20 Jan 2014

God Has Given Everything. What Can I Give?

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Richard is a member of CTPC and is currently serving as a deacon and children’s ministry volunteer.

Although the “season of giving” has just turned the corner, there is never a bad time to do some self-reflection on how our “giving” has been over the last year. Interestingly enough, in the middle of writing this post, Pastor Young preached on wealth again! I originally thought of sharing my thoughts on this after hearing Pastor Young’s sermon on the Wise Men before Christmas. In the sermon, he touched on a couple of things that happen when we genuinely meet the God of the cross (Jesus)—worshiping in joy and generous giving. To be sure, we do not worship joyfully for the sake of being joyful, nor do we give generously for the sake of being generous. Rather, we respond in joyful worship and generous giving because of what God has done for us.

 “When you genuinely meet Jesus, you no longer care [about what you can get] because he’s given you everything. When you really meet this God, you look at Him and you say, “What can I give?”” – Pastor Young

I attended a Christian school for most of grade school. I learned a lot about the Bible, but at the same time that knowledge never really translated into my life. Interestingly, one thing I clearly remember the teachers always saying whenever we had a chance to give were the words “cheerful giver” (from 2 Corinthians 9). It wasn’t until the last few years that I truly began to translate those words, “cheerful giver,” into my life. As I thought about the two things that were mentioned in the sermon, it reminded me of these words once again. Joyful worship and generous giving, when combined into one act of worship, is pretty well summed up in “cheerful giver.”

Giving, as I’m talking about, is certainly about money, but it’s also about your time and talents (commonly referred to as your time, talents, and treasures). While we may not like to talk about it that often, it’s something that Jesus talked about approximately 25% of the time in his teachings (money, stewardship, etc.). The question is then, are you being a cheerful giver? Are you being generous in your time, talents, and treasures? If not, is it because you have yet to genuinely meet the God that makes you want to ask, “What can I give?” Or is it because you are still placing the idol of comfort or wealth above God? For some of you, it may be the first. But for most of you who are reading this (including me), to some degree it probably is the latter.

By now there’s probably a few of you thinking, “Well, what about you?” And while I know it is our human nature and urge to want to compare ourselves to others, it is the wrong comparison to be making. Rather than comparing ourselves to others next to us, we should be comparing ourselves to Jesus—only then are we humbled and only then do we realized how little we give. Sure I can compare myself to others and say I am “giving generously,” but when I look at all that God has so generously given me, I realize how I pale in comparison. Often I find myself thinking, “Why have you not given _____ to me God?!” and because of that I then conclude that God has not been generous to me. But when I begin with, “God has given me everything,” it then becomes a lot easier to realize and know that God has been, and is, generous to me. From there, it’s a lot easier to ask, “What can I give?”

With that said, do I give? Yes. Do I give sacrificially and generously in my time, talents, and treasures? My initial reaction is, “Yes, of course I do!” And then I realize what I just wrote above—that I am only comparing my giving to others around me. I still struggle with the idol of wealth and comfort—idols that drive me to think selfishly and not generously for the kingdom of God—and all I can hope to do is continue returning to the cross, repenting, and by God’s grace change just a little bit more into the cheerful giver that God wants you and me to be.

Respond to God’s Generosity

If you’re looking at 2014 and wondering how you can grow in your spiritual life with God, how about simply responding. God has acted, has given, has forgiven, has loved, and is continuing to give. Now it’s your turn to respond.

Practically what does it mean to give generously with your time, talents and treasures? While there’s no hard and fast rules for what this looks like, I’ll lay out a sampling for each as something to prayerfully consider:

“But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” – Romans 7:6

Time

time God wants you to be generous with your time. This most likely means spending more time with God in prayer or in scripture, or spending more time in God’s community in some sort of small group, large group, growth group, accountability, etc. Additionally, God wants you to be generous with his church—serving the church by sacrificing your time for the church. Inevitably this requires spending less time in things that currently consume most of your time or down-times (work, excessive sleep, entertainment, just hanging out, etc.). Remember, we don’t have to serve, we get to serve freely and joyfully. Lastly, being generous with your time towards God can also mean ensuring your Saturday night is not too crazy such that you are late for church the next morning! While it’s not a sin to be late for church, if God has given us everything, is it too much to give a little more time towards God and getting to service on time?

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” –  1 Peter 4:10

Talents

talentGod wants you to be generous with your talents. Do you play an instrument? Do you sing? Are you excited to meet new people? Or are you just someone who has two hands capable of helping? If you said yes to any of these (which I think most of you should), are you using them for your own good only? Or have you generously shared your gifts with others and the church? Whether you think your talents are small or big, God tells us that we are all parts of the body of Christ (the church) and the church is not made up of a single part, but of many. Often times we get stuck in trying to perfectly match our “talents” with a “role” in the church, rather than looking to be generous with our general ability to help and fulfill existing needs in the church. You never know what you may end up enjoying or acknowledging as God’s calling for you if you never try it out.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” – Luke 12:34

Treasures

treasureGod wants you to be generous with your treasures. While we are no longer bound by the law of 10% tithes, God nevertheless expects sacrificial and generous giving. What this means for each one of us is very different. So let’s start with this simple question, “What did I give to God in 2013?” If that’s not a number you can fairly quickly figure or find out, then perhaps starting with a budget for your life is the first step that you can take towards generous giving. If you don’t have a good pulse on where your expenses are going, how can you begin to determine what is sacrificial and generous? Start with a budget, and then prayerfully consider what sacrificial and generous giving would look like for you in 2014. And if you are able to come up with that number fairly quickly, then the question still remains—is your giving sacrificial and generous? A good test is to look at your budget and see where most of your expenses are—most likely the top few are housing, car payments, and food; all of which are good to have, but maybe God is wanting you to consider downsizing in one of these areas or maybe another area like: eating out, clothing, entertainment, expensive hobbies, etc.

The most amazing thing for me that has happened, as I have started to learn what it means to be a “cheerful giver,” is the freedom that comes from being generous. No longer do I feel like all my decisions in life, from the small financial decisions such as tipping at a restaurant, to the larger financial decision such as choosing a career, are constrained to looking through the lenses of financial glasses.  Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with being generous in the small and large decisions in my life, but God has given me freedom to forego the idols of money and comfort, and instead, pursue His will and bring glory to Him, one tithe, one offering, and one gift at a time.

Blog Post:Taking Small Steps to Being Set Apart – Martin

Sermon: Money, Status, and The Gospel – Pastor Young  Good News for the Intellectual – Pastor Young

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