Tuesday, October 06, 2009

How should we then give?

The other Sunday one of the churches I serve had a Gift Day, so I preached on the theme of giving, taking 2 Corinthians 8:9 as my text. It made me think about giving and how we may give well as Christians.
People give for all sorts of good reasons. Some give out of pity. Paul could have written about the suffering and poverty in the Jerusalem church, explaining how some believers were having to go without life’s essentials for Jesus' sake. They were poorly clothed, ill fed, and had to live in sub-standard housing. People of my generation have Michael Beurk’s famous report on famine on Ethiopia etched on their memories. The outpouring of compassion provoked by that film led to the original Live Aid concerts. But Paul did not appeal to the Corinthians to give simply out of pity. Others may give because giving can be fun. Events like 'Children in Need' and 'Comic Relief' are all about making giving fun. Paul could have told the Corinthians to organise some exciting fundraising activities, 'Come on, get involved. Giving is a fun, feelgood thing to do'. But that was not Paul's approach. Altruism is another motive for giving - give simply because it is the right thing to do. If you are better off than others, then you have a duty to give, noblesse oblige and all that. Paul didn't try that one either.
It is possible to give for entirely the wrong reasons. We may give to impress others with our largess. Some give hoping to gain. Take the recent "cash for Peerages" scandal in the UK, where big donors to political parties were allegedly offered seats in the House of Lords as a reward for their giving. We can give manipulatively to make others obliged to us. 'You just remember where the money is coming from.' Paul obviously doesn't want the Corinthians to give for bad reasons. He wants them to be gospel givers. As Christians our chief motivation for giving is the good news of what Jesus has done for us. And what Jesus has done for us is encapsulated in 2 Corinthians 8:9.
How should we then give?
1) Gospel givers are sacrificial givers

At the heart of 2 Corinthians 8:9 is the idea of sacrifice.

2) Gospel givers are loving givers

Not “as cold as charity”, but an expression of love to enrich others, (1 Corinthians 13:3, 1 John 3:16-17).

3) Gospel givers give for the gospel’s sake

They want others to hear the gospel and will give to maintain gospel witness.

4) Gospel givers give more than money

Giving is not just about what we put in the offering box. We must give of ourselves, our time, energy and love in the Lord's service, Romans 12:1-2.
5) Gospel givers are thankful givers

God has given us so much more than we could ever hope to repay him. We give of our money time, our very lives saying, 2 Corinthians 9:15.
6) Gospel givers don't just think about giving, they do it
Give to the Barnabas Fund, 'hope and aid for the persecuted church'.

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