The Giving Church
The Apostle Paul has some great one-liners:
“I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23)
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 1:1)
2 Cor. 9:1-2 is not as memorable. Yet the longer I do ministry, the more I find this passage proves true. Not only about the Corinthian church to which Paul wrote, or even about the church where I minister (Highland). It proves true of so many churches I know.
For the whole chapter beforehand, and for the rest of 2 Cor. 9 afterwards, Paul is talking about money. He is taking up a collection for believers back in Jerusalem, who are suffering from poverty during a severe famine. He is making a pitch for why the Corinthians should give, and then he says this:
There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. (2 Cor. 9:1-2)
As I said, it’s not as memorable as: “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (I think Tim Tebow used to write that one on his face during football games).
But that spirit of abundant and willing generosity proves true of so many churches.
A couple months ago someone asked me if I hated preaching about giving. I told them that I used to, before I came to Highland. I told them I still hated it for the first year or so of doing ministry at Highland, before I knew the church well. But then I realized that Highlanders are going to give. If my church is anything, it is amazingly generous. I don’t have any doubts they are going to give when it matters.
For instance, for the past few years, Highland has consistently given around a half-million dollars a year to missions and ministries around the world.
So even in the moments when I stand behind the pulpit asking for funds, like Paul I already know my church is eager to help. That is why I am boasting about them right now.
The thing is, most churches I know are the same way. They give and give and give.
Now, I’m not talking about giving time or talents. Those are extremely important, but I’m talking treasure. I wish there was a way someone could calculate just how much money the body of Christ has given to help the world over the course of history. Such a calculation is surely impossible, but can you imagine how staggering the number would be?
I’m reminded of the children’s book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It’s about a tree that loves a little boy so much it eventually gives everything it has to the boy. Finally, when the tree is reduced to a stump, the boy, who has grown into an old man, returns to sit and rest on the tree stump.
Here is a metaphor there for the church. In an era when many doubt the future of the church, and when numbers are dwindling (in the West), I am confident that all of our giving will not be in vain. Even if our generosity reduces our size and scope, it might make us into exactly what the world needs most.
So to all the generous churches out there, keep at it.