Giving During a Pandemic

This is a message I preached on March 29, 2020 on the topic of GIVING

Today we are talking about GIVING.

Now, I know what you’re are thinking! How can you talk about “giving” in a time like this!?!

We are certainly in extraordinary times.

Extraordinary times like what we are in will either help to strengthen your faith or it can expose a weak faith.

When things are going well, it is easy to get caught up with our STUFF. It becomes easy for our faith to just be an accessory to our already diverse lives.

When I was a youth ministry intern at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan the youth pastor I worked for often said that people will know what type of Christians we are not by our actions, but by our reactions. Personally, I think people we see us for who we truly worship by both or actions and reactions. But how we react to things can be a big indication of a strong or weak faith.

In times like the moment we find ourselves in, it is easy to see the very best and the very worst in humanity. In an amazing effort to help others we have seen athletes giving away big checks to help support others, musicians doing live concerts online for free, people in the medical field giving extraordinary efforts in saving lives, neighbors helping and supporting one another.

On the other hand, we have seen people panicking and as a result hoarding.

Or those who are taking advantage of this situation to stockpile and price gouge others.

Difficult times will reveal peoples’ true NATURE and CHARACTER.

Now I don’t mean that if you are a Christian you should have it all together. That is NOT what I am saying. If I am honest, I have a pretty constant, low-level feeling of anxiety and worry about everything that is going on.

How bad is this going to be?

Who is telling the truth?

Will my kids be able to graduate in May?

Are we going to be able to do mission trips this Summer?

Quite frankly, I miss my church community. This lockdown has taught me just how valuable we all are to each other. So, with all that said, let’s talk about GIVING.

Whether we realize it or not we are all a part of a consumeristic culture. We have grown up with literally thousands of images everyday flashed before our eyes telling us that we will not fit in UNLESS we have the latest

fashions,

gadgets,

phones,

cars, and on and on.

I had the pleasure of going to a private Christian school in my early years. Hears the deal though, my dad was a teacher at the school. Private school teachers make far less than their public school counterparts. BUT I was in a school where there were A LOT of teens who came from well-to-do families. I was envious of my friends who came from families that had all the cool stuff that we couldn’t afford. My friends had the latest video game systems . . . like Pong and Atari. Some had boats we could take out on Lake Erie, others had parents who provided jobs and disposable income for their teens. I ALWAYS wanted to go over my friends’ houses on the weekends more than them coming over to my house. They had all the cool stuff!

I became more and more like Bob Wiley in the movie “What About Bob?” always having the feeling of “I want, I want, I want! I need, I need, I need!”

It is just as easy to get caught up in this kind of attitude in our adult lives. The consumer mindset just permeates our whole culture and it takes effort as a Christ-follower not to get sucked into feeling like I constantly want, and want and want, and need, and need, and need. If you are anything like me, I am at least once a week looking on my computer at the latest Apple product I want next and I have a very extensive Amazon wish list. I bet you can’t guess what is mostly on my wish list! BOOKS! I love books. And I have been in BOOK HEAVEN during this Corona Virus lock down.

When we look at our passage for today, we see that Jesus gives us a heavenly perspective when it comes to our stuff. In the Sermon on the Mount he helps us to see that there is a big difference between EARTHLY treasures and HEAVENLY treasures.

In Matthew 6:19-21 it says:

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

This passage is ultimately about our attitude towards our STUFF. It is a contrast between two different ways we INVEST in our stuff. Earthly treasure vs. heavenly treasure. It is not about materials things vs. spiritual things as much as it is about how we manage our lives and what is MOST important to ourselves. Jesus defines the earthly treasure as those things which are:

1) CORRUPTIBLE,

2) INSECURE,

3) that which DEPRECIATES,

4) and is a result of SELFISH ACCUMULATION.

It is about building up my own mini-kingdom and then plastering my name over everything and declaring it as mine to the rest of the world. It is the idea of HORDING my own wealth to build up my own ego and self-worth. It is NARCISSISM. It shows an improper view of how we should be using our STUFF,

our LIFE,

our TIME,

and our ENERGY.

Jesus contrasts this with what the heavenly treasure is supposed to look like. He says that heavenly treasure is:

1) INCORRUPTIBLE,

2) SECURE,

3) it MULTIPLIES,

4) and it is represented by SELFLESS SHARING.

It is a contrast between selfISHness as opposed to selfLESSness. It is about taking all the blessings that you have abundantly been blessed with and sharing out of the goodness of your heart.

Jesus goes on to describe that we can approach our stuff with TWO ATTITUDES.

