PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE OUR GIVING - PART 1. LENT 2021
Adapted from BREAD ENOUGH AND TO SPARE by Francis Dixon
Bible verses are linked to Bible Gateway.
‘Giving’ (Time, talent, gifts, money) is an important aspect of church life. As Christians we are challenged to regularly consider how and what we give in response to the generosity of God. Lent is a perfect time to ask ourselves “Where am I”? Unfortunately, God’s work is often hindered through lack of funds! Sometimes that is because God’s people can be undisciplined, careless or even selfish with regard to the privilege and responsibility of giving back to the Lord. Sometimes it’s because we don’t fully appreciate the cost!
However, our studies are a gentle reminder that:
Giving things instead of ourselves can easily become our religion, so that we never turn to Christ for salvation.
Our studies are not about how much we give alone but a reminder that the giving to God of ourselves is our priority and should be in direct response to what God has generously done for us in Christ. It is our starting point.
Spend a few moments in quiet prayer. Relax into God’s presence and pray that the Holy Spirit will speak to you through God’s word and this study.
by whose grace alone we are accepted
and called to your service:
strengthen us by your Holy Spirit
and make us worthy of our calling;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, Amen.
The collection for the Lord’s people. Part 1 (v1-9)
1 And now, we want you to know about the grace that God has
given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe
trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: they gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part.
7 But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you – see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Paul addresses the matter of giving with sensitivity, telling the story of their small sister churches in Macedonia. They received grace and they responded generously. It flowed from the primary source of grace, which is Christ’s reconciliation of sinners to himself. (2 Cor. 5:18–6:1).
This grace received, gave them the desire to give beyond expectation. (v7) Paul refers to five graces of: faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness, love, and “this grace of giving”
Q? What does this passage say to you about the ‘grace of giving’?
12 PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE OUR GIVING: 1-6
1. We must begin by giving ourselves to the Lord
(v5) The Macedonians gave generously but ”they gave themselves first to the Lord”. In a sense our gifts are not acceptable to God unless we have first given ourselves to Him (Proverbs 15:8), and compare this with Romans 6:13; Romans 12:1.
Q? What does it mean to give yourself to the Lord?
2. Our giving to God is through human channels
(v5) Notice the words ”…to us…” We cannot literally place our gifts into His hand but we can give to His work; and where our giv-ing is through the church or directly to the church, or directly to a mission agency, then we do in fact place our gift into the Lord’s hand. The Macedonians gave to Paul, and yet they were giving to God - look up Matthew 25:40.
Q? Are you aware of giving to the Lord? How and where?
3. Our giving should be according to the will of God
(v5) The implication is that we need to seek God’s will concerning our giving and exercise discernment because we need to give to work that is true to God and His Word. There are priorities in giving. We should by all means give to help to alleviate human suffer-ing and distress, or other charities of personal interest, BUT as Christians there is specific mission work which should also claim our attention. Supporting works of charity is great, but how are you supporting God’s work?
Q? Have you ever seriously thought about this? Make a list and note where and how are you currently support ‘Mission’.
4. There is great joy in giving to the Lord
(v2) Surely we have proved this! So much can be achieved with generosity of heart. See what the Lord Jesus said in Acts 20:35, and compare with Luke 6:38. In 2 Chronicles 29:27 we are also told that it was after the burnt offerings had been presented to the Lord that…
“singing to the Lord began also”! Joy follows dedication and obedience. However - WARNING from Micah 6:7-8
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?( Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?( 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly(E) and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Giving even sacrificially, is tempered with getting our relationship with God in good order and in the way we act in the world. We don’t give to become joyful, it comes from joyful response to God!
5. Our giving should involve some real sacrifice
(v2) Although the Macedonians gave generously, notice that in fact they gave out of their poverty. It is not left to the rich. The widows mite is about how much she gave, not how little, reminding us of David’s statement in 2 Samuel 24. 24. “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” Do we give at the point of sacrifice, or only from the left-overs after meeting our own needs and wants? Look up Mark 12:41-44.
Q? Have I prioritised my giving? Is it the first or last thing to come out of my resources?
6. We are to give willingly and ungrudgingly
(v3) Notice the words “Entirely on their own” It translates “…of themselves” (in King James) “they were freely willing” (New King James) and in The Message “an outpouring of pure and generous gifts”
No one is press-ganged to give but they were ”cheerful givers” out of love for God.
See also: 2 Corinthians 9:7.
Q? Am I a cheerful giver?
Finally - Pray again, spend time mulling over your thoughts and reactions. Pray that God’s generosity will empower you to be generous toward God.
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