us really believe it is more blessed to give than to receive… How many there are… who imagine that because Jesus paid it all; they need pay nothing, forgetting that the prime object of their salvation was that they should follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ!” Yes friends it is more blessed to give than to receive – look to Christ if you do not believe me.