Ever feel like Christmas has become too commercialized?  It’s more about getting than giving?

This is the second Christmas since Beth’s grandmother passed away.  She was a woman of few words.  She served others to show her love. She grew up in Kentucky but loved her farm in Michigan. One day, a few months before she passed away, I got her to talk about what life in the early days in her small town in Michigan was like.  Her eyes lit up as she described her love for baseball. Her eyes lit up when I asked her about the Sears catalog.   Not that she was a big spender, but she told me that many people would order from the Sears catalog, and how kids and grandkids would scour the catalog looking for the “perfect” Christmas gift.  She told me how the train would come through town to deliver gifts in the early days. She told me that you could order a house through the catalog and all the parts would come on the train. You may have seen a few of these in Terrace Park -even today.  I too remembered when the catalogs came. There was pages and pages of photos of He-man figures, Strawberry Shortcake, GI Joes, Star Wars, Cabbage Patch dolls, and Transformers. My brother, sister, and I spent hours circling what we wanted for Christmas.  My grandfather, was one of the most generous people I knew.  He worked long extra hours to try to buy everything on the list. He loved watching the kids eyes light up as they opened their gifts. Beth’s grandma and my grandpa were Gracious Givers.

Money can be a source of real joy or real pain.

Often folks come in to meet with one of our pastors. We work as a team at Horizon.  Recently someone met with one of us and described his spiritual journey this way. He said, “We grew up Protestant, because we couldn’t afford to be Catholic. That’s what my mom used to say jokingly. She said that every time she went to mass, they kept passing the plate until they got enough money. We didn’t have enough money and were tired of being pressured… so we became protestants.”  🙂   What I love about that story is it reminds me of ways in which all of us have felt guilty, manipulated, or pressured by the church for money.  We all have stories of churches, televangelists, priests, or pastors who pressured us to give.   One of the reasons we do our offering in the foyer each week, is we want you to give generously and cheerfully, not under pressure as the bag goes by you.   I am so excited about this mornings topic, because I have the opportunity to share the power of giving motivated by grace, not pressure and guilt.

This morning we want to discover Gracious Giving. We all Wish to Be Graciously Generous People.  The problem is that we are often manipulated, coerced, or have been modeled types of giving that are not gracious.  So this morning, if we want to experience Gracious Giving, we must contrast Three Types of Ungracious Generosity with One Type of Gracious Giving.


Each of the three types of Ungracious Giving can be categorized with a nostalgic toy.  MR MACHINE, THE COOTIE, and WOOLY WILLY.

1. Mechanical Generosity

Do you remember Mr. Machine?  He was in the top 100 Baby Boomer Toys. This was a robotic contraption that had see through machinery.  Mr Machine was a mechanical monster who went through the motions. He presents one way to give ungraciously. One way to give is to give Mechanically like Mr. Machine.  Many of us give. But our giving has become mechanical. Five years ago we set up an auto debit and are still giving the same amount we always did. We never increased it as our income increased.  Or, we write a check annually to the United Way. We go to a fund raiser -ready to give what we gave last year.   It’s mechanical giving that doesn’t flow from the heart. Sometimes it’s motivated by muscle instinct if our parents taught us to give… Other times it’s motivated by routine.

Paul writes to a group of people about a financial need in the church.  He tells them to “prepare ahead of time…” but to give as a matter of generosity, not grudging obligation.   He doesn’t want it to be a Mechanical process… And yet, he encourages them to “make plans” to do it.

2 Corinthians 9 5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.

Mechanical Giving is a giver who doesn’t give from their heart, but from going through the motions like Mr. machine. It feels very much like an obligation….   It can be mechanical and obligatory….

The second type of ungracious giving is not mechanical giving up, dress up giving…

2.Dress-Up Generosity

Do you remember Wooly Willy.  This was another top 100 baby boomer gift.   This was the guy with the metal shavings that would allow you to dress him up, give him a mustache, hair or a hat.   Though he looked differently on the outside,  He never really changed. You only added stuff on top of his face to “look like” or dress him up like he was different. This is “dress-up” generosity.  You may not have your heart changed, but you dress yourself up to look generous.

Paul says that real financial giving is not a dress up but a flow from the heart.  Giving tests the sincerity of your love.

You want to address others, not impress others.

That’s a test of your motivation. Are you giving to “impress others” or address others’ needs?

I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others… We would receive the gift… to the saints. They first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

Paul says that giving is not dress up. It’s not impress time. It’s address time. A time to give gifts by FIRST giving yourself to the Lord. Then discerning how to give to His priorities. Including the church mentioned in this passage, and the needy.  It’s about sincerity of love. It’s about giving yourself First to God, then to others out of appreciation to God.

What’s the difference between dress-up giving and gracious giving?  One is selfishness dressed up to look like generosity.

A friend of mine has been attending Horizon for about a year. He would call himself a skeptic or maybe explorer.    I interviewed him on stage at 2nd/3rd service last January. He shared his doubts about faith and God stem from the hypocrisy of church people over the years and specifically folks who manipulated others out of money to live lavish lifestyles.   However, he has been coming, listening, watching.   He even decided to go on our Belize mission trip last year and is planning to go again this year.  We were at a lunch a few weeks ago and he shared some interesting “coincidences” that have him thinking about his doubts.   As a boat lover who sold high-end racing boats for years, it was a big deal for him to go to Belize and miss the annual boat show he attended faithfully for 20 years, but he went.   As a medical supply company he often has supplies in his bag.  He had several oxidation tools in his bag used to check a patients blood.  He pulled them all out of the bag.  He even turned the bag upside down to dump them out.   He filled his bag with toys and candy for the kids.   As they arrive at the hospital in Belize, he realized that the hospital needed some Pulesox. The very thing he dumped out of his bag a week earlier.   He reached into his bag to get a toy and sure enough… There was one medical tool in the bag.  He turned to me and said, “Chad, I don’t have an explanation for this…but I imagine you do. What I know FOR SURE, is that I emptied and dumped everything out of that bag that was medical.”   What struck me when I was down in Belize last is seeing the impoverished people of Belize “raising money” to help the people of Haiti who were hit by the Hurricane.  This was not Dress up Generosity. This was real and flowed from their heart.

Godonomics is about liberty, prosperity, and generosity.

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