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Chris Appleby Ministries

Chris Appleby Ministries

 

audio

2 Cor 8:1-151 Tim 6:17-19 

Today we’re thinking about Generosity but before we talk about that I’d first like to do a little test. I’d like you to put up your hand if you consider yourself to be holy. Anyone?

Well, let’s hear what God says about you being holy: (reader) “9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people. So put up your hands now if you consider yourself to be holy.

Of course there’s a big difference between being holy and acting that way isn’t there? So what does it mean to act as in a holy way?

Peter tells us in the previous chapter: “15But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15-16) To be holy means to be different, set apart; but more particularly, to act the way God acts.

Well that could mean a lot of things but today I want to focus on just one aspect of acting the way God acts, and that’s to act with generosity. Generosity, you see, is one of the attributes that God wants us to emulate.

Listen to how Paul instructs Timothy to teach the people in his church: (reader) “17As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Notice we’re commanded to be generous. We are not asked or begged to be generous. We’re commanded!

So why should we be generous?  There’s a temptation that some people have to think of this as paying God back for what he’s done for us. We owe him this huge debt for saving us, or for giving us these great blessings and being generous to other people is one way of paying back the debt. But that’s not what he’s saying. Yes, it’s true that it’s God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. He is the giver of every good and perfect gift. But we’re not paying him back for that. Those gifts he gives are part of his grace; his totally unmerited favour.

Members of some religions believe that being generous to people in need will earn them credit for the afterlife. But that isn’t what he’s saying here either, even if it might sound like that. Our generosity does provide a good foundation for the future but it’s not a foundation of merit. Rather it’s a foundation of reliance on God alone, rather than our own resources. Generosity trains us to depend on God, to be content with what God gives us even if that’s only a little. You may be familiar with the verse from Philippians where Paul says “I can do all thigs through Christ who strengthens me.” The context of that verse is Paul saying he’s learnt to be content whether he’s well fed or going hungry. Being generous, helping others without thinking about whether our help will make us less able to live comfortably, is part of our training in righteousness, preparing us to be with God. Do you remember this verse from 1 John 3: “2Beloved, … What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3) Do you see how our learning to be generous is preparing us for that day when we’ll meet him face to face.

Of course, some people are generous because they’re so thankful for the riches they’ve received that they want to share them. And why shouldn’t we be thankful. God in his goodness and grace has done wonderful things for us. But you might think that that leaves out a whole host of people who haven’t received much in the way of riches. Well, we’ll think more about that in a moment,

In the end our major reason for being generous is simply because we want to emulate God in the way we treat the riches that we have; because we’ve got our priorities right.

Listen to what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount: (reader) 19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 )

And: 25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matt 6:25-33)

How often do we stop and reflect on the fact that every good thing we have comes from God? Or do we think to ourselves that our wealth is the product of our own cleverness and hard work? That’s always the temptation isn’t it?

In fact that was the warning God gave to his people way back in the Exodus, just before they entered the promised land. Listen to how he put it:

12When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, 13and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied … 17Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth.”  (Deuteronomy 8:12-18)

You see it’s God’s generosity towards us that allows us to have everything we possess and more. And it’s that generosity that should be the motivation for us to be generous. In a moment we’ll look at the example Paul gave to the Corinthians of how to be generous. There he reminds them “9For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9)

Jesus is the one who lowered himself from the highest name in heaven to become a servant for our sake; who gave up his life on the cross so we could be set free, could be restored, could be brought safely into God’s presence. When we talk about generosity in that context money becomes almost irrelevant doesn’t it? We look at philanthropists like Twiggy Forrest who just gave 400 million dollars to charity or Paul Ramsay, head of Ramsay Healthcare who left his entire fortune of 3.4 billion dollars to charity a few years ago and we think what great acts of generosity they are. But they’re nothing compared to what Jesus gave. Jesus gave up his life for us.

The danger of thinking of people like Mr Forrest and Mr Ramsay is that we think “It’s OK for them they had plenty to spare. I’m struggling to pay the bills.” Mind you, what some of us mean by that is we’re scrimping and saving to pay for our next overseas holiday! But even if we’re truly struggling as some here will be, we can still show generosity.

In that passage I just mentioned from Philippians 4 Paul says: “15You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone.” The churches in Macedonia, in Philippi and Thessalonica were badly persecuted to the point where they were very poor. Yet they kept on supporting Paul in his gospel ministry.

When he writes to the Corinthians to encourage them to give to the church in Jerusalem, he uses the Macedonian Christians as an example to follow: (2 Corinthians 8:1-15) “1We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; 2for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— 5and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, … so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. 8I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 9For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”

Notice that this generosity that they’ve shown towards him is a result of the grace of God granted to them. He’s saying that generosity is something that God gives us. It doesn’t arise out of our own circumstances or feelings.

It’s interesting that giving to charity in Australia seems to be more prevalent among lower income earners than among the highest earners. Have you ever wondered why that is? Those of us with more than we really need should be the most likely to be generous shouldn’t we? This is a question I ask myself as much as you. Could I be giving away more than I am?

I wonder if you’ve been following the reports on the famine in East Africa over the last couple of months. It’s reportedly the greatest humanitarian disaster in recent history. Yet people aren’t giving to it. I’m involved with the Anglican Relief and Development Fund, a small group who work through Anglican churches in the global south. One of our Anglican bishops in South Sudan wrote recently:” I am borrowing food items from businessmen in Wau market because people are starving at the door of my house, especially elderly people, pregnant mothers, women who have just delivered and children who have been separated from their parents.” And yet we’ve only managed to collect something like $5000 so far towards this crisis.

God wants us to emulate the generosity of Jesus, even when what we have seems little, even negligible; to be generous with the small amounts as well as the larger ones.

Finally let me say that generosity isn’t just about the way we use our money. In this day and age, it might equally be about time. Most people of working age these days seem to be time poor. There are so many pressures on your time that it becomes a commodity to hoard, to hang on to lest you lose it. The sad thing is that time isn’t a commodity you can hang on to. You can only use it well or badly. So the call to generosity may be a call to give your time to someone else rather than keeping it for yourself.

In the passage from 1 Timothy that we heard at the start, we’re told to be rich in good works. Part of being generous is being generous in the things we do for others. For example you may be called to generosity in hospitality. Giving others your time in your home.

Generosity might also involve a change in your personal relationships. For example it might mean giving up the right to hold a grudge against someone for the wrongs they’ve done against you. Jesus said: “37Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Luke 6:37-38) Notice how he blends the idea of giving with that of forgiving? To forgive someone is to give up something of value. It’s to accept the hurt that they’ve done; to take the cost on yourself rather than making them pay for it. That’s radical generosity isn’t it?

Well, you may be able to think of other ways that you might act with generosity, but these are a good place to start.

 The main point is this: God calls us to generosity as part of our being a holy people, set apart to act the way God would act. We’re called to be generous because that’s the way Jesus acted in giving up his position as God to become a servant for us, so we might be brought back to God. How generous should we be? Well if the standard is Jesus then I guess we should be very generous.

 

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Phone: 0422187127
 
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