There are a number of things crippling the life and witness of the church at present: a failure to preach God's Word, a disinterest in the real care of people, a preoccupation with self indulgence, but the one I want to speak to is 'giving'. Specifically the giving of money. It's a sensitive subject when in reality it shouldn't be. That's because too many of us are mistakenly invested in pursuing our happiness in 'things', when the real source of our joy is found in our being increasingly conformed to the image of Christ.
Paul writes to the church at Corinth to gently stir them to fulfill what they had started a year earlier but not finished - the weekly collection for the relief of their fellow believers in Jerusalem. (2 Corinthians ch 8)
By way of encouragement he points them in the direction of the church at Macedonia. What he writes is simple and yet astonishing in its radicalness. He says of the believers in Macedonia, who are struggling with the hardships of extreme poverty, that they had begged him not to prevent them from the privilege of giving to the needy in Jerusalem. Generous giving which was funded, not out of vast sums of disposable income, but from what they'd been able to save by depriving themselves. Astonishing! How was this mentality possible? It's irrational by our standards. This mentality was possible because of the intensity of joy they'd experienced through their voluntarily giving beyond their means. They were literally filled with joy at the privilege of denying themselves in order to give to brothers and sisters in need.
What led them to think like this, let alone do it? The grace of God in their lives. They had got it. In their heads and in their hearts they had got what the work of God's grace actually meant for their lives. It meant liberty to live out-with the consumerism of their culture. It meant freedom to invest in matters of eternal consequence.
The church is being crippled today because of the lack of money being returned to the Lord. But the real issue isn't the money. The real story isn't in the church balance sheets. The 'bottom line' is our dysfunctional hearts. We're simply not getting what God has done in our lives. It would do us good to dwell long and hard on the inexpressible gift of God's grace to us, and its radical implications for every aspect of our new lives in Christ.
'For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.' 2 Corinthians 8:9
Does that not say something to us?