February 11 – Giving


Main Focus: Our giving is both a response to God’s generosity towards us and a tool that God uses to make us more like him.

Here in week four we’re looking at the practice of Giving, a sensitive subject because many churches have abused financial discussions to line their own pockets. However, the generosity of believers is about more than financial giving to the church (though it’s also not less than that). Giving, for the Christian, is about God’s character, about response to his generosity, and about learning to live faithfully according to his ways.

We’ll discuss this by looking again at Acts 2:42-47 and then at 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (though the sermon likely only covered verses 6-8). I know we’ve looked at Acts 2 four times now but don’t skip it—repetition is a powerful instructor. We’ll see again how radically the gospel affected these people, how the Spirit upended their lives and turned them into a ridiculously generous community. To individualistic Western eyes it almost looks wrong: “They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need.” But imagine the security this provided to those members of the community with the greatest needs; this was surely a haven for everyone, perhaps because these early Christians were convinced that free generosity paid better dividends than financial tightfistedness.

Next we’ll turn to 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 to see how God works in and through our generosity. For background, Paul was working with the Corinthians to raise funds for the church in Jerusalem; this is the “gift” he references back in verse 5, and it was part of his effort to help make peace between Jewish and Gentile believers. So don’t think Paul was too holy to not ask for money—he knew that God could use finances to accomplish his purposes just like he could use sermons and letters.

But one amazing thing about this passage is how Paul ties our generosity to God’s generosity. Like 1 John 4:19 (“we love because he first loved us”), we give because God first gave to us, both in common grace—food to eat, sunshine, cute baby animals—and in special grace—sending Jesus to die for our salvation. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16a). Thus Paul wraps up this section with a word of praise, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”

Our generosity, then, is meant to be a response to God’s generosity towards us. But there’s more: God uses our exercise of generosity to help us grow in righteousness and grace, particularly by helping selfishness slough off our idolatrous hearts. When you first read this passage it maybe sounded transactional; ex. “Whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” But notice that Paul promises spiritual wealth to a greater degree than physical wealth: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (1 Cor 9:8). Our provision will be sufficient as a means to an end, so that our good works should be abundant.

The emphasis rightly falls on the products of righteousness and grace, though without treating money as sinful or unholy (remember, Paul’s still fundraising here). That same emphasis should be ours as well. Wealth is a resource kind of like soil for gardening—it’s necessary if you want to see things grow, but at the end of the day you wash it off your hands.

To summarize how God works in our generosity, he uses it to accomplish kingdom work, to help us reflect his generous nature, and to help sanctify us. Then in discussion we’ll touch on any points of conviction these two passages have surfaced for us. For example, in Acts 2 these followers were radically generous because their shaky hope in this world had been transformed into an unshakeable hope in the world to come, so they didn’t have to hold on to all their money but could instead give freely to support others. When we are stingy or slow to help, it’s likely because our hope has not been similarly transformed.

We’ll close discussion by touching on our own areas of growth, areas that we want to not merely identify but commit to working on. Again, generosity isn’t only limited to giving to Vintage Church; if our discussion has surfaced financial or relational ungenerosity towards neighbors, those in need, family members, etc., then praise God! May we be and become a people who are generous in all things at all times.

Here’s what the New Members packet has to say about this practice:

Ultimately, generosity starts with God first, who provides for us daily and gave his Son so we might enjoy the immeasurable riches of his grace for eternity. In return, our generosity can pour out of a joyful heart over the wonder of salvation and a firm confidence in God’s provision, and our glad giving on earth can ultimately reflect our generous Father in heaven. And, when it comes to Vintage, your generosity supports the advance of the gospel through our church and the work of justice through our ministry partnerships.

Discussion questions

– Could someone read Acts 2:42-47 for us?

– How do you see generosity modeled in this passage?

– Why do you think these folks were so generous?

– Could someone read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 for us?

– How does that show how God is at work in our generosity?

– What, if anything, has been convicting to you from these two passages?

– What’s one way you want to commit to growing in your generosity?