Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Grace of Giving

October 7, 2012
Pentecost XIX
Fr. Philip Eberhart 

The Grace of Giving
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As we begin in this month to begin looking toward next year it is time to talk about all of our favorite subject:  money and giving.  But I want to begin what will be a three week series by talking about our need for giving, not God’s need or the church’s need for your money.

Because the first is an illusion – God has no need for your money.  And some may wipe your brow here and go, “whew!”  Now THAT’S GOOD NEWS!! 

Why?  Because God thinks He owns it all!!  He thinks He made it all, and is still the one who is running the universe!! 

God thinks that everything we have, from our most basic needs for breath, for food and clothing, for a roof and meaningful labor – even the beating of our hearts – God thinks is from His hand!  Every good and perfect gift,” James tells us, “is from the Father of lights.”

God is in fact the first and consummate giver!  He gave us the world and all that is in it.
David the Psalmist sung “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you have set in their courses… O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth!”

And God continued to give, ultimately, in His Son.  We all know the verse:

“For God so loved the world, that He GAVE…” 

 He gave substantively!   “His one and only Son!”

He gave purposefully!  “That whosoever believes in Him, should have everlasting life!”
 

The Church’s Need

Many of those who complain about the Church today, say that all they hear about in the church is its’ need for money!  I have to ask where are you listening?  If you listen mostly to televangists and TV preachers, you’re probably right!  That’s is because the media they have chosen is a very, very expensive media to work in.  And the best, make a minimum of having to ask for support, but it is a reality of the medium.

But TV preachers and evangelists and para-church ministries, are not the local church!

I believe that you are supposed to be planted somewhere.  Your commitment to Jesus has to be specifically lived out in His Community – there are no Lone Ranger Christians, as popular as he was.  Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto!

Jesus sent us out as disciples two-by-two and Jesus said that the basic unit of the church was a gathering of two-or-three, gathered in His Name!  That kind of church is light and mobile, but soon there is more than three or four.  Here in America we are experts at accumulation. And soon the church has a pastor and staff and perhaps a building or two, a campus, if its large.  And a need – growing need.

This is true of large and small churches alike, especially in an economy like the one we find ourselves in.  This sermon is being preached across the land during these months and all of us are trying to survive this downturned economy and the fortunes or mis-fortunes of jobs gained and lost, of lives uprooted, of people moving from place to place in search of new opportunities.

So the church does have a need, but God…!  BUT GOD! 

But God wants us to focus on Him.  Our psalm this morning begins and ends with a strong affirmation:

            O Lord our Governor, how exalted is your Name in all the world!

On that basis, we order our lives; we orient our lives and our worship in reference to God!  We prioritize our lives based on His priorities and we follow the pattern of His own giving to us, in response to it. 
 

OUR NEED TO GIVE

I want to go back to what I said about God’s pattern of giving, from John 3:16:

 
FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD:

Over and over again, through the prophets of the Old Testament, the people of Israel were warned by God and to shun idolatry.  I don’t have time to go into all the verses in the OT about the dangers of idolatry.

What we worship matters and the “god du jour” – the god of our age, especially in this super wealthy country of ours is money.  Like the despised tax collector Zacchaeus in Luke 19, our attitude toward money is going to undergo an amazing shift, as Jesus draws near.  “Zack” had a change of heart, a dramatic change of heart, as Jesus came to his house! 

Jesus love was his motive force!  We find him in places that his friends were uncomfortable with – with people that were the outcasts of his day – both rich and poor, both sinners and saints.  Why?  He said it as he was teaching at the house of Zacchaeus:

“But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

Jesus SO LOVED Zack that he went to his house – Zack SO LOVED Jesus, that he gave, in response to Jesus love.

So why do we NEED TO GIVE?  Especially where we are like Zack, we need to give as an expression of our love for Jesus;  in response to His love for us, and for the world.

Why do we NEED TO GIVE?  We need to give to be free from the “love of money.”  Zacchaeus was freed that day, not from a prison of keys and bars, but from a prison of greed.  He had a change of heart and it issued in a change of action.

GOD SO LOVED … THAT HE GAVE!

Giving is the natural outflow of love.  It is simply what happens when we love, someone or something.

 

HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON!

Earlier I said that God gave substantively!  Very substantively.  God gift wasn’t money as ours is … God’s gift was Himself! 

That is the priority that God wants us to have as well.  We don’t give God money in return for services. If we did that, I would require each of you to turn in your tax return to the church and we would expect an amount equal to what you pay for other’s services in our culture.

Of course what I’m talking about is our policy of tipping!  I’ve talked with some of my favorite waitresses and waiters around the city, and asked them about their tips.  Here is how it breaks out:

10% - I did a poor job
15% - I did an adequate job
18% - I did a good job

Isn’t it interesting that God’s requirements in the biblical tithe, 10% – if it were a tip, would mean we think God has done a poor job!

Just some food for thought!  Pardon the pun.

God gave of his substance – He gave of WHO HE WAS.  And Jesus, Paul tells us, came willingly, in obedience to the Father and in love for the world!  Jesus came as a servant of us created beings – in fact He became one of us, fully and completely!!

Your giving cannot simply be in monetary terms, back to God!  Right after the story of Zach in Luke 19, Jesus turns and tells the crowd the parable of the talents.  Now for them a talent was a measure of money, but for us, interestingly, talent has a much more personal meaning, but one which still applies.

God gave of WHO HE WAS.  Of His substance, in giving Jesus, His one and only Son!

What are you ready to give back to Him?
 
Our traditional three legged stool of giving says it this way:  Time, Talent & Treasure.
In our day and age all of these must come into play for us to be adequate givers in the Kingdom of God.  Our substance in this day is not just monetary, it is substantive to give your time and it is equally substantive to give your talents – your gifts of talent and ability, to God!

 
Finally, GOD SO LOVED … THAT –

God’s giving was on purpose! 

“That whosever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Do you give on purpose!

Paul was clear that each one should “purpose in his heart.”  That means that you decide what to give and where to give.  If its not something that comes from a free choice to love and respond to God’s gifts in your life, then … why give?

But if you know God’s love and God’s provision in your life

If you know God’s faithfulness, morning by morning

If you hear God’s voice, through the Word and through His people, -- perhaps even sometimes through the message of the preacher

If you love Jesus and want His Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.

Do any of those describe you?  I think that they do!

If so, then you must give!  Not as a chore or duty, not as a tip for services, but as an offering of thanks and as a partaker in the great work of God in His Kingdom.  The Bible talks as much about money, as it does salvation or healing!  And God isn’t in need, nor does the Church need your money!  Our provision is in the Lord alone.

But you need to give, in order to be free and in order to say, “Thanks.”

May we pray?

Almighty God, whose loving hand hath given us all that we possess: Grant us grace that we may honor thee with our substance, and, remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of thy bounty.  Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favor, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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