Today Pastor Choi talks about another mark of Christ’s disciples: Give generously. He exhorts the congregation to honor the LORD with their giving realizing how critical giving is in the life of believers. He also points out that liberal giving allows us to meet the living God and that every type of giving to the LORD ought to be acceptable to Him.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Give Generously: Be Christ’s Disciple (5)
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
9 Honor the Lord from your wealth
And from the first of all your produce;
10 So your barns will be filled with plenty
And your vats will overflow with new wine.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Recap: In the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about what distinguishes Christ’s followers from mere church goers. The marks of Christ’s disciples are: put Christ first (before anybody or anything else), separate from the world (be transformed daily by the renewal of mind), be steadfast (our life is built on Christ the Rock), serve others (we fulfill God’s will by serving others to build up their lives). Today we are going to think about another characteristic of Christ’s follower: Give generously.
Reason for the sermon: Today, in America, the average believer has a poor attitude towards giving, if not negative, due to their poor understanding on giving. I want to change their perspective on giving with my sermon this morning.
I also want to make clear one thing before I proceed: I am not doing this sermon because our congregation needs more money. In fact, I am glad that I talk about this topic when our church is in a good financial shape; actually we are doing better than the last year. I give thanks to God for His provision. I also thank you for your generosity in giving.
Let me repeat: I am not doing this message to ask for more money from you. That’s not my intention this morning. Rather, the purpose of the sermon is to help you to understand how critical giving is in your life as Christ’s follower: show me a person who is a genuine disciple of Christ, then I will show you a person who is very generous in giving (not necessary in the absolute amount but rather in proportion to the income). No matter which way we may put, the level of commitment in giving gives away the depth of our faith and commitment to the Lord. Remember what Jesus said: where your money is, there’s your heart (Matthew 6:21). Young Christians must learn early to give to the Lord as they grow in faith. The life of a faithful giver must begin with a sound understanding on giving.
Reasons for Giving: The Scripture commands us to give generously to the Lord. When it comes to giving, I have been practicing it for 40 years. From the day when I gave my first tithe to the Lord until today, my joy and level of giving has not diminished at all. In fact, it has increased as I have grown mature in understanding of what my giving means to the Lord and to His Church.
Let’s be honest with ourselves this morning and ask the question: why do I give? Why do you give? Why do people give? Here are some possible answers to the question: some folks give tithes to the Lord simply because God commands them to (Malachi 3). They don’t think twice. They don’t ask why. They just do it, because God says so. Others give because they love the Lord. More others give to the Lord, because they want to support God’s church to advance God’s kingdom here on earth. Many more others give, convinced that giving is a good thing; it’s a good thing to share God’s blessings with others. And, all of us believe that giving is good because whenever we give, we feel good about ourselves. Giving is more blessed than receiving (Acts 20:35). I thought I have listed all the possible reasons for giving to the Lord, well, until I read today’s text.
Honoring the LORD: Proverbs 3:9 offers us one more excellent aspect of giving that few of us are aware of: giving is an act of honoring the LORD. In other words, each time we give to the Lord, we obey His command in Proverbs 3:9. And, each time we obey His command, we honor God. Please stay with me as I continue unpacking the verse Proverbs 3:9.
Command: First, look at the verb ‘honor’ in verse 9. It is an imperative. It is a command. It is not a suggestion or an option. The LORD commands us to honor Him with our offerings. This command is not just for a few godly people. It is a command for all; rich and poor, male and female, old and young, baby Christians and mature Christians. It is even given to those who live paycheck-to-paycheck. It is for everyone who confesses his/her faith in Christ. We are called to honor God by giving.
Think with me about the meaning of Hebrew verb (kabad— ‘honor’) here. Yes, that’s the same verb used in the context of ‘honor’ your mother and father (Exodus 20:12). The root of the verb ‘honor’ carries the meaning of glorifying someone (in this case, God). To honor God means to glorify Him; to glorify Him means to make Him pleased with and proud of what you do, in this context, with our giving. Simply put, do you want to honor and glorify God? Then, take giving seriously.
