Subject is giving, but want to begin elsewhere and see if we can together travel a somewhat circuitous.
The Joy of Generosity
We are afraid to talk about giving. We are afraid of testimony. We do not want someone to stand and say, I have given to God faithfully and he has blessed me. This is true for at least two reasons.
First, the health-and-wealth gospel is not biblical. Faithful people do not always prosper in the standards of this world. Yet, it is true that bread cast returns. It is true that withholding leads to scarcity. It is true that God blesses his people and takes from those who seek wrong goals. It is true that the righteous are cared for, David said "not begging bread."
Second, we honor the biblical injunction against giving in order to be seen of others. Some churches in KS took so far as to have cloth-covered table, reach under and put in money, right hand not know what left hand was doing.
Yet Bible talks about giving. Talks about robbing God. Paul holds up example of Macedonians to Corinthians. They have given generously, even beyond their abilities.
We have limited giving to money. We have not always honored those who give other resources. We belong to one another. Help the church = help a member. What can I do? I want to help the church. Illus: he sure doesn't give much. Do you know about his family, mother in rest home, sister in need. Is that true? Not to my knowledge, but could be. We do not always know what others are doing. Often we do not know of mission works, benevolence. Is Scriptural to include this obligation in giving, 1 Tim. 5:8.
We have limited giving to the church. Church is instrument of God, need loyalty to local church. The church can become like a second family. The church is our friends, family,. In the body of Christ, we learn to love God. The church is the "front line" for much of our Christian service. But the church is not the only place we can serve. Service occurs separate and apart from this geographic location. Nonetheless, when church is going well, all feel better. Enjoy the things that make for happy, healthy churches--increasing attending, helpful programs, deepening relationships, adequate resources. And church can always do better. Jack Exum--how much more could church do if each person gave just one dollar more per week. Always can say, would not miss just one more dollar.
In same breath say, we have limited our giving to the leftovers. Illus: person I know inherited some money, started giving it away. Found out that government only lets you give away so much insofar as deductibility. Intrigued me. Next year, read the regulations. That does not characterize my giving. I have not begun to stretch toward giving more than the government will let me deduct. We are not even talking a tithe in general. Percentage is too small.
We have limited giving to the collection plate. The money in our pockets is also God's.
All this is a problem of our identity. Doug Foster, meeting for missions. Problems in certain denomination. Continued to establish churches around the world. Why? That is our ID, that is who we are, that is what we do. Despite the other problems, that is us. In love, say that is not us. Who are we? What are we about? Are we known for our generosity? Toward one another? Toward others? Is one of the first tests of love. We want to love one another. Is biblical. Give.
So today conclude lesson, long introduction, three familiar ideas to govern your giving, increase your joy of generosity.
1. Be faithful to God.
Faithfulness will bring spiritual growth. Hearts will mature, Mt. 6:21, treasures and hearts will match. It gets easier, but you must start. Be faithful in little, he will bless you to be faithful in much. Faithfulness will increase willingness and ability to serve (Rom. 12:6-8). Faithfulness in giving will produce growth, service, sensitivity. When I give to God, I am interested in what happens to the money. I am more actively involved, I am more aware of God's priorities. I am more willing to push every good work. Greatest compliment I think I was ever given. "He pushes every good work." Some people are so afraid they are going to push something that is slightly tainted. I do not want to be on the wrong side, opposed to God, but I want to be a pusher of good works. Believe it is an element of faithfulness. I want to be sensitive to God, to God's guidance, but I want to be sensitive to God's priorities. Want to see his will done, in education, evangelism, missions, church growth, church planting. Illus: still like the way I do it better than the way you don't do it. Giving to God helps us serve by doing his work.
I do not believe one can be faithful to God without giving. God's people are generous, regardless of income. Giving is the natural response of our gratitude and trust. Failing to give lets materialism get a hold on our hearts and our behavior. That is why the dollar the teen gives is so important, the things this dollar can buy, I can do without. We teach our children materialism, don't give, Mom and Dad have already given enough.
Is matter of heart, is matter of faith. In whom do you believe? In whom do you trust? Irony, put it on our coins, but is not true for most.
2. Be loving.
Already touched this somewhat. Our generosity is a measure of our love. If we are not generous, we do not love. Generosity is not only money, but includes money. Do you love only those who love you? I love the youth group, I love my Bible class, I love my friends, I love.... Can you love the unloveable? Do we love the unchurched, unsaved in our community? Do we love the lost in innumerable foreign mission fields? Do we love like Jesus loved? Will we give for those we do not know, have not seen? What is the real measure of our love? Are we really loving?
3. Be hopeful.
When our lives are focused in the future, we believe something will matter when we are gone. Leave a legacy. Giving lets the church do great things for God. Great dreams can only be fulfilled with God's help. Dreams for the gospel, for salvation. Programs and facilities dedicated to the Great Commission and not just to us. Dedication to the Great Commandment. Illus: mother and stepdad's memorial fund. For educating children in 3rd world countries. Lord willing, will happen until Jesus comes. Jan and I have goal--in will, leave a missionary in place-- until Jesus comes.
Each opportunity we seize is essential. Each action eternal. Each dollar forever. Growing closer to Christ, setting examples, verifying where our hearts are, even putting credit to our heavenly account (Phil. 4:17). Giving leaves a faithful legacy.
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