For the first five years of being a pastor, I didn’t teach or preach about money. Looking back, there were several reasons:
- I was in my early 20’s making approximately $18,000/year and didn’t have much experience making or managing money.
- Another reason was fear. Every church growth book I read said the same thing: people won’t attend a church that talks about money.
Then I noticed something: that line of thinking hadn’t stopped people from watching CNBC or reading the Wall Street Journal.
It wasn’t that people were disinterested in the topic of money. But they didn’t want to attend a church that was ONLY interested in money. Specifically – THEIR money!
Fortunately, my understanding of stewardship has matured over the years. We teach generosity at Mountainview not because we want something FROM you – we want something FOR you.
This is true if you are a follower of Jesus or if you’re still undecided.
Generosity is the antidote to the poison of materialism. It’s the tangible expression of God’s love in the world.
I believe generosity is at the heart of the Christian life.
Why did Jesus teach so often about money? It wasn’t to make us feel bad about ourselves – it is an invitation to be ourselves, to become who we were meant to be.
Today’s passage was prompted by a famine that had hit Jerusalem around the middle of first century. Paul is writing to primarily Gentile Christians about helping their Jewish brothers and sisters.
What is Paul offering them? It’s the same thing generosity offers us – the opportunity to participate in something greater than ourselves.
1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. — 2 Corinthians 8:1-3
Did you catch his point? You don’t have to be rich to be generous. You have to be generous to be generous.
It is easy to be selfish when things are tight. But if you don’t have a generous attitude when you don’t have much, it’s unlikely you’ll find one when you have plenty.
3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. — 2 Corinthians 8:3-5
How does true generosity work? First to God, then to others. The most important gift you will EVER make is to give your heart to God.
For the mature Christ-follower, generosity is not a moment or an event, but a lifestyle.
There is so much more to “being generous” than just giving money. We must be generous w/ our time, prayers, and blessings.
6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you — see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. — 2 Corinthians 8:6-8
What is grace? Grace is not just what we receive, but also what we share. That’s why Paul uses the word “excel.” God gave his best.
One mark of maturity is our attitude towards giving. Paul knows that we need to grow out of our natural self-centeredness.
For Paul, what is the motivation for being generous? Remember what Jesus has given for you.
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. — 2 Corinthians 8:9
One of the early church fathers, Gregory of Nazianus, put it this way:
“Christ was made poor that we through His poverty might be rich. He took the form of a servant that we might regain liberty. He descended that we might be exalted. He was tempted that we might overcome. He was despised that He might fill us with glory. He died that we might be saved. He ascended, to draw to Himself those lying prostrate on the ground through sin’s stumbling block.”
Can you pay Jesus back for what he did for you? No … but you can pay it forward by helping someone else.
You don’t just need money to live on. You need something to live for. Winston Churchill once said; “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”
As I said earlier, the reason that we teach generosity at Mountainview is not because we want something FROM you – we want something FOR you.
What do I want you to experience?
- The truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
- The joy of knowing you are making an eternal difference.
- The pleasure of seeing children / students give their lives to Jesus.
- The reassurance that God will meet your needs.
You might be wondering: How can I get started?
Make generosity a priority. Nothing happens until we prioritize.
Base your giving off percentages. Start with 10% because the Bible writers have a lot to say about the tithe.
Practice progressive giving. As your financial situation improves, change your percentages with it.
Typically, when you hear someone in church say “We’ve always done it that way” it’s not a good thing. Defending an old practice or habit.
My hope for our church is that ten years from now when asked why we give generously to ministry and missions, the answer will be … “We’ve always done it that way.”