Walking in the way of the Lord
II Corinthians 8:1-15
(For the pastor:
this sermon can use either PowerPoint or overheads.
The sermon is showing six overheads/pages from PowerPoint. I
used overheads because that is what was available in those days, but
visuals such as overheads or PowerPoint are fine teaching tools for
a sermon. In fact, the
sermon will feel much like a classroom and that is good.
As with all sermons, this one needs to be adapted to your
congregation, but the concepts are still valid. The overheads are
printed at the end of this sermon.)
has a title: Walking in
the way of the Lord concerning money, and the essence of the sermon
for today will be showing you six overheads which illustrate what is
On the top of the
first overhead, you see the title of the sermon and the thesis for
today: in bold print,
WALK IN THE WAYS OF THE LORD CONCERNING $ OR MONEY. That is our
theme. Underneath the title is a drawing of a dove, symbolic of the
Holy Spirit, and from the beak of the dove, you will notice that the
dove is holding onto a heart (drawing) and inside that heart are
words: “Deep Feelings of thanksgiving, compassion, charitable
love, and wanting to help others.”
That is what the Holy Spirit always brings to our hearts:
deep feelings of thanksgiving, compassion, charitable love,
and wanting to help others in need; and these feelings propel us to
walk in the way of the Lord. That
is why there is a drawing of a path or road coming from the heart.
These deep feelings energize us to walk in the way (a path or
road) concerning money. What
are words written on this path or way?
“First and Best.” When
you walk in the way of the Lord concerning money, you realize that
all money is a gift from God and that we give the first portion and
best portion of our income and that reveals what are hearts feel.
When you give the first and best, that tells what is
happening in your heart. …
The next set on words on the overhead are:
“Danger: dollars = God = idolatry.”
There is a danger on this road, on this path, that for all
people, including Christians, that money will become our god and the
Bible calls this idolatry. …
The next set of words on the way of God concerning money are:
“Widow, Zacheus and Barnabus.” The Bible gives us many
stories, but especially three stories which are positive and helpful
about those who walk in the way of the Lord concerning money.
The widow in the temple gave all she had.
Short, little Zacheus who climbed a tree to see Jesus repaid
his debts fourfold and gave fourfold of what he needed to for the
poor. Barnabus of the
Book of Acts sold his property to help a widow.
Here are three positive stories about Christians walking in
the way of the Lord concerning money.
The next phrase on your overhead is “generosity to the
poor.” Of course, the
whole Bible, Old and New Testament, talk about caring for the poor.
The book of James says clearly:
“Now this is pure religion:
to take care of widows in their suffering and remain
unstained from the world.” The target of much giving in the Bible is a widow because
they were poor. … The
next phrase on this overhead is “Macedonia and Corinth.”
Here were not individuals but two congregations who were
positive examples of what it meant to walk in the way of the Lord
concerning money. Here
were two poor congregations, eager to give, giving of their own free
will, generously and joyfully, first to God and then to others in
need. … The next
phrase is “Christian $ for Christians.”
In the Old and New Testament, the offerings seem to be
designated for other Jews and Christians.
The targets of their offerings seem to be “in house.”
But nowadays, our Christian offerings are for all people.
… The next line on the way of the Lord is “tithe = 10% =
no rules” What that
tells us is that the guide in the Old Testament was the tithe, or
10%, but a tithe is not mentioned for Christians in the Christian
community. The tithe is not meant to be a legalistic burden for the
New Testament community. The tithe is not the rule for Christians,
but it was the rule in the Old Testament.
As Paul says in II Corinthians, “we do not have any
rules” concerning money as we walk in the Christian way of the
Lord. The next line on
the way is “proportionate giving.” There
were no rules for Christians to follow, but the Apostle Paul
encouraged early Christians to give proportionately. Give a
percentage, and that is what we encourage within our congregation.
Figure out a percentage and give that to charity.
The next line: “exceedingly
are to be exceedingly generous in our giving.
The last line of the first overhead is:
“Good givers: no boasting.”
Jesus says regarding giving, that we are not to let our left
hand know what our right hand is doing; we are to be private about
this and not let our giving be an occasion for showing what a good
Christian we are. …
Now, on the left of the page, outside the road, is the word,
“guilt.” Guilt does
nothing. You notice
that guilt cannot penetrate the road; guilt is not part of the way
of the Lord. You can
make Christians feel guilty about what they do not give; but guilt
will not result in generous hearts but guilty, negative hearts. On
the right of the overhead, outside the way, is the phrase, “do
to give have neither power nor effect.
