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Giving

2 Cor. 8:1-15 (NASB) 

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"Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, [2] that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. [3] For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord, [4] begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints,"

For the past two weeks we've been talking a lot about the importance of all the members of our church being faithful to give their tithes. Of course, the obvious reason is it is the way the church finances its ministries. But when we give, we do more than pay the light bill or mortgage; we are giving to the Lord and His work. And because of that we receive a blessing. God promises us that the blessings we receive will be "poured out from heaven's windows" upon us. Those blessings have an intangible nature to them. Sometimes, the blessings are material, but sometimes they are spiritual or emotional. Last week, our discussion revolved around "the other blessing"-that blessing that comes from being a part of a local church and knowing that we are doing "our part" to help fulfill the mission God gave the church. We emphasized that we are all in the same boat, and that everyone needs to be facing the same direction and rowing together. One aspect of that level of cooperation is everybody's willingness to contribute financially to the mission of the church.

Tithing has always been second nature to me, and my family has always given at least a tithe to the churches we've attended. Many of you have the same testimony, yet, according to the Barna Research Group, only 8% of American households tithed in 2001, and only 3% tithed in 2002. The percentage isn't much better for those claiming to be born-again Christians. In 2001 14% claimed to tithe while only 6% made the same claim in 2002. The only explanation the research group gave for the decline was the priest scandals, terrorist attacks and the soft economy. (LE, Fall 2003, p. 7)

Those explanations ring hollow to me, because I don't necessarily see the correlation between prosperity and faithfulness. For instance, look at this passage of scripture, why do you think the Macedonian's gave the way they did? If you think it was because they were rolling in the dough, you are wrong. Verse 2 indicates that they had a "great ordeal of affliction," and "deep poverty." Verse 3 says they gave "beyond their ability." These were not wealthy people, at least not in the material sense. Their wealth was in their "abundance of joy," (vs 2) and their "liberality" (vs 2). These were self-starters. Paul didn't have to "guilt" them into giving or even motivate them to give. Verse 3 makes it clear that they did this "of their own 

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