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Giving from a Grateful Heart

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When church members know they are going to hear a sermon on giving, they often say, “Here we go again. They’re always talking about money.” Although giving, tithing and stewardship usually are not emphasized more often than any other topic, the response is still the same.

The latest statistics on giving in the United States reveal an embarrassing similarity between giving by Christians compared with the secular world. According to researcher George Barna, in 2004 only 9 percent of born-again Christians tithed to their church (“Giving to Churches Has Declined,” www.thegoodsteward.com, accessed April 28, 2005). What is more enlightening were the reasons:

• Churches have failed to give believers compelling vision for how their money will be used to make a difference in the world.
• Members withhold money from the church because they do not see a sufficient return on their “investment.”
• People are ignorant of what God’s Word says about giving.
• People believe they worked hard for their money and should spend it as they please.

Throughout the history of the Church, giving has always been in the forefront of spiritual teaching. It is mentioned often both in the Old and New Testaments. Yet many churches find themselves in difficult positions financially. Seminars and lessons on giving are often ineffective. Why? Maybe we are approaching the problem from the wrong perspective. No matter how many times church members hear a sermon about giving, only God can touch the heart of an individual to give.

In 2 Corinthians 8:1–15, the apostle Paul talks about the true nature of giving. Because of persecution from both Jews and Gentiles, the members of the Macedonian churches lived in abject poverty. Nevertheless, they pleaded with Paul to let them contribute to a special offering for the saints of Jerusalem. This didn’t happen because of a specific teaching on generosity they had received but because of an inner desire that compelled them to give. In verse 7, Paul lists five characteristics that caused them to want to share their meager resources.

• Faith: they had complete reliance upon Christ for everything in their lives.
• Speech: they lived what they believed.
• Knowledge: they knew the teachings of God and were willing to obey them.
• Earnestness: they were eager to grow in Christ in every area of their lives.
• Love: they would not stand by while people needed the necessities of life. They had the same love the Lord shows to us.

Recently, my wife, Patty, and I had the privilege to travel to El Salvador, where many people have endured poverty their entire lives. Their homes, made of scrap steel with dirt ?oors, were built on the side of a mountain. In a severe rain, the ?imsy structures could be swept away without warning. Yet the people we met were grateful for what they had and were eager to share it with us. Their poverty did not make them angry or bitter but loving and giving. Patty and I know we cannot change the entire situation, but through our giving some lives will be changed. Most of us have so much, yet because of the distractions of life, often we are unable to bless, through giving, the One who has blessed us.

Paul says change the heart and people will begin to give without even being asked. When the heart is not right with God, all the teaching in the world will not change a person’s attitude; only God can do that. Maybe Paul is telling us that if we spend more time making disciples, then our churches will respond the same way the Macedonians did to the needs of the other saints.

In Israel it is the greatest hope of a young Jewish boy to sit at the feet of a rabbi. If he is chosen, he will follow his teacher closely and do everything the rabbi does. A saying in their culture is, “How much dust do you have on you?” It means that you need to follow the teacher so closely that his sandals throw up dust all over you. How much dust do we have on us from the Master? When we are dusty, giving will take care of itself.

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