Theme:           Giving
Text:               
Matt 22 vs 34 -40, 2 Cor 8 vs 1-15

 

Preaching on giving is a bit like an invitation to the dentist who has run out of anaesthetic. I almost feel unable to speak and quite nervous. The trouble is I'm not too sure why I feel so uncomfortable. Is it because it is very English not to speak of money? Is it because I  feel I do not give enough? Or is it because I know you have been made uncomfortable in the past about giving money? Aware that many of you give & do so generously & sacrificially

 

 It may be that the church of England  has a recent reputation of always asking for money. A Bishop was preaching on the evils of storing up riches. 'You must not think that you are in this world  to solely for the purpose of making money' he thundered. This was good newsworthy stuff and the sermon was reported by the press. Unfortunately someone added a full stop in a critical place, so that the Bishop was reported to have said 'You most not think'.FS 'You are in this world solely for the purpose of making money'

 

The church is NOT a money making organisation, the church is the willing servants of Jesus Christ.  The Church, this church is God's church not ours & whatever we do & however we do it, we do in the name of Jesus Christ.

 

There is a view that the church will do almost anything to get money,

The story goes that there were two brothers, both very rich, money gained from shady deals. They were corrupt, immoral and clever, so they had never been caught out, but continued to set great store by their apparent respectability. The only one who really knew what they were like was the local Vicar, who never publicly exposed them.

 

One day a brother died, the vicar was asked to do the funeral, as he sat with the surviving brother who said he realised that the church needed toilets, space made for the proposed expansion of the church, and the leak in the nave, so the check book was produced, the estimated cost agreed and the check was made out for  twice the amount  ... but there was a condition. "At my brothers funeral I want you to say he was a saint. The Vicar promised. Banked the cheque.

 

At the funeral, the vicar let rip, 'You all know that this man was a liar, cheat and a crook and he never did an honest deal in his life. Mind you he went on , ' compared to his brother, he was a saint' .... This church must never be accused of getting money at any cost. My view of giving is that (a) It should be a response to God & His command & (2) Giving be proportional. That is to give what you can, in response to what God has given you.

 

My hope is that God will speak to you through me and that whatever you do may be a response to God, a response to what He  has done for you, rather than any, obligation or irritation  you may feel towards me.

 

And what has God done for you? Well maybe you feel He has done nothing, in which case this sermon will leave you cold.

 

But I know that Jesus Christ who was so-so rich,  so  utterly complete, so utterly at peace, became so poor, identifiable with the most abject refugee in the poorest of circumstances, born in the smell and muck of a damp cave. Why?

 

So that I might become rich.

So that I might claim to be a child of God.

 

Jesus made it possible for God to have me back as one of His own children. Under these circumstances, for which I am so grateful, for which I so freely entered into, I know I owe Him everything.

 

Perhaps that is why I feel uneasy in speaking to you all about giving money.  I owe God so much, yet I am aware also that I do not give all, so what right do I have to ask you to consider your giving?

 

Well I believe that it is a part of my calling as a (priest) minister an Ambassador. It is to point the way, to expound the Christian way. To encourage you to walk in that way. And to walk in that way with you.

 

But for me, to preach on giving is most difficult. So I stand before you most humbly. and base my view on giving, theologically upon the 10 Commandments.

 

It's this passage from Matthew 22vs 34 -40 , Jesus' summary of the 10 commandments. The 10 com. fall roughly into two sections the first section 1-4 is our response to God the second 5-10  a response to one another and Jesus summarised the 10 in those words from Matt. 22.

 

The original question had been posed by a Theologian, not for information or the truth but to try to catch Jesus out, to trap Him.

 

And  this same question been asked, in a modified way at any PCC. "what is the most important thing this Church has to do" ?

 

To day I need to come to you and ask again

What is the primary purpose of  the church?PAUSE

 can any better answer be given than that of Jesus??

 

"To love God and to love our neighbour"

 

Last week Simon preached from James, 3/4 through he quoted James pointing out two main themes

 

First we shall all be called to give account to God for the way we have used our recourses. James' criticism is that the rich have hoarded what God has given rather than use it to support the wider community.

 

The second theme is that God will condemn the rich for their failure to use their resources to help others, not for being rich, but principally on the grounds that they have not recognised that everything comes from God, and that they have selfishly utilised God's gift.

 

Here again is the theme, God first and then those around us. This is the way a church grows, it is the way God's people honour God, and God honours His Church. But honouring God & our neighbours is not easy it makes a demand upon us.

 

Being a Christian is a great demand. When Jesus said follow me, what did He mean?

 

Was arranging flowers in the church His main objective?,

was it to ensure that the Vicar uses the right prayers or wears the right colour scarf?

 

Somehow I do not think so. That is not to say that the flower arranging has no importance, But I do believe Jesus was making a demand upon us..

Not something easy, simple, without struggle or cost.

Being a committed Christian, is expensive, not particularly in terms of money but in the struggle to maintain integrity between what we say and what we do. To be able to live our theology. To actually life as the people of God.

 

The Iona Community has as a mission

 

'A demanding Common Task'

 

Jesus brought into being a community with a Demanding Common Task. It was to Honour God and to Honour our neighbours.

 

How do we do that??

How do you honour God with your resources?

 

There has been an advert in our weekly sheet, a plea for support, for help with Kingdom Kids, because we have lost two key workers amongst children. We have agreed to appoint a youth worker, we have agreed that we need to have better facilities for a growing church, a place where we can allow K.K to be taught and worship. We also desperately need toilets.!! These are just some of our needs. All these tasks require resourcing ...

         

and our Annual Accounts show that we have been  running at a deficit of about £3.5k pa for some time

 

Why? Well because giving has not kept up with Church growth & with the mission of this church.

