Preaching giving sermons regularly on is so important. And that’s not only because your church is sustained by the regular giving of your members—it also matters because generosity is one of the most important traits for those who follow Jesus.
The problem is that once you start rehashing the same couple sermons, it’s easy for people to start tuning you out. It’s important that you develop new ways to approach the same ideas because ultimately different messages will resonate with different people.
Here are 5 sermons about giving that you can use. And even if you don’t use them, you can pull elements from them to help bolster your own sermon outline. Ultimately, the key is to develop various ways to approach the topic of giving!
Giving sermon #1: Mastering the money monster
Premise: Is money strictly a benign tool for exchange, or does it have the potential to control and define us? In our broken world, we need to learn how to make money serve us, or else we will serve it.
- For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.—Romans 8:20–22
- No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.—Matthew 6:24 (NKJV)
What is money?
- Have you ever played Settlers of Catan? Part of the game mechanics is building wealth by amassing sheep, wood, bricks, wheat, and ore. Eventually you need to trade your excess resources for some of the resources you lack. In the game those goods are represented by cards (because, let’s face it, the game would be really difficult if it came with real sheep and wood). . . on some level, in real life, our resources and services are represented by money.
- Money is a tool that makes exchanging goods and services so much simpler than having to carry around wood, sheep, ore, and wheat.
- Money helps me buy your wheat even though you might not be in the market for any of the wood that I own. By converting my wood into an accepted tool for exchange, we can purchase things from people who might not be in the market for our particular good or service.
- Money isn’t really wealth—it’s a symbol of our wealth. If I’m a sheep farmer, the number of sheep I raise in relationship to the demand for sheep is a sign of how much I’m worth.
- Money is bits of paper and metal, or in our digital economy, ones and zeroes, that represent the goods or services we have liquidated or promised to liquidate in or to make an exchange.
- On this level, money is a morally neutral object.
How we use money gives it a life of its own.
- If I am wealthy, I can use money to fund a homeless shelter or I can use it to buy an apartment building, evict the renters, and tear it down to build a fancy hotel. Money, which is neutral, takes on the character of the people who possess it.
- Because the world is corrupted (Romans 8:20–22), money is often more of a tool that represents power and control than a simple tool for trade.
- Because of our brokenness humans have a tendency to turn the most practical resources into idols. Once something becomes an idol, it goes from being completely harmless to becoming our master.
- Matthew 6:24: When Jesus describes money as “mammon,” he is personifying this benign tool of exchange and making it into a god that is vying for the allegiance of man.
- For the redeemed, the goal is to make money serve us and not to allow ourselves to become its servants. Money isn’t intrinsically evil. It is imbued with the power we give it.
How do we master the money monster?
Here are five ways to make money serve you instead of the other way around:
- Give to God: This is the place we start. We don’t just give to God because it’s his and he demands his share. We give to God because it helps us keep our priorities aligned. (1 Chronicles 29:9)
- Create a budget: Creating a budget helps us insure that we’re living below our means and have money to give and money to invest. (Proverbs 27:23–27)
- Stay out of debt: Once you’re in debt, money has power over you. Your decisions begin to be made based more on maintaining your debt than they are on making money reflect your values. (Proverbs 22:7, Romans 13:8)
- Invest wisely: One way to master your money is to make sure that you’re not in a position where money can control you. Wise investing is a way to do that. (Ecclesiastes 11:2)
- Give spontaneously: Once we create a budget and give regularly, we can fall into the trap of automating how we use our money. Then it stops being a tool that reflects where our hearts are. Giving impulsively ensures that our hearts our pure in regards to money and that we still get to experience the joys of giving. (Luke 6:30)
Giving sermon #2: What my wallet reveals about my heart
Premise: What kind of effect can we expect salvation to have on our generosity? We tend to approach salvation as a thing that happens when you simply believe the right things, but is that how the New Testament views it? There’s a strong argument to be made from the biblical example that salvation should have immediate effects on our generosity.
- He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”—Luke 19:1–-10
- And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.—Mark 10:17–22
- When we think about salvation in the church, we tend to associate it with assent to some facts. (Romans 10:9)
- Believing that “Jesus is Lord” is not a behavior-neutral belief. If Jesus is Lord, it changes everything.
- We know what we truly believe by its impact on our lives.
- Salvation has implications on how we view our resources.
