‘Money and Giving’. It’s the kind of talk that you know before it starts you are going to come out of feeling guilty and that you need to give more to the church, right?
Well, no! I hope not, This is not just going to be a plea for more of your hard earned cash… I recognize that this is a really difficult subject for some. Some of you here are facing real financial hardship and the last thing you need is someone asking you to give more. And hey God isn’t going to love you any more or any less whether you give money the church or not – we cannot buy his love.
BUT what this talk will do, I hope, is encourage you to look at your giving as part of your walk with Jesus. I want to look at giving as part of a Christian life that is guided by God in all aspects of it.
So for example, I’m not going to ask for a show of hands but I wonder how many of you actually pray about what money you give away – whether to the church or charity or other causes? I mean how often do you get a begging letter through the door and either a) chuck a tenner in and send it back or b) throw it in the bin, without much thought in either case?My Dad, from about September onwards makes a big pile of the charity letters that come through the door and then at Christmas he goes through them and decides who to donate to. I used to love being able to be part of that.
We can’t get away from it. As Christians we are called to give. The bible talks about tithing, it talks about looking after the poor, it talks of helping our neighbour. It is something we are called to do. But for most of us there is probably a big discrepancy between what we want to give and perhaps what God wants us to give. Deut says this:
Deuteronomy 16:17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which he has given you.
We are all able to give but in different measures according to what God has given us…
But lots of people give – why is it different for us as Christians? Because as Christians we have a responsibility to give as a representation of our relationship with our heavenly father.And obviously the focus this morning is money but giving is not just about money is it? It’s about what we give in love, in effort, and in our time. I was thinking the other day, what do you think is the most precious thing we have? The most precious thing that could be given to God. In terms of commodity it used to be gold. Not so any more, there isn’t a consensus, but things like ink, Rhodium, (metal), saffron (spice), now looking at things less tangible – data, companies talk of how valuable their data is to their business, anti matter (prices at $62.5 trillion per gram!!!), but do you know what I think is the most valuable, and is irreplaceable – time! How many of us wish that we could add another hour each day..? we live such crazy busy lives, we always say I am short of time etc… So when we talk of giving perhaps time is the most precious thing we can give to God… so although I am talking really about money today do bear that in mind…
So what does todays passage say:
it really gives us a lesson in how different God sees things than us. This is like a lesson in how to bring a little bit more of Gods kingdom on earth – and it really does show the parallels between this world and His. And it’s pretty controversial really isn’t it? I mean if we really look at it, it a tough ask actually.
Love your enemies
Do good to those who hate you
If someone hits you, let them do it again…
That would not be classed as normal behavior round here would it?! What’s the normal or earthly reaction to be slapped or hit in the face? Hit back maybe!? Run away? Report them to the police?, but not in Gods Kingdom…
Have you ever been hit in the face?... what would your reaction be?
I was once hit in the face. At uni, I was in a queue for a gig, with my ticket in my hand, a girl walked past and grabbed the ticket out of my hand. My gut reaction was ‘hey’ and I turned to take it back and she hit me in the face. On the cheek actually! Well thankfully my reaction was not to hit her but my goodness was I cross. It was out of nowhere, totally unprovoked. What does the bible say I should do here? Well probably willingly giver my her ticket, wish her well and the same time offer another cheek!
What else does Jesus have to say in this speech?
Has anyone ever stolen your clothes? Jesus says let them… And give them more! The MSG version says this:
‘If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it…’
Well an ex boyfriend once ‘borrowed’ my favourite U2 t shirt that I bought at one of their gigs at Wembley. I loved that T shirt. Loved it. And when we split up, he didn’t give it back. Did I gift wrap another one and send it over to him…? Not exactly…
I was angry. I was irritated. and… I mourned that T shirt! Understandable of course…. to us -The thing is, my natural earthly reactions to things are not what God wants to see. His way is so different to our ways.
This whole passage is about giving. Giving away our possessions, giving love to our enemies, giving good things to those who hate us. Even giving our lives... and giving without expecting anything in return…. Giving in absolute abundance – That’s giving in a Godly way!