Here’s an analogy. We are called to honor God in our lives like the athletes honor their mother countries by winning medals in the Olympics. E.g. Have you lately watched the Sochi Olympics, especially the medal ceremony? As the winners stand on the stand, medals and flowers are presented to them. Then, the national anthem of the gold medalist is played as her national flag is being hoisted. Often, the camera zooms in on the face of the winner and we see the winner’s eyes welled up with joy and pride. In that very moment, the gold medalist’s emotions are flooded with pride because she has honored her country. That’s the meaning of honoring and glorifying. As the winners honor their mother countries with medals, we too honor our Heavenly Father with our giving. We seldom think or practice that way, though. On any given Sunday, many of us just drop the offering envelopes or a few dollars in the offering plates without any thoughts. Next time, as you do it, remember that you are honoring the Lord with your giving. Do it so with pride and joy!
Encounter the Living God: There’s a great advantage of liberal giving, too. When we give generously to the Lord, it opens wide the door of opportunity to experience the living God in often unforgettable ways: the more sacrificially you give to the Lord, the higher chance you have to encounter God who not only knows your needs but also provides them according to His riches (Philippians 4:19).
Imagine two individuals this morning: Mr. Stingy and Mrs. Generous. Mr. Stingy claims that he is a believer in Jesus. Each time he goes to church, he drops a couple of dollars in the offering. It’s not that he doesn’t have money. On the contrary, he has plenty of money to live comfortably for the rest of his life; over a million dollars in his bank accounts. Yet, he doesn’t believe he has enough. Most of the time, he doesn’t feel any need of God thinking “Why would I need God when I am well taken care of by money?” (I think that is the biggest curse on the wealthy) Such a life-style deprives him of the chance to meet the living God in person.
Now, let’s think about Mrs. Generous. She lives paycheck-to-paycheck: many a time she feels that she has no money to spare let alone give to God. Yet, somehow, she decides to give anyway. You know what’s going to happen to her? She will definitely meet the living God in an unforgettable way. Here’s one person who just did that. E.g. Brother Andrew (author of God’s Smuggler), after giving his last money to a homeless friend, received in the mail the same amount of money for his tuition in the nick of time! Had he not given away the money to his friend that afternoon, I am sure he would have continued on his walk with God, yet he would have definitely missed the great opportunity to know such an awesome God. Never would he have learned to totally rely on God for his finances!
Acceptable to the LORD: One more very important aspect of giving is this: any type of giving to the Lord ought to be acceptable to Him. We must give Him the best of all, because God always looks into the heart of the giver. The giver’s heart must be right with God in every giving. Now, it is true that God blesses those who honor Him with their giving; however, blessings must not be the main reason why we give to the Lord. The wealth, and becoming rich, is never the purpose of our giving. It can’t be the ulterior motive for our giving. E.g. I want to live in a mansion, so, I give tithes. Wrong. I want to drive a Rolls-Royce, so I give 10% of my income. Wrong. I want to win 20 million dollars from the lottery, so I promise God that if I win, I will give the half of my winning. Wrong. You never use your giving as bait for more returns from God. Giving is not a way of fattening your portfolio. E.g. At one church finance workshop, someone complained to the speaker that her church refused to accept her offer of the half of her winning if she won the lottery. The speaker said he would have no problem of accepting the offer. I had to differ with the speaker on this, because such a donation lacks righteousness in the sight of God. It is as wrong as accepting donations from a pimp who keeps his business going while he gives a regular donation to the church out of his guilt. Every type of giving to God must be in sync with God’s righteousness. I say so, because the Scripture says so.
Honor God with righteousness: In the Septuagint Bible (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scripture), the same verse Proverbs 3:9 reads as follows: Honor the LORD from your righteous labor/hard works and from the first fruits of righteousness. Lottery earnings and gambling are never honorable before the Lord, because they fail the litmus test of righteous labor and hard works. So do donations through prostitution; those monies extorted from the victims are not right with God.
Giving is a Heart Matter: One more thing. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul the Apostle briefly points out the eternal spiritual truth: whatever we sow, and however we sow, we will reap accordingly. Sow sparingly, reap sparingly. Sow bountifully, reap bountifully. Don’t expect otherwise. Everything we do and say, and everything we give to the Lord, we will harvest in the Day of the Lord. Paul also points out to a right attitude in our giving. Give it cheerfully. Give it from your heart.
Action point: Starting today, each Sunday, as you drop your offerings in the plates, remind yourself by saying, “Lord, I am honoring you today by giving this offering to you. This is my best! It is from my heart! May it be acceptable in your sight. Amen.”