The Great Church: The Giving Church
When we look at the early church, we see that one of the great attributes that made it a model for church history was that they cared for one another, utilizing whatever gifts and abilities they had to be a blessing to one another, even to the point of releasing houses and property because they were so committed to the gospel of Christ going to every person in every nation!
Text: Acts 2:42-47
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
In this story we see that 3,000 people came to faith in Christ and had nowhere to live and nowhere to make a living. So the whole community of faith came together having “everything in common.” This means that each person relinquished authority and control over their possessions and allowed the Lord to use them to provide for the needs of the poor or dislocated among them, so that nothing would hinder the gospel.
This is not the sort of thing that can be legislated or required among a church; it has to come out of a great commitment to Christ from the heart! This takes place when someone is not merely giving a percentage of their possessions but giving up themselves fully to the Lord and to others.
This is what constitutes true giving to God: not just 10% of our income but 100% of our lives submitted to Christ’s lordship. For example, there is a big difference between putting your feet into the water to check it out and diving into the water. When you are putting your feet into the water you are just checking it out, but when you dive in you are fully committed to immersing yourself in the water! You cannot scuba dive and check out the beauty of marine life if you only want to get your feet wet!
You can’t find pearls unless you go to the bottom of the ocean. You can’t mine gold just by looking on the street. You have to dig and go underground. This means you have to put your body underground and be fully committed to the process of finding that precious metal or you will fail!
Also, in sports you need an unconditional commitment in a game to win or to perform well. If you are afraid or only half-way committed then you will most likely fail. When I played organized baseball, if I was afraid of getting hit by a fastball and not fully committed to leaning into the ball to hit it, then I would most likely fail to get a hit. When skiing, if I give into fear when I view the huge downhill motion, then I will fall. I only succeed when I am fully committed to navigating downhill through snow and ice.
For example, this is the same in marriage. Unless both partners are 100% committed to one another to make their marriage work then the pressures of life will surely cause their relationship to fail! Or, if only one of the spouses is merely trying out the marriage then it will fail.
A divided heart in any area of our lives will not produce the results we are supposed to reach because of a lack of focus and power. Our lives will truly fall short of our greatest potential and even fail!
Jesus taught that wheat only manifests when we sow its kernel into the ground so it can die, which then enables it to bear fruit. Then Christ said whoever saves his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for His sake will save it. This means we either give Jesus lordship over every aspect of our hearts by losing our lives to Him, or He is not Lord at all. There is no in-between with Christ; there is no neutral territory.
Read John 12:24-27: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
Let’s see what Scripture teaches about this subject in other places.
In 2 Corinthians 12:15 Paul says: “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”
To be spent means that we are giving our whole lives to the people, not just giving them something separate from us that we own. Anyone can spend money or volunteer time doing a project, but only a few spend their lives on something other than themselves.
In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 Paul testified about the Macedonian churches: “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.”
When we give first of ourselves to the Lord then we will automatically give out of our poverty, not just out of abundance. This is because we stop claiming ownership over our lives and possessions.
The greatest example of giving in the Bible is the poor widow.
“And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”
The poor widow could have given many excuses for not giving—the same way people do today! The mentality of most people is to look out for themselves or horde up for themselves. The early church used the poor widow as a model who was praised by Jesus in that she spent herself; she gave all she had, not just an offering.
TITHING IS NOT THE NEW TESTEMENT IDEAL. It is the bare minimum of the Old Testament. THE POOR WIDOW IS THE NEW TESTAMENT MODEL!
Most people in her situation would complain and hold back and say, “God has not been good to me because I am poor, so I am not going to give anything to Him!” Other people in that day would have said, “I am not giving an offering to the church. The church should give something to me because I am poor.” They would not be willing to give an offering to the congregation or temple.
Malachi 3:8-14 teaches that the tithe is not ours but the Lord’s. Not giving the tithe is robbing God; it is robbing God, not the church!
Some people say, “I am not giving to a church because I don’t trust anyone with my money.” First of all, is our money really our money (read Psalm 24:1)? Second, we are to give to God as an act of worship, not to men as an act of obligation.
WHY GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GIVER! 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
“Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything; you may have abundance for every good deed.”
Why God loves a cheerful giver:
• Giving is an act of honoring God
• Giving is an act of worshiping God
• Giving shows gratitude towards God
• In giving we demonstrate thanksgiving for God’s goodness. Generosity begets generosity.
• When we give of ourselves to the Lord and to others we are acting like God who gave His one and only Son as a life offering to redeem us from our sins (John 3:16)!
“It is possible to give without love but it is impossible to love without giving!”
“We make a living by what we get but we make a life but what we give!”
Do you want to be like the Dead Sea in Israel, which sucks the life out of the rainwater because of the salt? Or do you want to be like a flowing stream that is teeming with marine life and blesses the world?
Can you imagine what it would be like if everyone in our church first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to the gospel?
Can you imagine what it would be like if everyone in the church had all things in common and shared their very souls with one another for the sake of the gospel?
Can you imagine what the church would be like if everyone gave financially like this poor widow did, with her attitude and her percentage of life and heart?
Can you imagine what would happen in the church if everyone sacrificed the way Jesus did and shared with others the very best they could?
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