Good morning, Friends!
Today I want to talk again about giving. And as always, I like to talk about giving when we’re not making a special appeal for money. So, take your hand off your wallet, zip up your purse, that’s not what’s happening today.
Giving generously is one of the basic Christian practices that we’re all encouraged to do. And it’s more than just money. God invites us to give of everything we have.
That includes our money. But in a way, money is just a replacement, it’s a shortcut, for our time, for our care, for our creativity, for our thought and effort. The church needs money, but we need all these other things way much more.
I want to start today by reading one of the best-known passages in the Bible about giving.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
As it is written in Psalm 112:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”
Now God who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.
You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.
And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!II Corinthians 9:6-15
This is just so true, in so many ways.
One of the most important things to remember is that you don’t lose by being generous. You gain so much more when you give.
Giving isn’t just writing a check. Giving is like planting seeds. Every time we give, it’s like planting a prayer seed, a seed of prayer, for something wonderful to happen.
When we give to the budget, we’re praying that the church will always be here for whoever needs it. We’re praying that generations to come will be here to worship God and praise God, for all the great things that God has done in their day.
Sometimes giving is like repaying a debt to our past – paying back a small part of the love and care that other people invested in us. Sometimes giving is sharing what we have with neighbors in need, like when we give food to COAT.
But most of the time, giving is a prayer for the future. It’s a prayer seed. It’s putting our acts and our resources where our mouth is and where our hopes are.
And just as we can never pray too much, we can never plant enough prayer seeds for the future.
If you plant sparingly, if you hold back and plant just a single seed here and a single seed there, the return is going to be pretty minimal. If you don’t plant any seeds at all, you’re going to get nothing.
A lot of the time, we characterize giving as “giving back to God”. And that’s good. God has done so much for us. Our life, our health, our familly, our freedom. That’s only the beginning of what God has done.
God gives us every day as a fresh gift, a new chance, an opportunity to start again. And God does this every single day of our entire lives!
God is in the giving business. And God’s gifts are overflowing, all the time. So, when we give, in a way, we’re not just giving back, we’re imitating what God does. We’re sharing in God’s work.
We’re giving back, but we’re also joining God’s team. People who love God are exuberant givers. Giving is exciting, it’s amazing, and what we get back just reflects how generous God is all the time.
Today’s reading says that “God who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”
When you adopt generosity as a life style, you will be rich in love. Giving is loving. Loving is giving. When we give, it’s as though our hearts are overflowing like a fountain, like an artesian well that’s tapped into a deep source of living water.
When you give, you will be rich in friends. I don’t just mean that the people you give to will suck up to you and try to take advantage of your generosity.
All around the world, and hidden throughout the community, there’s a fellowship of givers, a secret fellowship of people who love to give. When you give, you become a part of that fellowship and you discover a whole group of friends you never had before.
You find friends who will help you, when you need help and support. You’ll find friends who pray for you. You’ll find friends who love to listen and who love to tell stories about how much fun they’ve had giving.
And please remember, I said I’m not just talking about money. Giving involves so much more than money. It involves everything we are and everything we have.
The Quaker John Woolman said, ““To turn all the treasures we possess into the channel of universal love becomes the business of our lives.”
When we think about the people here at Springfield who we love and remember most, they’re probably not the people who wrote the biggest checks. They’re the people who gave most of themselves, the people who reached out and loved and welcomed everybody.
I’m thinking about people like Warren and Jewel Parris, who reached out to a whole generation of young people and changed their lives by pouring out themselves. That’s more than money. That’s something that money can’t buy.
Or Patsy Hill, who gathered a group of young adults into a Sunday School class, and she became an extra mother to them. Patsy’s love overflowed into their lives, and they did all kinds of things they might never have done without her.
Or John Lance, the friendliest person at Springfield Friends. John spent 40 years greeting everyone at the door, knew everybody’s name, and made you feel like the most special person who came here that day.
I could name you a dozen more – people like Fletcher Garner, who made everybody laugh, and lightened every situation.
Or Clover Hill, who lost her husband early in life. But even though she was raising a family and running a business, Clover opened her home to a generation of young people, who came and ate everything in sight and swam in her pool and felt her love for them.
This is what I’m talking about. I have no idea how much money these people gave. I never know what people put in the plate, or what people mail in to the treasurer.
What I see is what people really give, which is their time and their effort, their enthusiasm and their hopes and prayers.
I would love to see some more people here at Springfield who could write big fat checks. But as a pastor, what I’m praying for is for people who have generous hearts, who are overflowing with joy and who want to invest their lives in doing something really beautiful for Jesus.
I would cheerfully cut thousands of dollars from the budget, if we could have half a dozen people like the Friends I just named a minute ago.
A place like Springfield is only partly built by money. It’s built by teachers. It’s built by people who love fellowship. It’s built by people who are called to the mission field, like Laura Davis.
It’s built by people who go out and round up kids and draw them in like the Pied Piper.
It’s built by people who fix things without even being asked, like Johnny Krieger.
Do you hear what I’m saying? Yes, we need money. But most of all we need people. We need people who love Jesus, and want to give a big part of their lives.
In the Bible, where it says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” did you notice, it never even mentions money?
I am totally convinced, that if people give their love, their heart, soul, strength and mind, that money will take care of itself. It will!
Money is important. We do need it. I’m grateful for all the financial support people give. Springfield is a strong congregation!
But whenever we give, money is only part of our gift. The greater part, the more essential part, is when we give ourselves.
Have you ever noticed, in the gospel, that as far as we can tell, Jesus never handed out money? So far as we can tell, Jesus had none. What Jesus had, what he gave, was everything that his Father gave him.
I know this may sound pretty weird – the preacher not talking about giving more money. But right now, these are hard times, and it would be wrong for me to make anyone feel bad about what they have.
But remember what I said. Being generous is a way of life. It’s got more to do with all the other things we give.
The people we remember for their generosity, were people who gave of themselves. And they were excited about giving! It made them happy, it filled them with joy. They gave every part of themselves, not just the part that showed up on their bank statement.
Everything they did was a prayer seed. And they planted prayer seeds all the time, wherever they went, not just in church. They prayed with their whole lives.
As it says, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. God loves a cheerful giver! You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”
Please Lord, help us to be people like that. And please send us more people who love to reach out, who love to teach, who love to share, who love to build. Send us more folks who long for the generous way of life, who long to follow you.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.