Giving: something to think about
We are in the period immediately following Easter, so the death and resurrection of Jesus is still fresh in our faces.
We are, however, embarking on two series that may seem a little odd – giving and taking – that is, our first series is on giving and the follow on taking.
A part of the motivation for this is that in over 6 years I’ve not spoken on the topic of giving money, yet in the church every week we have an offering. There are good reasons why we do it, and newcomers and our teenagers may never have heard the topic discussed in church.
Aside from that it seems a reasonable time to discuss giving and taking in the Kingdom of God. What is giving all about? What do we give, when and why? How do we give and to whom? What, when and to whom do we not give? All of these are reasonable questions, and their answers are not immediately obvious.
This first week I want simply to raise the question of giving. Take some time and make a list of things you give because you are a follower of Jesus.
These lists are for your own reflection only.
When does your time get used for God?
In what ways do you use your talents for God?
Where do you give money because of your faith in Jesus?
It is in God’s nature to be generous, and because of the positive influence of the Spirit of God within us, we too should find joy in being generous.
I invite you to take some time this week to think about giving: about God’s giving and your own giving. I hope your thoughts this week will help make our whole series more valuable for you.
Giving: something to think about
Oh those magnificent early Christians and the way they willingly shared their possessions to ensure that all had enough!
To the poor it seems like Utopia, and to the rich it sounds like hell on earth, and to many hard workers it sounds like reverse injustice.
There are no mechanics given accept that some would sell possessions, even land, and hand over the proceeds for distribution as there was need. Clearly they didn’t sell everything they owned or everyone would have been in need. It also seems to have only happened in Jerusalem, and there only for a short time.
If it was utopia, it was more of a glimpse, but it is a bigger glimpse than I’ve ever witnessed. But it is written with a sense of awe and excitement, about the extent to which the Kingdom of God was tangible in those days among those early believers.
It doesn’t last long because the evil of lies and pretence follow straight on. The story of Barnabas is contrasted with Ananias and Sapphira – both sell property, but only Barnabas truthfully presented all of the money; Ananias and Sapphira lied and pretended to give all of the money. They want to look good, but they lied to achieve it.
Even in the midst of Utopia evil lurks, as it always does.
But the central theme of that short account is the joy and wonder of those early followers of Jesus, which transcended material pursuits.
We also heard the story of Jesus appearing to his disciples largely because last Sunday was Easter Sunday. But it is not without its contribution our theme.
On the cross, Jesus gave himself entirely. God had not withheld his son, and the son did not withhold himself, but gave his life willingly according to his Father’s will.
After he was raised back to life, for a brief period of time Jesus continued to give himself to his followers. In this one encounter he gives them his peace, he gives them instructions (as the Father sent me, so I send you), he gave them the Holy Spirit (he breathed on them and said ‘receive the Holy Spirit’),
A week later he gives proof to one of those followers, Thomas, and encouragement to us (blessed are those who believe without seeing).
This is the man who, once he began his ministry, went without a home, a family, and pretty much everything except the clothes on his back. He gave himself entirely.
This same man, now crucified then raised back to life by God, is still giving to these people who had so recently deserted him. Jesus is a giver of enormous proportions.
As followers of Jesus we have to seriously ask ourselves how we go with giving. If we claim to follow Jesus in any meaningful way, and if there is any truth to the claim that we want to be like him, then we need to know the truth about ourselves in relation to giving.
Let’s not be mistaken; Jesus also received. What he received from God is extraordinary, both in life and death. He received hospitality and enjoyed it sufficiently that some accused him of being a glutton and a drunkard.
But he was a magnificent giver, and he was in no way at all a hoarder. He received people and kindness, but not property or possessions.
And so I want to prime this new series by asking you to reflect this week on your giving. There is some space for you to make notes on the extra sheet for this week, and that may help you reflect.
What material possessions are you hoarding? How responsible is your standard of living? What do you resent giving, or to whom, and why?
And how do you feel about giving? Does it make you happy? Is there some giving you resent but you feel compelled to give? Do you get upset about giving money away, or do you consider it a blessing that you have enough to be able to give?
We will talk about these things through the coming weeks, and I encourage you to be here as much as possible through this series and the next, because there is important stuff to work through.
God actually is interested in what we have, what we keep and what we give away. It really does affect whether we are free to follow Jesus or tied up like a stuck pig on the inside and the outside. It really does affect the freedom of the Holy Spirit at work inside us, so I encourage you to take this short journey seriously.