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'The Treasure Chest'


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The number one danger is that what
you are giving to is to a church or an organization, not giving it to God.
There is a difference.


Resources: Sermon

The Rev. Ronald Burcham, pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, LCMS, Urbandale, IA

Give with Pure Joy!

 

November 17, 2002
 

By the Rev. Ronald Burcham

Typed from audio transcript

I know what you are thinking, it is not even Thanksgiving yet, and the guy has Christmas presents out. What in the world, haven't we commercialized this enough? Well, the reason that I brought them out… and I know it is not quite Thanksgiving and yet these are Christmas gifts… but let's be honest with each other, at least in my house we are already talking about Christmas. We are already trying to decide what we are going to get the kids, what are we going to get family, what am I going to get my wife, what she is going to get me… all those things. We are starting to think along those lines, of gifts. As I think of gifts that are given and gifts that I have received, to me they fall into one of three categories.

The first one is what I call the "obligatory gift". That is the gift by obligation. You give this gift to somebody else, you may not really even know the person, but you feel obliged to give them something. So maybe it is the newspaper carrier, you have never seen the mysterious person that drops the paper off at 4:00 AM, but you feel compelled. You should probably give them something, and so you feel obliged to give them something. Maybe it is your kid's teachers. You may have not even met them or know them that well, but it is just something that you do. You buy something small for the kid's teachers. You probably have been on the receiving end of obligatory gifts. Usually anybody who has done business with you decided Christmastime is a good opportunity to give you something. Normally speaking it has their name plastered on the side of it along with the phone number just in case you want to call them. Those are gifts that are given by obligation… obligatory gifts.

The second kind of gift is kind of similar but a little bit different. It is called the "guilt gift". You already know what the guilt gift is don't you? The guilt gift is you know that Aunt Gertrude is going to buy you something, and so you are going to feel guilty if you don't buy Aunt Gertrude something in return. So you buy her something. It is the guilt gift. Now there is a little bit of a trick about the guilt gift though, because with the guilt gift you have to discern, now are they really going to get me something, because see, if you give a gift to somebody and they don't have something ready for you then you feel guilty because now you have given them something, and they feel guilty. So two days later they give you something back, and you feel even worse. Guilt gifts… all of us give them, all of us have received them. That is the guilt gift.

Then there is the "joy gift". Joy gifts are special. Joy gifts are the ones you spend hours, days, or maybe weeks choosing, finding just the right gift. Joy gifts are the kind of presents that you can't wait to give it to the recipient. You somehow landed on something that you know that they are absolutely going to love, and it is something that you are going to take more joy and pleasure in giving it to them than anything that they could give back to you. Joy gifts are the things that we like to give. These are the things that we give to our spouses and family members and our kids. These are the ones that we just can't wait until they open it up. We just can't wait to give them that gift.

II Corinthians tells us that when we give our gifts to God, we are not to give them grudgingly, we are not to give them under compulsion like we have to, but we are to give them cheerfully, we are to give them with joy. I believe all of us when we offer back to God of ourselves and of our wealth want to do that with a smile on our face and a willing spirit. We want to give joyfully back to God a portion of what He has given to us, whether that is service in His name, whether it is our time, whether even that of the financial ability that we have. But we want to go for the joy gifts to God, to give it with a cheerful spirit. We almost can't wait to make that offering to God.

The challenge for us this morning is for us to decide, where are you at. You don't have to stay there, but where are you at if somebody asks you to be part of something here in God's Kingdom? Where are you at when the offering plate comes by? How are you offering your gift back to God? Is it the obligatory gift? Is it a guilt gift, or is it a joy gift?

