The series of sermons on Stewardship continues (this is week 2 of 3) and, in his sermon for 02 September 2018, Rev. Geoff McKee debunks the Money Myth that “it is unpleasant to give”.
Click here if you would like to download a PDF version of the sermon explaining why it is a myth that giving is unpleasant.
You can read the Week One sermon in this Stewardship series on this website here.
2 Corinthians 8:1-7 (New International Version)
The Collection for the Lord’s People
8 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
Mark 14:3-9 (New International Version)
3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
A mother wanted to teach her daughter a moral lesson.
She gave the little girl a fifty pence piece and a pound coin for church.
“Put whichever one you want in the collection plate and keep the other for yourself,” she told the girl.
When they were coming out of church, the mother asked her daughter which amount she had given.
“Well,” said the little girl, “I was going to give the pound coin, but just before the collection the man in the pulpit said that we should all be cheerful givers. I knew I’d be a lot more cheerful if I gave the fifty pence piece, so I did.”
Some say it’s unpleasant to give.
Many think we would be happier if we kept our money for ourselves.
It makes sense, doesn’t it?
Life is hard enough without giving away your hard-earned cash. After all, nobody knows what is around the next corner and there may come a time when we really need that money: all of it! And so isn’t it prudent to save and save and save so that we might find security?
And so the argument goes on.
There is a rather unsettling problem with this life view for the Christian.
It just doesn’t sit very well with the Gospel story.
We don’t find encouragement to hoard!
Quite the opposite, we regularly read of warnings not to hoard or to store up your wealth on earth.
As a wee boy I was fascinated by the story of the discovery of Tutenkamun’s burial chamber in Egypt. I was amazed at the splendour of the gold coffin and the collection of prized possessions that had been placed with the body in preparation for the journey into the next life. The expectation really was that the dead will take their prestige and their wealth with them: that material prosperity really does count and is transferable from one world to the next. Jesus emphatically declared that it is not the case.
John G. Wendel and his sisters were some of the most miserly people of all time. Although they had received a huge inheritance from their parents, they spent very little of it and did all they could to keep their wealth for themselves. John was able to influence five of his six sisters never to marry, and they lived in the same house in New York City for 50 years. When the last sister died in 1931, her estate was valued at more than $100 million. Her only dress was one that she had made herself, and she had worn it for 25 years.
The Wendels had such a compulsion to hold on to their wealth that they lived like paupers and they lived in misery.
It’s an extreme illustration but it brings out a truth that we need to take heed of.
- If we look to money as a source of comfort and joy, it will continually burden us and deprive us of the joy that we so earnestly desire.
- If we learn to open our hearts and respond with generous giving, we will find joy.
There is great joy in giving.
It is said of the Macedonians that they gave with “the abundance of their joy.”
Jesus challenged the myth that it is unpleasant to give.
He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Think about that at Christmas time.
When you and your family are all around the tree opening gifts, what do you do? Do you watch the one who is opening the gift? Of course, but what about the expression on the giver’s face, which is filled with delight upon seeing the recipient enjoying the gift. It is written all across the giver’s face!
This is why parents like Christmas so much. Because it is fun to give!
The only reason some of us have not found the “abundance of joy” in giving is because we simply have not practised it. It is a myth to say that it is unpleasant to give. Those who know what it is to have an open hand with God have joy.
We remember the story of the woman in Bethany who came to Jesus and gave abundantly and in so doing received his blessing.
Jesus said of the woman in Bethany that she had done “a beautiful thing to Him.”
But note the reaction of those present who could not see beyond the apparent waste of the expensive ointment.
“A few drops of her ointment would have been more than adequate to express her respect, but she pours the whole lot over him.”
But that’s the point. A few drops of the perfume would not have been enough for that woman. It had to be the lot, or nothing. It had to be the lot, or her joy would be incomplete. She knew what she had to do and a group of men who were effectively policing access to Jesus were not going to stand in her way. We don’t have the same barriers in our way that she encountered and yet we may find excuses that take us away.
C.S. Lewis once wrote:
“Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
We settle for a relative poverty in our so-called riches when the offer is infinite joy.
Why live our lives short of what God intends for us when his desire is that we experience that abundance of joy now in the present?
“I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.”
The outpouring of love and devotion displayed by the woman was an act of sacrificial giving, something that can be difficult for us to comprehend as we often think in terms of economy of time, money and resources.
The remarkable Gospel story is essentially counter-cultural in the sense that it turns upside down the assumed wisdom of the ages and presents us with a radically different way.
Stewardship is a way of life that calls believers in Christ to receive God’s gifts with gratitude and to cultivate these gifts responsibly and to share them sacrificially and to return these gifts with increase to God.
The Macedonians gave out of an “abundance of joy.”
It is a myth to say that only people with money should give, and it is an equal myth to say that it is unpleasant to give.
Augustine, the early Church father wrote: “Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; where your treasure is, there is your heart; where your heart is, there is your happiness.”
May we all recognise the truth of those words this morning and receive the joy that comes with abundant giving.