In Matthew 6:22-23 it says:

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

LIGHT vs. DARKNESS. Darkness represents blindness. Blind to others around you and the needs of others, holey consumed with one’s own selfishness. Light represents clear vision where one can see and understand their greater purpose in life to help and serve others. It opens our eyes to a generous spirit of sharing and helping with the talents and treasures we have been blessed with.

Jesus concludes this section of his talk by stating in Matthew 6:24 that:

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

This is a contrast between our faith in God as opposed to our faith in our stuff. Christianity in contrast to

hedonism,

materialism,

and narcissism, which all lead to spiritual blindness.

A darkness of the soul.

The pursuit of SELFISH MATERIALISM is contrary to a LIFE OF SERVICE.

You can not serve God and money or the stuff that we accumulate. Now, it is not necessarily wrong to have money or things. The question becomes more, “Are you selfishly hording your wealth OR using it in a way to the benefit of others?” Is wealth your god, or is God the God of your wealth?

One final passage I would like to leave you with comes from the first letter to Timothy. The context of this letter is that Paul is writing to Timothy who is a young pastor. In fact, these letters are often called the pastoral epistles because they were written to specific people who were pastoring churches. Timothy was a young pastor and Paul was the one responsible for discipling him in the faith. While in prison, Paul felt compelled to write Timothy to encourage him as he is pastoring a church. Apparently, Timothy had some wealthy people in his congregation and Paul wanted them to have a proper perspective on how they should manage their wealth.

Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 that

17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

If you have ever read through the book of Acts it chronicles Paul’s missionary journeys as he goes about planting church from town to town and city to city. In many cases he was encouraging those who could give for the greater good of those who were poor and in need.

Paul tells his wealthy believers not to allow their stuff to give them an attitude of haughtiness or to put their hopes in their stuff. Instead, he encourages them to manage their wealth for the greater good of the body of Christ. They are to use their resources to:

1) DO GOOD! Sound familiar? That’s one of John Wesley’s General Rules for Christ followers.

2) BE RICH IN GOOD WORKS! If you have the means to help others because you have been blessed with a lot, then do it. You have been given an amazing opportunity to grow and expand the kingdom of Christ. Help a neighbor, reach out to a friend, check in with your relatives. Find ways that you can creatively be a blessing to others during this time of social distancing.

3) Be GENEROUS and ready to SHARE. Now this is not socialism vs. capitalism. This is greed and selfishness vs. living into the kingdom principles of generosity and good works.

As a result of these three things you are making a difference in expanding the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s what we pray for every time we say the Lord’s Prayer!

So how does all this relate to what we are going though right now?

First of all, the CHURCH IS HERE FOR YOU. If you are in a situation where you need help or assistance please let us know as we are involved in several ways where people can get help.

Secondly, many of us have been blessed by God with wealth and resources that put many of us in the top 10% when compared to the rest of the world. We have resources and means to be a blessing to other people. I would encourage you to wisely consider how you can help others during this time.

1) Continue to give to the church as we want to continue helping the ministries that we support who now more than ever need our help.

2) Give to the NEST as they are making sure that all low-income children receive food every day. Their needs this week are: Progresso soup, Shelf-stable milk, V8 Fusion, and Mac & cheese. If you are able to get any of these items as you go to the store you are encouraged to drop them off here at the church during regular office hours and we will make sure that those items get to them. Also, a private donation has been made to the NEST of $5,000.00 as a matching grant. I would think out of the generous spirit of Epiphany that I have observed over the years we ought to be able to match that just within our own congregation. This challenge goes through April 5th. You can either give directly to the NEST or drop off financial donations at the church and we will see that they get them.

3) Also, we would like to encourage you to give to the Goshen food pantry. We actually have three stations set up here in the church for donations. The NEST being one, the Goshen Food Pantry being another. And the last one is for Easter dinners for low-income families.

So, however you would like to give please do not let this time be a time to hold back,

stockpile

or hoard.

Definitely take good care of your basic needs. But if you are making a Kroger or Costco run, please think about how you can support one of these ministries. If you have the means, make a financial donation to support one of these ministries. And please consider your church and all the ministries we support through your tithes and donations.

May God bless you and be with you during this lockdown we are in. We will survive this and we will come together as a church body sometime soon in the near future and we will have a big giant celebration! I miss you all, especially that youth group out there! I want to send out a special blessing to all of our Seniors who are supposed to be graduating from High School or College soon. Whatever happens with your school, we are going to celebrate you BIG TIME! This goes for our CONFIRMANDS too! We love you all. And we miss seeing you all and worshiping together. But we will be back together soon. Have hope that this too shall pass and the church of Jesus Christ will answer the call to serve and comfort the least of these.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

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