Throughout this year, we have been focusing on how we, the church, are a community and how God builds us up as the Body of Christ through our faith as it grows. In the sermon series through Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we have seen how the supremacy of Christ is the foundation of our faith and how our faith in Christ alone empowers and enables us to be the church and to do what God has called the church to do, namely live as disciples who share the Gospel and make disciples. It is this faithfulness to Christ that led Paul to praise and thank God for each of the churches to whom he wrote letters (except the Galatians, who seemed to have abandoned quickly their faith in Christ alone).
Paul thanked God for the faithfulness of even the Corinthians, to whom Paul had written about their worship services, “In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good” (1 Corinthians 11:17, NIV 1984). Even though this first letter to the Corinthian Christians was full of rebuke and instruction to correct bad doctrine and practice, Paul was thankful for their faith in Christ.
Some of the evidence of the Corinthians’ faithfulness was their desire and effort to collect an offering for the church in Jerusalem, who were suffering greatly. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul was encouraging them to follow through with their desire and complete their offering. It was this act of faith, Paul told them, that was not only praiseworthy for him but for others as well:
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. (2 Corinthians 9:12, 13, NIV 1984)
In this statement, Paul reveals that our faithfulness expressed in giving for the sake of others not only takes care of specific needs but also leads others to praise God. While there is a sense of gratitude for the giving, there is also thanks from the giving. It’s one thing for others to be grateful for our expressions of faithfulness through giving, but it’s another thing for God to receive thanks from our giving. Certainly this is one reason why Paul was able to praise God for the churches’ faithfulness.
It’s also a reason why I praise and thank God for your faithfulness. During our Tuesday morning prayer time, we regularly praise God for the faithfulness of the people of this church body, and certainly a big part of that is your faithfulness in giving.
I hate the crass nature of talking about money, but the simple fact remains: we need to pay the bills – gas, electric, water, and more – so that we can continue simply to meet in the building and use it as a tool in our efforts to share the Gospel and make disciples in this community. That our attendance has dropped but your offerings have continued to cover our expenses is a testimony to both God’s faithfulness to us and your faithfulness to God. Praise God! Keep up the good work!
Please don’t take me the wrong way; giving can be only evidence of faith, not assurance of salvation. My concerns are not about finances, even though they are important indicators of our health. My primary concern is not that we have a robust bank account or that we can pay the bills or that we will ever fill all the seats in the building. My primary concern is that we will all grow in our faith and knowledge of Jesus, that God will continue to build us together as the Body of Christ, and that we will continue to be faithful in our mission to make disciples. As you continue to show yourselves faithful through giving, we will find more opportunities to share the Gospel, to make disciples, and to bring praise to God. I continue to pray for you, to praise God for your faith. May we all be faithful so that God will continue to receive thanks and praise from our giving.