- Luke tells us the story of Zacchaeus. His immediate response to Jesus was to change how he viewed his wealth. The change in Zacchaeus’ heart prompts Jesus to announce that salvation had come.
- Contrast that with the story Mark tells about the rich young ruler. This man had come to Jesus and specifically asked what he needed to do to be saved. If it was any of us, we’d have lowered the bar based on his spiritual interest. If we could have gotten him to say, “I am a follower of Christ,” we would likely say, “OK. You’re in!” We’d probably then put this guy on the circuit, because such a prominent believer could create a real big splash!
- Instead Jesus points at the law, and when the rich young ruler says that he follows all of that, Jesus tells him to sell all he has and give it to the poor.” When the guy walks away upset because he’s not ready to go that far, Jesus lets him go.
- The point isn’t that Jesus expects us to give away everything we have in order to be saved, it’s that we should expect that there is a correlation between our spiritual condition and how we view our belongings.
- “I continually find it necessary to guard against that natural love of wealth and grandeur which prompts us always, when we come to apply our general doctrine to our own case, to claim an exception.”—William Wilberforce
- John the Baptist understood the connection between our heart and our belongings. He was out in the desert preaching to Israel to bear fruit that was in keeping with repentance (Luke 3). When people asked him what that looked like, his response was:
- “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” (vs. 11)
- To tax collectors he said, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” (vs. 13)
- To the soldiers present he said, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” (vs. 14)
- Like Jesus, John recognized that true repentance and salvation had an immediate effect on our daily lives, and nothing reflects that change more than how we view our wealth and resources.
- We need to shun the idea that someday we might feel led to give and sacrifice our stuff. While it’s true that discipleship will make us more obedient with our belongings, the response to the supernatural grace of God should have an immediate effect on how we view our stuff.
Giving sermon #3: Confident givers don’t have to be confidential
Premise: Jesus calls for our giving to be done in secret. Does he mean that no one should ever know how much we give? Is there something to be gained by being a little more open about how we give?
- Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.—Matthew 6:1
- But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.—Matthew 6:3–4
- One of the most important ways that we learn to be obedient is by following the examples of more mature believers in our lives. This is why Paul tells the church at Corinth to imitate him as he imitates Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Mentoring matters!
- When we’re following the example of mature believers, we experience the truth of God’s Word as it is lived out in the lives of others.
- Mentorship gives us relationships that encourage us and help us deal with discouragement.
- It provides structure and training to lives of believers, and, as people become mentors, it’s a way for those mature believers to keep growing.
- What happens when we have an important an area of discipleship that we keep a secret? Throughout the life of the church, Jesus’s words in Matthew 6 have been used to make giving an incredibly private and secret matter. Because we’ve allowed that to be the case, we don’t really benefit from the example of others in the area of giving.
- Do Jesus’s words mean that no one should ever know when or how much you give?
- Jesus starts by warning us not to do our acts of righteousness in order to be seen by them. The overall intent of this section is about our motives. It would be nice to approach Jesus’s words as a new law, but they’re intended to elaborate on this point: we are not to do religious stuff with the motive of making people see how super spiritual we are. If we do stuff for the reward of being noticed by people, we will not be rewarded as if we were doing them to please God.
- In the same passage when Jesus talks about prayer, he says,
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matt. 6:5–6)
Jesus still prayed publicly (John 6:11, John 17). The disciples prayed together (Acts 14:1), and the early church considered public prayer to be important, too (Acts 2:42). So even though Jesus explicitly says only pray in your closet, it becomes obvious that he’s speaking hyperbolically about the importance of not doing things for attention.
- When Jesus talks about giving in secret, he’s using hyperbole there, too. Obviously your right and left hands don’t know anything. There’s no way to give and not be aware of it. He’s saying that your right hand shouldn’t be drawing attention to itself in its giving.
- Throughout Scripture faithful givers are held up as examples: Numbers 7, 1 Chronicles 29, Acts 4:36, 2 Corinthians 8:1–3
- When we model generosity with the intention of mentoring others, we are doing an important work. We shouldn’t interpret Jesus’s words here in a way that diminishes our ability to learn from the most generous among us.
- If you think about it, the way we use Jesus’s words here actually does the opposite of what he intends. If Jesus doesn’t want us to use our giving as an opportunity to draw attention to how spiritual we are, he also doesn’t want us to use our secrecy about giving to allow people to think we’re more spiritual than we really are.
