Service – St. Paul Lutheran Church
Giving Without Guilt 2
Sunday After Pentecost
You know, I’ve been preaching in this church for a long time. I know
it’s hard to remember sermons, hard to remember what was in them, even a good
sermon. But let me ask you this: When’s the last time you heard me preach a
sermon on giving? It’s been a while hasn’t it. When ia the last time you
heard me preach a sermon on money? It’s
been a while hasn’t it.
Now I don’t intend to break that record starting this morning, but
there are people in some churches who will tell you that’s all they hear about
when they go to church, or so it seems.
“Give! Gotta give more! Money!
Need more money! Bills! Boy are we
behind bills. Please!
Listen up, folks. We’re counting on your do give your fair share.”
Other churches maybe, but not here.
Talk about making a person feel guilty or having people give with a sense
of guilt & resignation, there are some pastors, maybe a few professional
fund-raisers who think if guilt works, if guilt is what it takes, if “guilt is
the gift that keeps on giving,” use it. A
little guilt is good for people - if it gets the job done.
People may hear that in some churches, but not here, and you not going to
hear that this morning. So if I’m
not going to preach on giving; and I’m not going to preach on money, and I’m
not going to lay a guilt-trip on you what AM I going to preach on?
How ‘bout, I just look for a little guidance & see what I myself
can learn from the apostle Paul in the text before us, just in case, some day I
may need to preach a sermon on giving. What are some things that would be
helpful for me to know if I do have to preach on giving?
The first thing I’m going to note is that St. Paul the word invite
is of paramount importance. When Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth
he made it very clear he was not requiring them or commanding them to make an
I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of
your love against the enthusiasm and earnestness of others (8:8), is how
Paul put it. Paul invited his
brothers & sisters in Christ at Corinth to give of their own free will
(8:3). A few verses later on, he writes, Each of you must give as
you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a
So, if & when I have to speak of giving I’ve made note of
this: Always invite. Do not pressure. Do not use guilt. Nobody responds well
when they feel they’ve been strong-armed or manipulated or made to feel
guilty. No, if there’s a need to be met, and offering to take, a ministry to
Isn’t that what you & I do when we’ve experienced something
enjoyable. We invite;
we invite because we’re enthused, pleased, excited to share things we enjoy.
Like going to a good movie with someone. Checking out a new restaurant. Taking a
tour of the Minden Opera House Gladly going to watch the Minden Community
Players “do their thing” and do it well.
The things we invite others to do are things we’ve found to be
personally satisfying or worthwhile ourselves, or at least they promise to be.
That’s something for me to note in this text too. Next to invite, a
second important word is excite. The special offering that Paul in-vited the
Corinthians to give was clearly dear to his own heart. Paul was excited about
it; he believed whole-heartedly in the good it would bring, so he had no qualms,
no reservations about inviting others to join in giving; giving without guilt or
The offering Paul mentions was a special offering, a free-will off-ering
for the Jewish Christian Church in Jerusalem. According to the Book of Acts, the
church in Jerusalem was the Mother church of all churches. Jerusalem was where
the good news of Christianity began with Jesus’ crucifixion and the word of
His resurrection. It was in Jerusa-lem on the Day of Pentecost that the church
It was also in Jerusalem that there was some friction between Paul and
the leaders of the Jerusalem Church over the issue of integrating Gentiles into
the church without teaching them the ways & customs of Jewish Law. There was
some real “head-butting, arguing, disagreeing going on” but as far as Paul
was concerned, all of that only made the offering he was gathering more
significant. The Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were suffering due to
economic hardship; hunger, poverty.
Paul saw the offering that he was gathering from Gentile mission
congregations as a way of mending fences. With
such a freely-given offering a lot of Gentile Christians who were truly giving
their gifts from the heart were extending the hand of friendship and fellowship
to those who didn’t trust them. Or
to put it plainly, instead of trying to coax out of people enough cash to
underwrite next year’s budget, Paul was excited about inviting the Christians
at Corinth to join in an offering that would relieve suffering, promote
reconciliation and underscore the unity of Christ’s church.
