From the Preacher’s Pen… As we continue our look at God’s gifts to us remember the gift of labor that helps us to find value as we grow and learn. Friendship teaches us to be a part of a team that we might accomplish more together than separately, and money teaches us what we may accomplish in doing for and helping others rather than selfishly doing only for ourselves. The gift of family gives us a glimpse of the Heavenly relationship envisioned by God for His people, while gratitude helps us to be truly thankful and enables us to count our blessings as we realize how rich and numerous they really are. The gift of laughter gives us a view of God’s own real joy and the gift of problems allows us to experience, know and understand in order to grow. God’s gift of learning shows that He treats us like adults as we grow to better know, understand and teach others and dreams teach us of the beauty of hope and faith.
Last week we looked at the gift of a day, today, the time that God gives us that must not be wasted. With all these great gifts it’s time for us to remember…
The Gift of Giving
Winston Churchill said, You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give. That statement is never more accurate than in the life of a Christian.
It was the Apostle Paul that informed us of something Jesus said that is not explicitly mentioned by any other New Testament writer. The setting is Paul meeting with the elders of the Ephesian congregation as he is on his way to Jerusalem for the last time. Paul reminds them both of the time they’d spent together as he taught them, and of their responsibility to now assume the duty, the responsibility of teaching the souls God has entrusted to them. He tells them, In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35).
Jesus illustrated this lesson many times but perhaps nowhere more poignantly than as He washed the feet of the 12 on the night of His betrayal. Even Judas Iscariot was treated as an honored guest by the Savior (John 13). Hours before Jesus would shed His blood for their (and our!) sins, He was giving to others rather than having them serve Him.
Recall, too, that the disciples had often debated which one of them was the greatest. Jesus had more than once caught them in the debate and taught them that the greatest giver or servant was the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Of course, Jesus would be the one to lay aside His Godliness to take the role of a servant in giving His all for us (Philippians 2:5-8). The repeated lessons by Jesus highlight the importance of giving over receiving.
Consider another example: Many Christians mistakenly speak of tithing as their manner of giving to the Lord. Under the Law of Moses, the basic responsibility of giving was explicitly spelled out as one-tenth of everything that they gained. (As an aside remember that the tithe did NOT include the additional gifts of thanksgiving and free-will offerings.)
But for us under the New Covenant God never commands a tithe, a tenth for our gift. Instead, He asks us to show our understanding of our greater blessings by giving as we prosper or as we have been blessed (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:2).
When you really think about it, only the most selfish would dare to give God a tenth and suggest that we are cheated and much less blessed than those under the Old Covenant! In fact, Paul would underline this lesson again by praising Christians that, before they gave even though in poverty, first gave themselves to the Lord (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
We may well enjoy and be able to live with what we are given. But we will never have real life and real joy until we learn to give purposefully and cheerfully (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:7). If you look closely at Paul’s use of those terms you will also notice that he prefaces them in verse 6 with the reminder that the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Until we learn and apply God’s gift of a generously giving heart to our practical lives, we are simply being greedy misers. Appreciate God’s gifts by sharing, for that is the living fulfillment of the Great Commission!
— Lester P. Bagley