A report I read about charitable giving during the economic distress our country dealt with recently was eye opening. The giving from wealthy people, those earning $100,000 and above, declined over 3% from 2006-2012. Apparently the uncertainty of the situation made them more likely to hold onto their money. During the same time, among those in poverty, earning $25,00 or less, giving jumped more than 16%. Apparently the uncertainty of the situation made them more likely to help out their neighbor. While the total amount given may seem higher from the wealthy, in terms of percentage, those in poverty give far more than those who are wealthy.
This isn’t a new situation. Paul bragged about the Macedonian Church and their record of giving out of their poverty to the Corinthian Church. The Corinthian Church probably had more people of wealth than many other churches of their day because of Corinth’s economic status. Paul notes some of the problems caused by the economic division in the church in his letters. Paul sought to remind those in the church that giving to God’s work is truly a matter of the heart. “For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.” (2 Corinthians 8:3-5)
Oh, the wealthy in the church probably gave something to the collection for the saints. They probably gave a numerical figure that was higher than those who were slaves, or common workers, no doubt. They probably felt quite proud of themselves for their donations, much like the Pharisees who blew trumpets as they gave alms to the poor or donated at the Temple to much fanfare. Remember that Jesus commenting on giving at the Temple commended the widow who gave far less in terms of amount, but far more in terms of sacrifice. The Macedonian Church made sacrifices to give to support God’s work. Paul may have told them something like, “Wait, that’s far too much.” Yet they begged to be able to support the saints in Jerusalem. The key though was that they gave themselves first to God and in obedience to Him gave to the work of the Lord.
Now, if I were like many contemporary evangelists, this is where I would tell you to send me your checks and PayPal donations. Please don’t do that. What I am going to remind you to do today is to give yourself first to God. Then, support the work of your local church. Is God working on you to give even more? Then find a Christian ministry that you can support wholeheartedly. I don’t do this often, but I’m going to suggest one that I absolutely love, and have been blessed far more in supporting it than I have given. Africa New Life Ministries began after the genocide in Rwanda. A minister from Uganda saw the need to help and he began working there. One of the major areas of need is education for the children, and so one of their primary ministries is in child sponsorship. Children are given an education and get at least one meal a day. As a sponsor, you can send other gifts to support your children. Africa New Life also encourages people to take a mission trip to Rwanda and meet their sponsored child during that trip. If you are reading this message, you are probably in the 1% of material wealth in the world. Give yourself to God and see how He wants to use you to bless others.
Lord God, we are wealthy beyond what so many people in the world could imagine and we so often get wrapped up in what we think are needs that we forget about others. Help me give myself to You first, and then respond to Your guidance to give of my wealth to help others.