Preaching on Giving from the Old Testament
Uncover the truth and beauty of giving in the Old Testament.
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Editor's Intro: Will Stevens is the author of God's Givers. In it he traces a theology of giving through the Old Testament, focusing on seven stories. To go along with the book he has created a curriculum to help translate these biblical principles of giving to a contemporary community of faith.
How often does your church talk about giving? How many times a year do you include a message on giving in your regular Sunday sermon series? As you preach through each book of the Bible, do you take the time to draw out the biblical principles of giving from the text? In most cases, preaching on giving represents a break in the regular preaching pattern of a church. The giving or stewardship sermon or sermon series is an interruption in the regular exploration and uncovering of God's Word. But preaching on giving should not be a one-time affair in the life of the church. In the course of the Bible, from Genesis' the account of Cain and Abel's offering to the Lord, to the gift exchange of the wicked at the death of the two witnesses in Revelation 11, the Bible is filled with texts that inform us about biblical giving.
I am blessed to wear two hats as a servant of the Lord. I am gifted to be a preacher, but I am not a pastor. Instead, the Lord has called me to be a leader of a ministry, WaterStone, whose mission centers on promoting, inspiring, and facilitating charitable giving. During my doctoral studies in expository preaching, I discovered that of the 25 or so members of my doctoral cohort, I was the only non-pastor. I learned from these pastors that delivering the message on giving to their congregations presented an annual challenge. They and their congregations would enter into a mutual silent agreement. The giving sermon was an appointed time of the year that was clearly marked out as a break in the regular preaching of the biblical text. The church and the pastor's attitude was that it was that dreaded time to talk about giving so let's just get it over with. The congregation would hold their breath knowing that the end of the sermon would come and there would be a call to make a financial commitment.
Obviously, there is a major problem here. Why is the "giving sermon" considered an interruption in the regular round of preaching through God's Word? Why can't the biblical texts on giving be profitable for equipping believers? As a leader of a ministry focused on charitable giving and a student and practitioner of expository preaching, I sensed a purpose. How could I help pastors more fully explore and uncover the truth and beauty of giving in the Bible?
Throughout the biblical record, a wide variety of accounts of giving presents the truth that giving expresses an individual's faith and walk with God, or lack thereof! In Exodus 35:21, the Bible sums up the connection between giving and faith by declaring "Everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the tent of meeting." In contrast, the Bible teaches that those who covet, steal, acquire, accumulate, give for the wrong reasons or without proper motives, reveal in their corrupt "giving spirit" a corrupt heart and faithlessness toward God. How can we preach this truth that faith and giving go hand in hand?