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One Sunday, an elderly woman, Mary, fainted and struck her head on the end of the pew. Immediately, an EMT in the congregation called an ambulance. As they strapped her to a stretcher and got ready to head out the door, Mary regained consciousness. She motioned for her daughter to come near. Everyone thought she was summoning her strength to convey what could be her final words. The daughter leaned over until her ear was at her mother’s mouth.
“My offering is in my purse,” she whispered. Now that’s old school devoted church member!!
I feel perhaps I should apologize at the beginning: “If you’re visiting with us today, please understand that we only talk about giving once a year. We’re really not after you’re money. We’re really nice people.”
It’s easy to understand why we tiptoe around the subject of giving money. We really love our money—more than most anything else. Money is still a god to many church members.
On top of that until someone comes to trust a church, many visitors are skeptical of the church’s motives when they start talking about giving. I can see why. Certain spiritual con men have fleeced congregations and TV watchers, and given churches and pastors who talk about money a bad name. We don’t want to be identified with them.
But if I had to apologize for talking about something that might make people uncomfortable, then we could forget about forgiveness, too. We don’t print a disclaimer in the bulletin: “The preacher will be talking about forgiving people who hurt you today. If you’re uncomfortable with this and you’re currently harboring a grudge you’re not intending on giving up, earplugs are provided.”
I want you to get comfortable right now. I want you to loosen up your shoulders. Heck, some people have been holding their breath ever since I said the word offering or giving. Let’s just release some tension in here this morning.
Most people want to be generous but no matter how hard I try to make the subject of stewardship and pledging and giving to the church helpful and palatable, some people still hear the words and feel distressed, like I’m trying to fleece them.
Many just love money too much, and talking about giving touches a nerve, which elicits strong emotions. But I know an old proverb that says, “If you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that yelps is usually the one that got hit.”
The truth again is that most people want to be generous. That’s because most people know being generous with money is just one aspect of being a person who’s first of all generous with a smile, or a kind word, or being helpful, or being compassionate. These things fit together like a hand in a glove.
Surrounding yourself with positive, generous, compassionate thoughts, words, and actions is the only way to be surrounded with positive, generous, compassionate thoughts, words, and actions. I know I just said the same thing twice but sometimes things are just that simple.
A scrooge isn’t just a scrooge around money, just as a generous person isn’t just generous when it comes to giving. Let the whole of your life become a generous offering to God in thanksgiving and praise for the gifts that are yours.
We need to learn how to see how our whole life fits together. Being generous in one place but not in another puts you at war with yourself. We want peace but we can’t have it when we’re fighting against ourselves.
The one who seeks God’s peace and peace in his life must do what’s in his best interest, even if at first it doesn’t seem to make sense. As our scripture said, “the one who gives water will get water.” Be a blessing to others and you will be blessed in return.
But it’s difficult for a fearful person or a person who doesn’t have her spiritual barometer working to think this way. So often folks just try to go it alone. They don’t want to belong to anything else. They don’t want some organization or group or church to have a claim on them. We certainly don’t want to part with our money if we’re fearful or not every spiritual.
We’re free, and we want to keep it that way.
But freedom just for freedom’s sake is not God’s plan. We are free to choose our life but we ought to choose what’s best.
We are free to choose whatever we think is fun, but what’s fun in one moment or at what time turns out to be boring over the long haul. We’re free to choose what’s easy, but staying with what’s easy will end up making life hard. We’re free to choose to live for ourselves but living for ourselves leaves us all by ourselves. We are free to keep our wealth to ourselves but we
will only come to poverty in the end. As the proverb said, “Others withhold what is due, and only suffer want.”
Money doesn’t make the person. The person makes the person, and the one who trusts God in faith makes the best person of all.
One of my Christmas season traditions is to watch It’s a Wonderful Life. Actually, it’s Marit and my Christmas Eve tradition, since we usually have a ton of gifts to wrap and our up very late, or should I say early Christmas morning. Christmas music and It’s a Wonderful Life help us along the way. Oh, yeah, and Marit’s Swedish glog helps a lot, too.
I want to show you the end of the movie, when George Bailey has come home and is willing to face the Bank Inspector and the warrant for his arrest after his uncle lost $8,000. Of course this comes after George has spent a long hard night with Clarence his guardian angel, who helped him see that his generous, kind, sacrificial, giving life has been such a blessing to so many others that he’s worth much more alive than dead.
As our scripture says, “Some give freely, yet grow all the richer.”
We have to realize it takes wisdom to live well. We need to learn how to be wise stewards of our time, talent, and treasure—to make the most of what we have.
I want to say what I wrote this Wednesday on Midweek Message. A lot of members and friends receive it but not everyone does, and of course not everyone reads it every time.
Today is Pledge Sunday. It is a very important day for our church. Church is a give-and-take operation. If you’re fed on Sunday mornings, pastored in times of need, or attend any number of special events or programs, you’re benefitting from our church. And that’s a good thing. You’re supposed to benefit from your church! But those things can’t happen without financial support.
The building has to be maintained. The entire staff needs to be paid. The light bill has to be paid. Building insurance, electricity, and paper towels must be purchased. There’s work to do and things to buy.
I know this doesn’t sound very ministerial or exciting or even especially Christian. I’d rather invite you to pledge and give because God seeks your generous and proportional giving to your spiritual home so that it becomes what the Lord wants it to become, and so you will pass the test of faithfulness and generosity. Please do so.
But the truth is sometimes we need to know how important we are on a very basic level, at a real, every day, person to person, gut-level of need level. And you are needed—really needed.
This church simply needs your financial support—and it needs it in a hundred different ways each and every day. There is no gift too small or too big that it won’t make a crucial and potentially life-changing difference.
It’s impossible to divorce our Christian life from our money life. To do God’s will and to follow Christ’s call includes what we do with our money, what we spend on, how much we give, and to whom we give it.
Generous people are the backbone of our lives, our churches, our hopes. They are the reason we are happy. And when we become people who understand the power of our generosity and do the same, we become the same. We become those people who change the world, one person, one church, one heart, one hope at a time.
When you are a wise steward of your life, you’re going to be generous at all the right times and places. You’ll honor God, relieve tension in yourself, give yourself self-confidence, eliminate guilt, enhance your joy that comes from participating fully, and enable you to bring about positive change you believe should happen.
Make the most of what you have. Be a blessing. The Lord can do amazing things with generous people, with a church that’s filled with giving people.
Can the church say Amen?