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2 Corinthians

9:6-15

 

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all contentment in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, "He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."

 

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

 
(ESV)

 

Giving Away Everything

Wednesday of Pentecost 6

8 July 2015

Stewardship is an easy topic that we make hard. Stewardship is easy when we recognize all that we have is a gift from God, and is not our own. To be a steward means to manage well what belongs to another. Our master has put us in charge of His worldly goods. Then He asks us to give them away. So what's the problem? We should find it very easy to give away what isn't ours, but someone else's. It is like being the executive officer for a large charitable foundation. That person has the pleasure of giving away the money that she did not earn and sees it put to good charitable uses in organizations that benefit from the foundation's grants. She sees the joy written all over the faces of those who work for great charities that use money that is not hers, but which she gives away, to feed the poor, care for the sick and homeless, preach the gospel, or educate the young. This only becomes difficult and painful, if she mistakenly acts as though she is giving away her own money. Then she will give grudgingly, unhappily, and slowly.

 

Often it happens in the church that people decline to give, because they are under the misapprehension that their goods are their own possession, rather than God's. I have heard people say, "Pastor, I can't give, because all my money has already been spoken for to cover the needs and wants of my family. We just bought a new house and a car. And there's no money left over for God." The problem here is not the organization of the household, as though they had to work toward having some money left over from God. The problem here is that they do not know all that they have belongs to their heavenly Father in the first place. Those who contend that they own all their possessions are finally breaking the first commandment by claiming ownership of that which is not theirs, stealing it from God, and finally claiming mastery over what is His. This is blasphemy. No wonder they have such a hard time giving generously and cheerfully.

 

If we give only grudgingly we are cheating ourselves, as well as God. We are cheating ourselves of the true joy of giving. Those who give in joy receive far more than they give. Think how generously God has given to us. Our heavenly Father never gives to us grudgingly. He has offered the blood of his own precious Son on our behalf that we might be enriched in Him. He gave His dearest treasure over to death, that He might be offered even for those who would never acknowledge His sacrifice for them. He gave himself completely and in great joy. Christ was a good steward of God's riches, giving them away with abandon, including Himself. In him we have received everything. And that everything we can cheerfully give away.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"'The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully (2Co 9:6). But to correct their attitude Paul added, 'not reluctantly or under compulsion' (2Co 9:7). For the shower of mercy ought to have both ungrudgingness and delight. Why do you complain about the giving of alms? Why do you lament whey you show mercy, and lose the advantage of the good work? For if you lament you act mercifully, but are cruel and inhuman. For if you mourn, how will you be able to raise him who is sorrowing? For it is a great thing if the one who receives the alms suspects no ill, especially when you are giving with joy. Nothing seems to be such a disgrace as receiving from others, and therefore you will even cast down the receiver rather than raise him up, unless by an exceedingly cheerful visage you remove the suspicion and show that you are receiving rather than giving.

 

"This is why Paul says, 'The one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness' (Rm 12:8). Who that received a kingdom, wears a sad expression? Who that is receiving pardon for his sins continues to look dejected? Don't pay any attention to the expenditure of the money; but the increase that comes of that expenditure. For if he that sows rejoices, although sowing with uncertainty of a harvest, how much more should he rejoice who farms heaven? Therefore, even though you give but a small amount, you will be giving much. Just as those who give with a sad looks will turned much into little. The widow outweighed many talents with the two pennies, for her spirit was great. And how is it possible, it may be said, for one that dwells in extreme poverty, and gives it all, to do this with a ready mind? Ask the widow, and you will hear the way and know that it is not povertythat makes narrow circumstances, but the attitude of a person. For it is possible even in poverty to be a person who is generous (great-souled), or for the rich to be ungenerous. Hence in giving Paul looks for simplicity, and for showing mercy with cheerfulness, and in supporting the poor he looks for diligence. For it is not just with money that he wishes us to render every assistance to those in want, but to render service in words, deeds, and in person, and in every other way."  

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 21
 
Prayer

Lord God, heavenly Father, from Your hand we receive all good gifts and by Your grace we are guarded from all evil. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that, acknowledging with our whole heart Your boundless goodness, we may now and evermore thank and praise You for Your loving-kindness and tender mercy. By that Spirit empower us to give generously what you have first given to us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

For Headmaster Heine, that he might have wisdom, discretion, and a full measure of the Holy Spirit

 

For Archbishop Christian Ekong of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria, that the Lord would bestow upon him every grace and blessing as he leads his people to the still clear waters of God's Word

 

For all those who will be attending the adult instruction class of Memorial Lutheran Church, that they may be led into all truth
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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