At our Sunday meeting this week we looked at giving …
The principle of giving
‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.’
Did the man sell his possessions out of duty?
No, he sold them ‘in his excitement’.
Should we pity the man for selling his possessions?
No, because he getting a greater treasure.
What does this teach us about our attitude to money and possessions?
We should find giving exciting because we have a much greater treasure in view!
Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.’
Is treasure on earth bad? What is wrong with it?
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with wealth. But it does not last. J. D. Rockefeller was one of the richest men in history. After his , someone asked his accountant: ‘How much money did he leave?’ And the accountant answered: ‘All of it!’
Look at Ecclesiastes 5:10-15. Re-write each verse into a sentence starting, ‘The more you have …’ Adapted from Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving (Multnomah, 2001), pp. 55-56.
10 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!
The more you have, the more you want.
11 The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth – except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers!
The more you have, the more people will come after it.
12 People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich seldom get a good night’s sleep.
The more you have, the more you worry.
13 There is another serious problem I have seen under the sun. Hoarding riches harms the saver.
The more you have, the more it can harm you.
14 Money is put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children.
The more you have, the more you have to lose.
15 We all come to the end of our lives as and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us.
The more you have, the more you’ll leave behind.
How can we store up treasure in heaven?
Think of the film Millions. Two boys find millions of pounds a few days before Britain converts to the euro. Soon it will be worthless. It is like that with earthly treasure. Soon it will be worthless. So we would be crazy not to convert it into the currency of heaven and the currency of heaven is love.
What return does earthly treasure give? What return does heavenly treasure give?
See Matthew 19:29: ‘And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.’ That’s a 10,000 percent return – you won’t get that from a bank! Suppose I gave you choice: you can have a one-off gift of £10 today or, starting tomorrow, you can have 100 times that – £1,000 – every day for the rest of your life. What would you choose? It’s a no brainer! Yet this world is full of people – and the church is full of Christians – choosing the £10 today. People live in the moment and don’t look ahead to eternity.
Look at the next verse
Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.’
What is Jesus saying here?
Our attitude to money is the sign of where our heart is. It is the sign of true faith and true love and true hope. We see that again and again the Gospels (see, for example, Luke 3:10-14; 16:9, 13-15, 19-23; 18:22-23; 19:8-9). Jesus is saying, ‘Tell me how you’ve spent your money over the past week and I’ll tell you where your heart is.’ Think about what you have done with your money over the past month.
- If you’ve spent it on clothes then what matters to you is your outward appearance
- If you’ve CDs and DVDs or going out then what matters to you is being entertained
- If you’ve carefully saved your money then what matters to you is security
- If you’ve given it away then what matters to you is the true treasure of knowing Jesus
John Wesley said: ‘Money never stays with me. It would burn me if it did. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible, lest it should find its way into my heart.’
How can you move your heart from earth to heaven?
Verse 21: ‘Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.’ Your heart follows your treasure.
How can you break free from materialism?
Verse 21: ‘Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.’ Your heart follows your treasure.
Giving is a liberating activity. It sets us free. It sets us free from worrying about wealth. It sets us free from jealous about wealth. It sets us free from the busyness of accumulating wealth. It sets us from an empty way of life.
Everything belongs to God – we are just managers of his property. That realisation lead to a radically different view of our wealth. Someone once told John Wesley his house had burned down. Wesley paused, then said: ‘No, the Lord’s house has burned down and I now have one less thing to worry about.’
The practice of giving
1 Corinthians 16:1-4
Now regarding your question about the money being collected for God’s people in Jerusalem. You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in Galatia. 2 On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once. 3 When I come, I will write letters of recommendation for the messengers you choose to deliver your gift to Jerusalem. 4 And if it seems appropriate for me to go along, they can travel with me.
How does the world around us do fundraising?
Think about fundraising campaigns. People raise money through gimmicks and one-off events: concerts, sponsorship, ‘athons’ like spell-athons, charity auctions, television nights.
How should Christians do giving?
Paul tells the Corinthians to put aside money each week (v. 2). He also encourages the Corinthians to choose people to take the gift (vv. 3-4). This will ensure it arrives safely and be delivered personally.
- giving should be regular, disciplined and transparent
2 Corinthians 8:1-9
Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. 2 They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.
3 For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. 4 They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. 5 They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.
6 So we have urged Titus, who encouraged your giving in the first place, to return to you and encourage you to finish this ministry of giving. 7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.
8 I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches.
9 You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.
How much should we give?
In this case it is the poor who give (v. 2). You cannot say, ‘I’m too poor to give. I don’t have enough money. I barely have enough on survive on as it is. I only get social security benefits.’ The Macedonian Christians were ‘being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.’
Not only did they give out of their poverty, but they gave more than they can afford (v. 3). See also verses 11-12: ‘Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.’ What matters is not the total amount you give – clearly some people can give more than others. In fact, Paul says, don’t give money you haven’t got. What matters is your eagerness to give (see Mark 12:41-44). The Macedonians ‘begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift’ (v. 4)
- giving is for both rich and poor in proportion to their income
Giving is not just about what you do with the leftovers of your money. It is not that you get everything you want and then decide what to do with the rest. Giving means changing your spending and changing your priorities.
In the Old Testament the people of God were commanded to give a tenth of everything. It was called ‘tithing’ = giving a tenth. The New Testament does not mention tithing. It sets an all together different standard. Paul says: ‘You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.’ (v. 9) The standard for our giving is the generosity of Jesus to us and he gave everything! So my advice is that a tenth is a minimum amount we should give. It seems crazy that people who have seen the amazing extent of God’s grace in Christ should give less than people who only had pictures and promises of it.
- giving should be eager and sacrificial (a tenth is a good starting point)
Why should we give?
Look at verse 2. Their giving was the overflow of their joy (see also 2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Look at verse 4. They saw giving as a privilege – a chance to be united with others. Giving brings people together. It enlarges our world. It gives us an interest in God’s work.
Above all, through giving we receive and enjoy and reflect the grace of God to us. The words ‘giving’ and ‘grace’ are in fact the same word throughout this section:
Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God is in his kindness [grace] has done through [has graced among] the churches in Macedonia. 2 … they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy [grace] … They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift [the grace] for the believers in Jerusalem … 6 So we have urged Titus to … encourage you to finish this ministry of giving [gracing]. 7 Since you excel in so many ways … I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving [this grace] … 9 You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.
Giving is a gift – a gift to the giver as well as the recipient. Jesus said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35) Giving brings grace. Giving brings joy.
- giving is a gift that helps us receive and enjoy and reflect the grace of God
What should we give for?
For you see, the believers in Macedonia and Achaia have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem. (Romans 15:26)
Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.’ And in another place, ‘Those who work deserve their pay!’ (1 Timothy 5:17-18)
As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then travelled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. (Philippians 4:15)
- giving should go to the poor and to gospel workers
(See 1 Corinthians 9:3-18. What is Paul’s right? Why does he have this right? Why does he give up this right?)
Five Guidelines for Giving
1. Giving should be regular, disciplined and transparent.
2. Giving is for both rich and poor in proportion to their income.
3. Giving should be eager and sacrificial (a tenth is a good starting point).
4. Giving is a gift that helps us receive and enjoy and reflect the grace of God.
5. Giving should go to the poor and to gospel workers.