Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Generous Spirit


Scripture
 
2Cor. 9:6    The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  7 Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.  9 As it is written,
    “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
        his righteousness endures forever.”
10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  11 You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us;  12 for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.  13 Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others,  14 while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you.  15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Observation

The spiritual transformation which occurs in the life of a believer reaches all the way down into their daily behaviors as well as their pocketbooks. Paul points out to the Corinthian church that their attitude toward giving must come from the heart and the offering which he is collecting is not any kind of taxation. Instead, they are to participate joyfully and give generously. He lays out the principles: sow generously — and you will reap bountifully! God supplies the seeds so generously spread them out and see what happens. We are to test God in this, for in sharing with others, God is generous with us.

Application
 
The spirit of generosity is revealed on many levels in our lives, both personally and corporately. It’s easy to get caught up in the consumerism of our day and spend money on the many trappings of our lives. When we think about all that we have and then think about what we really need, is there a difference. I was reading an article this morning about people adopting an attitude of minimalism toward their clothing. An idea that you only need thirty three articles of clothing — and this includes your underwear and accessories. Could you do it? The article mentioned the money saved by having this kind of an attitude toward attire and the decrease in stress when it comes to thinking about what to wear! But when we spend less on ourselves, we can give more to others. Think about the significant ways in which we can impact others when we don’t worry as much about ourselves. When Paul talked about it being an indescribable gift, I believe that is true on many levels. The less we have the less stressed out we have to be about the things we have. There is great freedom in a life of simplicity and generosity toward others.

While this is true in our personal lives it can also make a difference in our corporate lives. In my tradition I’ve heard pastors and leaders refer to the funds to be shared with the district and denomination as a “tax.” I think Paul was addressing this attitude directly in this scripture. If you back up to verse 5, “So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you, and arrange in advance for this bountiful gift that you have promised, so that it may be ready as a voluntary gift and not as an extortion. “ (NRSV) Taxation — or even extortion is the way in which this can be translated. The transformational work of the Holy Spirit changes our hearts individually and corporately and as such we look for opportunities to give what we have away. It is in giving to others that we discover how God is in the midst of our work. I have generally found that churches who will give generously to missions are healthier overall. Those who decide that they shouldn’t give to others but would be better off helping their own church until they can support others begin to die. I believe that is because Paul is describing something life-giving to the church in Corinth. It wasn’t just life-giving for them but it is a promise for us too. We are challenged to test God in this — that when we have a generous spirit we get to live into the generous grace of our God. The gift of God’s grace becomes indescribable in the life of the believer and the church corporately.

Tithing hasn’t been such a “thing” lately as it has in the past. I’m afraid we’re missing out on what God wants to accomplish in and through our lives because we have not been a generous people. Test God on this one — try tithing and see what happens in life.

Church — try giving with a joyful spirit to the corporate work of God’s people around the world and see what happens.

Prayer
 
Lord, please help the spirit of generosity to overflow in me. Amen.

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