- Some of us would be horribly embarrassed if everyone knew how little we give. The privacy we put around our giving is actually a tool that we can use to allow us to get away with giving less.
- This is a great sermon to close with some testimonies from generous people in the church. It gives them the opportunity to share how giving has changed their lives.
Giving sermon #4: Turnabout is fair play
Premise: Much of the New Testament centers on a great reversal, a time when many of the people will experience a different condition than they one they experienced when they lived.
- “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”—Luke 16:19–31
- Christians live their lives in faithful expectation of a kingdom that is coming. Jesus promises that his kingdom will come with a great reversal of fortune. Many of his parables and teachings point to a time when “the last will be first” (Matt. 26) and the humble will be exalted and the proud will be brought low (Matt. 23:12).
- Even though the kingdom has not fully come, we live with expectancy as if the kingdom has already come. Because, as Jesus often said, the kingdom is already among us. God’s kingdom (or the “dome in which God is king”) exists in lives that are submitted to him.
- Jesus tells a parable that’s intended to help us wrap our minds around this great reversal. (Luke 16:19–31) We’re not intended to take every element of this story and attach theological significance to it.
- For instance, the point isn’t that the righteous will get to listen to the unrighteous suffer or be able to have conversations with them.
- Some interesting things we can take away from the story include:
- There’s nothing to suggest that the rich man was bad. We’re not led to believe that he’s not an upstanding Jew or that he is unrighteous in any way.
- All we know is that he’s too important to see or respond to poor, suffering Lazarus.
- When both of these men pass over, Lazarus ends up in heaven and the rich man ends up in hell. The rich man calls out to Abraham to allow Lazarus to bring him a drop of water to ease his suffering.
- Abraham tells him a heartbreaking truth: “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.”
- The point is that you won’t be able to change the outcome of your choices after you have died, but you can change the course now.
- So much of the gospels is about Jesus hammering home the fact that a time is coming when our conditions might be reversed, and we see this throughout the New Testament.
- Mary recognizes it in the Magnificat:
“He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.”—Luke 1:51–53
- The sermon on the mount’s subtext is a coming reversal when the mourning will be comforted, the meek inherit the earth, those that hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled, and the persecuted are rewarded.
- Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.—James 5:1–6
- As she glorified herself and lived in luxury,
so give her a like measure of torment and mourning,
since in her heart she says,
‘I sit as a queen,
I am no widow,
and mourning I shall never see.’—Revelation 18:7
- Mary recognizes it in the Magnificat:
- It would be wrong to suggest that the point of this great cosmic turnabout is that, in order to be truly saved one needs to be poor, oppressed, or miserable. But it is important to note that God promises us that sacrifice now will be rewarded in the coming kingdom.
- “The more sacrificially generous you are on earth, the greater will be your enjoyment of heaven. Therefore, since Jesus loves us and summons us to maximize our eternal joy in heaven, he demands radical freedom from the love of money and radical generosity, especially toward the poor . . . The reason money is so crucial for Jesus is that across all cultures and all ages it represents the alternative to God as the treasure of our hearts, and therefore the object of our worship. . .There are two things being said here. One is that a selfish spirit will keep us out of heaven. And the other is that there are degrees of reward, or degrees of joy, in heaven, depending on how sacrificially generous we were on earth.”—John Piper
Giving sermon #5: Tearing down our idols
Premise: Western culture is materialistic, there’s no way around it. What’s hard is that the western church is part of western culture and has a hard time seeing that it is materialistic, too. But does “stuff” ultimately make us happy? Is bigger better?
- For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.—1 Timothy 6:10
- Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”—Luke 12:13–21
Compared to 59 years ago, Americans have twice as many cars per person, eat out twice as often, and generally enjoy technological advancements that weren’t around: cell phones, big-screen TVs, microwaves, mobile computing, etc. Since the 1950s, the average home size has doubled. The average house today is 2,349 square feet, in the 50s, it was under 1,300 square feet. This is despite the fact the average family in 1955 had 3.59 people. In 2015, the number dropped to 3.14.
- The average American spends an entire week, every year, shopping.
- Most Americans are exposed to 4,000–10,000 advertisements a day.
- But are people happier?
