September 23, 2012
The Grace of Giving
Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want. A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water (Proverbs 11:24‑25 NRSV).
This week I will begin a sermon series entitled The Grace of Giving. We will conclude this series on Harvest Sunday, the third Sunday in November.
Today’s competition for the Christian’s dollar among churches, religious organizations, and other benevolent groups is conducted on a level that removes giving from the area of a spiritual grace. Money‑raising efforts range all the way from a super‑pious “this is a faith work” to the more crass “I’m doing you a favor to relieve you of some of your money.” Appeals are based on the techniques of modern advertising and selling, with the glamourous, the emotional, and the “squeaking wheel” type of promotion getting the best response. Fund raising has become a science with “proven” results.
Where is the work of God the Holy Spirit in this? How does the believer come to know the blessed thrill of his or her giving becoming “. . . a sweet‑smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18)?
In this sermon series, concentrated in the Corinthian letters, we will learn that the divine concept of giving is a grace; hence the title, The Grace of Giving. The giving of our money is not a matter of legality and bondage, but rather a privilege and joyful experience. Giving must be in response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, whether it comes through a spoken or written appeal. There must be the basis of giving. This is dealt with in today’s sermon taken from Malachi 3:6‑15. The essence of this particular passage is tithing, which is more than just an Old Testament practice of stewardship. Next, there are the barriers of giving. Some people have “hang‑ups” when it come to giving to God. The Corinthian church certainly had them, and Paul had to deal with them one by one. In a positive way, we will seek to remove the barriers by spelling out the essentiality, the example, the ethics and the efficiency of giving. Last, there is the blessing of giving. Christians have no conception of what they are missing, in terms of enrichment, until they have learned to give on God’s terms. Jesus said, “Happiness lies more in giving than in receiving.” Ultimately, only sacrificial giving will make possible the battle for souls in a world defiled by sin and beguiled by Satan. Giving that is measured and motivated by the cross of Christ is giving at its best.