The Challenge - The Solution is Generosity
Raise your hand if you ever participated in organized sports? I played youth league baseball, Jr. High basketball & soccer and college soccer. (PHOTO) Every coach has a particular strategy on how they motivate players. I really struggle with coaches who just cuss you out all the time. But I also struggle with coaches who seemingly do nothing. I’ve had a few coaches over the years that were pretty clever. They’ll pull a player off to the side or maybe the entire team and he or she gives them a little pep talk. Coaches love rhetorical questions. “Are you guys seeing what I’m seeing?” “Are you all there to win or just take up space?” Then they throw in a comparison. We are slow compared to them. They are running up and down the field. They are kicking our butts. Right now we’re in the midst of a good old fashion butt kicking. Are you going to stand for that? And you, Bondurant, do you remember at all (sarcasm) the basics of defensive positioning? You’re watching his feet – stop doing that! Focus on where his body is leaning and get a little physical. Let him know you’re in his backyard and not his neighborhood! A good hard legal slide tackle might help. C’mon, Bondurant, you’re better than that!”
Since the beginning of May I’ve been coaching my son’s machine pitch baseball team. We’re talking 8 & 9 year olds. We’ve practiced the basics of picking up a ground ball and throwing it to first. A couple of weeks ago – we had one game where one ground ball after another went right through the wickets. In the machine pitch league – you do not keep score, but losing ground balls still drives me crazy. I looked at Tricia after the game and said, “That was so painful to watch.” The very next game I told the boys – the opposing team gets three outs not six. C’mon guys – you can do better!” Those words – “you can do better” are the words of the Apostle Paul. “You can do better – church at Corinth!” “You can do better Westerville Christian!” Well, better at what? Better at giving. Better at being generous.
Turn again to 2 Corinthians 8. Do you need a Bible? Don’t forget to fill out your yellow card. I think the Apostle Paul is acting like a sly coach giving the church at Corinth a pep talk. God utilizes the personality of the individual when inspiring the individual to pen a letter. This method is so Apostle Paul! Utilizing comparison – you can do better! Look at 2 Corinthians 8:8. Paul compares the church at Corinth with the churches around Macedonia. What’s he comparing? Go back to verse 1-2. Their level of generosity! Paul has thrown down the gauntlet. I challenge you – I triple dog dare you – give as you’ve been blessed. His challenge for the church at Corinth is the same challenge for the church at Westerville - excel (that is overflow) in the grace of giving! But most of us do not excel in giving. Most churches don’t overflow when it comes to giving. We determined last week that the main reason is materialism. The problem is materialism, but the Apostle Paul does not stop with just the problem. He gives us a solution. The solution is generosity! (3-4) Let’s take a quick poll. Do you consider yourself to be a generous person? A generous person is described as unselfish - one who liberally gives or shares. [i]
Kevin Harney tells this story in his book, Seismic Shifts: Years ago, a little boy named Dustin came to church with a pack of “Smarties.” You remember, Smarties, a row of multicolored, chalk-like, bite-size candies wrapped in clear plastic, about 10 to 12 pieces in a pack. They are perfect for sharing.
Kevin said, “I am not a huge fan of Smarties, but when I saw Dustin come into church with a fresh roll, I just had to ask him if I could have one.
Dustin immediately became my Smarties hero. He peeled out a piece with a smile and handed it over gladly. This was surprising enough, but at that moment, something happened in this little boy's heart. From that day on, for the next two years, every time Dustin got a pack of Smarties, he took out the first one and set it aside for me. Every Sunday, Dustin would track me down at church and generously offer me one or more Smarties. He did it gladly, with a smile, as if he enjoyed it.
Sometimes Dustin would open a pack of Smarties during the week, but he would still save me the first round, sugary, chalky tablet in his pocket. By the time Sunday came, the Smarty was a little mangy and would have lint and other pocket paraphernalia stuck to it, but he never forgot to bring it for me. Since that time, I have asked myself many times, how am I doing with my Smarties?[ii] How are WE doing when it comes to being generous? On the flipside - do you consider yourself a stingy person? Reluctant to give. Another word for stingy is tight![iii] Did you know that stingy comes from the word sting?[iv] “Oh man, that cut stings; it just pains a stingy person to give!” This may sound like a weird question, but would you like to get better at being generous than being stingy? I know the secret. The secret in being generous is having allot of money. Right! I’ve played games with God. I’ve rationalized with God. “God, once I hit it big. Once I get allot of money then I’ve give. “Preacher, you can count on me to give a wad of cash once things get turned around.” Because the reasoning is simple – logically - those who have allot give allot and those who have little give little! That’s how it’s supposed to be, but the opposite is what really happens. Those who have allot give little or nothing and those who have little – in God’s eyes – sacrifice allot.
