It’s a cliché, of course, but you hear about this happening all the time: some televangelist wants to raise money so he/she reminds you that if you give money to God, through that televangelist, He’s gonna bless you real good. The more you give, the more you’re gonna be blessed. They dangle before their faithful listeners/watchers the promise of great financial blessings and while they don’t use the exact words, it’s like telling the people that you can give so much to ensure that God will give you a car, so much more to get a house, and so on. While Paul took pride in being able to preach the gospel at no cost to the Corinthians, these preachers glory in their ability to establish a financially spiritual quid pro quo with God where He is obligated to give you more stuff based on how much you give to support his/her lavish lifestyle.
I guess the way to tell which televangelist God favors is by how He responds to your giving. If you give to televangelist A and nothing changes, but then you give to televangelist B and the blessings pour down like rain in a monsoon, God must like televangelist B. God may let it rain on the just and the unjust, but have no doubt about the “fact” that it was televangelist B that caused God to make it rain. Ok, a little silly, perhaps even a little judgmental. Paul, after all, was taking up that offering for the Jerusalem Church and he continued to remind the church to give. He also promised some financial blessing. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9: 7-8)
Ok, there are a few differences in Paul’s appeals and the modern televangelist. Paul appealed to the Corinthian Church’s original pledge to help the Jerusalem Church, he didn’t create a situation that needed to happen immediately. The pledge was over a year before this letter and Paul wanted to make sure that they weren’t embarrassed when he, and the people inspired by the zeal of the Corinthians, showed up to collect. He promised God’s abundant blessings to those who gave cheerfully, but these blessings had a different focus: that the follower of Christ would have all that they needed to abound in every good work. The promise from Paul wasn’t the latest chariot; it was that God would continue to give them opportunities to sacrifice financially to show people the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
Good works don’t save us, of course, but once we’ve experienced the love of Jesus, we should want to share that with others. I’ve had the blessing of being helped and later I’ve had the blessing of helping others. I had to remind one friend that I was able to help, “We’re blessed so that we can bless others.” We live very comfortably. There is no doubt that we’ve been blessed. But to be honest, God isn’t worried about the house I live in, the cars I drive, or the vacations I’m able to take because of those blessings: He’s concerned about my relationship to Him. He’s also concerned about the people that come across my path. Do I use the blessings He’s entrusted me with to bless others or do I seek to hoard them? Do I give grudgingly, or do I give cheerfully? What would happen if at a worship service, when the plate was passed, people started laughing as they put their offering in the plate? The more you gave, the more you laughed. The Greek word translated as “cheerfully” is “hilarion” which is the Greek root for hilarious. Such an offering would be hilarious, and therefore biblical. It would upset some people, though, I’m sure. So, chuckle when you write the check to your church. Then, find other ways to help people and laugh uproariously as you do. It will change your life and God will bless you real good.
O Lord, I’ve been blessed in so many ways. Remind me that to whom much is given, much is expected.