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2 Corinthians
8:1-15

 
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints- and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you-see that you excel in this act of grace also.
 
I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, "Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack." (ESV)
God Gives
Monday of Easter 6
2 May 2016
I am always surprised and grateful to God that the congregation I serve has been extremely generous in supporting the ministry of Christ. It is to my shame that I am surprised by this generosity and I am grateful to God's glory, who opens the hearts of God's people. In contrast, I heard the story of a church in the Great Plains that published the amount of everyone's yearly financial gift to the church. A new pastor, appalled by this practice, stopped it immediately upon his arrival. It cannot be that Christian people need to be coerced into giving to the church through publishing the amounts given. After a couple of years of this practice, the congregation's aggregate income was cut in half! In despair, the pastor agreed to have this information published again.
 
What does this tell us about people's giving habits? It tells us that they were giving to gain recognition in the community or at least to avoid the disapproval of their fellow church members. The pastor was certainly wrong to permit a re-institution of the publication of the financial gifts of the members, because Jesus our Lord certainly speaks to this when He says, "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Mt 6:1-4). Blowing your own horn to receive praise from men misses at least a part of the point of almsgiving. Horn blowing attempts to solicit praise from other people. However, if our gift giving is entirely to honor God then only He needs to know about it and no horn blowing is necessary. Seeking praise from people for almsgiving is a form of self-deification, because it is seeking for ourselves the praise that is due only to God.
 
Even God Himself does not give gifts for the purpose of gaining our praise, but He gives us all His rich gifts for our benefit. God often gives Himself and His gifts to us in ways that the world would never recognize or praise. In fact, God gives Himself to us in ways that disgusts the world and that the world attempts to persecute. God never blows His own horn, but rather offers Himself to us freely. Look to the cross to see the greatest gift given to us for the forgiveness of sins, not merely for our admiration and praise. God seeks us, not our praise.

 

Martin Luther

"It is incredible how common this blasphemy and vice is in the world, especially among the best people, and how few people there really are who do good works without seeking the honor or favor of the world this way. Take all the alms ever given in the whole papacy, and just count how many you will be able to find that were not given with this intention in mind. Alas, the world will never learn what real almsgiving is. That is how we are all inclined. If the praise of the people, their honor, gratitude, and favor were not forthcoming, every one of us would soon pull his hand back. What if the pope had said to the princes and the donors, "Gentlemen, I will not give you a nickel for all your foundations and alms"? How much do you imagine they would have donated for churches and other institutions then? Not a stone would have been hauled or laid in place. We can see that now. We are teaching correctly and urging these works on the basis that they should be given for God's sake, out of a pure and simple heart, and not for the sake of increasing our own honor or merit. Therefore nobody wants to give a nickel nowadays. In former days, when they had praise and honor for it, the alms, endowments, and wills came down like snow. Of course, their notion that they were earning heaven by this did have a great deal to do with it. Still this was not the main reason; but as Christ says here, the main reason was the fact that this was something great and praiseworthy in the eyes of the people. Otherwise they would have paid no attention to it, and they would not have done it for the sake of God and the kingdom of heaven.
 
"As we have said, this is evident from the fact that no one responds now when the people are seriously appealed to and urged to do good works and when such works are described as most precious, as something highly pleasing to God and to all the angels in heaven, as something that will receive a hundredfold reward. What is missing in our appeal? Simply this, that such works are no longer supposed to win praise and honor, gratitude and reward from the world."

Martin Luther,  Sermon on the Sermon on the Mount, 6.4
 
Prayer
O Lord, You have given me all Your gifts without my thanks. Lead me to offer myself for the sake of my neighbor without tooting my own horn. Amen.
 
For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, that the Lord of the church would grant him strength and every blessing
 
For faithful and sacrificial giving in Christian churches everywhere
 
For Vicar-designate, Matthew Bless, that God the Lord would be with him as he prepares for his vicarage and brings the school year to a close
Art: RUBENS, Peter Paul  The Resurrection of Christ (1611-12)

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