Our Stewardship theme for this year is “More than Enough,” drawn from Paul’s familiar message to the church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 6:6-9). The best-known phrase from that passage is the one that proclaims, “God loves a cheerful giver.” And that seems so true. Who does not love one who gives cheerfully, willingly, gratefully?
In this passage Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to fulfill their promise of a generous gift to the needy church in Jerusalem. Strategically, as a means of bridging the gap between the Jewish and Gentile Christians, he wants the new churches outside Jerusalem to show their appreciation and gratitude for the “mother church” in its time of need. In particular, he is using a little guilt here to get the Corinthians to follow through on their pledge of support.
In the first verses of chapter 9, he tells the members of the wealthier congregation in the prosperous Greek city that their sisters and brothers in the poorer region of Macedonia have already made a very generous contribution. Playing one against the other, Paul implies that “Surely the Corinthians are not going to let the Macedonians show them up.” It’s a clever manipulation of the situation and presumably it paid off.
The point is this, he writes, “the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” As counterintuitive as this might seem, we know it to be true. We’ve been surprised again and again to discover unexpected blessings when we give with an open heart and a generous hand. We also see that when we approach giving with a scarcity mentality, the yield is guaranteed to be scarce as well.
But Paul is also clear that “each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion.” We’re all encouraged to look into our hearts as well as our pocket books to see, to understand, to embrace what we choose give as a decision each of us has made in a spirit of true generosity and cheerfulness. I suppose a reluctant gift, or one that feels compelled, still helps the bottom line, but it does not build up the health and well-being of the congregation and its members nor enrich our ministry.
The bottom line for Paul is that “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance.” We can quibble over what blessing means here. I don’t think Paul is
preaching prosperity gospel in this case. There so many more blessings we receive than getting rich. The promise of abundant life is much more than material comfort. The wealth of loving God and loving neighbor is enough to power a global economy, warm our hearts, sustain our lives, and nourish our ministry.
So Paul concludes, “…having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” Having enough, and more than enough, we share, in God’s
economy, what we have. In the midst of it all, we receive blessings untold. I am not saying, nor do I think Paul is saying, that we give in order to receive blessings. It’s not that sort of economy of accumulating rewards. The great irony is that blessings just come when we give with open-hearted generosity, because we can, and without the right hand knowing, or needing to know, what the left hand is doing.
Soon you will receive your pledge form. You all know how important pledged giving is in order for the Finance Committee to provide a sound budget for the coming year. This congregation has a remarkable history of responsible budgeting and good financial management, much better than I other churches I’ve known (not that I’m comparing us to the Macedonians or the Corinthian). We need your open-hearted and generous giving to sustain the life of out congregation and its many ministries.
In addition, this year we will include a Time and Talent form which will ask some questions about where you volunteer, where you might want to volunteer, and
what volunteer opportunities we might be missing in our life together. Cheerful, open-hearted giving of our time and talent provides other ways of generating
the abundance of life promised in the gospel. Here, too, we have more than enough to build up our congregation and its witness, if we can find ways for each to “give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion.” As we move into this Stewardship season, I ask each of us to carefully and prayerfully consider what we have to contribute to the life of our congregation, remembering that above all “God loves a cheerful giver.”
Yours on the journey,