Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
March 26, 2017
Next Week is Stewardship Sunday. That’s the day most preachers, including myself, preach on stewardship. However, it dawned on me this week that by the time I preach the sermon next Sunday your pledge cards will already be filled out and turned in! So I figured I’d better tackle the subject this week.
I Corinthians 9:6-15 is the best passage on giving in Bible.
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide
you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
I’d like to speak to you this morning on the all-important topic of, “The Goat and the Transmission.”
Two hunters were walking through the woods one day, making their way through some brush, when they came across a large hole in the ground.
They looked down and saw that it was incredibly deep. In fact, it was so deep that they could not see the bottom. Anxious to discover how deep it was they looked for an object to throw down into the hole. They found an old car transmission nearby, and together they dragged it and dropped it into the hole. Suddenly a goat ran out of the brush and jumped into the hole. The two hunters were stunned at what they just saw. A short while later while they were still standing there and farmer came up to them and asked them if they had seen his goat. The farmers replied, “It was the strangest thing. It must have been your goat that just jumped down this hole.” “That’s impossible,” said the farmer. “I had him tied to an old car transmission!”
Our lives in a very real way are tied to money. From paychecks to taxes, from household budgets to school budgets, from town budgets to federal budgets, from IRAs to social security checks, from offerings & appeals to donations and gifts, from credit cards to pledge cards. Our lives and money are linked together – for better or for worse. And sometimes money drags us into a deep, dark hole of debt, despair or discontent and greed.
Do you know that the Bible talks a lot about money? Because the Bible is not only a book about God, it’s also a book about us. And in the Bible there is not the distinction we sometimes make between the sacred and the secular. It’s all sacred to God. Everything is sacred, because everything is God’s.
Here are some surprising numbers.
1 – The Bible teaches directly about Prayer about 200 x
2 – The Bible teaches directly on Love about 300 times.
3 – The Bible teaches about Money, Wealth and Possessions 600 times.
Jesus talked about money, wealth and possessions as much as any other topic you can think of; because Jesus knew that money is a part of our
lives and something we need to have a handle on.
He spoke about a Prodigal Son who didn’t know how to manage his money and squandered it away.
He told another parable about three stewards entrusted with a sum of money from their master. Two used it wisely. One did nothing with it. The Master in Jesus’ story scolded him and said, “At least you could have put it in the bank where it would have gained interest!”
Jesus understood the grip that the love of money can have on a person. He spoke about the foolish man who just devoted himself to building bigger barns to store all his wealth. Jesus knew that money can be all consuming. “You cannot serve God and wealth,” he said. “Where your treasure is your heart will be also.”
Jesus also understood that financial concerns are very real and cause real anxiety even for people of faith. So he has a large section of the Sermon on the Mount about money – “Don’t worry about what you will eat or what you will wear. Look at the birds of the air, the lilies of the field. God cares for them. God cares even more for you.” You’ll have enough. Enough what? Enough money.
Not only is money necessary, money can do much good in the world, according to Christ. Jesus commended the Good Samaritan not only for caring for the wounded man but also for putting him up in an inn for the night and giving the innkeeper a good sum of money to pay for his room and board.
Our lives are tied into money. Our lives of faith are tied into money. We’re having a more comfortable service this Sunday than last Sunday because we paid the organ company to fix the organ, and we paid some repairmen to fix the furnace. We pay 6 salaries & workman’s comp, utilities, upkeep & insurance on 2 buildings and much, much more. Church Council works hard on the budget, because how we spend your money, God’s money, is very important. So we have to be comfortable talking about money. It’s too important of an area for us not to talk about it.
Today we get to talk about one aspect of money that I think we intuitively know is a spiritual matter and that is giving.
II Cor. 9: 7 – “God Loves a Cheerful Giver.” It’s one of the most well-known verses in all the Bible.
Once, there was a church that had a message sign out front. And one day is read this: “God Loves a Cheerful Giver . . . . but we’re not that picky!”
Well apparently God is.
Why does God love a Cheerful Giver?
