2 Corinthians 8 & 9
Five Principles of Biblical Generosity
This sermon conveys steps for people who are ready to begin the journey toward being a generous giver.
Stewardship -- 2008
2 Corinthians 8 & 9
Five Principles of Biblical Generosity
by Pastor Glen Taibl
Prior to coming to Incarnation to be one of your Pastors, I was a major gifts officer for Luther Seminary. I helped people to create gifts in support of our seminary. We needed to raise approx $5M each year for the day-to-day operation of the school.
One of the things that happened to me on a personal level is that I came into contact with some incredibly generous people. You would like them. They are happier and more positive than the average person. They are usually quite clear about their priorities and how these priorities are informed by their commitment to Jesus and are deeply faithful to the Gospel. They know Christ's presence.
Their spirit is infectious, and it impacted us as a family in increasing a commitment and vision for how we live out of a faith-center in the time and place we are living. I wanted to come back into the parish so that we can spread this infection of faithful living.
Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians truly captures much of what I have seen in the daily lives of generous people. This morning, I would like to share Five principles of Biblical Generosity with you that are based on Paul's letter. These are very practical and I hope that you will find them to be as helpful to you as they are to Rebecca and to me.
Let me tell you first about the Macedonians:
- They were poor...dirt poor
- Lived in what is now northern Greece -- barren land and with few opportunities for trade and industry...still that way.
- However, Paul took a collection from them for the poor at Jerusalem, and this is what he said:
"I want you to know, brothers and sisters....begging earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints. They gave as much as they could...beyond their means... Because they wanted to give witness to their Lord..."
As Paul says, "And this not merely as expected; they gave themselves to the Lord."
The first principle of Biblical generosity: GIVE YOURSELVES TO THE LORD.
- Not as a way to gain favor with God or to guarantee your salvation but because you are the Lord's: you are saved and loved. Surrender yourselves to who you are in Christ and celebrate what it means to be a child of God.
- Our definition of Stewardship at Incarnation is that Stewardship is the management of Life with Jesus Christ at the Center. It impacts all of our relationships: God, others, self, and creation.
The truth is we surrender ourselves to so many things that we risk the loss of our identity. In a practical way, what will it take for you to surrender yourselves to Jesus Christ first?
Paul goes on to say: "Now as you excel in everything...we want you to excel also in this generous gift...do what is right in the sight of others."
Second Principle: GENEROSITY IS A PROOF OF FAITH.
- Did you catch this? It isn't only in the sight of God but of others. Let me see you as a faithful person.
- Let me see your action congruent with your words.
- In my experience, generous people don't have this as a goal. It is an outcome.
- There was a police officer following a driver. She cut between cars, raised a digit on her hand in response to some angry honking, she followed a car at 6" from the back end. Shook her fist- pulled her over.
- There are people who can talk so graciously about their faith and give so little. It hasn't caught yet.
- What we do serves as a witness within the community and beyond.
- I am so proud of this congregation for how your respond to things like FMSC. Incarnation is gracious.
For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what you have and not according to what you have not.
Third principle: YOU GIVE FROM WHAT YOU HAVE.
- What an opportunity. Take inventory; take stock of what you have. Inventory everything: family, assets, decisions you've made for faithful living.
- Giving in the US has dropped to less than 2% of annual income: people have a lot, but they haven't given much.
- One vice-presidential candidate gave a total of $740 last year which was up from the $240 the year before.
- Walter Brueggemann has said that this is a sign of living in scarcity in the midst of God's abundance. When you live in scarcity you are scared and stingy, self-centered and narcissistic.
- The positive: We don't have to live this way. It is an invitation to another way of seeing things.
- Break out now: be a giving person according to what you have.
Back to Paul, it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something. Now finish doing it.
Fourth Principle: CREATE A PLAN FOR GIVING AND GENEROSITY.
- Faithful people need to have a spending plan. A spending plan reflects your faith. (Principle one: give yourselves to the Lord.)
- A week ago Thursday, the USA Today newspaper reported that 44% of Americans spend $1.22 for every dollar they earn. That is their plan.
- I want to tell you it isn't the high cost of living that's killing us. It's the cost of living High.
- It isn't the high cost of living that is killing us. It is the loss our identity as Christ's people.
- I am going to share with you a very basic plan. Plan to have a spending plan and let that plan reflect your faith and God's abundance.
I am going to do a disclaimer here. When we first began to tithe we gave 5% of our income to the congregation and then 5% to many other things:
- Bible camp
- Colleges we had attended
- Luther Seminary
- United Way
It has changed over the years, but the goal of living out of God's blessings was the focus.
Each of you must give as you have made up your minds, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Fifth Principle: GIVE FREELY AND CHEERFULLY.
- Don't give under compulsion. Paul didn't want to coerce people into separation of their money from their persons. Some of you may not be ready.
- You are saying, "The church is always asking for money."
- "I have a lot of other obligations."
- "I am just not ready to make this stuff the center of my life."
This is only an invitation for a way of seeing things, but it is scriptural. Tuck it away. Read the text. Pray about it.
One does get to cheerfulness.
No matter what, 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.
Glenn Taibl is a stewardship leader, a member of the Financial Stewardship Team at Luther Seminary.
Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa (ignaciogarcialosa.com) via Flickr. Used by permission.