Second Corinthians 8:1-7
In a Wizard Of Id comic, a couple greets a Friar Tuck-type outside the front doors of the Church. The wife says to the Friar, “I apologize for my baby’s crying in church…she’s teething.” The Friar replies, “No problem…but why was your husband crying?” The wife responds, “He’s TITHING!”
A missionary was sitting at her second-story window when she was handed a letter from home. As she opened the letter, a crisp, new, ten-dollar bill fell out. She was pleasantly surprised, but as she read the letter her eyes were distracted by the movement of a shabbily dressed stranger down below, leaning against a post in front of the building. She couldn’t get him off her mind. Thinking that he might be in greater financial distress than she, she slipped the bill into an envelope on which she quickly penned the words, “Don’t despair.” She threw it out the window. The stranger below picked it up, read it, looked up, and smiled as he tipped his hat and went his way. The next day she was about to leave the house when a knock came at the door.
She found the same shabbily dressed man smiling as he handed her a roll of bills. When she asked what they were for, he replied: “That’s the sixty bucks you won, lady. ‘Don’t Despair’ paid five to one.”
Obviously an act of love, an act of service, and act of commitment doesn’t always have a five-to-one payoff. Sometimes it is much more. I have never known a person who genuinely committed his or her life to God who was ever sorry. Church membership is like a poker game; you’re either in or you’re out. If you’re in, then ante up.
On one occasion Martin Luther railed against his congregation for being stingy in their giving. From the pulpit he said, “You ungrateful beasts! You are not worthy of the treasures of the Gospel. If you don’t improve, I will stop preaching rather than cast pearls before swine.”
Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. There is a part of me that wants to call you the Macedonian churches
John Wesley was preaching his famous sermon on stewardship. The first point was “Make All the Money You Can” and a well-to-do farmer in the church serving as a deacon said, “Amen.” The second point was “Save All the Money You Can.” “Amen” said the deacon even more emphatically. “And,” concluded Wesley, “Give All You Can.” The deacon frowned and muttered, “That spoiled the sermon.”
As believers in Christ, as part of the Church, you have learned the secret!
Acts 20:35 In everything I did, Paul writes, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: `It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Annually, Americans spend $50 billion on weight-loss products, $26.6 billion on lottery tickets, and give $19.6 billion to churches. When we eat out, most of us expect to tip the waiter or waitress 15-20 percent. When we suggest 10 percent as a minimum church offering, some folks are aghast.
Down in Oklahoma early one Monday morning, the bank called all three churches with the same request: “Could you bring in Sunday’s collection right away? We’re out of one-dollar bills.” The problem with our giving is that we too often give the widow’s mite, without the widow’s spirit.
During the Middle Ages everyone sought status in their titles. Not only was it an “in” thing to be a baron or a knight or any of the nobility, even farm workers coveted more exalted titles for their work. So, the lowly lad who shoveled out the horses’ stalls was called the “Count of the Stable” from which we get “Constable,” a name still given to police officers. Even the lowliest job on the estate had its titular reward: the serf who was in charge of the pigs was called “The Sty Warden” or “Steward.” Over the years mostly this word is used in conjunction with an appeal to encourage people to share more of their time, talents, and treasure for the work of their church, both at home and beyond the borders of the parish.
Giving has a history in God’s word. Giving is as old as Cain and Abel, when Abel gave his best and Cain didn’t. It is found in Abraham giving to Melchizedek. It was always 1/10 until the New Testament, then it was all.
Matt 19:21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
He is invited to great things who receives small things greatly. Jenny Lind, the great Swedish soprano, disappointed many of her friends because she turned down so many big contracts that would have made her world famous. One day a friend surprised her as she was sitting on a sunny seashore reading the New Testament. The friend, in conversation, rebuked the singer for not seizing her chances. Quickly, Jenny Lind put her hand over her Testament and said, “I found that making vast sums of money was spoiling my taste for this.”
Three young swallows were perched on a dead branch that stretched out over a lake. “One adult swallow got alongside the chicks and started shoving them out toward the end of the branch–pushing, pushing, pushing. The end one fell off. Somewhere between the branch and the water four feet below, the wings started working, and the fledgling was off on his own. Then the second one. The third was not to be bullied. At the last possible moment his grip on the branch loosened just enough so that he swung downward, then tightened again, bulldog tenacious. The parent was without sentiment. He pecked at the desperately clinging talons until it was more painful for the poor chick to hang on than risk the insecurities of flying. The grip was released, and the inexperienced wings began pumping. The mature swallow knew what the chick did not–that it would fly–that there was no danger in making it do what it was perfectly designed to do.
“Giving is what we do best. It is the air into which we were born. It is the action that was designed into us before our birth…. Some of us try desperately to hold on to ourselves, to live for ourselves. We don’t think we can live generously because we have never tried.” “But the sooner we start, the better, for we are going to have to give up our lives finally, and the longer we wait, the less time we have for the soaring and swooping life of grace.”