image by Priscilla Du Preez from Unsplash
Being a giver--of our time, abilities, and other possessions--is an essential aspects of the Christian life and of our spiritual growth.
I've been studying 2 Corinthians for my Search the Scriptures devotions recently, and Paul has written extensively on serving/giving in chapter 8. He gives guidelines, unpacks the motivations and significance, and finally, urges the Corinthians to see this as something both precious and vitally important, for them even more than for the recipients.
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." (v 9)
In the first place, we need to have the right perspective.
We need to be giving out of an existing awareness of the grace we have received in Christ; of how much Christ has already given to us.
Our giving is the natural consequence of God's grace towards us through Christ. That we are willing, and able, is also the evidence of God's grace towards us.
"For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have." (v 12)
Being giving has nothing to do with our situation--the situation of the recipient--how much we have, how much we give. It is an attitude of the heart. A willingness, humility, and love in action. God values that. Like the widow's mites (I just realize how unfortunate this sounds.) We should not be held back by fears that we can't give enough (will it even make a difference? is it even worth the bother) or we can't give something costly (I can volunteer, but I'm not that good at it.)
That is not what God sees.
"...that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their great joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality." (v 2)
Being giving (I'm going to use this term, instead of the more results/action-oriented "giving") produces abundant joy. Again, it is not about the amount, the act itself, the item we give, but about our hearts and attitudes. When we are tempted to feel that we've got not enough for ourselves, that we are most entitled to be selfish, that we have excuses not to be giving, those are actually the times when we most need the joy and assurance of God's grace, awareness of God's grace and providence, that comes with being giving.
(to be clear, for those who may misunderstand, this is not about blindly and irresponsibly meeting every request or need that we encounter, or failing to consider Biblical priorities in caring for ourselves and our responsibilities/those depending on us.)
When we give, we remember God's goodness to us, and are comforted and strengthened. When we give, we declare our faith in God's ability to provide for us, just as He is using us to provide for others; and His ability to bless us abundantly in the process.
"And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God."
Again, being giving is about our attitude and perspective--this time, how we view our possessions and our role as stewards. When we give ourselves to God, we also give our possessions and our abilities and resources (though admittedly we tend to conveniently forget that!) Being giving is not out of a sense of obligation or guilt-tripping, but a willingness to share what you were given, entrusting God will use you and your gift within the wider scope of His providence.
(continued in part 2)
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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