Do You Fear Being Generous?
Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on Luke 12: 22-31. Focus on how fear breeds anxiety and the feeling of never having enough. Check out Rasaan & the Choir as they sing: We will Rise Again.
There is a saying I really like which says, “The mind is a terrible place to be!” And Jesus says that one of the leading causes of this is the fear we all feel from time to time about not having enough for tomorrow. Never mind we only have today. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us.
Just look at the thought process that goes on in our minds when the subject turns to giving. A lot of people go through an amazing internal struggle thinking that the church can do without my money. They have an endowment, but that endowment cannot sustain us as Brian and Kirk and our financial presentations over the past several months clearly show. The only way for us to be sustainable into the future is for us to increase our giving.
In case you are wondering why I keep talking about tithing it’s because we are in a financially vulnerable position, and unless we find ways to bring in more income to the church, we will be in trouble.
It’s also no secret that for several years now, our country’s economy hasn’t been doing so well. I’m sure that many of you have experienced worry as you try to make your household income stretch to cover all the needs of home and family.
But thankfully we have and serve a God who wants to provide for our every need, which is different from our every want as Jesus’ parable makes clear.
And the reason I’ve been talking about tithing is because it’s a biblical principle taught in both the Old and New Testaments. Like this one from Malachi 3: 10.
“’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘see if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.’”
God is telling the Israelites that if they’ll bring 1/10 of their livelihood to the temple to help build God’s kingdom and provide for His people, then He will pour out blessings on them until they’re full to overflowing.
Luke 6: 38 has Jesus confirming this same message from Malachi:
“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure – pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
The Bible does not mention anything about “pausing” tithing, when times get tough neither does it say that we will go to Hell if we do not tithe.
The tithe, which is a scriptural mandate, was not instituted for God’s benefit because God already has all the money He needs. He does not need our money.
So why does God ask us to give 10%? Because it teaches us how to keep God first in our lives and how to be unselfish people. Unselfish people make better husbands, wives, friends, relatives, employees and employers. God is trying to teach us how to prosper over time.
If you cannot live off 90% of your income, then you cannot live off 100%.” Think of how many things like a Dunkin Donut’s coffee we buy for ourselves on a daily basis. If it’s a medium coffee that’s roughly $14.00 per week. You see what I mean.
I’m not here to beat you up if you don’t tithe, but I am here to tell you that it’s a very important spiritual discipline and it’s meant to help us grow in our generosity and to alleviate our anxiety.
It’s how we help fund ministries at our churches and how we contribute to provide, not just for God’s people, but for anyone who finds themselves in need. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, said of this passage in Luke’s Gospel:
The way to misuse our possessions is to use them as insurance against tomorrow. Anxiety is always directed to tomorrow, whereas our treasures are in the strictest sense meant to be used only for today. By trying to ensure for tomorrow we are only creating uncertainty today. The only way to win assurance is to leave tomorrow entirely in the hands of God and by receiving from Him all that we need for today. But instead of receiving God’s gifts for today we worry about tomorrow and find ourselves helpless victims of infinite anxiety.
We make ourselves the victims of anxiety and fear, not God! Every time we listen to our own voice in our own head we hear a voice telling us to hold on to what we have, because we never know when we might not have enough. And friends, this voice inside our heads never ceases to tell us this.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Save, spend and give are three of John Wesley’s spiritual principles. Most people forget that giving liberates the soul of the giver. You never walk away feeling badly. Whether through a tithe, charitable contribution, or gift to a friend in need, give away at least some of your money. Not only does it generate good, but it generates contentment.
Remember, no one has ever become poor by giving.
Though tithing can be a struggle, it is possible at virtually every income level to do it.
But if tithing right away is not possible, take a step in that direction. Perhaps you can give 2 percent or 5 percent or 7 percent. God understands where you are, and God will help you make the adjustments necessary for you to become more and more generous, because at the end of the day the rewards for becoming generous is the simple fact that our lives become filled with joy. Joy!
So to that end I want you to pray over the financial pledge card that you receive this week and ask God to help you decide how much you can give to the work and ministries of our church.
I close with story that many of you have heard before. A Native American grandfather was talking with his grandson about fear and faith and he said to his grandson, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, anxious, and angry. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate and generous.”
The grandson asked him, “Which wolf will win your heart?”
The grandfather answered, “The one that I feed.” I can’t tell you what to give, but I do believe that what we give is in direct proportion to what we believe. And what we believe shapes how we live. And how we live is everything. Amen