Sunday 25th August, 2019
Theme: Imagining Hope Week #3
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Bible Reading: Deut 24:19-22 / Romans 12:1-12
Today I want to talk about giving … the way we give our time and the way that we give our money. I want us to think about the values that drive us to financially give or volunteer to help or support the causes or programs that we care about.
I know we don’t normally talk about giving too much in the church … and if I am honest … it makes me (and probably you) feel a little uncomfortable. But today … let’s put our uncomfortableness aside and have a look at this issue.
I will also acknowledge that churches have not had a good reputation when it comes to talking about volunteering or giving. Too many times in the past churches have either used guilt or pressure or expectations to almost demand that people serve and give to the church. I want to be clear that I am not doing that today. I am not here to make any demands, but I do want to talk about giving in a way which is helpful.
The bible is clear – in 2 Corinthians 9:7 Paul writes that “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give”. The amount of money you give and the money of time you offer to serve is between you and God. We I am not going to ask how much you give because that is between you and God.
Paul goes on in the same verse to say that if you are only giving out of “reluctance” or “under compulsion” … then don’t give at all. God doesn’t want you to give out of those motivations … rather (and here we get to the theme of the sermon), God wants us to give out of a motivation of Gratitude.
So – if our Giving is between us and God and there should be no sense of compulsion. Then why I am talking about giving today at all? Let me go off on a tangent …
When I first raised the idea of running the Imagining Hope program at our Church Council Exec meeting, I was trying to explain what the underlying principle behind the program was, and I used Geoff (our Church Council Chairperson) as an example. If you don’t know, Geoff owns a motorcycle – a really nice motorcycle. I asked Geoff, “was the process of getting the motorcycle as simple as going to a dealer and buying one”.
No. Geoff explained. There was a heap of things that he had to work through.
- There was the research – what was the right bike for him? What were the risks of riding a bike? How much would his cool factor go up by owning a motorbike etc.
- There were the conversations – like how was he going to convince his wife Margaret to let him get a bike.
- And then there was the finances – in order to save up for a bike Geoff was going to have to prioritise his finances to make that happen.
Geoff had to think about all these different things in the big picture to achieve his Goal of owning a motorbike.
We do this sort of thinking and planning in life all the time. Any major decision or purchase would most likely have this level of research, conversations, planning and prioritising to make it happen. And it should be the same in the life of the church.
We have set a clear path where we believe God is taking us here at TUC. We have identified four key priorities. We have even set a big audacious goal of adding an extra ministry staff so that we can be more effective, more empowering, more fruitful in the work that we do. And you as a church affirmed that.
And now as a church we are doing what Geoff had to do with his motorbike – we are working through the big picture of what is needed to make it happen. We have done a heap of research and prayerful discernment of what is needed. We have had conversations with you and so many people – we have been taking about out Big Audacious Goal for over a year now. And now we are looking at our giving and saying that if we want to see these goals achieve, then we as a church and as individuals might have to review the way that we give of our time and our money, in order to prioritise the church’s vision.
That is what Imagining Hope is all about. Putting stewardship firmly in the context of our church’s vision and mission.
Carolyn Kitto – who wrote the program – said to me one time, “People invest in things that they are passionate about or things they see are worthwhile”.
So whether we are talking about people’s investment of money or their precious time to serve or volunteer … we need to make sure that if people invest it here at TUC that it is worthwhile.
I hope that the AGM reports, the Imagining Hope Brochure, and the sharing in worship all have helped you to see that we think investment of time and money here at TUC is a good thing, that it really does make a difference to people’s lives, to our community and to the kingdom of God.
So, Imagining Hope is not asking you to give out of guilt or under compulsion … but rather we hope that you can see the vision, that you can see how God is transforming lives and communities through this church and that you want to be part of it by offering some of your time and resources.
Rich Warren, in his book the Purpose Driven Church, said that research and experience shows that up to 40% of people in the church struggle to give of their time and money because of life circumstances. Maybe they are on a pension, or currently out of work, or have the time pressure of young kids, or struggling with health issues which mean that they are either time poor or financially stretched. And we recognise that as a church.
Yes, we are talking about giving, but we understand that there are many people here today who just cannot give much or more or even give at all. And I want you to hear me clearly … that is ok. Jesus affirmed a woman who gave 2 small pennies – not because of the size of the amount but rather that she understood what it meant to give.
But Rick Warren goes on to say that if 40% of the church struggle to give much, still leaves the other 60% who do have the ability to give of their time or their money. And if you are in that category – I want to say that giving generously not only blesses those in need and blesses the kingdom, it also is spiritually helpful for us too!
So how much should we give? Of our time? Of our money? I said before, that ultimately is a decision between you and God. The bible gives a guide that we should be giving 10% of
our time and money beyond us – to God or to people in need. I think that is a good guide and something that Marion and I have tried to adhere to all our married life.
It is something that we try to adhere to here in our church. You would have seen this morning in that as a church we are investing $95,000 in making community connections, or supporting the wider church or supporting our missionaries or investing in projects like the school in Nimbong that makes a difference in the lives of the poor and marginal. It is a huge number but we believe in blessing others with the blessings that we have received.
So … yes, I encourage you to give … but how much is between you and God. It is important to provide for our families and I think that investing time into the relationships that are important to you should be a top priority. I even think that it is ok to splurge on something like a nice holiday – but we need to make sure that at the same time we also are being generous to God, to the church, and those who have greater needs than our own.
My dad when he was in ministry used to get so frustrated when people who say, “I just don’t have much left over to give to the church or others” when my Dad knew that they were spending $50 a week on lottery tickets. My Dad would say that we should invest upfront in the things of God, in things that can really make a difference, and then with the money left over by our lottery tickets … not the other way around!
We need to have a balanced approach on giving … YES support our families & pay our bills, YES look after yourself and even splurge a little, BUT at the same time … as Paul wrote in our bible reading today, “if God is calling you to give then give generously”. That is the key. We are not to live excessively but GENEROUSLY.
For me it really comes back to giving out of a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving. We should give because God has given so much to us.
In our Old Testament reading for today, Moses instructs the Israelites that when they are harvesting their fields or crops … not to go back over the fields or vines a second time to get the things that they missed but rather leave them there for the widows and orphans and foreigners.
But this is their crops, their hard work … why would God through Moses give them this instruction? Deut 24:22 – “Remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt. That is why I am giving you this command.” God is reminding them that they already been given so much by God. They were rescued, protected, guided and blessed. God had blessed them when they needed it … now they can bless others out of that sense of GRATITUDE.
Isn’t that the same with us?
God has blessed us with this amazing creation we live in. God has blessed us with loving relationship. And God loved us before we loved him and showed the full extent of that love through Jesus -and Jesus’ death and resurrection.
There is no way we deserve this or can every repay God for this
… and yet out of this deep sense of thanksgiving and gratitude
… we give as well. We give back to God and we give to others.
As Rob Bell mentioned in the Bible study videos:
When we focus too much on ourselves … our world shrinks
When we look beyond ourselves … our world grows
We are extremely blessed in Australia. We have access to education, health etc. We have cars, homes, running hot water! We have been so blessed … Maybe the thing we need most is to recapture the appreciation of what we have and in this sense of deep gratitude … give back.
I would encourage you to give. Not only because it helps God’s mission but also because there is something in giving in gratitude which actually helps us.
I wrote this little [poem]? It is sort of what we think that most churches are saying about giving and money…
You -you need to give
Because it helps
God’s mission To grow.
You need to give.
But the irony is that in God’s grace, things are turned upside down, and when we give we discover that we actually receive.
You need to give.
God’s mission Because it helps
You – you need to give