“Compared with their grandparents, today’s young adults have grown up with much more affluence, slightly less happiness and much greater risk of depression and assorted social pathology,” notes Hope College psychologist David G. Myers, PhD, author of the article, which appeared in the American Psychologist (Vol. 55, No. 1). “Our becoming much better off over the last four decades has not been accompanied by one iota of increased subjective well-being.”
- The difficulty with materialism/consumerism is that most Christians would say they’re opposed to it even though their lifestyles say otherwise.
- You don’t have to be rich to be a materialist. Multiple studies show that the majority of people who play instant scratch-off gambling games have below average incomes. They’re ensnared with the fantasy of what their life would look like if they won. Just because you don’t have the means to enjoy a lavish lifestyle doesn’t mean that you’re not a materialist, too.
- What’s sad is that people caught up in consumerism are simply living out the instruction and example that they pick up from the culture. Since we’re children, we’re learning to be consumers from the media we consume and from the friends we hang out with.
- A lot of the reason people aren’t more charitable or giving isn’t because they’d be unable to get their basic necessities met. It’s that after they give, there’s a fear that they’ll miss that loss of income too much in their discretionary spending.
- The only thing that can really turn this enculturation in the church is to catch a real, life-changing glimpse of who God is through an encounter with him and through his Word.
- The parable of the rich man (Luke 12:13–21) is the story of most Americans who make their own plans in a vacuum, without a thought to God, eternity, and their own mortality. Christ’s words for him are strong. The man is a fool for laying up treasure for himself but has not invested in become rich toward God.
- Proverbs 90:12 is correct. In order to grow in wisdom, we need to learn to number our days. We cannot live as if we can invest in the kingdom tomorrow, because tomorrow is not necessarily promised to us.
- When a general in ancient Rome came back from a victorious battle, they would hold a parade in his honor. To protect the general from excessive pride, a slave would be stationed behind him in the parade reciting, “Respice post te. Hominem te memento” which meant, “Look after you [to the time after your death] and remember you’re [only] a man.”
Over time, Christians in the middle ages began to practice the discipline of “memento mori” which literally means, “remember that you have to die.”
- When these Christians were tempted to become too invested in this world at the expense of the next one, it was helpful for them to remember that their death was coming.
- As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand.—Ecclesiastes 5:15
- “I have held many things in my hand, and have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands that I still possess.”—Martin Luther
- Despite what we’ve been told, it’s giving that ultimately makes us happy.
- There have been many studies about the happiness level of people who gave money to charities or volunteered their time. Across the board, these studies always seem to point at the happiness of people who give.
It was found in a 2002 survey by the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey that 43% of people who gave blood two or three times a year were very happy, as opposed to the 29% who didn’t.
Giving helps us live longer: The journal Health Psychology published a study in 2012 that found that people who regularly volunteered lived longer. But there was a catch—it had to be for unselfish reasons.
If you volunteered for any reason beyond the joy of giving, it didn’t have the same long-term health benefits.
Giving helps give your life meaning: There is often a disconnect between who we think we are, and who we actually are. Many people would say that they’re not selfish, but they still make decisions based on what is ultimately best for them.
It isn’t until you actually become generous that you can say that giving is important to you. Once you do, you’ll find that it begins to define you more profoundly than you previously thought possible.
- Giving makes you look at your resources differently: The more people give, the more they begin to see all of their resources as potential opportunities.
When they begin pressing themselves to be more altruistic, they’ll generally think in terms of money. As they are captured by a spirit of benevolence, they begin to see things like time, attention, praise, and the benefit of the doubt as tools of generosity.
- It seems that if we really believed these things we profess, generosity would be our most obvious trait. You’d think that generosity would be one of those characteristics that separated those who believe in the God of the Bible and those that didn’t. The world would look at us and marvel about what would make us give so lavishly and fearlessly.
- There have been many studies about the happiness level of people who gave money to charities or volunteered their time. Across the board, these studies always seem to point at the happiness of people who give.
There you have it. Use these sermon outlines as a jumping off point for teaching your church about giving. If you’re interested in learning more about encouraging your church to give, including:
- The facts about tithers compared to non-tithers
- Five reasons pastors avoid the topic of giving
- Overcoming the five main congregational objections
- How to create a comprehensive church strategy for stewardship
- Training and mentoring advice