Be Faithful, Save and Give

“Be Faithful, Save and Give”

Text: 2 Corinthians 9: 6-12

Prayer:    O Lord, you love calls us to a higher way of living, not just for our own desires, but to live into your calling to be Christian disciples.  Help us, O Lord, to live faithfully, to serve you with and to commit our lives to your will.  May these words help us along our way.  Amen.

When a carnival came to town, the strong man was one of the most popular attractions. One of his tricks was to squeeze an orange dry with his bare hand. Then he would offer $1,000 to anyone in the audience who could manage to squeeze even one more drop from that orange.

Having nothing to lose, people were always ready to accept the challenge to make an easy $1,000, but they always failed. They would squeeze and squeeze, but their efforts were fruitless. Then, an older man stepped up to try his strength.

Other observers looked at one another and smiled slyly, knowing this fellow didn’t stand a chance. The older man took the crushed orange and began to squeeze.

Do you know, he didn’t get one single drop, he got six more drops from that flattened orange. The strong man and the spectators were amazed, but the older man looked the strong man in the face, shrugged his shoulders and humbly said, “Oh, it’s no big deal. I’m the treasurer over at First Church, and I do this with our budget all the time.”

The apostle Paul is feeling a little squeezed, also, as he takes his financial concerns to the Corinthian congregation. The illustration of sowing seeds that Paul uses to explain himself sounds a little like one of Jesus’ parables, doesn’t it?

However, Paul is talking about money when he says, “the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). This represents Paul’s “Sermon on the Amount.”

It may be that Paul is implementing the very first church stewardship campaign. He has a real passion for stewardship, knowing that heartfelt giving sows the seeds of an eternal harvest.

Paul is collecting a love offering for the mother church in Jerusalem, which has fallen upon hard times. The church that commissioned and sent missionaries such as Paul and Silas out to spread the gospel now needs assistance. The newly established churches seem to be fairing much better financially than the original church. Paul explains that because of their rich blessings, and all they have to be thankful for, it is their turn to help others.

“Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver,” explains Paul to the new church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 9:7). The original Greek word for cheerful is hilaros, which is the root of our word hilarious. In other words, we are to be hilarious over the prospect of giving.

We are to be hilarious as we share from our bounty, our many blessings, and our indescribable gifts, not the least of which is our salvation.

Mike Slaughter makes the point in his book, “Shiny gods,” that the Bible has more to say about the practical dimensions of life here on earth than it does about heaven?  Jesus didn’t announce, “I came that you may go to heaven.”  He said, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.”  (John  10:10 NRSV).

Many scriptures are directives for how we are to live a God-life joyfully today.  In the last sermon, we examined the relationship among money, work and debt.  Now let’s examine biblical directives regarding God’s financial principles for saving and giving.

I. Saving

There was a time before 2008 that many thought that our financial prosperity as it was escalating in the housing market would last forever.   Some people were working in car manufacturing making almost $50 an hour and retiring at the age of forty-eight.

People were buying houses at the top of what they could afford.  After all the value of real estate always goes up and never down.  Or so they thought.  Then the greatest recession the US and also for other parts of the world, hit.

What God tells us in the Bible is that we can never assume future income.  There will be times of feast and times of famine.  During times of feast, rather than overspending we should prepare for times of famine.

In the Book of Genesis, we see how god used Joseph’s wisdom in Egypt.  During the season of “feasting,” Joseph created a savings, plan for Egypt, so that during seven years of famine Egypt was able to lend to many nations but borrow from none.

When we have that kind of plan, when we prepare for the time of famine, we are rewarded.  The author of Proverbs 13:11 says: “Riches gotten quickly will dwindle, but those who acquire them gradually become wealthy.”  Notice that the passage doesn’t say anything about acquiring debt as a means of living.

The financial commitment we make today will supply your family’s  financial well-being tomorrow.  Saving is biblical; debt is not.

There is a caution, however.  Saving does not mean hoarding.  That is why Jesus said to his followers in Matthew 6: 20-21. “Collect treasures for yourself in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal themWhere your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”   To put it another way, not only should we earn all we can and save all we can, we should also give all we can.

II. Give All You Can

Go back to 2 Corinthians 9:11 (CEB) “You will be made rich in every way so that you can generous in every way.”   Generosity is God’s design wealth, and your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  We are not meant to be a dam in which the blessings of God stop; we are to be channels through which the resources of God flow.  Continue in verse 11: “Such generosity produces thanksgiving to God through us.”