 

Now, St.Boniface is an amazing church in many respects, and in one particular way the  passage from 2 Cor 8 read by .......... , (it's about Christians giving) and  reflects us.

 

Paul writing to the Church in Corinth was explaining that the church in the other diocese of Macedonia, was so desperately poor that he & the other apostles had decided not to ask them to contribute to the desperate need of the  church in Jerusalem which was suffering terrible persecution from the Romans. 

 

But the Macedonian church surprised everyone by first demanding that they should contribute, objecting to being classed as the poor relations, from whom little should be expected  and then surprised everyone further by their very generous giving, more in fact than anyone thought possible.!

 

In some ways this reminds me of this Church, St Boniface. Not in terms of poverty but in your generosity.

 

I clearly remember the spontaneous appeal made here on a Sunday in April last year for the people  of Mozambique & receiving £1000 on that one day.

When the church felt it right to take the lead in drawing the Villages attention to the fact the millennium is about Jesus Christ, £15k was raised in a matter of months, and the window is there for you all to see, 'Jesus the light of the world'

 

No it's not your compassion, or generosity  that concerns me, I am well aware that when you recognise a need you are most generous, my concern, is the 'regular commitment' of giving  and the 'equality' of giving.

 

Paul in speaking to the Corinthians as their leader set out some principles of giving.

 

What's surprising, no, stunning, is that he does not totally agree with the idea that 'Tithing' is the only way to give. I'm delighted with this because deep inside it's always been a bit of a burden to me personally. Please do not misunderstand me. Tithing is an excellent PRINCIPLE, that is to give a base line 10% of our basic income, it's a convenient rule, it stems from the OT. But their are 'limits to giving' there is appropriate and in appropriate

 

And it is here I need you to hear me, I believe most earnestly in the principle of regular giving. It is important that it is regular, so that we the church may budget properly,  but each of us here should only give in proportion of what we have.

 

Some can and will give a lot more than others simply because they have more. For others the smaller amount will be an equal proportion to those who have more. Hence a principle of equality of proportional giving.

 

I am advocating a  principle that each should give in proportion to what they / we have.

 

For some this will be 10% of their income, but that is not for everyone.

 

I believe each of us should give what we are able to give, not restricting ourselves to 10% but to give because we are able to give, AND because we want to give.

 

For some to give 10% would actually be crippling, and would lead to poverty in a scale greater than can be lived with. Whereas others to give a tithe would mean very little of their personal wealth or income.

 

Paul Freed was president of Trans world Radio. A Christian broadcasting station , whilst in Poland he was introduced to a Cxtn widow who lived in a simple one roomed shack in a dusty village near Warsaw. The lady told how she for the first time heard about Jesus Christ on a friends wireless,

 

"I cannot tell you what joy I had when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and saviour that night". Paul was pleased , & was about to leave when she held him by the sleeve & asked why there was only one broadcast a week for 30 million Poles who did not know Christ?   "Because there is no money" he replied

 

The woman walked to a corner of her room & from a crevice removed a tattered envelope & offered what was obvious all the money she had.  Paul refused it.

She looked directly at him, & with the dignity of a queen said. "Sir I'm not giving it to you, I am giving it to Jesus Christ"

 

I guess I'm looking for equality amongst God's people, I believe that is what Paul was driving at. The poor Macedonians gave a huge amount. They gave themselves to God first and then responded to the need. Then they  were able to give generously, more than was expected by the apostles, but it did not cripple them. Paul then looked to the richer church in Corinth and saw that they were too cautious, perhaps because they had more to be cautious about.

 

But there is another underlying and far more important principle and one I uphold absolutely.

 

Of course this principle is for Christians only.

 

 It is to give, out of a grateful heart. This principle stems from the answer to a question that I would like each of you to  consider for yourselves, it is 

What is Jesus Christ's death for you, worth??

 

As you consider this question, here in church, worshipping God. I ask you also to  consider what worship means to you.

 

The word worship, means to serve, we serve that which we deem to be of worth. To give worthship If Jesus  is of inestimable worth to you, you will worship him. Let me assure you whatever you truly hold to be of great worth that you will truly worship.

 

We worship God because we some how, at different levels, experienced God, are experiencing God, want to experience God more, and all this has happened because somewhere along our life line, someone has shared the wealth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with us,

 

perhaps through this church. In response to what God has given us through other Christians could we not be encouraged to give back so that others may hear what we have heard?..

 

The leadership of this church has committed it's self to allowing this church to grow, not allowing it to be stifled through a lack of committed giving, or lesser ambitions taking priority..

 

There is always a cost in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.

The cost is principally  personal sacrifice, time, commitment, prayer, and to maintain personal integrity.

 

The giving in this church is not good. I do not know why, perhaps because I have not had the courage to preach on the subject, perhaps we have not seen just how much the church is growing and it's future objectives, till now have been unknown.

 

I do know that the money is not wasted, nor inadequately managed. It is just not sufficient to meet today's need nor tomorrow's objectives.

 

Our command is to tell others about Jesus Christ just as  someone told us. There are a host of amazing and important things we could do, a full time youth worker, facilities for children, youth and the house bound.

 

However it is for none of these reasons that we ought to give more.

 

I have no desire to make any appeal for money on the grounds of need, nor  to encourage reluctant worshippers to give to God's work, but much rather for you to give in response to what God has done and has given you.

 

What have any of us got that we have not received?

 

If you feel that God has given you all that you have,

health, wealth, life, hope and eternal life, perhaps the question is

 

How much of God's money should I keep for myself?

 

God will never, ever be in debt to anyone, be sure that if you give with an open thankful heart to God you will never lack for anything

We are the body of Christ

 

Everything I have has been given to me,  and like the beggar I am I just want to share what has been given to me with my neighbour.

 

 

Rick