Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
When the topic is giving, humor can be the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. On Missions Sunday a Minister of Music announced that the person who gave the most to missions that day would be allowed to choose their three favorite hymns. Miss Fannie, 95 years old, gave $35,000. The stunned music man told Miss Fannie to pick her three favorite hymns. She immediately pointed at three rich, handsome young men and said, “I want him, him, and him.”
Any church 118 years old, including Second, has traditions as part of its life. Since 1885 we’ve always expected members to tithe to the general operating budget of our church. Over a quarter of a century ago, growth required us to begin putting a special focus on buildings. Thus, every two or three years we conduct a special campaign to raise funds above and beyond our tithes to pay for buildings. Six years ago we decided missions had become so important to our church that it warranted a special offering in its behalf. This Faith Commitment Offering, which we received information about in the mail last week, is the impetus for this lesson.
After rescuing his kidnaped nephew Lot, Abram was returning home with spoils of war when he met King Melchizedek. Abram, sensing he was in the presence of a true priest of God, decided to present an offering to the King.
Genesis 14:20b “And he (Abram) gave him (Melchizedek) tithes of all.”
An artist was asked to paint a picture of a decaying church. Instead of depicting a tottering old building, the artist painted a gorgeous auditorium, carved pulpit, magnificent organ, beautiful stained-glass windows, and in the corner a small coin box inscribed, “For missions.” Over the coin slot was a huge cobweb.
MacGorman well says, congregations that spend all but a pittance of their resources on themselves are missing churches rather than mission churches. A pastor, asked why his church gave so much to missions instead of paying off building debt, replied, “We give what we do to missions so that when the building is paid for, there will be a church in it. A church either reaches out or passes out.”
The most beautiful part of our existence, as individuals or as churches, is what we give away, not what we keep. Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” More important, our Master said, “It is more blessed (and let me add more beautiful) to give than to receive.”
Ken Blanchard, famous author of “The One Minute Manager,” and Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, are devoted Christians. Their recently co-authored book, “The Generosity Factor,” reveals their philosophy, a right one, about giving.
They propose there are four things every individual can and should give: time, talent, touch, treasure. Blanchard and Cathy believe people must move from held values, what we say we believe, to operational values, what we actually do.
We say we want to donate our time. In our hectic culture, time is fast becoming our most valuable dispensable commodity. Who is the loneliest person you or I know? When did we last spend time with him or her?
We say we want to use our talents, our abilities, for God and others. Our dear Melanie Steinmann, who at nineteen went to Heaven last week due to a car wreck, was a ballerina. She loved ballet and gave free lessons in it to poor children who will never be able to afford such instruction. What do you and I do well? When did we last use that talent or ability for totally unselfish purposes?
We say we want to touch others. My love language is touching. It is difficult for me to interact with anyone without wanting to touch them, no matter how briefly we pass by each other. Spouses, touch each other often. Ask widows what they miss most about their spouses. As often as not, they will answer, “Their touch.” Parents, touch your children often. Children, touch your parents often. A light touch on the hand, arm, or shoulder can mean the world. Who is the saddest person you or I know? When did we last go out of our way to touch him or her?
We say we want to give our treasures. This is the impulse Abram felt when he met Melchizedek. God had let Abram rescue his nephew and amass spoils of war. Abram wanted to give in return. At the time, there were no God-given laws regulating how much to give, but Abram, being a man of faith, rightly sensed ten percent was the proper amount. Tithing preceded Moses’ law by centuries. The tithe was an expression of faith long before it became an act of obedience to law.
Ultimately, giving always boils down to a matter of the heart. We tithe in obedience to God, whether we like to or not, but the Lord loves a cheerful giver.
As Carey considered relocating to India, he and other pastors were comparing it to penetrating a deep mine never before explored. Carey said, “I will go down if you will hold the rope.” He took an oath from the pastors that as long as they lived they would never let go the rope. Andrew Fuller most undertook this duty. He spent the rest of his life ceaselessly working to earn support for Carey. Fuller’s fund-raising approach was novel. He stated he wanted money only from people with pure hearts. He said gifts given from wrong motives availed nothing before God. Fuller returned money given in a nonchalant or begrudging way.
If here today, Fuller would again say our money is not the ultimate issue. The money in the envelope is valid only when the heart goes into the plate with it.
We give money to say we offer ourselves to worship, serve, and go. We use plates because we don’t have baskets large enough to put our whole bodies in.
Where is our heart? Missions giving can tell us a lot about our spiritual vitality. Some say they don’t believe in pledges because they don’t want their left hand to know what their right hand is doing. I fear we often say this because we give so little that our right hand would be ashamed to let our left hand know.
Giving begins with the tithe, but generosity is not about doing the minimum, especially when it comes to missions. Many look to Second Baptist for leadership and role modeling in every aspect of the missions enterprise. One thing we need is for some of our people to give generously to missions, thereby setting an example for others at Second and elsewhere to follow. The example of a few can become contagious to the whole group, and can shake an entire inert mass.
Every child of God is called to worship, serve, and go. No amount of giving can ever relieve us of the duty to seek to excel in all three of these areas.
Some believers are called to fulfill their “worship, serve, and go” duty as a full-time vocation. They have a special calling to make their living by the Gospel.
All are to worship, serve, and go. Some do these three vocationally. Many can give to make the latter possible for a few. Maybe you could pay the salary of someone who feels the call to go and stay. Possibly there’s someone you know, or you have confidence in our church’s ability to find and send forth people willing to relocate. God may lead you to say, “You find the person, I’ll find the money.”
This way of thinking may sound radical to us, but is not without precedent. Others have already charted these waters for us. People’s Church of Toronto, Canada, at one time the greatest missions church in the English speaking world, had several slogans that guided their remarkable missions pilgrimage. “Untold millions are still untold.” “Why should anyone hear the Gospel twice before everyone hears it once?” A third slogan, one which helped them send forth over 300 career missionaries from their church, was, “Be a missionary, or send one.”
Few can give at that level, but we can all give. Reclamation War requires a downright practical faith. It’s not enough to sing along with the choir and orchestra, and then fumble through the bulletin when the collection plate is passed.
It’s no good to use both hands to applaud missions, but then use neither hand to reach in the wallet for an offering. If we expect the Gospel to fly from Second Baptist on wings, each member must donate enough for a few feathers.