2 Corinthians 9-10, Psalm 3
The topic of giving in church might be the most universally unpopular message preached. This is for a number of reasons, some out of our own greed but often it is due to the bad examples we have all seen personally or heard about from certain churches or church leaders. The amazing thing about the Bible is how balanced it is, if we read through the Bible in one year as we are doing this year it speaks of each topic exactly how much God wants us to consider it. There was a church that I went to over 20 years ago where the pastor stated, not that if you didn't give, but that if you did not bring your checkbook with you to church (in case you wanted to give more) then you were sinning against God. There was another church that we attended a number of years ago that would feature giving and the use of money as a topical message for about 12 weeks every other year. Some churches will feature the names of generous givers on plaques or engraved on pews. Then there are the many stories of pastors who have misused the monies that were donated. Though these and countless stories like this exist and are recanted by people who either don't give or don't go to church, the underlying principle is being missed. As God's creation, everything that we have really belongs to God, not us. God has given us 100% of what we have, the fact that He, in His Word, only asks for a certain percentage back is by His grace. When we give, we give to God and God alone. That is our part. If someone misuses those funds that is there part and they will have to answer to God for that. If you don't trust your pastor or denomination, it's probably time to consider changing churches or denominations.
Paul emphasizes the heart desired in those giving in 2 Corinthians 9:5,7, "Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation...So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver." God does not want us to give by force, guilt or compulsion but out of the overflow of our heart with joy. The sooner we realize that everything is a gift from God, and not what we are entitled or earned or deserve the easier we will release what is really not ours. Consider this, not even our children belong to us but are a gift from God, to which He has given us stewardship over, but they are never really ours. When we give, it is a private act of worship between ourselves and God. Jesus says in Matthew 6:1,3-4, "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven...But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly." As with everything else, our true example of giving is Jesus, Himself. In 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul says, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." Paul also says in 9:15, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" The truth is we can not outgive God.
We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. This statement is true in every realm of our lives from our time, our thoughts and our money. Those wrapped up in the prosperity gospel movement tend to misapply Scripture. In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul says, "...He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." Though often misapplied, this has nothing to do with a financial return on our investment. May we never forget that we are citizens in heaven and ambassadors on earth (Philippians 3:20). The rewards for a faithful life of service to God may not be seen on this earth with our finances, but will be seen in heaven which spans a much greater time than our time on earth. God knows better and supplies us with what we need, not what we greed. Jesus exhorts us in Matthew 6:19,21, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;...For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." So giving is no different than praying, worshipping, Bible study, etc., what we do, we do for God.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: