GIVING FREELY AND WITH JOY

This past Sunday, we passed out two more bookmarks from the 7 Principles of Giving.  I hope you have time to reflect on the questions on the back of the bookmarks.

 Once again – as we look to the Macedonians as an example of giving to the church, this time we learn about giving freely and the joy that brings!

 II Corinthians 8:1-5 -

We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; 2for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— 5and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us. 

 

Are you a person of means?  Chances are, if you are reading this, you are.  On the website “Global Rich List” (www.globalrichlist.com)  you can enter your income and see where you rank in the world context.  It can be an eye-opening experience!  How does it feel to think of yourself as a person of means?  Paul recognized that the Macedonian Christians had limited means financially, but he also realized that they were blessed by God.  They had some capacity to give.  Paul knew that the Macedonians gave according to their ability in the sense that in total, their gift wasn’t very much. It was not a “large” gift in a total dollar sense. Paul is clear that contributions to the work of God in the world are not meant to be a work of the law.  They are not a way to earn God’s favor, but a natural response to the favor we have already received from God.  He declares that giving must be voluntary:  Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.  II Corinthians 9:7-8 

 

When people consider giving to the work of God in the world, how do they decide on the right amount to give?  (I have a friend who discerns her pledge, raising the amount in her mind, until it HURTS – that amount is her pledge.  Some give proportionately like the Macedonians . . . perhaps tithing – 10% of your income.)  Do you know a cheerful giver?

 

When and where have you given something freely?  What does it feel like to give something away with no strings attached?  What would others be willing to testify freely about your giving?

 

Inspired by the love of God, demonstrated in his Son, the Macedonian Christians exhibited determined generosity and abundant joy despite their adverse circumstances.  Participation in the offering for Jerusalem was seen as a challenge by the Macedonian congregation.    As they exceeded their own expectations and the expecations of others, through the generosity of their gifts, a spirit of joy and adventure bubbled up in the community.  Conventional wisdom says, successful people become generous because they are happy due to their success.  II Corinthians shares a different story in the lives of some of the very poorest people who’s joy and love for Christ spilled over into generous living.  Happiness and generosity certainly go hand-in-hand.  Put your hand into someone else’s and see the joy you feel when you are giving and when you are given what you need.  Thanks be to God for the gifts GOD provides, so often we see these gifts in and through each other. 

When have you experienced the abundant joy of giving?  When has your extreme poverty overflowed in generosity?  How have you found joy when you live with little and live with much?