This weekend I was involved in a children’s/family service which had very little by way of a structured script, and certainly no ‘talk’ as such. We were looking at a passage in chapter 5 of Mark’s Gospel where a woman is healed and a child is restored to life. The big idea we were picking up was that Jesus values people regardless of their age or background, their state of health or social exclusion, and that he doesn’t hold back. At the same time, in the main church, my friend David was preaching on the same passage, and you can hear his talk on the website here (its the first time we’ve entered into the world of online availability of the sermons, so please let me have any feedback gently!).
After the family time, I was preaching with the other church I lead, and I was really unsure of whether to preach the same message, or to look at this passage in chapter 8 of Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, which talks pretty clearly about finance and giving. I’m English, so along with talking about physical intimacy, emotions and toilets, discussing money is pretty much a no-go zone. However as I was preparing and thinking and praying about what I should say, a bunch of different things came up which convinced me- a group of us had been saying that we should have some teaching on finances and faith at some point, but weren’t wanting to crowbar it into passages where it didn’t fit; i’d had several magazines floating around my office which all managed to surface on the tops of piles with cover blurb like ‘how rich is too rich?’ and ‘everything you have is God’s’; and on Sunday morning my daily Bible reading (completely separated from the passages we look at together) was all about giving generously to God and not holding back on the tithe offering…so then I’d basically prayed and said to God that i’d do a family talk on the Gospel if kids/families were there, but if not, I’d talk about giving… and there were no kids there… so this is the notes worked from…
Giving… a grace. ‘a gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have’.
- Being generous- encouragement, not a command. Paul encourages the Corinthian church to excel in generosity as they do in other things. He shares with them how others have given- no numbers mentioned, but 2 principles- as much as they were able, and they gave to the Lord first… if goes beyond numbers into whole life- I don’t tithe, I give everything I have to God, and at least 1/10 of the money towards the work of the church and the kingdom of God… budgets and tithes and systems are great in that they give a framework, but they can impose legality on something that is meant to be a response to God’s love…
- Being generous regquires- first of all realising that everything belongs to God (that’s a standard part of Christian stewardship); secondly that God has given us all we have (standard Christian theology); thirdly that all we have are assets for the kingdom of God. Then our actions that follow come from those understandings.
- Do we want to be generous- I’ve never met anyone who didn’t want to be thought of as generous. And I’ve rarely met people who would acknowledge that they weren’t generous… which is odd because those same people would also say they would like to be more generous hearted… that is- they’d like to be comfortable giving more away… if I’m comfortable with a certain level of giving or generosity, then to give more or be more generous takes effort- it takes reprioritising, and it takes sacrifice.
Some areas where I struggle to be generous- food, particular bits of kit…
- What does being generous do to us? Practicing makes us more relaxed about money, and more trusting in God… it helps us prioritise and grow in faith. Being generous with anything prevents that thing from having control of our life- if you’ve ever seen a top musician, actor or sportsperson- someone who has huge pressures on them, take time to help or encourage a younger person, that’s what? Being generous with something is good for us. When we are sacrificial and generous, we are following Jesus… its something that we can do that actually transforms our hearts.
- What does it do/show to others? It shows our actions match our words- our money is where our mouth is. It shows how much we value our faith rather than our wallet’s contents. It shows those outside the church how much our God means to us, and it might show that in contrast to how little other things mean to us. It releases others too- if I see others being generous, it helps me too. Of course there’s the risk that if I give generously someone will think that they don’t have to give at all… but that is about them and God- I’m talking about my desire to grow in faith, to become more like Jesus, to live as a Christian.
- When we appreciate what we have been given, it becomes easier to be generous with it- the experiment in the foodmall ‘can I have some food? Do you have any spare food?’ Sharing with the poor- the poor sharing with us.
Generosity as one form of the proof of our love for each other that comes from a love of God… loving God helps us to be generous to others.
All a bit rough round the edges, but i’d been hoping that i wouldn’t have to preach it!!