How Generosity Improves Your Life
We are continuing our sermon series about the prophets. Today we look at Malachi. Like the other prophets, he spoke passionately about people’s giving habits. This sermon about Malachi 3:7-14 shows how shows what the Bible teaches about tithing. We will explore how generosity improves your life.
A Story About Two Bills
One day, in a wallet, a one-dollar bill met a hundred-dollar bill and asked, “I don’t see many like you. What have you been up to?”
The twenty answered, “I’ve been hanging out at the malls, went on a cruise around the world, went to a couple of baseball games, fancy dinners, that kind of stuff. How about you?”
The one-dollar bill said, “You know, same old, same old… church, church, church.” https://unijokes.com/joke-8692/
Today I want to talk about how being a giver can substantially impact your life. Now that we’ve lost most of our viewing audience let me say it’s their loss, not yours. Today we will talk about giving not in terms of what giving will do for the church, but what becoming an intentionally generous person will do for you.
The Benefits of Generosity
Being a generous person helps give you a sense of power. You get to say, “No matter how bad things may seem, I’m going to make a difference by giving to a cause dear to my heart.”
Developing a spirit of generosity in your heart helps you to have a humble and appreciative spirit. You realize your connectedness to others, and you step up to do your part. Becoming generous will help you to be less cynical and stressed-out. You don’t have to carry around a bunch of anger. People who are truly generous in spirit are less uptight and judgmental.
When generosity is your orientation, you are more inclined to forgive and find the good in others.
The scientific community has done considerable research on traits exhibited by the people who report the highest levels of happiness and overall well-being. The qualities of gratitude and generosity rank as crucial factors, regardless of net wealth and income.
The Best Advice About Giving I Ever Received
When I first entered the ministry, a mentor hit me with our passage from Malachi, where it says that withholding tithes and offerings is like robbing from God. In scripture, the baseline assumption was that everyone except those in extreme need would give 10% off the top of their resources. Through the tithes the religious body was charged to help those in need.
My mentor talked about his giving and how he realized that the first tenth of his income never belonged to him. “It’s not mine,” he said, “it’s God’s. And God trusts me to be a good steward and pay it back. If you give it off the top, you are not going to miss it. You can’t miss what isn’t yours. Step forward in faith, and you will see God provides.”
It made a significant impact on me. And I remember that first year filling out a pledge card to make a tithe. I had no idea how we’d make it. I was just out of seminary. The Methodist Bishop had appointed me to a little church that didn’t pay very much. The population of the town was under 200. I had a massive student loan, two young children. There was no place for my wife to get a job. I stared long and hard at that pledge card. But finally, I filled it out for the full tithe of my income. I thought I needed to lead by example.
Giving Brings Joy
He was right. God provides. It was challenging to live within our means, but we managed and developed a generosity pattern and saw that it was never “mine” to begin with. Being generous with money helped me become a more generous, optimistic person in my heart. I can honestly say that I’ve never regretted giving away a single dime or hour of my time for someone in need.
I know in my life-giving is a joyful thing. I am appreciative that I have a job and so many blessings. I see the world’s hurts, and I know that my gifts make a difference in people’s lives.
I’ve often quoted a preacher who said before the offering, “Now we are entering the most joyful part of the service, the offering. It’s the part where we get to respond to God’s love and grace. It’s a way we can do something in faith to make the world a better place.
The scriptures talk about giving from a sense of joy. Second Corinthians 9:6-7 says:
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
I’ve always thought God loves a cheerful giver because that indicates that it isn’t just out of obligation or guilt or trying to get on God’s good side. One commentator observes, “It matters to God that Christian giving always be voluntary. It is not a tax or an obligation. A gift of money or anything else is only called a gift when the giver is not obligated to hand it over.” https://www.bibleref.com/2-Corinthians/9/2-Corinthians-9-7.html
Cheerful givers honestly look at their lives and recognize how God’s goodness has always been part of their story. They are grateful and want to pay it forward and do what they can to help other people.
Through the years, I’ve heard all the objections when it comes to applying faith to finances. I want to mention two of them briefly.
First, “The Church Only Wants our Money”
I’ve heard this one in different forms over the years. Please know that we try our hardest to be a personal church.
Only the treasurer knows what someone gives in a year or pledges. The pastors don’t. We all do our best to connect and provide resources to help you in your faith journey.
- We don’t just want your money. We want your prayers. Prayers have a ripple effect as God’s goodness pours into our community.
- We want your time–to give something of great value is to give your time volunteering. Check the Carillon newsletter, see what is going on and where we need help.
- We want you to be your best self and use faith resources to help make a difference in the world. At Bay Shore Church, we care about you. And how you are. We’re here to help.
Second, “I’m Struggling Right Now.”
Maybe you are uneasy about talking about money because you are really struggling right now. We aren’t here to put guilt trips on anybody or add to their dire circumstances. That’s not what this is about. As I said, the church is supposed to help people who are struggling. Maybe you need help. This year our church has helped several of our families make ends meet. COVID-19 has hit people hard, and we’re dedicated to doing what we can for folks. Let us know if you need help right now.
We’ve all seen the scandals of preachers flying around in their private jets, living in the lap of luxury, while they devise complicated schemes that guilt granny into giving away her life savings. Believe me. We are not that kind of operation. Our church leaders work hard every year, pouring over the budget, looking for ways to live within our means. Every year it’s an exercise in faith to keep moving ahead.
Giving is about Discipleship
Our stewardship campaign is inviting you to consider tithing 10% of your income. It’s a faith step, part of discipleship.
At Bay Shore Church, we emphasize that we are all on a spiritual journey and how you are all welcome on that spiritual journey. So maybe for you, tithing is a goal you can set for yourself and move toward it every year. Perhaps it is about starting somewhere with your gifts and taking that first step.
We encourage you to see giving as part of your spiritual journey. It’s not about what the church needs, but about what it can do for your morale, your sense of gratitude, building a spirit of generosity into your life.
Your Gifts to Bay Shore Make a Huge Impact
Someone once told me people give to what they believe in and the stories that move them. I hope that this year you are as enthusiastic about turning in a pledge as I am.
Throughout this crazy COVID year, countless people have told me how meaningful our church is to them. They’ve found the hope and faith they needed to get through this. It’s the online services and so many more ways–including all of our programs. Volunteers have reached out to our most vulnerable older folks making contact, checking in, and acting on faith.
People are looking for messages of comfort and strength. Our services and music and programs are all designed to that. Right now, there is so much negativity everywhere. People know they can always turn to Bay Shore for a positive message.
Institutions Focused on Unity Are Needed Now More than Ever
We are in this crazy election cycle and see that our country is so divided. In response, we turn to Our Bond of Union, the glue at that heart of our church. We focus on unity despite diversity. We can disagree on so much but still find that commonality of faith. Now more than ever, the world needs what we offer–an unflinching acceptance of people, whoever they are and wherever they are in life’s journey. We live out an ethic of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us and loving our neighbors. We go all out to help those in need. We stand for justice and fairness and equal opportunity for all.
We’re able to do this because we are a grateful people, a generous people who find joy in bringing God’s love and message to bear at all times and places. Thank you for all that you do to make this happen. May God bless us all on this journey and help us to experience the benefits of developing a generous spirit. AMEN
This stewardship sermon was delivered in an online format by Rev. David Clark for Bay Shore Church in Long Beach, California.