Sermon, 6.7.09"Giving Freely" Rev. Erik Bonkovsky Nehemiah 12:44-13:3
Giving freely is not about bringing a lot of stuff to God so that he'll love us. It's the opposite: it's a response to how he's already loved us. When we talk about giving, we can take either the narrow view or the broad view:
- The narrow view: Give money to the church.
- You need to give to the place that's continuing to lead you in worship. The Israelites gave so that they could sustain their worship leaders. Just as those worship leaders were focusing on God's service full-time rather than farming for their own food, our church leaders need to be sustained so that they can keep focusing on encouraging us, leading us, and doing God's work.
- We're a young church, so we can't just depend on the older people to give. Verse 47 says that "all Israel....gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers; and they set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the sons of Aaron." Not just the established people, and the people who had money to spare. All Israel. Likewise all of us have a responsibility to give.
- The broad view: Give joyfully and generously to the work of God.
- As you receive from God (love, peace, forgiveness), it leads you to give.
- You will never give generously until you recognize that your resources don't belong to you. God has given you these resources to take care of for a time. You will also not give generously until you recognize that God has already given the greatest gift -- his son, Jesus Christ.
- Doxological generosity: In 2 Corinthians 9:13 we see that the Corinthians' generous giving leads others to worship. "By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others."
- We can't treat giving as a bill, because if we owed God a bill we could never pay it! Jesus paid it all.
- The essence of the gospel is that you're a charity case. You couldn't pay for it, you wouldn't pay for it, but this is how God has loved us through his grace.
- The other side of this is that because you know this; because you're changed, you respond in worship. The gospel begins to pry apart these idols in your heart, these things that want to define you. And he begins to remake you in the image of God. This is painful, because we love stuff! But our money and stuff are rivals for God's love. When we are trusting in God's love, it becomes natural to give it up.
The result of giving generously is that each time we give, we become richer and not poorer. By laying ourselves down, we are lifted up. The humble are exalted. We profit by investing in the church and God's good work.