January 10, 2024
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I guess it started when the kids were growing up. You know, it says in the Dad's Job Description, "Must have quarters at all times!" Even now when I travel I still try to carry some quarters, even though we don't need them as often anymore. But I would always make sure that I had enough ones and even fives. You never know when you're going to need a vending machine. Not need; actually want a vending machine. I'm in a hotel, I'm working late and I want a snack or I want a cold drink. So I go through the familiar ritual: put the dollar bill in, then the quarters, hit the selection button, and something good comes out. At least it had better! I mean, it's pretty annoying if you put your money in there and nothing comes out. I probably wouldn't put any more money in that machine, would you?
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Giving That Counts - And Doesn't."
I read a report about the giving of American Christians, and it was very revealing. The survey discovered that American Christians expect to get something back when they give. Oh, vending machine! For example, the survey found that they will give to their church, but they expect to get it back in things like new drapes, new hymn books, a better choir, or a better parking lot. Put something in and get something out. And don't put any money into a machine that doesn't give you anything back, right? The researchers have a name for this - "consumer giving." Or you could call it "vending machine" giving.
Our word for today from the Word of God comes from Mark 12:41. "Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling His disciples to Him, Jesus said, 'Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth, but she, out of her poverty put in everything - all she had to live on.'"
So what kind of giving did Jesus honor? Sacrificial giving. He's far more interested in the size of the sacrifice than the size of the gift. And what kind of giving did Jesus himself model? Sacrificial giving. Aren't you glad Jesus wasn't a consumer giver? We'd all still be headed for eternal death. But He gave everything with no thought of return. So maybe consumer giving is an oxymoron.
Someone might say, "Okay, so we like to give to things where we get something back or it does something for us. So what?" Well, maybe that's why it's taking missionaries two or three years to get their support raised while people keep dying on the mission field that they're ready to go to. Maybe it's why the missionary conference in a church is fighting for its life on the church calendar. Maybe it's one reason why the American missionary force in the world continues to drop. Some have said it's been at its lowest point since WWII. After all, what's in it for me to give to some missionary out there?
Is it any wonder that so many ministries are struggling financially; especially those who are called to evangelism? After all, the lost are those people; they're not my people. But those people are why Jesus came. In many cases, Satan's attempt to stop Jesus' warriors has failed. He couldn't get to them. And so have his attempts to stop their attacks on Satan's kingdom. But when all else fails, stop their supplies. Attack the supply lines, because if the supply lines don't come through, the guys on the front lines can't fight. A soldier without bullets cannot wage war.
Isn't it time for each of us to examine our own priorities before the Lord to whom we will answer for our stewardship? Are we giving to get? The holy work of Jesus Christ is not a vending machine. It's an eternal investment. It may not pay off now, but it will reap incalculable dividends forever.