Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Honor (2 of 3)

This week's first post on stewardship discussed the importance of being disciplined with our time. Many of the same issues regarding time also relate to money. In addition to those considerations, today, we will consider what it means to be disciplined with our money.

1) God Owns Everything You Own.  1 Corinthians 10.26 reminds us that God is the owner of everything. The book of Genesis gives a perfect example in Joseph. Joseph was a steward in the house of Potiphar. He did not own anything, yet he was responsible for everything. The same is true for us. God entrusts us with His possessions, and expects us to care for them accordingly.

2) Giving Is an Act of Worship.  Deuteronomy 16.16 says when we come before the Lord we are not to come with empty hands. But we should also give with open hearts. Such an offering is acceptable to the Lord. Paul describes the offering he received from the Philippians as a fragrant offering (4.8), reminiscent of the offerings God received in the Old Testament. Like others before us, we need to come openly and with a mindset of giving as we come before the Lord.

3) Giving Reflects Faith in God's Provision.  Mark 12.41-44 tells a familiar story of a widow who gave everything. While it was less in quantity than what the others gave, it was more in quality – it was all she had. We may not give everything, but we will typically only give what we believe God will provide.

4) Giving Should Be Sacrificial and Generous.  2 Corinthians 8.1-5 reveals the heart of a church that was truly sacrificial. They gave beyond their means in order to help others. While we are not promised a direct return on such an investment, what we have to give is the equivalent of a spoon, compared to the shovel that God has to give. More importantly, our sacrificial giving truly represents becoming like God and it emulates what God has done in the giving of His Son.

5) Giving Reflects Spiritual Trustworthiness.  Luke 16.10-13 is God's way of easing us in – He wants us to know (He already does) how we will manage His assets, before giving us more. Consider when you ask someone to help you do a project or some other work (something they've never done before), you typically give them a little piece of it, make sure it gets done, then add to their responsibility. Likewise, God does the same with His resources.

6) Giving From Love, Not Legalism.  2 Corinthians 8.7 says God wants us to give, and to give well, because of the grace we have received. Grace empowers us to live our lives in many ways, why not giving too?

7) Give Willingly, Thankfully, and Cheerfully.  2 Corinthians 9.7 tells us God wants us to give because we want to give, not because we are forced to do so. Someone once said that there are three types of giving:
  • Grudge Giving – This is giving to God because they have to – like most feel about paying taxes.
  • Duty Giving – This is giving to God because we ought to – this is like paying a water bill so you continue to have water. You ought to pay your water bill, if you want water – so pay God, so He loves me. The problem is He loves us regardless.
  • Thanksgiving – Giving because we want to – this is like giving someone a gift because you care about them. An example could be giving an engagement ring to someone out of love.

8) Giving – an Appropriate Response to Real Needs.  The book of Acts provides several examples. Categorically, here are three reasons:
  • Giving to One Another (Acts 2.43-45). The sharing of what God has given for the benefit of the fellowship.
  • Giving to New Believers (Acts 4.32-35). The new believers in the first part of Acts were from out of town. They had come to Jerusalem for the festival and, having been saved, needed food and shelter as they learned about their new salvation.
  • The Church in Need (Acts 11.27-30). The church in Jerusalem was affected by a famine. The church at Antioch rallied together to send resources to Jerusalem to aide them in their time of need.

9) Giving Should be Planned and Systematic.  1 Corinthians 16.2 has Paul encouraging each believer to give, each week, as they have prospered. Unlike Paul's day, wages are rarely paid daily, though some receive payment weekly. However, whenever we are paid, we are to give back, and the more we prosper, the more we are to give.

Finally, though this is not a reason to give, it is a promise of God. 2 Corinthians 9.6 says that we reap what is sown. He who gives will receive. Now, I am not one who believes in a gospel of prosperity. But I do believe God has more to give us than we realize. Yet, we must show ourselves to be good stewards before He will "open the windows of heaven" (Malachi 3.10). While the majority of what we may receive will come on the other side of eternity (where I would rather have it anyway – no moths, rust, or thieves there – Matthew 6.19), the Bible does make promises like we the one in 2 Corinthians 9.6. Yet most will not give, or give little of their time or their treasure. (For a list of concerns about how an attitude of not giving affects the church, see Thom Rainer's blog from 2/4/15.)

Personally, as I have told the congregation where I serve, I could care less if people give a dime to the church. I say that because I don't think God does either. God wants you to give yourself to Him. He wants you to be intimate with Him – connected with Him in a way that you can't fathom. If we become intimate with God, we will give to His work – and that includes in and through this church. So, my concern is more about your relationship with God than how much you put in the offering plate. The more we know and love Him, the more we will want to give. That is what I want for myself, and that is what I want for those where I serve. And, though I may not know you personally, I wish it for you, the reader, as well.

But, if you are like me, sometimes you just feel distant. It is in those times, that we must rely on our discipline. That is why Stewardship is a Discipline. The Spirit can and will empower us, even when we may not want to give. Therefore, to further help us apply this discipline to our lives, the third post this week will give a few options for our next step(s).

*This series of posts is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

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