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Hilarious Giving

October 19th 2014 by Joel Schultz

Today is the third week of the "Inspire" phase of out Immeasurably More capital campaign. We hear the encouragement of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 and the principles laid out for earnest, cheerful, and generous giving. Read or listen to find out more....

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Capital Campaign Inspire Sermon 3 – “Hilarious Giving” – 2 Corinthians 8:1-8; 9:7-9 – October 19, 2014 This is a remarkable text. It almost seems full of contradictions. Poverty and abundance; affliction and generosity; voluntarily gave beyond their means; begging for the privilege in the midst of their ordeal. And three words that seem to pop up again and again: eagerness, generosity and joy.

Of course, the best known verse in this text is the one that says “God loves a cheerful giver.” The Greek word for “cheerful” is the word from which we get “hilarious” – a “hilarious” giver – not a word we usually associate with the offering. However, if you travel to Lutheran churches in other cultures you may well witness an offertory procession of members joyfully dancing to the altar with their gifts of money and food for the poor. We less emotional American Lutherans might be more inclined towards the bumper sticker that says, “God loves a cheerful giver … but He will also accept gifts from a grouch!”

In this text Paul is working to collect an offering for Christians who are suffering in and around Jerusalem due to famine and persecution. What was important for Paul in the collection of the offering was that he didn’t want gifts from grouches. The gifts he sought were not under compulsion, but from cheerful givers. The reason for such cheerfulness was the “grace” that God had given to them, God’s free gift of life, hope, forgiveness of sins, and salvation in Jesus Christ their Lord.

The word “cheerful” has always had an association with a person’s countenance or “face.” We usually identify a cheerful person – or a grouch – by the look on their face. What is important to understand is that a cheerful face is driven by a grateful heart. Only people who are truly thankful on the inside will show true joy on the outside. Likewise, cheerful, generous giving can only happen when it is motivated by the heart. “Each one,” writes Paul, “must give as he has decided IN HIS HEART, not reluctantly or under compulsion.”

Paul lifts up the example of the Macedonians as people who were filled with eagerness, generosity and joy – people who were cheerful givers. The motivation for that cheerful giving, he says, comes from the grace of God. He says in chapter 8, verse 9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Paul is not talking about money here. It is pretty clear that the Macedonians did not have much money. What they did have was life, joy, hope, salvation, meaning, purpose and a direction in life. And in gratitude for that, they were willing, yes, even eager, to give everything they had for the sake of the gospel.

We at Beautiful Savior have been celebrating a vibrant ministry and the potential for expansion of that ministry during this “Immeasurably More capital campaign. I started counting all the ministry and outreach activities that take place here and counted into the dozens. And now our Immeasurably More campaign will enable us to increase the visibility and outreach to the neighborhood with a new playground, increase our hospitality and fellowship capacity with an expanded narthex, and connect even better to God’s gifts in worship with improvements to this worship space.

These ministries were all developed and sustained by people who have grateful hearts. In response to the message of the cross, ordinary people have given incredible amounts of time, energy and resources to do extraordinary things. The budget to sustain this ministry is over $900,000 a year. The coming year will again need your generous support because God keeps expanding our ministry.

What gets in the way of cheerful and generous giving is fear. Perhaps it is the time we live in which has hardened many hearts. Worried about our present and even more about our future, frustrated by people in the public eye misusing our trust, fearful about terrorists who want to kill us, and concerned for the environment, many individuals have closed their hearts. They don’t want to hear about giving because they are afraid they won’t have enough for themselves. Even if they want to “let go,” their mind screams “hold on.” Logic and reason carefully shield the heart, but the result is a general hollowness inside.

It is the good news of God’s generosity that alone can open our heart, the astounding news that in Jesus Christ, we are both accepted and valued in the eyes of God. It is the chance to live a life filled with confidence now and hope for our eternity that changes everything.

Likewise the ministry of BSLC will continue to be a living breathing witness to Christ’s love as long as we allow our hearts to be filled with gratitude. Each time we realize that the gospel has something to say to both our living and dying, it becomes personal. Each time we sense that “Christ died for me,” our heart is open a little more and as our heart is opened so also our life. We live as did the Macedonians with confidence, joy, humor and grace, giving generously of all that we are and have.

In a couple of weeks, many of us will be making our final decision regarding our commitment to our Immeasurably More capital campaign. As we do, it would help to keep in mind once again these words of Paul that formed our text. In fact, let me suggest that you take home the bulletin and keep it in a place where you can read these words each day.

8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (ESV)

Paul was certain that those words would bear fruit in the church at Corinth. By God’s grace they will also bear fruit here.

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