By Ben Fronczek
More than any time, this is the time of the year when most of us become a tad bit more generous. We think about buying Christmas gifts for those we love. Some donate to Toys for Tots. Some even help needy families have a nicer holiday by stepping in adopting a family for Christmas.
If there is one thing I am proud about being a Christian is the fact that through the ages Christians have notably been some of the most generous people ever.
We have been taught by our Lord Jesus Himself how truly important it is. I like the story he tells in Luke 10:25-37 (Click on verses to Read)
This is one of the most well known and loved stories that Jesus told. In it Jesus is teaching all of us, the kind of people that God’s wants us to become. In the story we probably have a Jew that is attacked while he travels and the only one that stops shows mercy on him is a Samaritan, someone most Jews turned their noses up to.
In the story we see a couple of key component that are lessons for us to learn:
First of all, this man who stopped to help overlooked any particular prejudices he or this Jew may have had. It did not matter whether this guy was black or white, Jew or Chinese. The man was hurt and needed assistance and he was going to help him.
Second, he was willing to stop and make the time to help, and he was also willing to get his hands dirty. The other two Jews that had passed by did not want to do either. They did not want to take the time out of their day, nor did they want to get their hands dirty and patch this guy up.
And third, we see that this Samaritan was not only willing to show mercy, we also see that he was generous; he dug down deep into his pocket to help this guy which he did not even know.
And so, how did Jesus end the story? By telling His audience, “Go and do likewise.”
Generosity is one of most prominent marks of Christian, or at least it should be… but even non-Christians can be very generous.
And I believe the reason for this goes back to the fact that in Genesis and the creations account it tells us that we were all made or created in the very image of God. At our best we can imitate our Heavenly Father because He created us that way.
Like our Heavenly Father, He created us so that we can be generous, loving, merciful, just, and holy just like He is. But unfortunately having a free will, there are times when even the best of us choose a different path. At our worst and when we are least like our Heavenly Father, we are selfish, unloving, mean, prejudice, unmerciful, abusive and sometimes evil. Even though we are capable of acting like this, it is not the way God wants to see us act… just like we don’t want to see our own children portray these negative traits.
As a matter of fact, when we portray these positive God like traits by being generous, we are told over and over in scripture that great blessings will accompany such behavior.
I bring up the topic of being generous today because our church has decided to donate today’s collection along with money from our checking account to the CHURCH OF CHRIST DISASTER RESPONSE TEAM which is part of the relief effort going on in NJ and southern NY, which is helping in the aftermath the hurricane Sandy disaster.
Like in the story of the Good Samaritan, there are many people who are still hurting and need a lot of help. Even though many of us are not able to travel to that area and get involved in a hands-on way, we can at least show some generosity and send some money to help those who are already there.
What I find interesting is how the church quite literally began on a generous note; and was blessed for it as a result. In Acts 2 we read that after the first 3000 were baptized for the forgiveness of their sin and were added to the church, those early Christians began to share with one another right away.
Read Acts 2:41-47
” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
What a special time this was, where people were taking care of the needs of one other, and happy to do so.
At this point in history the Church was growing by thousands. Here in Acts 2 we read that 3000 had been baptized. Then in Acts 4:4 we read that the number increased to 5000 men, not including all the women who believed.
At this point they seem to stop counting, but one thing the text does mention is the fact that they continued to be generous and care for one another’s needs.
Read Acts 4:32-37
“ 32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.”
Even later on in the New Testament we read how Christian churches would support one another in times of famine and disaster. At one point we read that the apostle Paul is going from one church to another trying to raise funds for Christians in Jerusalem because they were in great need because of a famine.
Read 1 Corinthians 16:1-4
“Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. 3 Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.”
Then in his second letter to them Paul addresses this same issue again and how others were giving:
Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-9
“And now, brothers and sisters, 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[a]—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 continues to talk about this subject in this letter but then he gives them some God given principles to encourage their giving:
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their giftsto the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
Now there are some tremendous Principles seen here in this text regarding being generous:
1) If you sow sparingly you will likewise reap sparingly. If your sow generously, you will reap generously. This implies that these is going to be some kind of return when you give and share with others. It may not be a fianancial gain, but God promises to bless your abundantly if you are generous with others.
2) You should only give what you feel good about giving. Don’t give if you don’t want to, or if your feel pressure to, because…
3) God loves a cheerful giver! Why, because that’s how He designed you!
4) When you give in this manner, Paul tell us that God will somehow multiply what you have and will bless you even more abundantly so that you have even more to give.
5) When you are generous and help others, this will cause more people to praise God because of what you have done in His name.
6) Verse 15 says that being generous and giving is a gift in itself. I believe it is a gift from God Himself to share in His in some of His attributes.
The ability to give and help others is an amazing grace which first began with the Father. The greatest gift He has given us all beside life itself was the life of His one and only Son to redeem us and purify us of sin. But like any other gift you have to choose to accept this very special gift from Him. It’s like sending money to this relief effort and them sending the check back with a note saying, “No thank you, we don’t want your money.” No one is obligated to accept God’s gift of Grace. We are not forced to accept Jesus. No one is obligated to enter the waters of baptism where we are told that this is the time and place where Jesus removes our sin (according to Colossians 2:11-13. No one is obligated to become part of God’s family, the church and enjoy the fellowship, camaraderie and hope that we have in Jesus.
Challenge: My challenge for you this day; first is to accept this special gift of God, His Son and the salvation He can give you. I also would like to encourage you to be a truly generous person. It’s ok to be wise with your time, money, and possessions but don’t become unmerciful and selfish. There are those out there who need you, and God wants to use you to funnel His blessing through you, to them.
For more lessons click on the following link: http://granvillenychurchofchrist.org/?page_id=566