We’ve been studying how the power of God transforms all believers through the Holy Spirit so that we in turn can help transform each other and the whole world. The Holy Spirit everyone who follows Christ as Lord a special gift. Romans 12:6-8 tells us tells us the Holy Spirit gives some the gift of Prophecy, others the gift of Serving, or Teaching, Encouraging, Giving, Leadership, or Kindness. Today, we will consider the spiritual gift of giving.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
When I was 21 years old, I started volunteering as a youth counselor at East Cobb UMC in Marietta. We had a wonderful Youth Pastor, Eddie Bradford, who did a wonderful job. I was there as a volunteer to just hang out with the kids, build relationships, and offer encouragement. The kids seemed to respond well and I was truly blessed to be with them. The youth of that church, like most, took several trips every year--a ski trip in the winter, a beach trip in the summer and a few camping retreats throughout the year. It was a great time for each kid to spend focused time building relationships with each other, the youth pastor and volunteers, and of course God. The youth's parents paid a fee to cover the cost of their trips and of course the youth pastor was on the church staff so his cost was covered. However, I was just a poor, broke and starving college kids. My parents weren't even able to help me pay for college (I was working my own way through) so I had no money for youth trips. Some of those trips could cost between $300-500. Thankfully, there were a number of generous sponsors at East Cobb UMC who anonymously paid to cover the cost of any youth or counselor who couldn't pay for a trip. Because of their giving, I was able to go and build deep relationships with the youth and with God. I was never even able to thank those donors, because their giving was intentionally anonymous. But look at what a fruitful investment they made. I have been a minister now for 20 years and those early youth trips were a large contributing factor to my decision to follow this path. So all the lives my ministry has touched is an extension of the financial gifts of those donors at East Cobb. Their investment has born more fruit than they could have ever imagined when they gave. Even my family has been dramatically effected, because all three of my kids and my wife grew up engaged in a parish ministry setting.
Every Christian is Called to Give
Every Christian is called to give. It is built into the very identity of the Christian faith. Jesus paid the ultimate price by dying on the cross in our place. Christ gave his life to save us from sin and death and to offer us enteral life with God. We become a Christian when we surrender to God. We admit we are sinners who desperately need the saving grace of God. We repent of our sin—primarily, the sin of thinking and acting as if our life belonged to us when, in fact, our life belongs to God because He made us and gave us a purpose. So we repent and give our life to Jesus, God’s one and only Son.
Jesus talked about money a lot; more than prayer, sin, heaven, or hell. He talked about money so much because he knew how much people value money. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21). In other words: if your heart truly belongs to Jesus (because you’ve surrendered your life to him), then the things you treasure most deeply (including your money) will devoted to him too. A quick test to see how much you “treasure” Jesus is too look at your finances. What do you spend your money on? How much is yourself? How much is others? How much is given directly to the things that really matter to Jesus?
The biblical standard for giving is 10%. That means if you earn $50,000 per year, you would give $5,000 to Jesus through the Church. This is called a tithe. It was a law in the Old Testament and Jesus confirmed that people should tithe (Matthew 23:23). I encourage all of you to tithe for two main reasons.
First of all, it will bless the Church. If every family here at Pleasant Grove gave a tithe we would have no trouble paying off our mortgage and paying our bills, and we would have plenty left over to do all kinds of incredible, life changing ministry—to kids, youth, adults, even seniors. The simple fact is, the Church cannot reach it’s full potential because all of God’s people do not give what they are supposed to give. That’s just the simple Truth. But there’s another reason you should tithe.
It will bless you. Giving the tithe is a spiritual disciple every bit as important as prayer, reading your Bible, attending worship, and serving. You cannot grow the way God wants you to grow if you are not giving. Period.
