What Kind of Giver Are You?

Posted 5/13/2018

Scriptures: Exodus 35:20-29; 2 Cor 9:6-15; Luke 14:7-14

As we’ve been looking at the nature of stewardship — what it means to be a steward of what God has given us — we’ve seen the first “leg” of stewardship is the fact that all we have and all we are is a gift from God and the second “leg” is   trust in God. It is when we have these two legs in place that we can dare to be generous. Today we are going to look a bit more at just what it means to be a generous giver.

When we think of generosity I’m fairly sure what we think of first is how much someone gives. We talk about Bill Gates and his substantial giving to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the large gifts of that Foundation. Or perhaps we think of someone like Ronald Read, a janitor and gas station attendant, who amassed an 8 million dollar fortune during his lifetime and at his death left 6 million dollars to his local library and hospital. These are generous people — giving huge quantities to worthy causes.

Certainly, such large gifts are important in the work of many charitable and public organizations. Yet, as our Gospel lesson for today indicates, it is not how MUCH one gives that counts. In fact, as our reading from 2 Corinthians says, it is not how MUCH but HOW we give. Do we give out of willingly, as we have made up our mind to do, or do we give reluctantly or under compulsion? That is, do we give because we WANT to give or because we feel we HAVE TO or SHOULD give.

I want to address something some may consider a bit controversial now. I know many who indicate that a tithe is the minimum one should give. And I certainly agree with them in some respects. But I worry a bit about the way tithing is often presented to Christians. I worry about it because it is often presented as if giving a tithe were are duty. Yet, if it is a duty, we are likely to be giving because we feel we HAVE TO or SHOULD give a tithe.

But our giving should not be a matter of meeting a duty — whether that duty is giving a tithe or meeting the budget. It should be a matter of our sober consideration and decision about what is an appropriate amount to give in thanksgiving for all we have received. That means, for me the tithe is more a guide that helps me in thinking about how much is appropriate for me to give. It is not some hard and fast rule — but something that helps me in thinking about how I express my thanksgiving. 

So the first thing for us to keep in mind as we consider what Christian generosity means is that Christian generosity grows out of thanksgiving not duty. Our generosity is our carefully considered giving that expresses our thanks for all God has given us — for all we have and all we are. That is, like the Israelites, we give because our heart is stirred to give — to share — what we have.

The second element of generosity is that because of our thanksgiving to God we give to help others who are in need. In the gospels, Jesus talks about this kind of giving as being like hosting a banquet where we invite not those neighbors who might “repay us” by inviting us to a banquet they throw at a later date. Instead, Jesus says to invite those who have nothing and cannot possibly “repay us” in any manner. In fact, Jesus doesn’t even suggest we invite people who are going to at least “repay” us by at least saying “thank you”! 

And when we look at the context of the passage we read in 2 Corinthians, we discover it is the gathering together of an offering by Gentile Christians to help the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who are in desperate need. Paul says this offering will be not only a blessing to both those who give — because they are practicing generosity — and to those who receive — because they are receiving what they need. But Paul also says this will be a blessing to both those who give and those who receive because it will bind them together in love. By showing their care for the Jewish Christians, they will have demonstrated that Gentiles and Jews truly are brothers and sisters in Christ. 

In other words, our joyful generosity is a way of not only of saying “we care” but also of saying “we belong together.” It is a way of showing that we know that “we” — the “givers” — are bound to “them” — the “receivers” — in a way that means we really can’t be separated. It says we recognize when we belong together, we do things just because we belong together; not to receive thanks or something in return.

Christian stewardship invites us to reflect on the kind of giver we are. Are we generous givers? Do we give joyfully or only out of a sense of duty? Do we give without expecting something in return? Do we give because we recognize we belong together?

What kind of steward, that ism what kind of giver, are you?