Giving in a godly way: thinking about what that means…
Three things I think are important when we are thinking about our own giving. We should do it:
Give By Faith
And when we give, it should be Honouring to God
So I want to look at these three in a bit more detail.
We all have different things we can give, from talents and time to our finances. But all those things come from God. When we tithe or give, we are really just giving back to him. So surely that should be done with thought and prayer?
There are so many things that we can spend our money on aren’t there? From buying our food and paying our bills, to things for the kids, family days out, football clubs, ballet, music lessons, toddler groups, a pint or two at the pub... and that’s before we even think about the ‘worthy causes’. We can’t possibly help them all, can we? But is it just assuaging our own guilt, if you like, by making a quick donation here or there?
It is worthy of God, if we just thoughtlessly write out a cheque in response to an email and throw it in the post? Does it ease our own consciences?
When you are faced with a request for a donation what do you do? You get a letter in the post, there is a picture on the front of a starving child in Africa, swollen belly, flies around them. What do you do? My usual response I think is: look at it, spend 1 min thinking how awful it is, then think, ah but it’s so far away, feel a bit guilty so I might write out a cheque for a few pounds and chuck it in the post and forget about it. Or perhaps the opposite, perhaps look at it but immediately think I have no spare money and so chuck it away.
Or how many of us have responded to an email of a friend or relative doing a challenge for charity – marathon/cycling etc, do we ignore it or perhaps make a quick with just a click of a button online? I’m not sure either of those are Godly are they?
How often do we actually seek God for these decisions?
Please hear me!! I’m not saying don’t send money or make a donation, or do when you can’t afford it. But I’m asking you to think about how or why you make those decisions. I’m saying ask God first!!
You know, there are statistics that say there should be no poverty in this world that between us all we have enough money, enough food, enough water to live well. I wonder if everyone prayed about what they should give and to who how much impact that would make on the worlds poor?
And for us at church – as Will said we have gift day coming up. So let’s be honest, how many of you have already thought, we might give church a miss that day…?
Come on be honest… I’m sure it’s crossed some of your minds…! You know traditionally for many churches its often the lowest attended service… But do let me say, please don’t let that be the case here. If you can’t or don’t want to make a donation on gift day, please don’t stay at home just to avoid it, we do church together to meet Jesus together, so please don’t be put off coming!
But by the same token… Don’t just ignore gift day, don’t just think, well we give money already we don’t have to do anything, this is a real opportunity to seek God and ask him. Praying with faith and trusting God is scary sometimes especially where money is concerned but it’s exciting too! It’s an opportunity for him to use you… and it’s up to you whether you want to take it…
And being prayerful about what to give also means praying with faith and then acting on it – the second of my three points, giving in faith.
If we pray and feel that God is asking us to give something that is out of our means, or something that would be tough, we just have to trust Him. Giving as an act of faith is also an act of risk! Of self sacrifice….
The bible has several examples of people giving what they can’t afford to and yet they are blessed in return and I want to tell you a modern day example:
I have a friend who is going on a mission trip in January to Haiti. She is married with 3 kids and they do not have much money, they make ends meet but that’s about it. Anything extra takes a long to save for. So you can imagine finding money for an OS trip is not easy at all. Over the last year she had managed to save up just a few hundred pounds towards her ticket, not much but an inroad in to the ticket cost. 2 weeks ago she felt God telling her to give this money to a friend in need. She wasn’t exactly happy…!. It had taken her a long time to save this up and there was no way she was going to raise the £1000 she needed to get out to Haiti in time. But she was faithful, she knew this was of God. And the friend that she gave it to was so blessed by it. I can’t tell you all, but just that few hundred pounds completed a chain that enabled her to change her life totally. Wonderful. I know my friend felt so blessed by that.
