A Community Who Gives
Big Idea: When you believe there is enough, you start seeing opportunities for generosity everywhere. If we are to be a church that can live out this ethic, it takes individuals living it out. At its heart, generosity is an invitation to trust Jesus for everything. Money is literally value…what statement about your values are you making with yours?
Welcome to week 6...
Our topic is similar to serving (tell people we are talking about giving)…explain how they are different at their roots.
Commend our people for stepping up this week.
Not our every Sunday topic
Some preachers will excuse guests and people who do not have a faith background but I would say it is incredibly important that if you have issues with giving or if you are new that I would ask the opposite of you.
I realize that one of the biggest hangups people have with this issue is that they think the church…or me as the pastor just wants their money and so we will make some biblical basis to have you give as much money to me or our church as possible.
Let me release you from this hangup so that you won’t miss the root of where we are headed this morning.
Do the ‘you don’t have to give here’ thing. I would rather you understand the root issue than that you just give money to this church...
With that being said, let’s look at the question:
How does the Gospel shape us into a Community Who Gives?
We have already seen in Acts 2 and Acts 4 how the church was meeting needs. Although we can stand to learn some things about giving in those passages, I would like to go somewhere else in Acts to see some concepts that we have not seen quite yet.
If you have your Bibles…Acts 11
Give brief recap of evertying between Acts 2 and Acts 11 - Apostles arrested, Saul turns to Paul, Gospel Comes to the Gentiles, Church in Jerusalem is Scattered, the Church at Antioch becomes the next fastest growing church and is where we get our name of Christians from.
Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.
One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius.
There were four such famines that happened during the reign of Claudius and between them, they effected the entire Roman world to some degree or other.
And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.
And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.
Nothing in the Bible is written just by chance or as gee whiz information. It is not a fluke that Luke talks about the structure of how the money was handled (as it is in many other places in Scripture).
I believe we see a couple of concepts confirmed here that we saw introduced back in chapters two and four.
First, I believe we see that:
It is important to give within the context of the Church.
Here is the deal, I do not make this point lightly and honestly it is a little uncomfortable to stand here and say this (there are, after all, plenty of examples of churches and pastors who have run off the rails in their financial dealings), but I would only push you on this issue if I knew it to be true.
The issue of giving within the church is super sensitive to a lot of people because (why give to a church when you are completely capable of picking a charity or some other organization that you can give your money to that has a proven track record of handling your money with precision and where the greatest amount gets to where it is supposed to go?)
Why didn’t the church just package up some money and send it by mail to some of the people they knew were hurting the worst down in Judea? We see this in chapters two and four as well. Why bring the money you made when you sold your property and give it to the disciples? This is a strange detail to include and even more so when you consider it’s repetition across multiple different stories.
The Church is God’s plan A in the world to bring the good news of His kingdom into the world. We have talked over and over again how our faith is not simply some personal pursuit but is to be done in community with other believers. God’s redemptive and restorative plan isn’t any one individual but is a group of believers called the Church.
Organizations and parachurch ministries are great! They do some amazing things but they aren’t the thing God has designed to be His vehicle of hope, provision, and love to the world…only the church has been set apart, blessed, and equipped to fill that role.
Only the Elders (a tradition of leadership taken from their Jewish faith) knew where the greatest need was that enabled the Gospel ministry to continue on with the greatest effectiveness while still meeting the needs they needed to.
I believe the second thing we see out of this actually helps instill faith in this process.
There is a system of transparency and accountability when finances are involved.
They didn’t just send one person to give a large sum of money to someone else. They sent two men (Saul and Barnabas; both known entities) to take money to a group of (plural) Elders in Judea.
Bad fruit grows in secret gardens. As we end the sermon today, I will outline some ways that we want to instill this practice from the very beginning. Now, I know it will probably seem somewhat formal and like a little out of place to be talking about it in a sermon but I believe that being transparent and accountable begins right here…not at some stewardship meeting that might be down the road a little ways.
Now…this is a small excerpt of this story. While I believe it does introduce us to some important concepts, and ones necessary for us to talk about they don’t really drive at the root of generosity.
We need to look at the expanded version of this story from 2 Corinthians.
In 2 Corinthians 8 we get to see some other churches who are participating in this same type of generosity. It isn’t known if this is the same famine that we see in Acts 11 (although many scholars contend that it was). What we do know is that it is related to the same set of famines prophesied by Agabus to take place under the rule of Claudius.
