Sunday, July 26, 2020

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Excel in Giving

In the early days of the pandemic, people began to hoard all sorts of things. If you went through this, then you know exactly what I mean. Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and a number of other items flew off store shelves. In addition to those items, food items like canned meats and beans soon became scarce. When I visited a local big-box store, I saw people stealing from other people’s carts. When store associates pulled items from their storerooms, people descended upon the palettes like a flock of vultures feasting on a new carcass. I could not believe my own eyes. People shoved others away from items only to grab armfuls of them for themselves. Families came into the stores pushing multiple carts and filled them with all sorts of items. By the time I went to the store to do my weekly shopping,  store shelves were bare of almost everything.

Some preachers declared that the world was soon coming to an end and demanded that their viewers send more money to further their ministries. There were those who not only preached that the world was soon coming to an end but also fleeced their flocks of cash or sold them “miracle cures” for a donation. I guess some believed the words of one politician who said that you should never let a crisis go to waste. 

The sad part of all of this was that this frenzy was unnecessary. Contrary to the messages of some of the televangelists, the world didn’t and hasn’t ended. The sun still rises and sets and life, for the most part, still goes on. Those who used credit cards to buy up all the toilet paper in hopes of making a profit soon found themselves unable to sell a single roll for profit. The day of judgement that some preached never came.

As I reflect on those moments that I personally witnessed and the stories that I heard or read, I realize that some wasted an opportunity to truly show generosity and goodwill to others. Instead of hoarding, people could have taken only what they needed and helped others. People could have given to others love and understanding. Things could have been so much better for all, but we chose the path of selfishness and greed.

As kind and compassionate human beings, we could have excelled by doing for others and helping those in need. We could have been a shining example to all and been part of a great chapter in history. When this pandemic becomes a thing of the past, I lament what will be written in our history books. Instead of saying that we rose to the challenges like those during World War II to defeat a common enemy, the history books will focus on our greed and selfishness. Pictures of people fighting over toilet paper will punctuate the words describing how we hoarded everything.

In chapter eight of his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes, “Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.” Paul was asking the church there to finish what they had started. They were the first to give and the first to begin giving. He remembers that whatever they give is acceptable as long as it is given with eagerness. He didn’t ask them to give if it would make it hard for others. He asked them to be equitable in their giving and since they had plenty, they needed to give to those in need.

Later, he reminds them that those in need will return the favor to those who once had plenty and now find themselves in need. Paul is describing a concept that is almost alien in our day and time. It is called sharing. When we are blessed with bounty, we have a Christian duty to share with those who are in need. We do not just share with fellow Christians. We are commanded by our Heavenly Father to give even to our enemies and those who would persecute us. We are to excel in giving.

When we give what we have to those who are in need, our Heavenly Father sees those acts of generosity and blesses those who cheerfully give. We should not fill our cellars and storehouses with the bounty and not share it with others. We should give to those without expectation of praise from those around us.

Jesus, in chapter six of the Gospel of Matthew, tells us, “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

So, in order to excel in giving, we, as Christians, should excel in our giving by doing it equitably without fanfare and the expectation of receiving praise from others. When we give with those principles in mind, we will be rewarded by Father God who sees all that we do.

As this pandemic wears on, we still have opportunities to share with those in need. There are many who are unemployed and are in need of food. We live in one of the greatest nations in all the world. God has poured out His blessings upon us. As recipients of those blessings, we must share them without holding back. Remember the words of Paul. When we find ourselves in need, we will receive the help of those who were once in need.

The author of Proverbs writes, in chapter twenty-two, “Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor.”

Think of it this way. When we give generously, we receive generously. Our Heavenly Father blesses our work and our gifts. What we share with others is a blessing to them. Just as we received a blessing from God, we should share it with others. That is how we excel in our giving. 

In chapter fifteen of the Book of Deuteronomy, the author perfectly summarizes how we should excel in our giving to others, “Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do.”

By truly following the example of Christ Jesus and the words given to us by Father God, we can, without a doubt, stand firm in His grace.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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