But that isn’t the end of the story. Less than a week later someone knocked on my friends door and said they felt that God had told them to give her £1000…
That is the power and the generosity of our amazing God J My friend had little, but she trusted God, she stepped out, did what he was asking and was abundantly blessed in return. Which is exactly what it says in todays passage.
‘Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you’.
Explain: lovely description - a ref to how grain was sold – filling the gaps.
Like saying - if you give, give with your whole self, not leaving any gaps, or any grain behind, but as much as you can – abundantly…. The same will be given to you…
Now we don’t do things or give things away in order to be blessed, that would not be in the right spirit, but when God asks us to do something that’s different. When we respond to his instruction, and we do that knowing that we can trust him, and that he always has a plan, we do it in complete faith. He won’t abandon us.
Of course for many of us the decision about what to give and who to and how much is not entirely our own – if you are married for example, then often it’s not just your own decision and different people manage money in very different ways, even in a relationship. And of course for some of you your partner might not be walking with God which means a prayerful approach together isn’t going to be so easy! But at the same time, don’t ignore it! Talk about it together, it might actually be a great opportunity to talk about your faith!
In our home, Phil handles the finances, (after all he does work for a bank!) not from a traditional point of view but just because I am totally rubbish with money. I just hate to think about it. My mum budgets everything. If I ever owed her money as a kid I had to pay her back exactly on the nose, even to the last ½ penny! She gave me a budget book at age 9 and tried to encourage me to budget my 50p pocket money. You’d think that might have helped. It didn’t, the thought of writing down how many penny sweets I had bought that week or in fact to remember how many as they were usually gone by the time I got home! So I guess her tactics didn’t work – I went the other way! Thankfully Phil is more organized about it all otherwise we’d probably be living off baked beans in a camper van somewhere. As the main bread winner, Phil takes an approach that he feels God has blessed him in his work and therefore it is his responsibility to use that money wisely and in a way that honours to God.
And so lastly: it should be Honouring to God
We should be good stewards of our money, the bible tells us. What we have is his blessing upon our lives. All good things come from him.
Yes you might work hard for your money. You might work long hours. But do you work harder than someone else? How did you get your job? What got you to that place? I don’t believe for any of us that it was completely of our own merits. Our background, our schooling, our life experiences shape who we are, and where we end up. So much of which has nothing to do with what we choose to do. God’s grace is upon us all. I know for myself I feel so blessed. I have a wonderful husband and 3 amazing kids, I have a nice house, we have work. But that wasn’t always the case. I know there are times in my life that things could have been so different, just by one little decision, or leaving an event a little later, or anything, it’s by Gods grace that we are all where we are. It’s down to him that we have what we do and to spend it thrivolously or to make snap decisions about it seems dishonouring to he who has put us here.
…steward it well…
Being honouring to God also means Giving unselfishly and generously:
The MSG: (vs 35/36)
‘Live out this God created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we are at our worst. Our Father is Kind; You be kind.’
When God calls us to be generous, his gauge is different to ours. Remember his examples
I mean giving away your best coat to someone who has pinched your shirt, and not just that but gift wrapping it?
We can never match his generosity, after all He gave his life for us. How’s that for generosity?
But we can try… and we can do it graciously…
It is by Gods grace that we can give, so let’s do it with grace in our hearts. Give in love, give with no strings or expectations (as it says in the passage) and with joy. Don’t begrudge it. For some of us giving might mean one less night out or one less treat at the Supermarket, for others of us it could mean real hardship. But if we seek God and trust in him then we can give joyfully knowing that we are honouring Him and doing his will.
Give, knowing that we are giving to our heavenly father. …
So as I draw to a close, I want to encourage you - before gift day in a few weeks time, spend some time seeking God, praying about your giving. Don’t just make a snap decision, don’t rule anything out or in for that matter! just seek Him, ask Him and then faithfully act on what he tells you.
If you feel it’s not right for you to give anything extra on gift day, that’s absolutely fine, I just encourage you to make the decision with God at the centre and remember these three:
Give prayerfully, give in faith and give in a way that is honouring to God…then have courage, and trust him, his plans for you are good.