Sermon: Giving Hilariously
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9.6-15
Preacher: Dr. Patrick H. Wrisley
Location: First Presbyterian Church
Occasion: Commitment Sunday
Date: November 12, 2017
2 Corinthians 9.6-15
6The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. 9As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; 12for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. 13Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, 14while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. 15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift![i]
Once upon a time, there was a Priest, a Presbyterian minister and a Rabbi who walk into a bar and they begin talking with each other. The Rabbi posed an interesting question for their little theology-on-tap session. He asked, “What do you think our congregants would say about each of us as they walk by our open casket at our own funeral?”
The Priest, dear Father O’Malley said, “I hope they would say I was a caring parish priest who devotedly led his people in Mass and was there to support them all the days of their life.”
The minister, Pastor Nancy said, “When my people walk by, I hope they would say she lived her faith consistently both at home and at church, that she was a good mother and wife, and that she was dedicated to preaching the Gospel with passion and intelligence.”
The Rabbi listened intently and thought over the question he and Pastor Nancy and declared, “Well! When my people walk by me at my funeral, I want to hear them say, ‘Look! He’s moving!’”
Let me ask you this my beloved, what is it that you want to hear folks say about you at your funeral? Many of us have been to a funeral before and we will hear eulogies, i.e. words spoken by friends and loved ones of the deceased expressing gratitude and admiration for the one who has died. Well, let me let you in on a little secret: Our word for eulogy comes from the ancient root of the word generosity! That’s right! Eulogia means to praise or invoke a blessing.
Paul has been going on and on about the Macedonian church’s rich generosity in chapters 8 and 9 of 2 Corinthians; in fact, eulogia, generosity, is used four times in our nine verses this morning. It makes me want to ask, “What type of generosity do we want to be known by? What type of eulogy can be delivered by our giving? Are we generous or tight-fisted sowers of God’s gifts?”
Author William R. Phillippe relates the story of a plane crash in Charlotte years ago. He writes, “When the landing gear of US Airways Flight 479 collapsed and the crew ordered an evacuation down the emergency slides, almost half the passengers reacted by grabbing for their carry-on luggage…one man grabbed two bags. Another struggled with a large bag. A woman blocked the aisle struggling to get a garment bag out of an overhead bin.”[ii]
A woman blocked the aisle preventing an emergency evacuation of a crashed plane as she struggled to remove a garment bag from the overhead bin. It’ll make you think twice as you sit down in your airline seat, won’t it? But are we really that different? Don’t we cling to our money and possessions as tightly as this woman clings tightly to her garment bag?
This is what Paul was chiding the Corinthian church about when he keeps telling them, “You reap what you sow!” In other words, it’s easy Corinthian church to talk a big game about how you’re planning to give but it’s another thing to give to the poor in Jerusalem like you promised you would and make good on your promises. Paul is telling them that any farmer worth her or his salt is not going to spend all that time in preparing the field, clearing out the rocks and weeds, furrowing the ground, only to toss a few seeds into the ground. Why go through all that effort only to drop a few seeds and glean a meager, thin crop? No, a farmer tends to the field in order to plant as much seed as he or she can in order to gather the highest yield possible.
And then Paul moves his argument to another level – one which he has mentioned in chapter 8 and now again in a direct imperative: Each person should give what he or she has decided in their heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion (vs. 7). Yes, the Macedonian church has given proportionately higher than their big city First Church cousin in Corinth. Yes, the Macedonians gave above what they were asked and then sacrificially gave even beyond their means. But no, Paul wasn’t holding the Corinthian Church to the same high sacrificial level. He was telling them to give what they could out of the means they had.
The words he uses in verse seven are revealing. First, he tells them not to give reluctantly. The word Paul uses here is used to describe someone who is in mourning over a loss through grief. It has the connotation of deep heaviness, sorrow, and pain. Yet, it can also mean to cause someone annoyance. I’ve known many people over the years who get very annoyed when the preacher starts talking about money and giving the two times a year we do it! Second, Paul tells them not to give under compulsion. In other words, it’s not like tax imposed by the government or tariff charged by a provider. The gift is not to cause distress or put the giver in hard straits. The gift is not to be given out of necessity resulting from guilt-laden “shoulds” and “ought’s.”
Sadly though, this how many in the church hear the words about giving. People get annoyed when the Preacher or church talks about money. We think all this money-talk is nothing more than about guilt-inducing “should” and “ought’s” and we have divorced it from the second part of the verse which declares, “For God loves a cheerful giver.”
Another way to translate that verse is, “For God loves a person who gives hilariously.” The word we translate ‘cheerful’ is the same word we get our English ‘hilarious’ from. It seems we’ve been missing the point, my beloved!
We’re not to give out of heavy guilt.
We’re not to give that will cause us distress or dire straits.
We’re not to give with guilt-induced “should” and “outght’s.”
No, we’re called to give hilariously! We’re to give cheerfully and joyfully!
Think for a moment of the last time you really let it go and laughed becoming totally one in the moment. Think of the time you just were so overwhelmed with joy that you bent over grabbing your knees or held your chest and couldn’t stop laughing. When was the last time you were overcome with such unbridled joy that your eyes welled-up with tears from a deep sense of well-being and joy? This is what Paul is talking about. This is the type of giver God has dreams about. Please notice I didn’t say, “This is the type of GIFT God dreams about” but rather, “This is the type of GIVER God dreams about.”
Think about that moment you felt unbridled joy and hilarity for a moment. In that moment, we lose thought of everything else except for the reason that caused us joy. Our body is loose, our hands are open. We are relaxed and receptive. We cease thinking of ourselves and simply revel in the moment of joy. We delight in something that was said or done to or with us. What a model for giving, eh?
When we give cheerfully, hilariously, joyfully, we develop an attitude about giving we’ve never had before. We cease giving out of guilt. We cease giving out of annoyance. Yes, when we give cheerfully and hilariously we give with our hands open realizing all we have is God’s anyway. We are relaxed about our giving because our faith tells us that God will not disappoint us. We cheerfully sow our gifted seeds because we know that the fruit of the crop of faithful stewardship we’ve planted will make God have joy, delight, and laugh with hilarity as He sees how those gifts compassionately help others. God will fall over Himself laughing with joy as He feels our joyful gratitude for the faith we’ve shown in Him because we are tossing seed everywhere to bless others in His Name. Hilarious giving isn’t so much what we do; rather, it reflects who we are at our core being and is a mirror of how much allegiance and faith we really have in God.
Beloved, when we give, we are not giving to budgets as that is not what our Lord has in mind. Giving cheerfully, joyfully, hilariously to God is a testament to our gratitude for all God has done for us. When we give to budgets grounded in guilt and duty, we are not giving cheerfully. When we give to the missional work of God’s church in a spirit of joy and cheerfulness, then our giving has become a lifestyle reflecting who each of us are in the center heart.
How do you know if you’re giving hilariously or not? If you understand your Estimate of Giving cards to be “Thank You” notes to our Lord for all he has done for you, then you get it and cheerful, hilarious giving is now a part of your lifestyle.
Let’s make today a celebration of all God has done, is doing, and will yet do in and through you and through this great church!
Dr. Patrick H. Wrisley
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
724 North Woodland Boulevard
DeLand, FL 32724
© 2017 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
[i] New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
[ii] William R. Phillippe, A Stewardship Scrapbook (Louisville: Geneva Press, 1999), 124. Accessed from www.homileticsonline on November 9, 2008.