“In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the works of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35 NRSV
For the past few months, I have focused my remarks on the theme of giving within the life of a Christian. From the sincerity of the human heart to the work of investing into God’s future, giving is a matter of internals in addition to the externals. It does not matter how much we have accumulated or the seeming insignificant nature of what we possess; God observes our perceptions and intentions when it comes to how we understand what we have. Some may express feelings of entitlement when it comes to what they own and do all that is within their power to preserve and protect what is rightfully theirs. Others do not appear nearly as consumed by what they have obtained and, rather than holding it unto themselves, use what they have to make conditions better for others. Some years ago, the Gaither Vocal Band recorded a song entitled “Give It Away” which addresses the place of generosity working through Christians individually and communally. The chorus goes…
“If you want more happy than your heart will hold,
If you want to stand taller if the truth were told,
Take whatever you have, and give it away.
If you want less lonely and a lot more fun,
And deep satisfaction when the day is done,
Then throw your heart wide open and give it away.”
I believe these few lines describe in practice what Paul quoted from Jesus in Acts 20:35. Generosity has a way of freeing us and in the process lightens our souls to those things which weigh heavily upon us. To look at our present situation (even in the midst of a pandemic), we can see (perhaps even feel for ourselves) the burden that is associated with money, possessions, stuff, etc. I once heard a preacher share this observation, “We purchase things we don’t need with money we don’t have in order to impress people we don’t even know.” Our unhealthy understanding of possessions has essentially imprisoned us in our constant pursuit for more and our tendency to secure what we have has made many paranoid about the future of this life. The good news is that we do not have to go on living this way. We need not overwhelm ourselves with the unhealthy pursuit of the wrong things for the wrong reasons. The prescription provided throughout Scripture is that of generosity. I have yet to meet a person who lives with anxiety or regret as a result of his or her generous spirit. People who are generous tend to express not only a healthy perspective for what they have, but also exhibit a state of joy grounded in Christ.
As I did a couple of months ago, I would like to invite you into a time of Scripture study and reflection. I encourage you to take some time to look up the following verses and consider the questions related to the passages as they speak to the matter of generosity.
Read Matthew 6:19-24. When you think about giving as a part of your growth in Christ, how does it fit with Jesus’ remarks about “storing up treasures in heaven?” Verses 22 and 23 make reference to the eye being a “lamp for the body.” The idea Jesus conveys in this illustration is the difference between those who are willing to share versus those who retain for themselves. How we view what we have will determine what we do with it as relates to others. Our possessions quickly become a “set of lenses” through which we see the world.
Read Acts 4:32-35. How do these verses describe the attitude of those in the early Christian community? How have things changed in our world (even the Church) since the setting described in this passage? Think of one person right now who may have a need which God could use you to address.
Read II Corinthians 9:7. What makes people reluctant to give? What do you think Paul means by a “cheerful giver?”
Read Proverbs 11:24-25. In what ways do some people “give while becoming richer” and “receive water in return” for their generosity?
I hope that you will take time to carefully read and consider the substance of the aforementioned verses and prayerfully think about generosity as relates to your own spiritual walk. Generosity is definitely something which we learn over time as we observe it in the lives of others and then take the steps needed in the direction of giving. We do not become generous people overnight and it is something that requires us to begin somewhere no matter how large or small that may be. As I close, I wish to express my appreciation for your giving especially during this time of pandemic. Our gatherings have been altered considerably, but you have proven faithful with your weekly tithes and offerings. I know it has been a difficult time for some and the situation has placed limitations upon personal resources, but, throughout our partnering together, we have been able to make it through. As we continue through this trying season, please continue the good work and remember that it requires all of our gifts to keep the ministry of God’s Kingdom moving forward.
Together in Christian Generosity,
The Rev. Kelley Smart