“But just as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us —see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” -2 Corinthians 8:7
In a few more days, I will officially be joining with a mission organization called ServeNow, which exists to serve those in need (often in dark/remote places in various parts of the world) and to help equip churches to better fulfill the Great Commission, while doing other good deeds in Jesus’ name. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that while we are not saved by doing good deeds (but by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus) we are saved to do good works: “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God has assigned for each of us work that He is calling us to do. Our job is to discover what those works are and then do them!
Years ago, before I began to pastor the church I did for the last six years, God was already at work in putting on my heart the kind of work I will now be doing. At the time He said to me: “Make the dreams (God-given dreams) of others come true.” Over the years, God has opened up some doors and put a few opportunities before me to do this on a very small scale. Sometimes it meant giving to certain projects or missionaries/mission organizations myself, other times it meant going and calling on others to give.
For example, when cyclone Nargis hit Burma, my heart was filled with a compassion I had never experienced before, for a country I had never heard of prior to that event. I began to pray and God opened up a door for me to go a couple of times and help in various ways. Our church just this year gave money to help build a new orphanage building and some are also now monthly sponsoring some of the orphans there after coming back and presenting the need to the congregation.
Now God is putting me in a role with bigger needs and greater responsibility. And of course, with that, and to do the work God puts before us, money is needed. So, I’ve naturally been thinking more about money. The reality is ministry requires money. In fact, Luke 8:1-3 tells us that Jesus’ own traveling ministry (which involved preaching, teaching, healing/helping people) was “funded” by a group of women in particular, some (or all) of whom had been helped by Jesus. After listing some of their names Luke 8:3 says: “These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”
The problem with money is that it is a sensitive and personal thing for so many of us. First of all, for many people, money is their god. It represents power for some, social status for others, pleasure, control or a combination of all these things for others! Money equals livelihood and it’s not easy for us to part with. But as David prayed before the people to God in 1 Chronicles 29:14 in regard to the resources that he and others had given for the building of the temple: “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” Before this, He prayed: “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?
David understood everything comes from God, belongs to God and giving to the work of God is a gift, a grace and a responsibility. Paul called upon the Corinthians to excel also in the “grace of giving.” Giving is a grace (a gift) God gives us. It is a privilege. It is not to be viewed as a burden. Jesus is recorded as having once said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20:35). In Luke 12:48, Jesus said: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Giving is a grace and a sacred responsibility for which we will be accountable to God for. Our money is not to be squandered for selfish purposes. It is to be invested in the kingdom of heaven. As Jesus also once said in Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The greatest, most secure “investment” you can make with your money that also produces the greatest “dividends” is in regard to the work of God and kingdom of God! Your reward will not be merely temporary earthly “treasure” but eternal reward in heaven that will last forever and impact other lives one earth, possibly even for generations to come!
We are to give, because God is a giver by nature and this is one way we reflect His nature and character. In fact, perhaps the best known verse begins by saying: “For God so loved the world, that He gave…” And God gave His only, His all, His best!
You cannot out-give God. Go ahead and try. This is one area you God basically says “go ahead I dare you to test me!” (Malachi 3:8-12). I could share testimony after testimony of God’s faithfulness to us personally in this regard. (In the next blog I’ll share a few stories). But Jesus Himself said in Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Proverbs 11:25 says: “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
Proverbs 19:17: “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.”
Proverbs 22:9 says: “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.”
But Proverbs 21:13 warns: “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”
Proverbs 28:27 likewise promises/warns: “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.”
I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to trust God more in the area of giving to the work of the Lord in 2015. I challenge you as I challenge myself more, to excel in the grace of giving. I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to take seriously the responsibility we have and privilege we have in giving. I challenge you to invest in eternal things, not earthly things. I challenge you to give cheerfully, sacrificially, willingly and according to what you have (not what you don’t have) (2 Corinthians 8:12). Give of your first and give your best out of faith like Abel; not your last and left-overs out of obligation like Cain (Genesis 4:2-5; Hebrews 11:4). It will not only change your life, but God will use it to change others’ lives as well!
2 Corinthians 9:6-8: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”