Someday… when I win the lottery.

origin november 24 2013 005

1We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 6Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.  2 Corinthians 8:1-7

Generosity is a matter of character. And like many aspects of character we assume we can actually “put it on” or simply “start doing it” when we “grow up” or when we have more responsibility and capacity. So we may assume we will establish a standard of giving when we have a lot more money than we have today. But that’s not the way it works. You won’t become generous because you have a big salary, or win the lottery.

Our “Secret” of Giving
As Christians generosity is meant to flow from our disciple-life with Jesus. The secret of the Macedonian’s generosity was not that they were wealthy people. Their secret of generosity was that they “gave themselves first to the Lord” and “then by the will God” to the apostles and their work. The tithe was not the beginning point for them; rather their relationship with Jesus and His church was their starting point for giving.

Set your Standards of Giving
The standard of giving that you have today is likely to be your standard of giving in the future, unless you begin to change it in response to Jesus and allow for a Gospel-shaped generosity in your standards. This is how character develops. Its a hardened habit built over time and testing. Then the tithe under the grace of Jesus becomes a generosity baby step. Paul tells the Corinthians to see that that they excel in the grace of giving not through the force of a command but through the force of Jesus’ love in their hearts!

8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:8-9

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God says, “Eat the tithe!” and gives us awesome instructions on how to be a generous community.

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22 “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. 23And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, 25then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses 26and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you. 28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.                                                         Deuteronomy 14:22-29

With a few conversations and internet searches you will know that the critique of tithing and the church abounds. Yet throughout the Scripture, tithing, (regularly returning 10% of your income to the Lord) is connected to celebration, care and mercy, and blessings.

Celebration
This is amazing! God says, “Eat the tithe.” God gracefully commanded the tithe so we can be free and generous as a community. His vision for people is one in which their response to Him and to His deliverance into the abundance of His provision is to honour Him regularly. As we honour Him we invite our family to celebrate God and His grace towards us. Gather with your family, I would suggest your larger church family, and eat the tithe!

Care and Mercy
Every three years the tithe was also to be gathered in the local community for the care of those engaged in leading the work of God’s people and for those who are especially vulnerable in the community: the “foreigner,” the orphan, and the widow. Jesus critiqued people who tithed and neglected the weighty matters that tithing was meant to support: justice, mercy, and faithfulness toward people. He says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” Matthew 23:23-24 Tithing supports our community’s gracious generosity for the benefit of vulnerable people, people under pressure.

Blessings in Our Work
The tithe and the gracious generosity its connected with comes with the promise of God’s blessing in our work. I’m going to make “the interpretive leap here” and connect the promise to our life together in the church. God says he will do an amazing thing when we give for the work of our church: He will “bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.” In the age of “thorns and thistles” (Genesis 3:17-19), God promises that our regular giving response to His grace towards us will yield more. As Bill Hybles has observed, God can get us not only from “A” to “B” (the basic vision of enough in our society) but also to “C,” doing and accomplishing far more good that we can imagine!

Generosity Ripples

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11You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!  2 Corinthians 9:11-15 

Throw a pebble on a pond and watch the ripples spread. Grasped between the fingers and flung to the middle, that single stone reached its target and sank, but the affect went to the edges. Like a pebble on a pond, money given may meet a temporary need but the generosity makes lasting  waves. Generosity ripples.

Paul inspires the church in Corinth by showing them the multifaceted impact of their financial gifts. When we take the stuff of earth and leverage it for the work of the Gospel and the life of the church we make waves.

  • God makes our generosity possible… over and over.
  • Our generosity produces worship and thanksgiving toward God from the immediate beneficiaries and from the people who benefit from the life of the church and her servants in Great Commission labour.
  • Our generosity is a ministry serving God and the church.
  • Our generosity flows from and drives us deeper into the Gospel of Jesus.
  • Our generosity produces affection, prayer, and appreciation of God’s grace.
  • Financial giving is only a small ripple of the awe produced by God’s most awesome gift for us — Jesus Christ.

What a privilege! Generosity ripples into eternity! Let’s make waves.

The Challenge of Generosity

Here are the notes from Sunday’s message at Cityview in our series, The New Testament Challenge.  The audio will be available later this week.

“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.”  Luke 6:38

The Big Idea:  Generosity relies on the abundance of God.

1.  Jesus believes you can afford to be generous.
2.  Jesus confronts us with an alternative economy.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.   Matthew 6:19-24  NIV

See Luke 18:18-33

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”    23   When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a   man of great wealth. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!

Common Challenges to Generosity

A.  “I’m not sure I have enough.”

“Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his posses- sions.”  Luke 12:15

Generosity challenges our vision of success.

B.  “I’m in too much debt.”

“The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is servant to the
lender.”  Proverbs 22:7

Generosity challenges our addiction to stuff and lack of restraint.

C.  “I’m not sure the other person deserves it.”

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!   James 2:12-13

Generosity challenges our judgmental nature.

D.  “I’m overwhelmed; there are just too many people with needs.”

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but   has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.   James 2:14-17

Generosity challenges us to act now.

E.  “I don’t want to be part of the problem.”

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”  Galatians 6:1

Generosity challenges us to seek wisdom.

F.  “I didn’t know.”

“They will answer, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you.”  Matthew 25:44

Generosity challenges us to see Jesus.

G.  “I just need a little bit more.”

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with every thing for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.  1 Timothy 6:17-19
Generosity challenges our greed.

4. Beware the temptation to make godliness and generosity a formula for this world’s vision of success.  Beware the temptation to make generosity another system of divine credit.

3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.   1 Timothy 6:3-10

5.  Next Steps

A.  __________  Enter the Kingdom of Jesus and His new economy of the Abundant Life.

B.  __________  Memorize the verse.  “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.”   Luke 6:38
C.  __________  Determine to give from what you have.

“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”  Matthew 5:42

D.  ___________________________________________