So that too is worth me noting & remembering for future reference.
If and when I have to
preach on giving, excite people. Highlight the ways giving will relieve human
suffering, bring people together, show what good can be done when Christians do
things together. It’s when somebody stands up and asks for people to “pleeeeeease”
give because it costs money to keep the lights on and the grass cut and air
conditioner running that people begin to shift uncomfortably in their seats and
start looking for the exits.
No, what I hear Paul saying is that once people see that their
offerings are making a genuine difference in other peoples’ lives, that
excites people; that’s when they actually want to give.
That was Paul’s experience with the Christians up in Macedonia. They
were in no position to make an offering. Far
from it; they were poor as church mice; as poor as farmers who have to give up
farming. But even though they were
experiencing “extreme poverty” themselves, those Christians in Macedonia
responded with an offering which when added up “overflowed
in a wealth of generosity”
Which leads to a third thing I see in this text. Invite people; excite
people, unite people. What calls forth a giving that overflows in a wealth of
generosity? Not hammering away at a
need for more money! Not laying a guilt trip on people with an endless litany of
shoulds and oughts. My take on what
was going on with those Christ-ians in Macedonia is that deep down, those
Christians in Macedonia simply “got it all together”. They got from Paul
what he wanted them to get – that deep down going the extra mile with someone,
giving what you have to give doesn’t empty your pocket or your wallet as much
as it fills your heart with the unspeakable pleasure that comes with joining
other people of faith, people filled with the grace of God in helping to make a
difference in the lives of other human beings.
So I add this to my notes for a future “sermon on giving” if
& when I need to give it. Nothing
unites people more effectively in giving without guilt or resignation than
stories of others give generously and joyfully and actually look forward to
giving, caring, sharing what they have to give & to share.
Mrs. Linda Reiser, from Peace Lutheran Church in Grand Island, the woman
recently elected to a four year term to represent the 250,000 member LWML of the
LCMS, said to the 600 plus delegates who elected her that the word that most
characterized her faith in Jesus Christ and most characterized her style of
leadership was TEAM - Together Everyone Accomplishes More.
So many stories of self-less giving one hears at an LWML national
convention; or an LLL national convention; or a Synodical Youth Gath-ering, and
yet they are the same kind of stories that can be told of individual members
& groups in Lutheran congregations no different than here at St. Paul.
I can remember a Sunday in June over 20 years ago when a major storm
system hung over the city of Grand Island, spawning a series of damaging
tornadoes that literally level major portions of Grand Island. The Sunday after
it happened, we took a free-will offering at the door, which together with
matching funds from AAL totaled close to a $1000 dollars, a door offering,
$1,000 above & beyond what was the regular offering that Sunday.
Earlier this year, from the end of February to the end of March, we had a
ten gallon aquarium out in the narthex marked “Pennies for Life”, loose
change to help support “Nebraska Lutherans for Life,” which slowly turned
into an offering of over 25,000 coins totalling close to $800.00.
Hardly what you would call a small offering, and there was no
arm-twisting, no cajoling, no guilt-giving pep talks.
And one other thing, as long as I gathering notes and useful, help-ful
biblical thoughts for some future sermon on giving, wouldn’t it be good to
remember what’s at the heart of such giving.
For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, writes
St. Paul, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes
he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
When you or I make an
offering from the heart, we are,
above all else, reflecting what Jesus did, we are being LIKE JESUS. In its purest form, an offering is a fulfillment, an
embodiment of Jesus’ own selfless, self-giving love.
Elsewhere Paul writes of Jesus, He
emptied himself, taking the form of a servant . . Jesus emptied not just his
pockets, but his life. He poured it
out for us so that we might be filled. That’s
how it is Paul can say when we give
generously of ourselves, we do what Jesus did.
To this place of fears
He came, says a short, simple Christmas hymn.
Servant, healer, mender; Though His death we haven claim, There to reign
We are rich, for he was poor; Is not this a wonder?
Therefore praise God evermore Here
on earth and yonder.
Well, if and when I have to preach a sermon on giving – I’ve got four
good notes to work with – Invite – Excite – Unite – Be like!