Generosity: Just Add a Little Love


(As we renovate the Sanctuary as a part of our Capital Improvements project, we will lack audio recordings of the sermons. Expect these to return this Winter!)

Sermon

Around this time last year, Penny and I were getting ready to buy something at a store here in Athens. Next to the cash register was a sign that had a portion of a verse from our I Timothy scripture reading today.

     The sign read, “Since money is the root of all evil, we’ll be happy to take it from you.”

     I turned to Penny and I said, “Now, that is funny!” And Penny said, “But they misquoted the bible verse.”

     I said, “What?”

     She said, “It’s not, ‘money is the root of all evil.’ It should say, ‘the love of money is the root of all evil.’”

     Leave it to a person who is named after a coin to know her bible verses about money.

     She’s right. This is probably the most misquoted verse in the entire bible and I fell for it that day! A presidential candidate misquoted this verse during a speech by saying, “money is the root of all evil.”

     I wonder if the Apostle Paul who wrote this letter to Timothy had any idea that this would become the most misquoted verse in the entire Bible. Maybe he should have put the word, “LOVE” in all caps. Or maybe, he should have included a heart emoji after the word, “love” to emphasize his point.

     Why do we tend to misquote this verse about money? What’s up with that? Maybe it’s because we are a little embarrassed to admit that it’s easy to have a love affair with our money.

     You know how I am with quarters, right? I’ve shared with you how for the longest time, I have stored quarters in my car. Pennies, nickles, and dimes are not allowed. Only quarters are permitted.

     I think the reason I have a love affair with quarters is because they give me an extra sense of assurance, like that time I made a late afternoon trip to Dairy Queen. When they asked for me to pay the $8 or so amount, I realized that I had forgotten to bring my wallet with me.

     I motioned for the worker to give me a just a minute. I went out to my car and proudly put over 32 quarters on the counter. I walked out of that place with my head held high and with a little swagger to my step. My precious quarters saved the day. So, yeah, we sometimes have this love affair with our precious money.

     The Apostle Paul isn’t saying that we shouldn’t care about money. He just wants us to keep it in perspective so that we can be the generous people that God is calling us to be.

     Paul is saying that it’s important for us to have the right perspective with money. We need to remember that we can’t take it with us when we leave this world.

     As someone once said, “I’ve never seen a hearse pulling a U-haul.” Our possessions won’t do us any good in the afterlife, but it can do a whole lot of good while we’re right here on earth.

     Paul writes how money can provide us with the basic necessities of life like food and clothing and this can give us contentment, but he also says how it can lead us down a selfish and destructive path.

     Paul concludes this passage of scripture on money by encouraging us to do good and to share what we have with others. This is what it means to be generous. This is what it means to live out our faith and to use our money wisely.

     If the love of money is the root of all evil, then Paul also wants us to know that it’s the love of God that is the root of all good. If we love God with our whole hearts, we will become the generous givers that God is calling us to be. We just need to remember to add a little love in how we handle our money.

     John Wesley, the founder of Methodism has given us three important ways to be generous in our giving and to now allow the love of money to get the best of us. Those three ways of handling money are to 1) Earn all you can. 2) Save all you can. And 3) Give all you can.

     If we can just remember those three things, we will be able to be to have a proper perspective on handling money.

Earn All You Can

     The first way of handling money is to earn all you can. Of course, this is assuming that our earnings are done in an ethical way. It’s important to have enough money to care for our needs. Earning all we can means that we use the gifts, abilities, and opportunities that God has given us to make a living.

Save All You Can

     The second important way of handling money is to save all you can. Saving money is not always easy, but it’s so important because we need to think about our long-term financial stability.

     Putting away a little money each month will pay dividends in the long run.

Give All You Can

     And the third important way of handling money is to give all you can. This is at the heart of what the Apostle Paul is saying in our scripture reading for today. He want us to be generous givers so that we can not only use our money to give us a sense of contentment, but to also bless others.

     When we give away all we can so that we can do good for others, it helps us to keep our focus on God and not on our money.

     This is how we are to handle our money. Earn all we can. Save all we can. And give all we can.

