This is the fourth sermon in our Take a Step to Give Series. This week we ask the practical question: How much should we give? The Bible does not give a clear answer, but this sermon explores how percentage is a way to think about equality in giving.
This is our fourth week in the Take a Step to Give series. In case you weren’t here last week, let me reiterate something. I don’t like to talk about giving. I don’t like to do it for two reasons. First, the church has a bad reputation in our society. Many people feel that all the church wants is your money. Plus, we get bombarded with people asking for money all the time. The government taxes us, the local youth sports players knock on our door selling coupon books, the guy on the street corner has a cardboard sign, and our inboxes are stuffed with non-profit organizations constantly asking for money. It is exhausting.
Second, my paycheck comes from your giving, so it seems really self-serving for me to talk about giving. Like I said last week, it makes me feel icky.
Yet, giving is one of the seven habits of effective disciples and it is an important topic. So, this is the last time I’m going to talk about it for a while. Pastor Mark will be back next week and will conclude the series with a big party.
I want to be super practical today and ask how much we should give.
The Bible offers three basic lenses for this question.
First, when we look to the Law of Moses, it talks about the tithe. Each person in Israel was required to give the first 10% of their income to the Temple. This is why churches often talk about the tithe.
We have to remember, however, that this was part of that ancient culture. The tithe was actually a temple tax that was demanded of the people. There were also other taxes imposed by the king. Some scholars have said that the Israelites paid up to 30% of their income to maintain the community.
That’s one lens.
The second lens is to look at how Jesus talked about giving.
He said to give everything. One day a rich man approached him and said, “I’ve obeyed all the laws of Moses. What must I do now to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Jesus said, “Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor. Then you can follow me.”
The man walked away sad.
Jesus was a radical. He didn’t own anything, even a house. He drifted around, teaching and healing and lived off of other people’s hospitality. In today’s culture, we would call that homelessness.
Jesus told the religious leaders that paying the tithe, and paying taxes to the Roman Empire was fine and right, but that they should not neglect what’s really important: justice, mercy, and faith.
Jesus gave everything, including his life.
So, he sets the bar really, really high.
finally, the Apostle Paul talks about giving in the second letter that he wrote to the church in Corinth. He was coming to collect money to bring back to the people in Jerusalem who had suffered from a drought.
Paul says that we should give what we decide to give, so that it is not coerced.
He reminds them of the principled that you reap what you sow. Jesus also said that the measure you use will be used for you.
Then, Paul says something really interesting. He says that giving should be based on a fair balance.
Look what he says in 2 Corinthians 8. This was our reading today.
For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of
a fair balance between your present abundance and their need,
so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,
“The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little.”
I think this is the most helpful and practical way to think about giving. The best way to think about a fair balance in giving is through percentage.
We can all give equally in percentage, because it is proportionate.
If a person who has $1,000 gives 10%, that is $100. If the person who has $1,000,000 gives 10% that is $100,000. We might think, “Wait, that’s not fair. That’s not equal giving.”
The first person has 900 dollars to live on. The second person has 900,000. It think it will be OK.
Let me bring this into a really practical framework of Grace Lutheran Church.
We established last week that when a church decides to have a building and hire staff, then it costs money. I double-checked this week and realized that 91% of our annual budget goes toward building related expenses and personnel.
So, here’s our annual budget: $1, 040,000.
I’m not a math guy, so I tried to put this in really simple terms so that I would understand it.
There are around 700 households, or giving units, involved in the Grace Community.
Let’s say that the average annual income of these households is $30,000. That is a really conservative number, because the average income of Andover is $50,000.
If everyone gave 1%, that would be $6/week and would cover about 20% of the annual need for the church.
If everyone gave 5%, that would be $29/week and would exceed our annual need by $10,000.
Look what would happen if everyone gave 10%. It would double our annual budget.
Can you imagine what we could do with resources like this? We could actually start dreaming about doing something with our Nightengale property. We could have freedom to dream innovative, missional opportunities in our neighborhoods and beyond.
In your bulletin there is a card. I invite you to take this out. You should have received one in the mail.
This is a commitment card. Next week is commitment weekend.
Grace Lutheran Church, we are in this community together. We exist to be a ministry of Grace in the heart of Andover and beyond.
Are you ready to take a step? Maybe you will take a step in consistency and sign up for Simply Giving through Gracelink.
Maybe you will take a step and make giving a priority in your life.
Maybe you will take a step in gratitude and work on making giving an act of worship and thanksgiving.
Maybe you will take a step in percentage and commit to increasing your percentage, even by 1% this year.
Maybe you’ll take a step in all of them.
Pray about this. Bring the card back next week, or drop it off in the office during the week. I know, that if we all do this together, we will not have to worry about budgets, but will be able to focus on doing the work God has called us to do.