Some of us may be stuck on the obligatory gift, that is, that we feel obliged that we should give something back to God. Obligatory gifts, we really don't feel bad about; it is almost in the sense that service rendered, well then some sort of payment should be made back to that. So if we are going to enjoy this congregation and we are going to be a part of this community, well then we feel obliged to help support it. So the reasoning says that somebody has to pay for the lights, somebody has to pay for the salaries, somebody has to pay for the curriculum that is used in Children's Ministry. Those funds have to come from somewhere, so that means that each of us needs to pitch in and do our part. We have an obligation as being a part of this organization to make sure that we give towards that. Somebody has to do the work. So really it is no different than like little league or soccer club, each one is assigned to the concession stand, and you need to do your job and put in your time. So it is here at the church. There is a time when you are going to have to teach Sunday school, or you are going to have to serve on a board, or you are going to have to be an usher, and so you feel obliged, obligated to give of yourself and to give of your wealth back to God. There is some danger in that though.

The number one danger is that what you are giving to is to a church or an organization, not giving it to God. There is a difference. There is a difference between giving of your self and giving of your financial resources to a church or an organization for offering them up to God. Because if you are giving to an organization and you feel obliged to do so, well as soon as that organization does something that you don't like, you just stop giving. As soon as they start doing something you really don't care for, you just stop volunteering and you step off to the side, because after all, it is the organization that you are giving to, and you don't like the organization anymore. God really doesn't need obligatory gifts. That is not what He is after. He is not after us to give to an organization. What He is seeking is that we give back to Him.

The guilt gift is kind along the same way. The guilt gift is a little bit different, because what happens with the guilt gift is that we feel bad. We feel that somehow we are not pulling our weight, so when the ushers come down the aisle and the offering plate is passed, well all the sudden it is a mad dash, it is a scramble to pull out your wallet or grab the checkbook and oh, what is the balance, and what am I going to do, what will people think if it passes by and I don't put something in. I will feel terrible when I leave if I haven't contributed somehow. The guilt gift is that when you read in the Weekly Word that we need somebody to teach midweek or Sunday school, and so as you leave you are positive, in fact you know that DeAnn, the Director of Children's Ministry, is staring at you. You are positive as you go down education row that every teacher stops mid-sentence and looks at you and wonders, why isn't he or she teaching? So you feel bad; you feel guilty. You feel guilty that other people are doing it and you are not. Other people are giving you are not. So out of that guilt, you give. But you are giving to an organization again. You are giving to a church; you are not giving to God.

There is a lot of danger in guilt giving. First and foremost you could get fed up. If you feel so guilty about it, well the easiest thing to do is to stop coming here. Then you won't feel guilty anymore, and you won't feel bad. Nobody wants that. You could build up resentment. Why is it that it is such a few people do all the work around here? Why is it just me and the select others that always get called upon? We are always the ones that volunteer. Why is it the majority of the budget is on our backs, our shoulders? How come everyone else isn't doing their part? You build up resentment. Maybe you even have a bit of a haughtiness that some how you are special and they are not. That is what happens when you give to an organization instead of giving to God. God doesn't want guilt gifts.

Gifts are not to be given out of compulsion, not to be forced, but a matter of the heart. God wants joy gifts. God is after our heart. God wants the gifts that we give to Him to be given with pure joy and excitement, to the point where we can't wait to offer back to God some of the financial resources that He left us with so that His church, His kingdom can grown. Joy gifts are given to God; they are not given to an organization. God may use them here in this house or in another congregation, but the gift is given to God, the gift is given to His ministry, so that His kingdom can grow. God wants us to give with a pure heart, with a joyful heart. He set the example for us. When God gives His gifts to us, He does not give them out of obligation; He does not give them out of guilt. When God the Father sent His Son into our world, it is not because He owed us something, that somehow He felt obliged since He created us and things went awry, well, He had an obligation to fix things up. No, He didn't. God doesn't give to us out of guilt that He sort of felt sorry for us or He feels bad about kind of the mess that we are in down here. That is not how God gives.

God gives from His heart. The only motivation for God is pure love. His love for you and His love for me, and from that love He offered up His Son. His Son came into this world not out of compulsion, not because His father forced Him to, but willingly, gladly, joyfully, Jesus came into this world, because He took great joy and pleasure in knowing that through His life, death, and resurrection all people could be gathered to God, our relationship could be restored to Him, that our sins could be paid for, and that we will be welcomed Home one day by the Father in Heaven, Himself.

