After my message on Sunday (which, if you missed it, you can hear it here), I had a couple from our church tell me about a sermon they heard years ago at another church. It was on giving. The speaker was direct and focused. And more than ten years later, my friend said it was one of the few sermons he can still remember.
Why? Is it because there is something intensely personal, yet also intensely necessary, about giving? Don’t we all recognize that what we do with what we have is often the clearest intention of what we believe?
In what is most certainly the best-loved verse in the Bible, we are told that God “so loved the world that he gave His only Son….” God loves; He gives. And He gives what matters most — He gives of His very self.
If you are on the journey with God, then you are growing to look more like Him. And as you grow, I believe, like my friends who heard a sermon on giving that they couldn’t shake, you learn that giving is at the very heart of Christianity.
What would it look like if, among the world (the very world for whom God sent His Son), we as Christians weren’t known first as: judgmental, standoffish, or political — what if Christians all around the world were known first for our love? Well, how does that happen? It happens when we give. For loving and giving are inseparable.
On Sunday, I made the statement that a growing Christian and a generous Christian are the same thing. I really believe that. For if we have been changed by Christ, how can that not flow through us?
Christian Smith is a sociologist at Notre Dame University. He has been studying giving and generosity among Americans for five years or more. And he has found these remarkable facts:
- only 3% of Americans give away 10% of their income (what we in the church-world call “the tithe”)
- an overwhelming majority of folks (around 86%) give away less than 2%
- and nearly 45% of Americans give away no money at all!
Perhaps even more striking about these numbers is this reality: Smith has found that those who are generous in their giving tend to have more purposeful and fulfilling lives. So, while Americans tend to think that fulfillment comes by what we get, it actually comes by what we give. In other words, that phrase that goes back to Jesus — “It is more blessed to give than receive” — is right. Imagine that!
As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, let’s truly live thankful lives. Let’s be deeply grateful for the grace and mercy of Jesus that changes us. Let’s be truly thankful for all that we are and all that we have. And then let’s make sure that our gratitude overflows into generosity.