     Rev. Dick Teller was my first District Superintendent back in the mid 80s. We also served on staff together at a church in the 90s. He became a spiritual mentor for me over these many years, giving me pointers about pastoral ministry, the importance of taking care of myself, and giving me thoughts on things he had learned about managing finances. He passed away last November.

     Just before he passed away, the church where he had been attending in his retirement years did a stewardship video with him. They showed this short video at the church as part of their annual stewardship campaign.

     I’d like to show this video of my friend Rev. Dick Teller to you as he shares his thoughts about being generous givers to Christ and his church. Let’s watch.

 

My friend truly lived out what he shared in this video. He and his wife, Jan were very generous people.

     Being generous is all about just adding a little love to our giving. That’s what the Apostle Paul is talking about in our scripture reading for today.

     This past Spring, Sharon Stoltzfus and I attended a meeting at the Conference office in Columbus. They had asked several leaders of different churches in our conference to come and share ministry ideas. We shared about our outdoor prayer cross and how that has been a way for people who walk by our church to let know that we are a church that cares for them.

     One of the churches at that conference meeting shared an incredible ministry idea that Sharon and I thought you would like to hear.

     This is a small church located just north of Columbus. The pastor of that church told the congregation that they would be receiving a special offering through the month of December, including at their Christmas Eve service.

     He told them that he wasn’t going to tell them what the special offering was for until at the end of the Christmas Eve service when all of the money had been collected. He said how people in that church kept bugging him during the whole month of December to tell him where they were going to send the offering, but he wouldn’t tell them, no matter how much they begged him.

     He said how some of his members who said they would be in Florida for Christmas Eve, wanted him to tell him what that surprise offering was for, but he said, “It’s a surprise. I can’t tell anyone.” They were even trying to bribe him, but he just wouldn’t tell them.

     So, finally, Christmas Eve came and at the end of their 11 o’clock candlelight service, he told them about the offering. He told them the amount that had been collected which was one of the largest Christmas offerings they had ever received at that church.

     He then told the 11 o’clock Christmas Eve service crowd that the Christmas offering was going to be evenly divided and given to all the workers at the local Waffle House restaurant that night. As a church, they were going to give them a very nice Christmas surprise.

     So, the pastor invited anyone from the 11 o’clock service to head on over to the Waffle House to surprise these workers with this offering. The pastor said how he thought that maybe 5 people would actually go with him to The Waffle House that night. But to his surprise, about 30 to 40 people were there. They all wanted to be part of this random act of kindness.

     The pastor said that he arrived at The Waffle House after everybody else because he had to turn out the church lights and secure the building. When he got there, he asked them if they told the workers why they were there and they said, they hadn’t because they were waiting for him to arrive.

     He said that those Waffle House workers were probably really worried about all those people they were going to have to serve. So they all went in to the Waffle House restaurant, and this pastor said that each of those workers received a little over $400 on that early Christmas morning from their church.

     They were shocked that their church would do such a nice thing for them. They were so thankful to these church members. It was a very memorable night for everyone involved. The church was on cloud nine over this. It became the talk of the town.

     The pastor didn’t think too much more about this until about a week after Christmas. One of his church members said that she decided to eat at that same Waffle House restaurant one day, and the waitress, recognizing this person from that early Christmas morning said that she was one of the workers who received money from the church.

     The waitress then said how that extra $400 really came in handy because she and her children were facing an eviction notice at the time. Because of that generous Christmas gift from their church, they were able to stay in their apartment.

     This story reminds me that being generous is really just about adding a little love in our giving. When we add a little of God’s love in our giving, it truly does bring transformation to our community and world.

     This week, many of us will be receiving a 2017 estimate of giving card in the mail. We are invited to prayerfully consider what our generous offering will be to Christ and his church for this coming year. We can either mail our cards to the church or bring it to church with us next Sunday as we dedicate our cards to the glory of God.

     The Apostle Paul was right when he said that, “It’s the love of money that is the root of all evil.” May God always help us to remember that “It’s the love of God that is the root of all good.”

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 24:  The Waffle House restaurant chain in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

     As we prepare for a new year of ministry, let’s add a little love in our giving. That’s all it takes in being the generous people that God has called us to be.