In the book of 2Corinthians 9, Paul writes to the Corinth Christians in an effort to rekindle their generosity and willingness to give. He reminds them of how well he has talked about them to the Macedonians and hopes that they will fulfill their promises and not put him or themselves to shame.
It is quite telling that Paul starts from a premise that they had first been the ones who enthusiastically offered to share and not that he is now manipulating them to do so. We do know from their promises that they were not coerced into making such promises but rather willingly wanted to share what they had. It is a fact that when people are manipulated into giving by being promised instant reaping from their generosity, they may easily fall out of the faith if things do not go as promised. We are therefore encouraged to give from our hearts so as to partner with God in His mission to save the world.
What then hinders our giving? The most obvious reason would of course be our selfishness whereby we think that all that we have belongs only to us and to no one else; we therefore do not feel an obligation to support the ministry. We may also be so greedy that we want to make much more than what we have. As a result, we may feel that what we have is still not enough to share with anyone; our goal here being in accumulating as much as we possibly can with no clear indication that we will ever be satisfied at any one time in our quest.
We also have people who do not see the need to thank God for the 'small things' He has given them. These ones have a condemnation attitude which sees them disapproving of what God has given them and seeing it as being less than what they had expected or what they deserve. On a different scale are the impatient Christians who feel that God is not responding fast enough to their prayers and petitions; they expect instantaneous results to their requests. This lot may be easily lured into sowing so that they can later on reap forgetting that God cannot be manipulated to do what we want because He does what pleases Him.
As Christians we must therefore avoid the above pitfalls by applying certain principles for giving so that we can become effective promise givers. Firstly is the issue of obedience which leads us to action. As Christians, we are expected to have transformed hearts and minds because these will lead us to obedience of God's commands in a way that is quite contrary to who we were before salvation. Obedience leads to our walking in God's commands and therefore as a transformed people, this desire should naturally flow from us. Obedience leads to righteousness and this is something we acquire when we obey God commands by bringing in our tithes and offerings into His house, when we support ministry or when we are kind to the needy.
Secondly, we need to be faithful givers. Faithfulness calls on us to be people that can be trusted and relied upon to fulfill the promises we make and meet the obligations expected of us. In the parable of the talents in Mathew 25:14-30, the servant who had been left with one talent and failed to multiply it fell short in his obligations. It is quite a relief that he had not been given more talents. Are we like him that we cannot be trusted with more? Then we should learn not to make promises that we cannot fulfill! Let us make promises within our capabilities and abilities; Deuteronomy 23:21 cautions, 'If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin'.
Thirdly is the need for consistency. Prioritizing our own needs over God's expectations of our resources is a no-no. When we put ourselves above God, then we are practicing idolatry when our focus is on the supplies and far removed from Him who is our supplier forgetting that we will still need Him tomorrow for other supplies.
Lastly is the discipline that all this giving goes with; this is the sacrificial kind-that no matter what else we may want to buy, we must first obey God by giving Him the first priority in our tithes and offerings. Also we should be people who only buy what we need and not necessarily what we want. This will ensure that we are disciplined in our spending and hence be able to make God a priority in our budgets. And when we take loans, we will also be disciplined enough to use them for the purposes for which we applied them.
With obedience, faithfulness, consistency and discipline, we will easily be able to keep the promises we make especially to God and to the rest of our obligations.
May these words (sermons), from various men and women of God be a blessing to all.