Sunday, January 27, 2008

Not another offering sermon!!!

Just to define the offering sermon if you have been lucky enough to have missed out on hearing one... In some churches (typically of the pentecostal bent) prior to taking up the offering, someone will get up and take some piece of scripture (usually out of context) and use it to try and prevail upon you to give. This is sometimes accompanied by some "Make room for God to bless you" teaching, which suggests that if you clear out space in your bank account God will make a suitable deposit to fill it.

I hate this with a passion and think it is straight from the pit of hell because:
  1. God gives to us out of His graciousness, and because He is a good father who delights to give good things to His children (Mt 7:11), NOT because we bribe Him. We need to get this straight, we love him, we give because He first loved us, first gave to us (1 Jn 4:19). We need to remember it was while we were sinners that He died for us (Ro 5:8), and having given us Christ He will also give us all things (Ro 8:32). He really is FOR US.
  2. If God gave to us because we gave to Him that would be a WORKS based relationship rather than GRACE (Eph 2:8, Gal 3:3). Our giving is a response to our experience of God's grace in our lives. It is one of the good works He has predestined us to do (Eph 2:10) but one we can do only because He first has "created us in Christ Jesus".
  3. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 8:7), not one who is guilt-ridden and fearful that God won't bless them unless they give. Generosity comes out of "overflowing joy" (2 Cor 8:2).

We need to be really really careful about thinking that God blesses us because of what we do. Anything good we do is only because He has enabled us to, so we don't actually get any credit for it. It is His grace that enables us to do good, and His grace that gives to us so bountifully. Everything about the way He deals with us is GRACE.

To believe that God gives us good things because we give financially is analogous to Simon the Sorcerer's mistake. He tried to buy a blessing, the ability to give the Holy Spirit with the laying on hands. In Acts 8:20 Peter's response to this was, "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!"

In Isaiah 55 God describes His economy of blessing. It is an economy of grace, where we can come to Him and buy what we need "without money and without cost" (v1). This is an economy that makes no sense to us, but as God says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" (v8).

I think a biblical stance on this issue is:

  1. God doesn't need our money, the whole earth is His (Ps 50:9-12)
  2. Give because God has already given to us, He provides well for us (Mt 6:25).
  3. Give as a way of loving our neighbour as ourselves (Mt 22:39)
  4. Budget for it (1 Cor 16:2)
  5. Be aware that money can become an idol in our lives, and that we need to make sure that we are serving God not money (Lk 16:13)
  6. Be generous and share (1 Tim 6:18)
  7. Place our hope in God not in finances (1 Tim 6:17)
  8. Remember that all we have is on trust from God to build the Kingdom, we are accountable to Him for 100% of it, not just 10% (Lk 19:12-27).

I would really recommend 1 Timothy 6:3-10, 17-19 on this whole topic of money and giving. And in that context we need to remember that as we live in the West we count as "rich" in comparison with the majority of the world's population.

This whole issue of giving needs to be framed in terms of love for God and love for our neighbours. Love not compulsion.

God bless,

1 comment:

Jaspher said...

Good...Everyone needs to understand this before preaching an offering sermon.