This week's Bible Study - June 28, 2015
Give Money Generously
Quotes of the Week:
For it is in giving that we receive.
Francis of Assisi
Would you classify most people as being givers? Certainly, when there is a need, most people seem to be willing to give, if they are able. I've seen workplaces contribute towards needs of a fellow employee who is going through hard times. I've seen churches and Bible Study classes that are more than willing to provide for needs of others. When there are losses to families, people help provide meals for the family, as well as to do other tasks for them. In fact, when people give of their time for those in need, it is one of the best testimonies of the love of Christ, especially for those who see how that occurs. When someone is recovering from a surgery or when there is an addition to a family, people often will sign up for meals or whatever needs to be done.
The giving referred to in Scripture is much more than just helping in the event of a need. If you are a part of a church, you may know about envelopes that are intended for regular giving. Some people will contribute through their envelope and believe their 'gift' of giving is complete. There are others who seldom use their envelopes and know that they are deficient in the area of giving. However, being a generous giver is less about just what you put in an envelope and more about an attitude in life that can lead to blessings, to both the recipient and the giver.
As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church in this passage, he was encouraging them in acknowledging their eagerness to share. Although people are eager to give when there is a specified need, over time, their eagerness can tend to dwindle. Some people want to have some string on their giving, or they may have disagreements on money is being spent. When you want to control what your gift is used for or you see it being used in ways contrary to what was intended, it certainly can impact one's eagerness to give. You only need to look at our country and see the many things that taxes are used for. I believe most of us understand the need for taxes to support certain things in our communities, but when we see our money being used for things in opposition to what we believe in, we tend to not be as in favor of giving. However, we are beholden to pay our taxes or face penalties.
Paul used the Corinthian church as an example of giving, in telling the Macedonians of their enthusiasm to give. When we hear that others are following the Lord in some specific way, it can be an encouragement in many ways to others. Are there areas of your life where your efforts might be seen as encouraging to others? We certainly should not act to impress others, but when we are truly following the Lord, others will see aspects of our lives that are positive. Many visitors to churches are amazed to see examples of friendship and fellowship, but on the other hand, there are others who come in and out of a church without ever being recognized. An example is shown in both instances, and it is not always what we would have wanted to show.
Paul wanted to remind the church of the need to give and to ensure that they did give. He didn't want others to find out that Paul's boasting of the church was hollow. Paul was encouraging them to continue to give the generous gift that they had promised. His concern was that the gift came, as an example to others, but that it came cheerfully and not begrudgingly.
The Macedonian church was under great persecution and had many difficulties. The believers were in deep poverty. However, when they had heard of the generosity of the Corinthian churches, they also wanted to share in generosity. They saw giving as something that believers did and having given themselves to the Lord, they wanted to follow. Even in their condition, they wanted to give. Many people find great joy in being generous, despite other issues that are in their lives. Paul's encouragement to the Corinthian church was they would continue to be generous, fulfilling what they had started, as a continual example for others to follow.
We see the principle of reaping and sowing. When you sow sparingly, you will reap sparingly and when you sow generously, you will reap generously. We know that this principle holds in almost every aspect of life. If you want a good relationship with another person, what are you willing to put into it? If you want a good job review, what are you willing to invest into your work? If you want to get better at a sport or an activity, are you willing to put time and effort into that activity?
As we take a step back and think about how we give back to God, let us ask ourselves this question. What if God gave to us like we give to others? Would we ever receive anything? Almost every believer desires to have God's blessings on his or her life, but we often find ourselves in a receive-only mode. Even from a purely human standpoint, we understand that this is unacceptable. If you were in a position to give to others, but there was no sense of gratitude or willingness to have a relationship, would you find yourself wanting to continue to give? We must remember to be thankful for what God does in our lives. And we need to be thankful as a general rule, when others have been generous to us. Despite what we may think, we are not entitled to receive from God, and certainly are not entitled to receive from others. Be thankful, as a general rule.
God loves a cheerful giver. When we are only given out of guilt or compulsion, we are showing that money owns us as opposed to being able to use our money in a generous manner. We can understand the differences in attitudes when we think of our own lives. Whether you are a parent or not, you can see how the attitudes when children do what they are asked to do is very important. There is an aspect of maturity that comes as we grow up, so that we understand that much of what we are asked to do is as much about learning to take responsibility than it is to do the task. Similarly, we are to learn reliance on God by our giving. So, if you don't feel cheerful, are you not supposed to give to God? The better answer is to change your attitude, because the closed fisted attitude can easily be reflected in other areas of your life.
We read that God is able to bless abundantly, so that we have what we need when we need it. We need to understand that nothing we have and nothing we are is in and of ourselves. Everything we have is God given. We have been blessed in ways that allow us to earn a living and have been given other abilities to use in His service. However, we are not blessed for our own self indulgence. We are blessed more when we can give generously to others. Some people seem to hold off on giving, waiting until they make more so that they can give more. That time may never come and, even if it does, attitudes set in and many people become beholden to what they have, so that they never adopt a generous heart. Attitudes are set in life based on where we are and they do not magically change at some other point. A generous heart is not created overnight
As God gives to us, we can be generous with what we have and give to others. As we give, we tend to get more so that we can give more away. We read that those who help the poor get a harvest of righteousness. Giving is not just so that we receive more, but it is also used to help build our character. We continue to read that when we are generous, people give thanksgiving to God, knowing that He meets their needs through the giving of others. Other believers will praise God for the obedience in giving that accompanies our confession of the gospel of Christ. Giving is an act of service and is a very tangible way that we can show the nature of God.
If you have read the other parts of the letters to Corinth, you know that there was no shortage of problems in the Corinth church. God, as well as Paul, could have seemingly written them off. However, Paul continued to work with them, because he knew the potential that God saw in them. God sees that same potential in you, no matter where you've been or what you've done. When you have failed God and failed others, you need to realize that there is still hope for a restored life. And, one of the best ways that you can understand God's goodness is in having a generous heart.
We need to realize that no matter how much we give, it is never as much as God has given to us. The key is not to try and outgive God or others, but to glorify God through all we do. Realize that what we have been given, we can get nowhere else. Certainly, some people accept what God has given them in their lives and show no mind to following Him. Don't let yourself become the person that accepts freely from God, but closes your fists so that none of it is ever given back. By giving with the right attitude, we can certainly glorify God.
As we think about giving, let us also think about getting. At times in your life, you will be the recipient of gifts. Certainly, we all have received gifts above and beyond from the Lord, but you may find yourself on the receiving end of generous gifts from family, friends, fellow believers or others. Do not let yourself develop the sense of entitlement, as if that is owed to you. Many people lose perspective and believe that they can make whatever choices and do whatever they want, because somebody will come behind them and clean up the messes. Remember to be thankful and to express gratitude to those who give. It is a good attitude to have to let others know that you are thankful for what they have done, especially when they have provided for you.