The Mind of a Cheerful GiverSermon passage: (2 Corinthians 9:6-15) Spoken on: October 18, 2010
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: 2 Corinthians
Sermon on 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Two weeks ago, I shared an excerpt from “To kill a mockingbird”. It is a story about a pastor collecting a donation for one of the church members in need. After reading that story, I noticed some church members staring anxiously at the door during offering. They must have been worried that I would lock it up and force the offering out of everyone like the pastor in the story. Dear friends, your concerns are unfounded. You have misjudged me. Locking the doors to enforce a needed donation is such crudeness. I have to uphold my reputation for cunning and ingenious methods of torture. If we do have a real financial need, surely I have a crueler and yet subtler way. Here is what I would have done instead. I will plan three consecutive weeks of sermons all talking about giving and donations. Clever, right? By the end of the three sermons, you will be donating so much just to get me to stop. Now, if I could only find a way to make the second sermon especially long, the unbearable experience would make the entire persuasion process complete.
So you see? The story from “To kill a mockingbird” is not to endorse the pastor’s actions. What I was trying to illustrate is my main point in the sermon: that it is important for the church to speak about money matters. The pastor in the story displayed leadership and courage in handling the issue. That was my main emphasis. His methods were no doubt questionable, but his intentions were nonetheless commendable. If the pastor wants to have an authentic and honest relationship with his flock, one like the relationship between Paul and the Corinthian Church, then the pastor must address the issue of financial difficulties with them. That was the point of my sermon. Those of you preparing to escape during offering can now relax.
Today, we will look at the other side of the story. Was the pastor right in compelling his flock to give for a worthy cause? Some of us may be uneasy with the way he coerced the church. But it is hard to say what exactly the problem is. You may feel that he need the money and he had no choice. You can’t fault a desperate man. Others might be thinking, “Well, the ends justify the means. As long as we manage to collect the money, the method of persuasion doesn’t really matter, does it?” Is this true? Is there any difference in getting the money forcefully or voluntarily? The answer from Paul in today’s passage is straight-forward. No, it is not true. The end does not justify the means. It is important to raise the money. But how the money is raised is just as important. To Paul, giving must not have any reluctance or compulsion. Giving must come from a cheerful heart. The reason for this is the principle: you reap what you sow. When you give, you are sowing seeds. The fruits that you reap depend on how much you have sown. But it depends even more on what you have sown. The quality is much more important than the quantity.
One of the very first lessons on evangelism I’ve learned is that your motives are of the foremost importance. Why do you evangelize? If you evangelize because you are afraid otherwise God will punish you, then you are evangelizing out of fear. If you evangelize because you feel guilty about not fulfilling the great commission, then you are evangelizing out of guilt. Yet, the principle of ‘you reap what you sow’ applies. If you evangelize out of fear, people believe out of fear. If you evangelize out of guilt, people believe out of guilt. Both of these make for unsteady converts with shaky theological foundations. Only when you evangelize out of love do you reap converts who believe out of love. The reason I share this lesson with you is because the same principle applies for giving as well. When we give, we are offering much more than just money. The motives of our giving are sown as well. And just like in evangelism, we reap the corresponding fruits of these motives.
Room to Read is one of the most successful charity organizations in the world today. It transformed the lives of millions of children in developing countries by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. It built libraries and schools and sponsored female students in at least nine countries. This is what the founder John Wood has to say about fundraising.
“I will do almost anything to raise money to help Room to Read to build more schools and libraries. However, I consciously avoid one technique that other charities use, apparently to good effect – what I refer to as the “Sally Struthers Weep-a-Thon.”
Everyone knows that there is poverty in the world, and almost all of us are saddened by it. Some charities find it effective to show photos of a child covered in flies, or a malnourished family lying in the dust. With all due respect to Ms. Struthers, I think it demeans the world’s poor to use pity when soliciting donations. These images negate the inherent dignity of each human being. I might be wrong, but I think that guilt should not be used as a marketing tool.
This is also in the financial interest of the charity, because potential donors want hope and optimism in their lives. They want to see solutions. If we accost them with images of a poor person, they are likely to be sad, but they may not take action. If you instead present a photo of a kid from the inner city in his graduation cap and gown, or farmers in Hondoras using their new well, then people are more likely to share in that optimism by donating to the cause.
I realize, of course, that we need to make citizens aware of the terrible conditions in which much of humanity lives. But I leave that to CNN or the BBC and assume my donors are smart enough to know about the state of the today’s world. I’d much rather lead with a solution and ask potential donors, employees, and volunteers to be a part of it. The tears we shed should be tears of joy the day we open a new school or present 50 girls in rural Vietnam with their long term scholarship.”