Look at Scripture. What does it say? Jesus said that when one sinner repents all of Heaven breaks forth in jubilant joy and the angels sing. He was happy. He was joyful as He gave the gift of Himself. The parables of Jesus, the lost coin, the sheep, what is it? We rejoice and call the neighbors in to celebrate when the coin is lost or the shepherd goes out in search for the one sheep and leaves the 99 behind and returns with great joy. God gives to us with great joy. He can't wait for us to open up the gift; he can't wait for us to experience His love and forgiveness and to know His commitment to us. He is anxious for us to open the gift so He can see us being released from all the pain, and that is the same way that we give back to God. We give back to God with joy-filled gifts.

How do we have joy in our giving? Think about other joy gifts that you give. To me the same principles apply. If I am going to find a special gift, maybe for one of the kids or maybe it is for my spouse, and I am going to spend some time finding just the right thing, it is not going to be a rash decision. It is not something that is going to happen quickly, but I am going to spend some time and really going to concentrate, and I might take hours in the store. I might take weeks researching and looking and finding just the right thing, so that I can't wait to give it to her. God says that we should decide in our heart what we are going to give to Him. That means that it may take some time and it takes some prayer.

So the challenge that all of us have over the next couple of weeks is to ask what are we going to give God? How are we going to offer God the gifts that He has given to us? How are we going to offer that back to Him? Are we going to take the challenge and spend time in His word everyday? Are we going to read His book that He has given to us? Are we going to be able to make that commitment and stick to that commitment? We need to pray about that, and we are going to offer that gift of time back to God and say to God that I am going to do this. I know that you are willing to bless me, and I am going to give you those 15 minutes every day so that you can speak to me. Take an inventory of the talents that you have and really decide how can you fit into God's kingdom? How can you work for Him? How can you give of yourself in that way that His kingdom can grow and prosper? Let's spend some time asking ourselves, of the wealth that God has given us, what can we give back to God. How can we decide what we are going to give to His work so we will feel good about it, so it is not a mad dash for our wallet or checkbook, that it is not given grudgingly, as well I suppose I have to, because God doesn't need to have money. But instead, you look forward to that time and you offer back to God some of the wealth He gives to you. You know in your heart that God is going to bless and that God is going to touch so many lives, lives that are part of our congregation, lives that are outside of our congregation, lives that are across the globe, and you can't wait to be a part of that. It takes time to make that kind of decision. It takes prayer, God, how do you want me to respond?

The second thing, when you give a joy gift, you should go for the max not the minimum. Think about it. When you buy a gift, when you are looking for that special something for someone, do you set out to the mall saying, well, I wonder what's the minimum I can get away with here? You look at the budget, and you look at the checkbook, and say, how much can I spend? How much will I allow myself so I can get something special for that person, and go for the max not the minimum? When you are looking at how you are going to give your gift of joy back to God, go for the max not the minimum.

So if you are going to give of your time and talent and skills and gifts, don't say what is the minimum I can do, what is the least commitment I can make, go for the max. How can I give all of myself to God? How much time can I really commit if I jostle this, and I work my schedule this way, how can I really give God the maximum amount? And yes, even when we look at the checkbook and we look at our budget; go for the max not the minimum. That is how joy gifts are given. We don't give gifts by saying what can I get away with, how cheap can I be. We say how extravagant can I allow myself to be? How large of a gift can I afford? Those are joyous gifts. Those are gifts that you can't wait to give away.

Our challenge this week and next week is to spend that time in prayer and ask ourselves first of all what kind of gifts am I giving God, and wherever you are at, I have to believe that all of you want to move toward this, toward to joy gifts, so when you offer it to God, you just can't wait for Him to open it up. Spend some time in prayer. Go for the max not the minimum. And then give to God; give to God from your heart, and give with pure joy. Amen.