Why Do We Give?

As church leaders we are charged with the responsibility of teaching our people good Biblical stewardship.  In other words, we have to talk to them about how they use their time, talent, treasure and temple to glorify God.  One of the hardest areas that we have to deal with is the issue of giving.  This always a sensitive subject, however, I believe that our focus needs to be more on teaching people “why” they give than “how much they give.”  The truth of the matter is that someone can give a large sum of money but if they give it for the wrong reason it is all for naught.  The reason that we give is far more important to God than the amount that we give.  Turn in your Bible to 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 and let me show you three principle that should guide our attitude in giving.

1.  Our Giving Should Reflect Our Understanding of the Grace of God (v. 1-7)

Paul uses the churches in Macedonia as an example for the Corinthians of how they should give, but notice that the emphasis is immediately on the grace of God.  In the first verse of this passage, Paul says, “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia…”  He then goes on to describe how, even though they were experiencing a time of extreme poverty and a test of affliction, they still had given more generously than anyone would have expected.  This was clear evidence of the grace of God at work in the Macedonians, but also reflects their understanding of His grace.  They gave beyond their means because of their experience of grace.

In verse 2 Paul lays out a rather unusual and unexpected formula for wealth.  We tend to think of wealth only in terms of material blessings and abundance.  But Paul says that  Joy + Sever Affliction + Poverty = Wealth.  This is contrary to everything that we are taught by the world, but it is a fundamental Christian truth.  The Macedonians were poor by the world’s standards but rich in God’s economy.

Understanding the grace of God produces a sense of gratitude and humility in our hearts.  It reminds us that everything that we have has been given to us by God.  We own nothing, it has all been placed on loan to us by God and we are responsible for using everything for His glory.  The deeper we understand the grace of God, the more generous we will become.  As ministers, therefore, our teaching on stewardship needs to begin by thoroughly teaching our people about and celebrating the truth of God’s grace.

2. Our giving must be motivated by the Gospel (v.8-11)

I often say to our church that “Paul never encountered a problem that he didn’t solve through the Gospel.”  The gospel is the primary reference point for Paul’s worldview, therefore, when he was dealing with marriage problems in Corinth he settled them through the gospel.  When he was dealing the relationship between a runaway slave and his owner in Philemon, he fixed the problem by applying the gospel.  It should be no surprise then that when Paul deals with giving that he focuses our attention on the gospel.

In verse 8 he tells the Corinthians that he is not commanding them to give but then in v.9 he immediately turns to the Gospel, “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 by his poverty might become rich.” There is no better example of giving in the history of the world than Jesus giving His life on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin.  Throughout the history of the church those who have understood the gospel the best were also those who were most willing to sacrifice and give all they had to give for His cause.

Honestly, I am afraid that far too often in the church we resort to a worldly, materialistic motivation for giving.  I hear preachers all of stripes and theological persuasions attempt to motivate church members to give so that they will receive back from God.  Recently, I heard a preacher actually quantify the amounts, he would say things like, “God will restore to you 30 times what you give, so if you give $1,000 He will return your gift thirty-fold.”  He then when on to ask, “How many of you could use $30,000?”  As the hands went up all around he then said, “So come and give your seed gift of $1,000 and God will return your investment thirty-fold.”  This kind of plea misses the point of New Testament giving completely.  We don’t give to receive, we give because Jesus gave His life to save us, therefore, everything we have belongs to Him! When we give we are supposed to reflect the gospel, not the basest forms of human greed.

3. Our Giving Should Reflect Our Participation in the Body of Christ (v.12-15)

In these verses, Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are participants in the body of Christ.  He then cites Exodus 16:18 to show that in the wilderness God provided the needs of the children of Israel by sending manna and quail.  It is important to go back and read all of Exodus 16 to really capture the context of this verse.  When you do, you will see that Paul is really saying two things by citing this verse.

First, he is pointing out that God always provides for the needs of His people.  One of the most amazing things about the manna and quail is that every Israelite family has exactly what they needed. Those who gathered much had exactly what they needed and those who gathered just a little had exactly what they needed.  In other words, God made sure to cover their need.

Second, he is making the point that since Corinth had an abundance of material resources while others had less, they needed to give out of their abundance to help those in need.  Furthermore, there would be a day when these rolls were reversed and Corinth would be on the receiving end of Christian generosity.