So, if you aren’t giving 10% of your income to God through His Church, I encourage you to start. Maybe you don’t think you have the faith or money you need to jump right into 10% giving. Then start with a lesser amount and work your way there. Don’t just talk about it. Make a plan. How will you work your way to 10% giving? How long will it take? One year? Two? Five? Make a plan and then implement it. Perhaps you could start with 3% or 5% and gradually work your way up to 10% in a year or two. It can be done. I know it, because Kelly and I started tithing when we didn’t have any money—in our early 20s when our combined income was probably less than $15,000 a year. The good thing about tithing is when your income is small, your tithing is small. If your income is only $10,000 per year, your annual tithe would be $1,000 per year (or $83 per month or $19 per week). As your income increases, your tithe will increase; but by then tithing will already be part of your habit and you won't have to struggle with it.
Christians are called to begin with a tithe, and then go further. Just because you are already giving 10% of your income doesn’t mean you cross your arms and proudly exclaim, “I’m done! I don’t have to give anymore.” Remember what the old hymn says? “Jesus gave it all! All to him I owe!” Therefore, always look for how you can give more to Jesus. You will find it is a great blessing to give.
The Spiritual Gift of Giving
All Christians are called to give. However, just like some Christians have the gift of music or the special ability to preach, other Christians are empowered by the Holy Spirit with the special ability to give in order to help transform our world. Those with the spiritual gift of giving have a special ability to understand the material needs of others and then give generously beyond the normal standard to meet those needs.
A giver’s basic motivation is to live frugally and save as much as they can so they can give as much as they in order to help others. Givers take special delight in figure out needs that most people overlook and then meeting those needs. Givers delight to find less expensive ways to do things, so that the Church gets the most bang for their buck. A giver’s family often thinks they are cheap—too concerned about counting pennies—but the people to whom they give think they are extremely generous. Saving resources brings a giver almost as much pleasure as giving them, because they regard saving as the key that opens the door to even more resources. They seem to be able to accumulate savings, even in hard times. Lastly, most givers prefer to stay out of the spotlight. They often give anonymously in order to avoid recognition. Their reward is knowing God’s Kingdom is thriving because of their gift.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Givers
Spiritually gifted givers have some great strengths to offer God’s Kingdom. They tend to avoid impulsive spending. They understand authority and expect to be held accountable and diligently hold others accountable. They are usually hard workers with conservative values. They often like to be personally involved in the lives of the people in whom they've invested. Givers manage their money well and hardly ever spend more than they make or incur debt. Givers love to motivate others to save and to give generously.
However, with those strengths come some weaknesses givers should avoid. Sometimes a giver’s efforts to conserve resources can degenerate into being “cheap.” They might sacrifice quality for quantity or even miss a good opportunity altogether because they are unwilling to spend. Spiritually gifted givers sometimes come to care more about the money than what the money can do for God’s work. So, givers need a strong prayer life to know what God is doing and also the faith to give when God calls them to spend on His Kingdom work. Pride can become another great weakness for givers. They may become proud of their great resources and their ability to influence with their money. If offended, givers may resort to withholding their giving as a weapon, letting their feelings interfere with God-given opportunities to give. Furthermore, givers sometimes get too focused on one issue they see as a priority and ignore other issues that may be important to others or may be even more important to God’s Kingdom work.
Do You Have the Spiritual Gift of Giving?
Do you have the spiritual gift of Giving? Do you have a knack for saving money—both by putting it away and also by getting a good deal? Do you enjoy helping others more than spending on yourself? Are you a hard worker with integrity, able to be held accountable for the way you use the resources God gives you? Are you using your spiritual gift to have the greatest impact possible for the Kingdom of God? As we get ready to close, I want you to pray about it.
As we close, I want to share one more story. When I was a young minister—about 26-years-old and just starting out in the ministry. I left a good paying job as the director of quality assurance at 1888 Mills to work as a youth director at a small church. Our first child, Gavin, was just a baby. Part of my job was to lead worship for our church’s youth group. I had an old guitar that was barely adequate. It seemed like it broke a string just about every time I played. Then I’d have to stop the service and take 5 minutes to put anew string on and retune (and you just couldn’t get it tuned right in that type of situation). One of my volunteers, Eddie, called me and said, “Chris, meet me up at guitar center today. I want to buy a guitar and I want your advice…”