It’s because God wants our love – not just our obedience, not just dutiful service, our obligatory gifts. God wants our love. Jesus taught us that by telling us that Deut. 6 was the most important command in the Hebrew Scriptures: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”
Imagine a husband who takes flowers home to his wife. She of course loves them, and says, “Oh, they’re beautiful! You’re so kind! I love you so much!” What if the husband replies, “Well, I thought it was duty. After all, I’m your husband. It was the least I could do. Besides they were on sale. I just felt it was my responsibility to get ’em.” Does she even want the flowers? God wants our love, so God loves a cheerful giver.
Cheerful givers are grateful givers. They give out of a sense of Gratitude and Love.
Cheerful givers also tend to be generous givers.
Are you a generous giver? I want to be, don’t you?
In fact, this verse can also be translated, “God love a Hilarious Giver.”
Have you ever made a hilarious gift? A friend of mine did once. My friend, Al and his wife, Rae were visiting her hometown in Wales, England. Al loved that old town that she was from. They went to the church Rae grew up in. It dated back to the 11th century. When it came time for the offering, Al who was feeling very blessed and therefore very generous, put a very large bill in the offering plate. (worth about $100 today) The usher then whispered to him, “I’ll be back with some change.”
God loves Hilarious Givers! Our Goal should always be that of St. Paul – to be Cheerful Givers, Hilarious Givers! God loves cheerful givers, because they give out of love. They give out of Gratitude. And they give generously. This is important because we tend to forget how much things cost around the church. Just like it’s expensive to maintain a house, it’s expense to maintain a church!
At my first church we had an old Hammond Organ. And one day it finally broke for good. As we talked about what to do, someone said, “Well, we’ll all just chip in $20.00 and fix it or get a new one.” $20.00 from each family would have allowed us to purchase an organ bench, but nothing more!
Our lives are tied to money – just like that goat to the transmission.
Therefore we need to make sure that our money is tied to our faith, in order that we might be the kind of givers we want to be and God wants us to be.
You’ve probably heard this expression: We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.
Let me close by telling you a personal story that brought clarity to this issue for me. Several years ago I got a call from a parishioner offering me Patriots tickets. It was a Sunday night game, so I could go. Without hesitation, I said, “Yes, Absolutely!” I didn’t think about my budget, my bank account, how much money was in my wallet. It was an easy decision. (Dave Ramsey of Financial Peace University would not have been proud of me!) I simply said, “Yes.” A little later I did start thinking about what the game would cost me. I offered to pay for the 2 tickets, but the person insisted I not. However, there would still be, Parking – $50, Food – $30, Gifts for the Boys – $40. The whole experience would cost me about $120.00. But still I didn’t hesitate or second guess my decision.
Now, imagine this. Imagine if the parishioner who called me was on the church’s Stewardship Committee. “Pastor Rich, I’m calling from the Stewardship Committee, and as you know, we’re having a “Bridge the Gap” Sunday to help us balance the budget. Based on what we know you make, we’d like you to give $120.00 extra on Sunday.” I would probably feel a little funny about that. Wouldn’t you? – if someone from the church called you up and strongly suggested you make a sizable donation next week.
But you see the point, right? I didn’t hesitate to spend $120 on a Patriots game. But I would think twice or at least I’d slow down my thinking if the call was for a donation.
I truly believe that if I only splurge on myself, and never on God or others, I am not spiritually and emotionally well.
The story has a funny ending. The church I was serving was actually having a “Bridge the Gap” Sunday on the exact day of the Patriots game.
People were asked to give an extra gift to the church. I realized that to have any integrity at all, there was an exact amount of money that I had to put in the plate that day. You guessed it, $120.00!!! So that Patriots game ended up costingd me $240!!!!
“God loves a hilarious giver!”
If I’m only generous with myself, and stingy when it comes to God, I’m not well, and my spiritual battery needs re-charging. Giving recharges our batteries. And that’s why God loves cheerful givers!
Think about it. Let’s pray about it.
Generous God, Make us hilarious givers, who give with joy, with hearts filled with gratitude and most of all, love. Amen.