Paul made an appeal to the Corinthian Church, that might not have gone over very well. He told them that he was coming south and was taking up a collection for the church in Jerusalem, which was experiencing famine. I’m not sure, but it seems like he was hearing some grumbling about having to give to strangers when there were troubles enough at home. In answering them, Paul focuses on the heart of the giver, the provisions of God, and the blessings of giving.
In talking about sowing and reaping, Paul uses the language of the farmer, but he could just as easily have used the language of the investor. If you invest in something of value, you will likely receive something of value in return. If you invest nothing, you get nothing. Jesus understood this principle, because he talks about just this idea in the parable of the Talents. In this parable the one who buries the one talent out of fear of losing it, ends up losing everything (Lk. 19:11-27).
Giving joyfully or cheerfully is a bit like investing. If you’re afraid of the future, you won’t invest. If you’re afraid of God’s future, then you won’t give. By investing cheerfully in the things of God we benefit from the works of God in our midst.
Now, God might not put two Beemers in every driveway, there is the promise of having enough to live faithfully. Although Jesus will occasionally talk about giving up everything to follow him, he doesn’t preach the kind of ascetism that denies the value of the material world. But, both Jesus and Paul speak of keeping things in balance, so that the things of this world don’t rule our hearts. As the author of the book of Hebrews puts it:
Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, "I will never leave you or forsake you. (Heb. 13:5).
But if we truly believe that God is who Jesus said He is, then we do not need to be afraid. When we come to see God as the almighty Creator and our loving Father we can share because we know that He will care for us.2
As this congregation looks forward into future, we’re being called upon to stretch our selves by giving generously so that our ministries can expand. I know that many here are faithful and even sacrificial givers, but you seem to know that when you give you receive in return uncountable blessings, and as we give now we build upon the gifts of previous generations who chose to invest in God’s work in Lompoc.
When we give, we show that we trust God to be our provider. And when we give cheerfully and freely, we do so, knowing that through this act of giving our hearts are opened to God, and our relationship with God is deepened. It is deepened because by giving we put aside the things that get in the way of our relationship with God – the materialism that tells us that we’re not complete unless we have the latest gadget that comes down the pike. Our giving is a recognition that we’re complete in Christ, the giver of every good and perfect gift.
In the next week or so, many of you will receive a letter from the chair of the congregation and the treasurer. This letter will contain an estimate of giving card. By signing that card and turning it to the Financial Secretary, you can make a commitment to give faithfully and cheerfully in response to the many blessings poured out upon you by God. It’s not a bill, it’s simply a call to embrace the kingdom of God.