Remember, God supplies seed; God doesn’t print money as Mike Slaughter says.  Our talents, gifts, and resources are what God will use to carry out God’s redemptive work in the world.

Why is giving so important?  Giving is the nature of our God.  Our God is a God who gives, and give, and gives.  “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

God expects God’s people to respond by giving.  Generosity is evidence of the Spirit’s work in a person’s life.  As I submit more of myself to Jesus, there will be less of me and more of him His character will be demonstrated through me.  As my hearts beats more in unison with the heart of Jesus, then the purpose of Jesus will be released in my life.  As a matter of fact, for those of us who follow Jesus, giving is a way of life.

Notice in Matthew 6: 2 that Jesus doesn’t say, “If you give.”  He said, “whenever you give.”

Every time I give, it serves as intentional exercise toward spiritual health.

Now that I am over sixty, I can easily lose muscle mass and bone density.  That’s why it is essential that I have an exercise regime.  I’ve neglected that in recent years and I started noticing the effects, so four weeks ago I started with a health coach that our Conference Health Plan offers and started back into developing a regular work out plan.

I’m up to 40 minutes on the nautical elliptical, and 20 minutes on the weight machinesI’ve got some lost time to make up but I’ve started again.   Working out does three things: increases muscle mass, strengthens bone density, and maintains flexibility.  I can’t say it’s fun, but I am feeling better, and I must be intentional about it.

Giving is the same way.  It provides spiritual exercise, allowing me to be flexible to the work and directive of the Spirit in my life so that I can give myself over to God’s direction.

A number of studies, as Mike Slaughter notes have demonstrated that people who give of both their time and their finances are healthier, regardless of their age or economic status.  That’s really what Jesus meant when he said its’ more blessed to give than to receive.  Giving affects our overall flexibility to the Spirit as well as our physical health.

III.  Why give?       God releases heaven’s resources through Gods’ people to meet the needs of those who cry out.  With that in mind, why do we sometimes hesitate to give?  I think it’s because too man of us have a scarcity mentality rather than an abundance mentality.

Convince ourselves that there is never enough to go around, instead of remembering that our God has “cattle on a thousand hills.” (Psalm 50:10)

And as Matthew 10: 29-31 reminds us, “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a small coin?  But not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father knowing about it already.   Even the hairs of your head are all counted.  Don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.”  

God offers us abundance, not sacristy.

We are the only hands that Jesus has to feed those who are hungry.  We are the only feet to take water to those who are thirsty.  We are the only voice to take God’s word to those who need to hear it.

Jesus doesn’t accept our excuses about what we don’t have or wish we had, any more than the accepted the excuses of his disciples who when faced with feeding 5000, said we only have two fish and a few loaves of bread.  He asks us: “How many loaves do you have?  Don’t focus on what you want or on your limitations; look at what God has given you, and quit complaining about it.  Go and see what God has provided.”

That’s faith!  Faith like that doesn’t always make sense, especially when we aren’t sure how to meet all our obligations.  As long as I am holding something tightly in my hand though, it is not blessed.  It is only by faith, when I release it into Jesus’ hand, that it is blessed and multiplied.

Our giving, as an act of faithfulness and worship, should never be sporadic or unprepared.  Don’t just toss your leftover into God’s offering plate.  Plan giving ahead of time and make it a priority in your life.

This week, don’t’ wait.  Sit down and make a sound and responsible fiscal plan of debt reduction, saving, and giving.

One model you might consider is called the 10-10-80 plan.

The first ten percent of everything that comes into your hand, you give to God as an expression of faith and gratitude.  I am currently doing that in my giving.  And what I have discovered over the years is: you can’t out give God.

The second ten percent you pay to yourself, in the form of saving for the future.  We can’t count on just social security.    The remaining eighty percent is what you live on.  If you want to prepare for emergencies, you might actually want to live below the eighty percent.

For example, if you break a molar and need a tooth implant.  Those things are expensive!

If you are living below that eighty percent and preparing for emergencies, then you can put aside an emergency fund and not go into debt.

The key is to live below our means.  We need to live more simply so that we are ready for the future, no matter what that future holds.

I hope we are listening to these words for life.  They are God’s directives for our financial health, to be free from the bondage of debt and financial worry, and to live into being the generous, giving people that God calls us to be; free from the love of money, and to live as disciples who daily follow the directives of God.  You will be blessed, and you will bless others.  Amen.

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Prayer:     O Lord, may these words speak to our hearts and move us to action.   Help us to develop our own plan of giving if you have not done so.  And may we live and give as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, to be his hands, voice, and presence in this world that you so love.  For in his name we pray. Amen.