The only power that works is at the top of the diagram, the
Holy Spirit, who creates in our hearts, deep feelings of
thanksgiving, compassion, charitable love, and wanting to help.
These spiritual qualities help us to walk in the way of the
Lord. This first
overhead is the key teachings that guide the principles of Christian
stewardship within our congregation.
The second overhead
is entitled: GOOD NEWS, GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH with a big smile on the top
of the page. This is
what is happening in our congregation and setting.
The next line is: “Des
Moines, Kent, Federal Way.” These
are the communities we serve. The next line is:
“$24,000 - $28,000.”
This is the average household income for the households
living in these three communities.
The next line is: “3% = $330,000” which means our average household gives
3% of its income to this parish, perhaps more to other benevolent
charities, and this amounts to $330,000, the size of our budget and
those figures, we see three columns:
The left column is entitled “Benevolences” and under that
is “$103,000 or 32%.” Under benevolences, you notice that we
give $47,000 to world hunger, $21,000 to missions in our community,
$9,000 to the synod office, and $20,000 to other Luther missions in
the USA. On the second
or middle column, you notice the word, ‘Staff,” and underneath
that, the figure “$122,000 or 37%.”
Underneath this column for staff, I have listed some of the
more prominent things the paid staff do at Grace, “70 sermons,
27,820 people at worship, 1,000 hours of counseling, 13 adult
baptisms, 42 adult affirmations of faith, 24 transfers, care for 500
families, 21 weddings, 240,000 pieces of paper printed, 220 worship
services.” The third
column on the left is our “Program.”
Underneath that is “$96,000 or 30%.”
That includes $24,000 for heat and light, $40,000 for office
expenditures, $28,000 for program supplies and people.
And so this overhead gives you a feeling for our budget and
The third overhead
is entitled, in bold print: BAD
NEWS, GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH, and then an image of a frown.
Beneath the title, in bold words, we hear that “only 3% is
sinful!!!” We are the richest nation in the world. We are the richest
Christians in the world. We
do not live in villages of Africa or the barrios of Latin America.
We live in the breadbasket of the world, and we alive in the
richest section of that breadbasket, the Pacific Northwest and
Seattle, where employment and wages are high, compared to the rest
of the nation, and astronomically high compared to the rest of the
world. I know, so are
the expenses of living here. Then
below that you see that we have 450 households on our membership
roster and below that another 80 households who do not belong but
visit us and are under our care.
The next items on the overhead list our giving numbers:
120 households give $00; 148 households give $1 – 300; 42
households give $300 – 500; 60 households give $500 – 1000; 80
households give $1000 +. In
other words, as you look at the next statement on the overhead, you
notice that “Many households are not giving in the way of the
Lord.” That is the
reason for this sermon; there is a lot of room for improvement.
The next statement on the overhead is very important:
“Some are.” I
don’t know who is walking in the way of the Lord from this chart;
I don’t know any of the giving patterns in our church; I never
read any one’s financial giving.
I did once, some years ago, and I was so depressed I vowed to
never read those numbers again, and I haven’t.
But I know that some are giving in the way of the Lord
concerning money, and I am grateful for that.
The next line is: “Poor = elderly = single parents.” Yes, there are many poorer households in our congregation who
we don’t expect to give as high as percentage. On the other hand,
some of our greatest givers are the poorest people in our midst. The next lines I feel are fairly profound:
“Affair, pastor comes and talks with you; alcohol, pastor
comes and talks with you; violence, pastor comes and talks with you;
few $, no one talks with you.” So if you are having problems with
marriage, alcohol or family violence, we talk with you right away,
as soon as we find out, in order to help.
But when Christians are irresponsible in walking the ways of
the Lord concerning money, no one says anything.
I mean, no one!!!
overhead, in bold print, says:
GOOD NEWS: OUR
POTENTIAL and then another smiley face. This page is a list of the benevolences of our congregation
if we gave to the church at 3%, 4%, 5%, 6%, 7%, 8%, 9%, 10%.
On this page, we are looking at our level of benevolence, how
much we, as a congregation, give to charities.
