Sunday, June 17, 2012

There is Grace in Giving. 捧げることには恵みが伴う

From church to church, congregation to congregation, fellowship to fellowship, there are confusions, misunderstandings and in some cases, wrong teaching on giving. Or no teaching whatsoever. It is my hope that today-- we will come to a deepening understanding of how we can receive more Grace in Giving.

The BIG IDEA here this morning is that Giving is a matter of Grace from the start.  We hope to answer the question: What is my response to Grace in Giving?

INTRO:  The passage this morning is one we looked last last week but we will find new treasures.                       
 2 Corinthians 8:1-15  /  第2コリント 8:1-15
Paul is writing to the Corinthian Church about the topic of giving.  He is encouraging them by having them look at the example from the Believers in Macedonia.  The passage is controlled by one word that is repeated at least four times in the first 9 verses: the word “GRACE”. 恵み We have sung about GRACE, named our children GRACE (Megumi) and we may have use the word way out of context at times.  Today, we’d like to see how GRACE in Giving is used with the people of old; the Israelites, God’s Grace in giving among the Macedonians; and then, what its implications were to the Corinthian Church; and then, to us.

1. God's GRACE in giving among the Israelites /イスラエル人へ与える神の恵み
From the Old Testament, there are foundational teachings of giving—some are mandatory while others are to be giving in a free will sort of way. In the mandatory level, are rules—or laws, if you allow that word—for those who want to be faithful to the Covenant they had with God.
First, there is the “Lord’s Tithe” or the “Levite’s Tithe”, 主の十分の1献金which required ten percent of ALL of their produce and of their animals for the Lord’s service.  It was used to support the priests and the ministry at large.
The second tithe was called the Festival Tithe”, 祭りの十分の1献金ten percent to be used for religious celebration.  (Deuteronomy 12:10-11)
Third, there was the “Poor Tithe”, 貧しき十分の1献金which was about 3% a year towards helping people who were living in poverty.  (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)
All totaled so far, these mandatory tithes add up to somewhere between 27-40% of their annual income.  BUT there was also a giving system called Freewill giving自由意志の十分の1献金first fruits and special projects—which meant that the people were giving between 27-40% of their income!
As we look at this, we need to realize that this Nation was a nation of farming and agriculture.  Flocks, and grain and wine presses.  We don’t live that way but the needs are still there.  So is the work of God.  If we can’t give a lamb, what do we have to give? Our money.
It really is a matter of Lordship. 主の権威に関すること What or who is at the center of your life?  For the farmer in Israel, the condition of the flock was of deep concern.  Where are our concerns today?  Family needs? Finances?  Food?  Fun?  OK, so it is there we find the avenue of our giving. From what we earn, we make an offering like they did.  Starting at 10% and going up from there.  Free will giving.  Sounds good, but …

2. God's grace in giving among the Macedonians. / マケドニア人へ与える神の恵み
Those in the Macedonian Church were really poor.  Much like the people found there today, a group of the poorest of Europe. Yet, in their poverty, they were the richest of all the Churches of Christendom.  They were people who knew how to endure great trials from the culture around them.  That culture was squeezing, crushing them harder and harder because of their devotion to Christ. Their neighbors were grossly unkind to them. They ridiculed their Faith and their Christian practices.  Persecution that was deep and personal. Ridicule and mockery filled their ears.
Yet, in their parched existence, though squalid in looks and life style, these little churches gushed forth with the joy of giving.  It was the Grace of God in their lives that such was the case. They could have felt beaten down and weak, but their hearts were filled with the knowledge of the true and living God—which made the difference in how they looked at life and what life could afford them.  Apart of Christ’ love for them, life was simply too shallow.  But the Christ life was one that brought joy and meaning. 
An preacher of the early church, named Chrysostom, once said in marveling at their conduct, “They did the begging, not Paul.”
8:3b Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 聖徒たちへの奉仕に加わる恵みにあずかりたいと、わたしたちに熱心に願い出て、
The wonderful Grace of God had filled their lives with Hope and His Plans for living, and then they in turn gave their very lives back to God.  Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be? They proved that it would be useless to give our possessions to God unless we first gave ourselves.  We need to be careful as external giving can build or develop religious pride: I gave this much!  Giving things instead of giving ourselves. That could lead to giving is our religion and not serving and loving Christ Jesus.

3. Implications of God's grace in giving for the Corinthians / マケドニア人へ与える神の恵みの意味するところ
In looking at the Corinthian Church, we can see that they were not poor…not in physical things anyway.  They had a few major problems—pride, gluttony, sexual sin…the Church itself was marvelously gifted in many ways.  But in their richness, they remained poor, as they did not grow in the Grace of giving.  Paul told them that therefore they were incomplete and immature.  He really wanted to see them grow in Grace of giving---from the heart!
FACT: There is no way someone can grow in the spiritual life if their finances are not committed to the Lord.  Can’t be done.  A matter of Lordship. If we do not take care for this area of our lives, we will sink from growing in the spiritual life.  We would remain immature and incomplete.
How can that be?  Are we complete in Christ?  Yes, but the heart that is split in this area of money, is a heart that is not sold out to God. 
Paul uses a cleaver way of teaching them this lesson.  Look at verse 8.  He does not MAKE this a command, but is trying to encourage them by showing them the Macedonian’s example.  They (in their poverty) can do this, so can you (in your financial confidence.)

4. Implications of God's grace in giving for believers today / 今日の信仰者へ与える神の恵みの意味するところ
It would be really easy if the New Testament writers had said: “Give this % to the Lord—and do it with special joy!”  But that is not the way.  It is the Way of Faith and that means we can’t see it but it is there.  Ten % is a good place to start. If you are giving regularly to the Lord, the Church should be the first place it is shared.
Giving must be regular.  We can’t allow it to run hot and cold.
There is no better time than right now.  Obedience to what the Lord requires of you…To love the Lord your God will all your soul, with all your might, with all your purse… Regular, consistent, wholehearted, joyful giving.
"If you had two cows, Homer, would you give one to the Lord?"
"Yep, I sure would, Pastor."
"If you had two bushels of corn, would you give one of them bushels to the Lord?"
"Yes, sire, I sure would!"
"Homer, if you had two hunting dogs, would you give one of them dogs to the Lord?"
"... Blast it, Pastor, you KNOW I got two dogs!"
Give from what you have.  Giving regularly is a source of great blessing---not only to the Church but also to yourself.
Please turn to Luke 6:38  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
He’s the Creator of all there is, but He emptied Himself of His riches and became a servant for me.  That is the Grace of Giving that really counts in Eternity.

Taken from:  Thanks to Rev Kent Hughes for much of the content.