An Enlarged Heart!

At dinner on Wednesday evening somehow the conversation fell on the subject of giving to the church. “It’s always about the money,” my friend said. In some congregations that might be true, but it never was in the churches that I pastored. I am convinced that people ‘spend’ on things they value or need. If a church wants to have ‘enough’ resources the best way to encourage giving is not guilt or manipulation.

When people to understand the value of the ministry in their lives and the ways that the church is meeting needs – theirs and those of others – they will give. Conversely, if the church appears to be wasting the giver’s offering he will be reluctant to give. If the ministry seems to be mostly about giving the pastor a job rather than providing spiritual care for the community, giving will taper off.

That said, I hasten to add that spiritual maturity will be accompanied by the discipline of giving, of real and sacrificial generosity.  I told my dinner guests that I have always tithed, a practice based on the Old Testament requirement that the people of God give the first 10% of their income to support the priesthood and the work of God among them. Over the years it’s been my joyful privilege to give much more than a tithe (10%) as I support my local church, the national church, and ministries around the world.  I love to write a check to a missions group, to give to kids who are going on a missions trip, to throw in an extra $5 on the waiter’s tip, to go the second mile in serving the need of another. Before my wife went to Heaven, I could not resist a bouquet of flowers when stopped at the supermarket. That’s not a boast.

I have learned that giving is fun! Really, it is!

Generosity is not just about ‘stuff!’  It is a way of life, a choice to refuse offense, to offer words of encouragement, to see the best in others. Even when maligned the person with a big heart will choose to absorb the blow and return a blessing!  Jesus taught that, didn’t He?  “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” (Matthew 5:39-40, NIV)  Lord, teach us to be big-hearted people in a small-hearted world.

Paul was inspired by the Spirit to teach us about the rewards of a generous life. He was gathering a collection to take to the impoverished Christians in Jerusalem. He said,  “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:7-11, NIV)  

The best givers have an “abundance mentality.” Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, borrowed a Biblical concept and coined that phrase. People who understand the concept of God’s limitless provisions, who believe He can and will provide, who know His grace, are much more likely to be generous. Generosity multiplies our resources rather than diminishing them. Jesus Christ said it first – “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” (Luke 6:38, The Message)

Here’s a word from the Word. May the Spirit inspire us to generosity of spirit and wallet!  “Just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. … For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:7,9, NIV) Our generosity is a grace, a gift designed to bring joy, that is modeled on the generosity of Jesus Christ, whose grace brought life to us!

Give yourself to others today, leaving a trail of people who have been blessed by your generous spirit, to the glory of the One who first loved us!  May He give us enlarged hearts! Amen

_______________

Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

It all comes down to this
What you require of me
Love my neighbor as myself
And You above all things

Act justly love mercy walk humbly
With You God
In all things in all ways walk humbly
With You God

It all comes down to this
To be Your hands and feet
Good news to all the world
The truth will set us free

It’s beauty for ashes
It’s mourning to dancing
It’s closer and closer
The Kingdom of heaven

Years from now we’ll see
The fruit our hands have sown
Faith just like a seed
The only way it grows

Chris Tomlin | Jason Ingram | Pat Barrett
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