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05.21.17 Giving God our Hearts Through Money 2 Corinthians 8:1-7 with Luke 21:1-4 Sermon Summary

by on May 22, 2017

We’ve had some problems with water at the church recently. It’s a reminder of what God calls us to be and do.

Summary Points

  • The metaphor of the water
  • A review of percentage living through prayer, worship and Sabbath, and service
  • How percentage giving moves our hearts closer to God
  • The Circles of Faithful Influence and the consecration of our lives
  • Jesus, the Widow, and percentage living
  • Excelling in the ministry of the saints and to the saints

Through some clogged up downspouts and inwardly slopped walkways, the recent rain and snow storms caused water to seep into the church. It’s supposed to flow away towards the neighborhood. If we don’t fix this, the inward seeping water will cause our building to deteriorate and require extra maintenance. This will naturally limit our ability to do ministry.

The same can be said of our streams of financial revenue. They’re not supposed to remain in the church. They’re supposed to flow through our congregation and overflow into our surroundings. Paul’s invitation to the Corinthians offers guidance on how we do that.

The past four weeks we’ve been talking about “percentage living” based on Paul’s testimony that the Macedonian church, “Gave themselves first to God, and, by the will of God, to us.” We started by facilitating giving God a percentage of our day in prayer.

Then we talked about giving a percentage of the week through worship and Sabbath. We noted that work and sleep constitute about 30% of our week each, and that Sabbath and worship together equal about 15%.

Next we talked about giving a percentage of our lives in service to others. Through Faith Church, that service looks like hosting homeless families, leading worship through music, serving as elders and deacons, providing meals for homeless youth, and leading other congregational ministries.

More routine service includes attending the nursery, assisting in worship, and being a greeter or usher. If just a handful of those of us who are not already serving signed up for one or two Sundays a year, they would discover their faith life deepening, it would build relationships and diversify our leadership, and we could redirect our energies from recruiting for these services to a new ministry. Just a thought.

Finally this week, we’re talking about how we give God all of our heart through a percentage of our money. In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches that we ought not put our treasures in places subject to loss and deterioration, but rather to invest them in heaven where such things do not occur. “For wherever your treasure is,” he says, “there will your heart be also.”

Percentage giving is like percentage living. It starts by prayerfully deciding in advance what to give, and deciding where to give. A faithful investment (“in heaven”) promotes the Kingdom of God and its values in the world. To help think through the distribution and reach of your charitable giving, consider the Circles of Faithful Influence brochure.

Then, as in percentage living, when we practice percentage giving, we look for and discover God’s delight throughout the rest of our lives.

“Isn’t percentage living and giving a copout? Isn’t it an unholy compromise?” some will ask. In fact it’s just the opposite.

No one, except (maybe) an anchoritic monk, can give 100% to God. We have to acknowledge that reality. So what we do is give a percentage. All of us who give are already giving percentages whether we have intended to or not. Percentage living and giving simply brings the practice to conscious deliberation. We start with a manageable percentage, and God works with that and eventually increases it through the influence of the Holy Spirit.

This is why Paul says of the Macedonians first that, “they gave according to their means”: That’s the manageable percent. Then he adds, “and even beyond their means”: That’s the Spirit-directed increase.

Percentage living and giving is not an unholy compromise, but a holy sanctification. It takes the guilt out of not living and giving to God, or feeling like we’re not living and giving enough, and instead provides a step by step consecration of our lives.

I suspect Jesus himself practiced percentage living. The accounts of his life come from the Gospels which were written to inspire faithfulness. They include only the highlights of Jesus’ life of faith as examples to us. They cover only the last one to three years of his life, with the exception of the birth narratives and his Passover celebration at age twelve.

What was he doing the rest of his life? Even if we want to believe that Jesus gave 100% to God the last years of his life, he probably worked up to that by percentage living. I wonder if the widow’s offering was his final inspiration. Approaching his last Passover celebration, Jesus watches her give her two copper coins, “all she has,” and finds in it an example of what he must do. After a life of practicing percentage living, he was prepared to follow the widow’s example and offer 100% to God.

Paul encouraged the Corinthians to participate in the “generous undertaking” of providing for the impoverished Jerusalem church. He invites them to participate in ministry of the saints—percentage living in service to others as the Macedonians have done; and in ministry to the saints—percentage giving in the offering for Jerusalem.

Paul was bold to ask because the Corinthians already excelled “in faith, speech, knowledge, eagerness, and love.” He will boast of these excellences to the Macedonians in next chapter. As the Macedonians excel in giving, Paul urges the Corinthians to excel here also.

Likewise, Faith Church excels in many areas. Examples of these are included in our narrative budget. My prayer is that we may excel in giving also—to expand the reach of our narrative budget and your Circles of Faithful Influence. I hope we will increase our participation in the ministry of the saints, and in the ministry to the saints, through percentage living and giving.

Please return your percentage living card and percentage giving card to the church by Pentecost Sunday, June 4, or any time the Spirit moves you.

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