John Wood spells out his conviction on the way he does fundraising. He believes it should be centered on hope and optimism, not doom and gloom. This is a powerful testimony, one gained from immense experience. Similarly, Paul’s message about giving is also a powerful one. It is powerful in two ways. It is powerful in what he is saying. It is also powerful also in what he chose not to say. Paul did not use guilt or fear to ask the Corinthians to give. Paul did not talk about how pitiful the Jerusalem church was. Paul did not show videos of needy people with tearful faces so common in some charity shows today. Paul did not ask Titus to perform dangerous stunts to impress the Corinthians to give more. Paul most certainly did not include a lucky draw to win cars and condominiums for every donation. Paul did not do any of these because he did not want any of these seeds of wrong reasons to be sown together with the giving.
Instead, Paul stated only one motive of giving: the kind of God that we believe in. Brothers and sisters, this is what goes on in the mind of a cheerful giver. We believe in a God of righteousness. We believe in a God of justice. Paul quotes from Psalm 112. Let me read to you some other verses in this psalm.
Psalm 112: 1Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands.
4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. 5 Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.
You see? In the mind of a cheerful giver, this is what he believes in. God will bless the man who obeys his will. And God’s will is to care for the poor and needy. This blessing will come in the form whereby even though this man gives generously, he will not be in want. God will continue to favor the gracious and compassionate such that they can continue to give. It is grace to be able to participate in the giving. The cheerful giver believes that God is the giver of all things. Therefore, God will be generous to those who are generous. The cheerful giver is a courageous giver because of his faith in God. The cheerful giver is a righteous giver because he longs for the will of God. He cares for the things God cares about. He gives not because he is abundant now, but because his abundance lies in his hope in the Lord.
Greg Mortenson is the founder of Central Asia Institute, a charity organization that builds schools in Afghanistan. He wrote about his experience in a book with the subtitle, "One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism One School at a Time." Mortenson fought against the subtitle but failed, and that edition sold only 20,000 copies. Mortenson then prevailed upon the publishers to change the subtitle for the next edition to his first choice, "One Man's Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time." His publisher relented, and the re-titled book made the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. Mortenson explained his reasoning for the subtitle: "If you just fight terrorism, it's based in fear. If you promote peace, it's based in hope."
Paul’s message is a powerful one because he gave a worthy motive for us to give. We are a cheerful giver when our giving is based in hope. It is hope in a righteous and just God. We give because we want to participate in God’s love for the poor and needy. We give because we want what God wants. This is not an obligation. This is obedience from our free will. This is the mind of a cheerful giver. We are cheerful not because we force ourselves to be happy about giving. We are cheerful because there is joy in working together with God.
Paul concludes by saying that when this happens, when we give as a cheerful giver, it will lead to thanksgiving to God. We must be careful here. This thanksgiving is not a motive of giving, but a natural consequence of cheerful giving. We do not give so that people will think positively of the God of Christianity. If that is our motive, then our giving becomes a public relations campaign. The effects will be reversed when people interprets the giving as marketing. Rather, Paul is saying that if the giving is genuinely from a cheerful and obedient giver, people will interpret that as the act of God. Praise and glory belongs to the Lord because the human action is interpreted as a divine act. Why? Isn’t it the donors who gave? Furthermore, if this thanksgiving to God is not a motive for the giving, why did Paul mention it?
The answer is that the message and the messenger are inseparable. Let us be reminded of the divide between the Jewish and the Gentile Christians. On one hand, this donation is material relief for the crisis in Jerusalem. On the other hand, it is also a message of solidarity and compassion from the Gentile Christians to the Jewish brothers who are suffering. The messengers in this case are the Gentiles. But the message they convey is that they are also part of the Body of Christ. They are part of the people of God. They belong to the same spiritual family as the Jews in the Jerusalem. This is why when this giving is genuine and voluntary, men will praise and give glory to God. Because from this giving, they will see that God has truly reconciled all men to him, both Jews and Gentiles. It is the grace of God that has enabled this. This thanksgiving is important because in acknowledging the donation from the Gentile Christians as a divine act, they also acknowledge them as part of the spiritual family.
The application for today’s message is to be a cheerful giver. However, if you have been following my sermon, you will see that this is not a matter of will. You cannot force yourself to be cheerful. It is a matter of understanding. As fundraisers, we must steer away from tactics of fear and guilt. Needless to say, using emotional manipulation or tapping on people’s greed is even more deplorable. Today, we understand that we do not want to sow these seeds, because of the toxic fruits it bears. Paul talked about God’s care for the poor. He offers this donation drive as a practical solution. He gave them hope by pointing to the generous and abundant God. This is the kind of positive persuasion that bears good fruit.
As donors, our joy comes from knowing the will of God. It is grace that God gives us this opportunity to co-work with him. Through the news in the bulletin, we can see the ministries where Jubilee is involved. Let us be well-informed with the happenings in the mission field, the expansions in our equipping courses and the involvements in our community and society in the Tiong Bahru area. And when we see the will of God at work, let us give with a cheerful heart. Let us put our faith in his justice, our hope in his providence and our love in his vision.
ii To see the awards, visit http://www.roomtoread.org/Page.aspx?pid=211
iii John Wood, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, (2006) p96