As we give we need to remember that every member of the body of Christ is called to participate in the life of the church.  Not only does this apply to the local church but also to the church universal.  In the recent years our church here in Illinois has been involved in helping a church in Blanquette, Haitit.  While our church has been able to send large amounts of material aid to the church there, I feel sure that we have received more blessings than we have given.  The dear people of Haiti have done more to teach our people about the gospel and about what it means to live out the gospel than they can possibly imagine.

Conclusion

Christian giving is a reflection of the gospel of Jesus Christ and a basic part of the Christian life.  As Pastors and church leaders we have a responsibility for teaching our people good stewardship.  But as we do, we need to make sure that we teach them as much about “why” they give as “how much” they should give.

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Seven Characteristics of Effective Christian Leadership

What makes an effective Christian leader?  There have been hundreds, maybe thousands of books written on this subject.  I’ve listened to countless sermons and lectures about what it takes to be a good leader.  But I have found no better source for understanding Christian leadership than the Bible.  In the Old Testament, one of my favorite leaders is King David.  Over the past couple of months I have been preaching through 1 Chronicles and have been inspired by the tremendous example of leadership found in King David.  This Sunday night I will be concluding the series by preaching from 1 Chronicles.  As I studied the passage I noticed that there are seven characteristics that David displays here that are vital for every Christian leader.

Effective Christian Leaders…

  1. Understand who is really in control (v.1)- Notice in this verse that David refers to the Temple as a “palace” for the Lord God.  The NIV translates this word as a “palatial structure.”  This is a word used to describe the dwelling place of a King.  By using this specific word, David was reminding the people that there true King was the Lord.  This is the very first issue that every Christian leader must settle in their own hearts.  You minister under the Lordship of Christ!
  2. Make personal sacrifices (v.2-5)– In these verses the Bible says that out of his own treasure David gave 3,000 talents of gold and 7,000 talents of silver.  According to the Wycliffe Bible Commentary the gold would have been worth $1.1 billion and the silver $16 million.  This is an enormous sum of money.  Every Christian leader is called to make sacrifices to be involved in the ministry.  Obviously, Jesus is the greatest example of sacrifice but the Bible is filled with dozens of examples of men and women who set aside their personal comfort and desires to serve God.  Sacrifice is not just a possibility in ministry, it is a prerequisite.
  3. Lead by example (v.6-9)- Notice that before David asked others to contribute he set the example for them.  Whenever I think of leading by example I think of the Apostle Paul who in 1 Corinthians 11:1 says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”  As Christian leaders we need to provide an example for people to follow.  We need to follow the example of  those who have set a positive example of Christian humility and a commitment to the gospel.  As   leaders we must live a life that is surrendered to Christ and set an example of devotion for other people to follow.
  4. Give all of the glory to God (v.10-17)- David was careful in this passage to give all of the credit to God.  In v.14 he says, “For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.”  Effective Christian leaders realize that everything they have and everything they are belongs to God.  But the wonderful news is that we find our greatest purposes and our greatest joy in glorifying God.  So give God all of the credit.
  5. Pray for others (v.18-19)– Christian leaders know the importance of prayer and recognize that one of the greatest investments they can make in the lives of others is to pray for them.  Many years ago I heard a quote by that said, “We move people to God through prayer.”  Christian leaders motivate and move people more through prayer than they do through persuasion.
  6. Worship the Lord (v.20-21) David lead the people to bless God.  This should be the goal of every Christian leader!  Many years ago I was introduced to John Piper’s book entitled “Let the Nations Be Glad.”  In that book he shows that the primary motivation for Christian service is always worship.  This is the thing that God most desire throughout the Bible.  As Christian leaders we need to understand that worship is more than just singing a few songs on Sunday morning and going home.  Worship is a lifestyle of constantly honoring God in everything we do.  As Christian leaders we all have the responsibility of leading people to worship.
  7. Pass the Torch (v.22-30)- David did not try to grasp the reins of leadership but instead passed the torch to the next generation.  As Christian leaders one of our greatest tasks is to prepare the next generation to take our place and then to hand over leadership.  David hands the reins of leadership.  In v.24 the Bible says, “All the leaders and the mighty men, and also all the sons of King David, pledged their allegiance to King Solomon.”  I think that the people’s willingness to follow David is connected, at least in part, to David’s willingness to hand over power and be supportive of his son.  This is one of the hardest things to do in leadership but it is also one of the most important.  As Christian leaders we need to mentor and train the next generation, then we need to hand over the reins, then become their biggest cheerleaders.