Tell the story of the Macedonian church giving to the Jerusalem church (even though they were extremely poor) and the plate has just been passed to the Corinthian church (who actually lives in abundance) …let’s see how it plays out.
Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia,
that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.
Out of their deep poverty (they weren’t just poor…they were destitute and living in extreme want themselves and yet they were open handed with their money.
So much so that it took Paul by surprise:
For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord,
begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints,
and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.
Paul didn’t have to twist their arm to give. In fact, Paul was quite surprised at the incredibly generous gift in spite of their poverty.
Giving out of compulsion misses the point entirely.
So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well. But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.
While Paul was not commanding them to be generous (because that’s not how that works) It is clear that the Corinthian church had missed something that caused them to be less generous with their money even though they were much more poised to give than the Macedonian church was.
What might have caused that in them? Let’s just go out on a limb here and take a guess as to what that might have been.
How about a worldwide famine?
Could a worsening famine and looming financial hardship have caused the Corinthian church to turn fearful and begin living out a scarcity mindset?
While the Corinthian church was living out of a scarcity mindset, the Macedonian church was being driven to a radical generosity by something different.
This is what Paul wants the Corinthian church to understand more than anything.
What is it that drove the Macedonian church to this kind of generosity?
I believe we see the answer to this question in Luke’s other work (the gospel of Luke chapter 12).
Explain what happens up to this point in Luke 12.
Do the retirement guy story.
And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! “And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? “If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. “But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! “And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. “For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. “But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.
Just from that…who does Jesus claim is ultimately in charge of providing all that you need?
Instantly though, some of you think of the dead bird you saw on the side of the road this morning and think, “where was God on that one.”
It is incredibly easy to slip back into the scarcity mindset.
I think about the Israelites who literally just watched God demolish the most powerful empire to ever exist up until then (the egyptians), part the Red Sea, destroy an army and then turn right around literally less than a chapter later and complain, wishing they were back in egypt, because they believed they were going to die of dehydration in the dessert that God would not provide.
And yet Jesus points us to a reality where God is completely in control of our provision.
Jesus then takes the logic a step further and completes the thought for us in his most profound teaching on money. He says:
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The order that those two clauses come in is of utmost importance. Here is the concept…I know this is radical and profound what i’m about to say but hand with me…but money is literally value. I don’t just mean that it has value but that what we do with it shows value. We often want to reverse these two clauses when it comes to money and say that: we know that our heart should be in this whole church thing and so therefore we should give a little…we don’t want the pastor to starve after all lol.
What Jesus is saying here is that you already have money, time, resources, and etc. and you are doing something with those things. What you are doing and where it is going ultimately tells a story about what you value.
Our finances ultimately tell the story of who we believe is in control of our provision.
A mindset of scarcity says that we have to save every penny in the off chance we might experience want in the future and therefore generosity gets moved to the margins and is only done when there is an abundance. The problem is that a mindset of scarcity only grows. The problem is that a mindset of scarcity is based in failure to see God as a loving Father who provides for His children.
So back to our original question: How does the Gospel shape us into a community who gives?
Well for that we just need to finish the passage we were looking at in Second Corinthians 8.
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.
Here is a riddle for you: What can an infinitely rich man give in order to become poor?
“In the person of Jesus, God gives the ultimate gift to a world that lives with a scarcity mindset, so that we can get a glimpse of the eternal and infinite abundance God has in store.”
Why do you think God paves streets with gold in His Kingdom? We have always looked at that as though it were meant to make us marvel. I think that beauty is going to radiate from any space where God is and He doesn’t need streets paved with gold to make that kind of statement. I do believe God is making a statement with His design choice for street paving material. I believe God has taken the thing that some men toil their entire lives away in search of and He makes it common and puts it underneath our feet in the new creation. I believe God is making a values statement.
Its so that we would see Him as the object of beauty and obsession. The pearl of great price that we will sell everything we have in order to get. The treasure hidden in a field that we give up everything we own to go and purchase.
The Gospel pushes us to realize that God is the ultimate giver of all that is good. If he cares enough to come and die for you…what do you think He thinks about the everyday simple acts of provision? We give because He has ultimately given all.
Will you commit to giving so that we may be a community defined by our generosity.
NOTICE I DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT TITHING…ITS ABOUT THE CONCEPT…DO THAT TALK
Give 3 & 5 Year plans