Notice that the top line shows “330 households X
$10,000,000 (income of 330 families) X 3% = $300,000
minus fixed expenses of $200,000 = $100,000 for charities.
The following then are columns of each percent of our incomes
given to our church and the second column is how much we would give
away. 4% = $400,000 –
200,000 (expenses) = $200,000 for charity.
5% = $300,000. 6% = $400,000.
7% = $500,000. 8% = $600,000. 9%
= $700,000. 10% =
$800,000. … The next
line is in bold print: INCREDIBLE!
We, as a congregation, can do incredible things together if
more of us walk in the way of the Lord regarding money.
The next bold line is “Many can afford to give in the way
of the Lord.” As you remember
from the first overhead, the key is the dove that is the Holy Spirit
that is carrying a compassionate heart in its beak.
Many of you can afford to do this. The
next line says simply: “Needed:
positive changes.” And
the last line on the overhead says:
“Back to the basics.”
That means for us to go back to page one and reacquaint
ourselves with the basics of Christian giving.
The fifth overhead
has a title in bold print: SMALL
VISIONS AT 4%; the next line says in bold print:
AN EXTRA $100,000. What
could we do with an extra hundred thousand dollars per year to give
away compassionately and intelligently?
So I telephoned four people who are well known mission people
in the Lutheran church and asked them what they would do if we gave
them an extra hundred grand this coming year.
Reading the overhead, they said:
Halvorson, World Hunger, $35,000 for Ethiopia and Indians in the
western Guatemala. $35,000
for 180 wells in west Africa. $35,000
to educate American Christians about development and advocacy.
2) Mark Thomsen, World Missions, $30,000 for a doctor in
Namibia, $30,000 for 30 schools in the Central Africa Republic,
$40,000 for the Upper Volta, Fulani tribe, Muslims 3) Jim
Berquist, American Missions, $30,000 to help establish a new
congregation, $30,000 for inner city churches and new roofs and
furnaces, $30,000 for a salary for an inner city pastor.
4) Jim Fergin,
Lutheran Compass Center, downtown Seattle, “Split three ways
One third for alcoholic treatment
center; one third to get men out of the downtown center, new jobs,
and one third to fund our homeless shelter.”
When you look at this overhead, it is amazing what we can and
could do with an extra hundred thousand for missions. The
possibilities are endless. And
4% is a reasonable goal; an extra $100,000 would be an increase of
30% in our congregation and that would only happen with a miracle of
extraordinary proportions. But
then, we are the richest Christians in the universe.
The sixth overhead
is a review of the first page but expands the basic concepts.
The title of the page is THE WAY SALVATION WORKS.
This is a flow chart of the way things work with God and the
Holy Spirit. Below is a
picture of a Bible and the words printed by the Bible are “The
Word is preached and the Spirit is present.”
Salvation begins with the Word.
The next picture below is a drawing of an ear and near the
drawing of an ear are the words, “Hear and understand; hear and
reject/not understand.” So
all of us are hearing these words; some understand and others
don’t. The next
drawing below is of a cross with four words, “Faith in Jesus
Christ.” The primary
work that the Spirit-filled Word does to us and for us is to create
faith in Jesus Christ. And
below the cross of faith in Jesus Christ, is a drawing of the dove
with the Holy Spirit inside of it. And below the beak of the dove,
Holy Spirit, with a heart hanging in its mouth, and inside of our
heart, are “deep feelings of love, joy, peace, patience,
understanding, strength, thanksgiving, charitable love.” And at
the bottom of the heart, it opens up into a path, the way, which
says, “The Way: We
walk in the ways of Christ.” On the far left of the page, outside
of the way, are the negatives: “guilt, naughty, be good” which
do nothing to help us walk in the way. On the right, outside of the
way, are “The ten commandments, law, obey” and these also do not
create a heart full of love. Not
one of the Ten Commandments ever asks us to love God or our
So this is the way
salvation works. May
God work the miracle in us so that we hear the word of God, believe
in Jesus Christ, are filled with the Holy Spirit, are given a heart
full of wisdom and other spiritual qualities; in order than, we all
may walk in the ways of the Lord in our daily lives.”
(For the preacher,
the next pages are the overheads. The overheads are useful to follow
the train of thought but cannot be used in your congregation or time
in history. A preacher
would need to created new overheads or Power Point after digging out
the necessary materials for the sermon.)