Most of us do not think we’re rich. Rich people are Ken & Stephanie Karpman. Their story aired on 20/20 last March. Ken was making $750,000 a year as an institutional equity sales trader. With his wife and two kids they bought a 4000 sq ft home in Tampa, Florida. Ken left his job in 2005 to start his own business. But it fell through so the Karpman’s quickly ate through their $500,000 savings and took a line of credit on their house. He still could not find work so he started delivering pizzas. He went from a six figure income to $7.29 an hour plus tips. Their house is in foreclosure and disrepair – they live in a mansion but have no running water. Ken’s Mercedes sits in the garage because the transmission is broken and they can’t get it fixed. But Ken is confident they’ll rebound. “I need a couple of wins and I think that, hopefully, it’ll mushroom up like it caved in!”[v]
It’s so easy to think, “just a couple more wins” and then I’ll be rich.” Scripture reminds us of just how rich we already are. If you have a home. A roof over your head. You are rich. If you have air conditioning – you are really rich. If you have a bed to sleep in. You are rich. (Image) If you can get a shower every day, you are rich. If you have clean clothes to wear, you are rich. If you have a washing machine & dryer – you are filthy rich. If you never worry about getting something to eat. You are rich. Keeping the word “rich” in perspective - Paul gives us the secret to generosity. Find verse 10. (Read 10-12) The secret? Be content and give what you have! Giving is so much fun this way. Stop thinking about the future and forget about the past – just give what you have. Generous people do not have to have a six figure income. A generous person just gives – if they have allot – they give allot and if they have little – they give a little. BUT everybody gives! Can you imagine being a part of a generous church? What would a generous church look like? I know of a family struggling to pay for an unexpected funeral. A generous church could just eliminate that problem. We could adopt an inner city school. We’ll pay for all your school supplies. We could adopt an inner city mission. Consistently reaching out to the least of these. We could do an extreme home makeover for a single Mom. We could eliminate hunger in Grand Goave, Haiti and the Mushayamunda Village in Zimbabwe. VBS would never be hindered because money is tight! Most of us have more than what we think – the only question left is are we willing to be generous with some of our smarties? (Ushers – please come - Offering – (Prayer) If you love cats you’ll get this. If you hate cats this will be just another reason to keep hating cats. (Video Clip – Cat Wake Up) “Greg, I came in here all innocent only to have you whack me over the head on giving.” Not true! I like Paul’s approach better. (Vs 8) WCC, we can do better, but why should we do better? Go to verse 13. (13-15) There are times in our lives when we have plenty – we should give to those who do not. There are other times when we might be hurting. Can you imagine being in need and finding no one to help you? Not even a church!
Years ago I served at a church in Odon, Indiana. Odon is probably 30 minutes south of Bloomington. I served as the youth minister there from 1984 to 1988. I met my wife Tricia there – we were married at the church I served in 1985. During my first year of ministry I made a whopping $15,000. Things were tight sometimes, but I made it. One day though – totally out of the blue a man at the church – his name was Doc Demotte. Doc walked up to me and shook my hand and when he did he left cash in my hand. I didn’t think much about it. I didn’t want to appear rude so I put it in my pocket. But as soon as I turned the corner in the hallway I reached into my pocket and pulled out $50 dollar bill. $50 - I thought then and I still think today that $50 is allot of money. I don’t know how to convey to you what that $50 meant to me. It freaked me out. It made me so happy. But I wonder who received the bigger thrill? Doc loved to give. The Bible says generous giving is hilarious giving. Proverbs 11:25 says, A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. I have a gift for you today – a pack of smarties. Come get you’re your pack of smarties. Let this be a tangible reminder – I can do better when it comes to being generous!
[ii] www.preachingtoday.com/Child Demonstrates Generosity with Candy
[iv] Bob Russell, Take Comfort, 141