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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Give and it shall be given unto you

I was in a position to overhear a conversation regarding religion and "going to church" the other day wherein one person was telling another that you couldn't go to church anymore without the subject of "giving" being mentioned in some way. Of course the "giving" being spoken of was referring to the giving or contributing of money. I'm sure that you've heard or been involved in conversations regarding this subject in the past also. It's not a new or unfamiliar statement uttered by some people, is it? I'd like to address this subject of "giving" with you today and offer some thoughts about it for you to consider.

If I were a preacher and deciding to speak on the subject of "giving," which needs to be the topic of a sermon every now and then, I think that I'd offer these thoughts. Let me just start off by citing an oft-used passage pertaining to our subject that's commonly heard in lessons on "giving." Actually we usually only hear the first part of a verse found in Luke 6:38 and that first part is this: "Give and it shall be given unto you...." The rest of the verse is not quoted much of the time, but rest assured, we'll get back to it later.

You've probably also noticed that those eight words are cited almost all the time by radio and television evangelists trying to get their audiences to send them money. And, it's usually accompanied by stories of how someone sent in some money and within a short period of time received some sort of windfall of funds. All because they donated some money to this particular program.

My point here is, that in just about all cases, both from the pulpit of the Church and the media programs, the "giving" relates to money. Posing myself as a preacher and deciding to speak on "giving" here's the way I'd address it and I hope that you don't find my thoughts too radical here.

First off, I'd say to those people, like the person I overheard complaining about hearing about "giving" every time he went to church, I suspect that they don't attend church very often. That perhaps it's just their karma to so seldom be there that they just happen to hear a lesson on "giving." Maybe, if they went more often, they'd hear a lot of other good lessons from the scriptures which they are otherwise missing. I'd try to do this in a loving manner though.

I think the next point of my sermon would be to point out another phrase that's often heard by our fore mentioned speakers and that is "the power of giving." As said earlier, this generally relates to the reaping of some sort of monetary, earthly rewards for having made a contribution. I would take this phrase and talk about things that it relates to other than financial.

I believe that the "power of giving" relates to far more things than money. I believe that the "power of giving" is really more about things such as "time" or "kindness" or doing one's "duty." Couldn't we even relate our "giving" to "praise and honor" to God? Of course we can. The apostle Paul even said so in so many words when he said in 1 Cor. 7:5 that if we don't "give" ourselves to these things we put ourselves in danger of allowing Satan to enter our lives.

In another oft-cited verse relating to "giving" (2 Cor. 9:7) we see these words: "So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver."

And yes, Paul here is referring to the monetary gifts made by the churches of Macedonia toward the "poor saints of Jerusalem" (Rom 15:26) but I think there is more to be learned by Paul's words in 2 Cor. than relates to just money given. Let's just look a some of them.

In the 8th chapter he tells us that they "first gave their own selves to the Lord" and then they gave their money to Paul. (Vs. 5) Notice in verse 7 that they "abounded in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence." But then notice what else they "abounded" in - "love." I see these things mentioned in verse 7 as being the things which they "first gave their own selves" to towards God.

It's my opinion that it's the "giving" of these things that allowed them to give monetarily with a "cheerful heart." Plus, by their "giving" or "abounding" in the non-monetary things we see in 9:8 that "God is able to make all grace abound" toward them. That they would have "all sufficiency in all things" and "abundance for every good work." That, brethren, is the "power of giving."

In the next point of my lesson, I would switch from The Scriptures for a moment and tell you about some things that science has found out about "giving." And here again, I'm not talking mainly about money "giving." Scientists say that there are certain hormones created in our bodies when we're "giving." These hormones are the ones that bring about the feeling of well-being and increased pleasure. In a nutshell, by "giving" help to others, we're helping ourselves at the same time. Does science's findings go a long way to helping us understand the words of Christ in Acts 20:35 "It is more blessed to give than to receive." I think they do.

At this point of my sermon I'd return to The Scriptures and make another point about "giving" meaning a lot more than just money. The Gospel of Christ is replete with scripture telling Christians that they are "servants." Here's a few that you can look up and verify what I say: Rom. 6:18, 6:22, Eph. 6:6, and Col. 3:22. There are many more, but these should be sufficient to get the point across.

Back to the point - a servant "serves." I'll just use one passage to conclude this point and I find it in Gal. 5:13 where we see that it is "through love that we serve one another." Isn't this what motivated the Macedonians to "give" cheerfully? I'd conclude this point with the thought that "service" to others, done through "love" is what causes God to "abound" blessings to us. And that "service," in it's various forms, is as much a part of "giving," if not more so, than money.

I think that I'd close my lesson by returning to our original scriptural reference, Luke 6:38 and use the last part of the verse to make my final point. Notice how that verse ends: "For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." I would tie these words to one more verse from 2 Cor. 9 where Paul says that "Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully."

My point: that "giving" is just like "sowing." And this is the rule for all forms of "giving." I would ask my audience two questions in closing this lesson. (1) You're the farmer - how much seed are you planting? And (2) When your period of farming and servitude is over - how do you want your epitaph to read? A "good and faithful servant" OR a "wicked and slothful servant?" It's your call.

Ron Covey

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