This week is the last week in our Financial Peace series, and I have to say that I am relieved. Although I have enjoyed preaching this series, and although I feel it has been extremely necessary and relevant for us, I have rarely felt more stress in the process of preparing sermons. Churches just have such a bad wrap for talking about money too much, and most people don't like to be told what they should or shouldn't do with their money. I have wanted to avoid triteness or just repeating the same old church messages about money, but I have also wanted to offer a real and serious challenge to consumerism, individualism, foolishness, and flat out selfishness - and all of this hopefully without offending anyone too much.
But alas, the final sermon, on giving, is the one for which I have felt the most stress. In a sense, this is where the rubber meets the road. If we don't give, all of the getting out of debt and saving and investing for the future is just developing a better strategy for selfishness. If we don't give, all of the discussion of how God has blessed us to bless others and how our world should be more economically just - all of that is just pious talk, without giving.
If this discussion about finances were an ancient Roman archway. The stones on the left would be right beliefs about money. The stones on the right would be right actions with money. The capstone would be giving. Giving is what holds it all together. Without giving it all falls down into a messy heap of riches and poverty, foolishness, selfishness, enslavement, etc.
I feel a desperate need to challenge our people to give more. I think most Christians have been recklessly and intentionally avoiding the directness of the Biblical calls to tithe, and I feel the need to point out that this is still the Biblical minimum standard for giving (even in the NT).
However, I don't want to shake a finger or a stick at the people. I don't think that will do much good in the long run.
So I have chosen the title and the theme "The Joy of Giving." I hope to address the hard stuff (tithing and more) and the reasons for giving and the incredible joy that results from giving.
Give me your thoughts. How have you engaged this process of giving or thinking about giving? How have you experienced the joy of giving?
When you think of a pastor preaching on giving what is the first thing that comes to mind? What fears do you feel?
What should I say? What should I definitely not say?