In Paul's dialogue with the Corinthians he calls on them to plan to give in the first letter, and then follows up on those plans in the second letter. Regular planned giving is a good thing. It is especially useful for charities and churches since it brings stability and enables good budgeting. As a church we are dependent on God bringing gifts through his people. This year we were slightly worried that giving may be insufficient, but praise the Lord because our financial year end show a modest surplus of £197 - He meets our need!
Regularly giving and being able to give when special collections are called for is a spiritual discipline. Yet regular standing order giving (which with gift aid is the simplest and most efficient way for the church to receive gifts) should never be seen as simply automatic, with no heart connection. We give because everything we have is a gift from God in the first place. God has entrusted each of us with resources - do we hoard them or deploy them?
The invitation to give is an invitation to release and enable. Additional giving to the church general fund could ultimately release additional people to minister, adding to and enhancing the diverse ministry of volunteers. Giving to our hall refurbishment project releases us to turn concept plans into actual plans and enable an attractive environment for various ministry to take place for decades to come.
This releasing and enabling always has an outwards ripple effect, bringing blessing far beyond the original imagination. From the amounts given or pledged this weekend we will send off 10% to build a classroom and toilet block in slum areas of Lusaka - freely giving as we ourselves have received.
In the second letter Paul does not give a command, nor does he specify how much people should give. He simply says give from the heart based on the principle of abundance of God. The word in 9:7 is the Greek word for 'hilarious' - God loves a hilarious giver: someone who is so abandoned to God's love that they release resources with joy and generosity, celebration and dancing, electrified with the possibilities of what God can do ... all because God Himself gave in the first place.
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!