St Barbara’s; 11.10.2020
Rev Tulo Raistrick
Our Harvest service is often a time when we think about giving. We stop and pause and are grateful for all the food and other good things we enjoy. Things that we may take for granted most of the year we take a moment to be thankful for. And in doing so, it prompts us also, like we have done this morning, to think about those who don’t have enough food, those living in poverty in this country and around the world, and to think how we can give.
Paul’s words to the church in Philippi have three really helpful things to tell us about giving.
Firstly, our giving brings joy to others. When we give generously, willingly, happily, whether of our time, our money, our talents, it can make such a difference to the lives of others. For one thing, it shows them that we care about them. For Paul, stuck in prison, the amazing generosity of the church in Philippi, who sent not just a “thinking of you” card, but a person, Ephaproditus, and a gift to supply his needs showed him just how much they cared. Paul was able to write: “I rejoice greatly in the Lord!” because of their love.
I’ve visited churches in Africa who were amazed and overjoyed when they discovered that UK christians were praying for them and giving to support them.
Not only that, our giving can make a tangible difference to those we give to. Paul needed food. Without the Philippians’ gift, he would have gone very hungry. Our giving as a church to CAP has made a tangible difference too, helping people break free from crippling debt.
How wonderful – when we give we bring joy to people’s lives.
When we give, we also bring joy to our own lives too. Paul is delighted with the gift sent by the Philippian church in part because he knows that their act of giving will bring them joy too. He puts it in accountancy terms – their giving, which one would think would go in the debit (money out) column is instead going in their credit (money in) column. The joy they will receive in giving far outweighs any downsides.
For one thing, when we give, we have the joy of seeing the difference we can make with God’s help. And often God takes what we give, and multiplies it way beyond the value of the gift. Our church giving to the Good Neighbours project is a really good example of that. As a church we funded the appointment of a co-ordinator for Earlsdon and Chapelfields. Soon other churches in the area got involved. And then Coventry City Council, who were so impressed with the scheme, got involved and funded it to be rolled out across the city. So that during the lockdown over 900 isolated people were being visited and supported. How fantastic is that, and through our giving, we get to be part of that!
Sometimes we can wonder, “Am I really making any difference?” Through giving, whether of our time, money, talents, resources, we can find real joy in knowing we are making a difference, our contribution does matter.
Not only that, giving brings us joy in helping to set us free from the trap of always feeling we need more or of being dissatisfied with what we have. The billionaire American of the last century, John D Rockerfeller, was asked, “How much money does it take to make a person happy?” He answered, “”Just a little bit more than they have.” Giving generously and happily helps us to learn Paul’s great secret: to be content in all circumstances, whether in need or in plenty.
Our giving can bring joy to others; it can bring joy to us; and it can bring joy to God. Paul tells the Philippian church that their gift is like “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” Our giving is an act of worship, an act of praise and thanksgiving.
When we give help to others; when we give our time to listen to someone who is distressed; when we give of our talents and skills to make a difference for others; when we give financially to support the work of God in the world; when we do these things, we are worshipping and praising God as much as when we sing hymns or receive communion.
For Paul, and for us, giving brings joy to others, it brings joy to us and it brings joy to God.
So today, have a think about how you can willingly and happily give today. It may be:
- telling someone about Good Neighbours or CAP
- utilising their services yourself, if you are feeling isolated or struggling with debt
- volunteering to help others
- giving to the work of Tearfund, or to the church as we seek to support local initiatives
And we can give with joy because of all that God has given to us.