Sunday April 13, 2003 | Greg Boyd
12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
As Woodland Hills anticipates the pledge weekend for Growing in the Spirit (May 3 & 4), Greg preached about four principles of church giving.
As Woodland Hills anticipates the pledge weekend for the Growing in the Spirit project (May 3 & 4), Greg preached this morning about four principles of church giving.
First, the gift is in the sacrifice not the amount. 2 Corinthians 8:12 reads, “For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has – not according to what one does not have.” This verse says that what is most important is not the amount of money that a person can give, but rather their motivation for giving. In the kingdom of God, the motivation should be love. Greg has defined love as “ascribing worth to another at cost to oneself.” This is what Jesus’ life demonstrated. He gave us unsurpassable worth by his unsurpassable sacrifice on the cross. The story of the poor widow also demonstrates that the act of giving is not about the money, but about the heart of the giver. (Luke 21:1-4). In contrast to the rich people who contributed out of their abundance, the widow gave all that she had to live on, two small copper coins (worth pennies). Who gave more? From a human perspective, the rich people clearly did. However, from a Kingdom perspective, the widow gave more because her offering cost her more.
Second, Kingdom giving is free from external pressure. 2 Corinthians 9:7 reads, “Each of you must give as you have made up in your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion…” Greg shared that for along time he felt awkward talking about money in church. In general, America’s materialistic and selfish orientation makes the whole topic of giving problematic. Specifically, the church in America has often used guilt and shame to force people to give. For these reasons, it can be easy for a church to respond by not talking about finances at all. However, since the Bible talks extensively about money, this is not a healthy response. A more biblical approach is for church leadership to paint a vision for what the church could become through the faithful use of finances, empower people to follow God’s leading, and then call people to pray. This method encourages an “inside-out” motivation for giving. As people seek God’s will, the Holy Spirit will guide them in how they should give.
Third, Kingdom giving is hilariously joyful. The last half of 2 Corinthians 9:7 reads, “…for God loves a cheerful giver.” Our culture places a premium on receiving and having. However, in God’s economy the real joy is in giving. Through giving, we receive fulfillment. Many verses speak of this upside-down kingdom (see for example, Mark 8:34-35 and 9:35). What is Christ’s example of giving? Hebrews 12:2 states that, “For the joy that was set before him,” Jesus “endured the cross, disregarding its shame.” In addition, John 3:16 reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” God did not give his Son reluctantly, but as a deep expression of love. In spite of tremendous pain, Jesus knew the joy of a reconciled humanity that would come through his death on the cross. Not only does Christ’s sacrifice make salvation possible, but it also serves as an example for us to imitate. What is the joy that is set before us? Where can we anticipate seeing the vision being actualized through our sacrifice? For example, through the Growing in the Spirit project, the joy that is set before us, through building the Youth Center, is providing youth with a fun, safe, and nurturing environment to play and study, and learn about Jesus. In addition, by supporting the building of the New Hope Ministry Center in Cambodia, the joy that is set before us is seeing lives saved both physically and spiritually. Finally, through our support of central city churches throughout the Twin Cities, like The Sanctuary, the joy that is set before us is seeing denominational and racial walls torn down (for more specific information about these and other Growing in the Spirit projects, see www.growinginthespirit.org).
Fourth, God blesses Kingdom giving. 2 Corinthians 9:8 reads, “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.” God delights in our experience of the joy of giving, so he blesses us. In response, we are to bless others. When we respond in this way, God blesses us with more to bless others. In God’s economy, there is no ceiling, and thus the cycle never ends. However, as Greg has stated before, we must not understand this as a magic formula for obtaining riches. In fact, the blessings that God gives us might primarily not be financial. Just as the apostle Paul was calling the Corinthian church to relish the hilarious joy of giving, so also Greg is calling us to participate in and enjoy the Kingdom party of giving for a vision that is much larger than us, and which has eternal significance.