Vol. 12 No. 7 July 2010
By Ed Benesh
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
My oldest son is such a blessing. Oh! He is a teenager and sometimes falls prey to those teenage issues, which, if let go, can become serious. However, he is such a blessing. There are several things that we do together and in which I find great joy, as does he. One of those things is fixing our vehicles when they break. Fortunately, that is not often. However, this weekend I have a few things to take care of for one of our older vehicles. They are small repairs, but the kind that take some time and a second pair of hands.
Last night I approached my oldest son about helping me out and he anxiously said, “Yes.” That, of course made me glad. However, then I told him I would pay him a little money, because I know he has been saving for a while for a piece of musical equipment that he wants. I figured we could both win in the deal. I get the help I need, he gets some money to add to savings, and we get to share our lives and know one another better.
He refused! As a matter of fact, he said, “It just doesn’t seem right that I should get paid for helping your fix a vehicle that I use just as well. Besides I love doing it and working with you.” You can just imagine how this made me feel. Among other things, I was proud of him and the maturity he showed.
More importantly, however, it indicated to me that he is finally grasping a simple concept that most people wrestle with their entire lives – appreciation. Our society is an entitlement society. Most feel as if “society” or someone called by some other name owes them something, or they have a right to whatever it is they want.
Have you ever noticed how the Bible claims the exact opposite? Let me ask you, “Upon what is your salvation built? Is it not built on grace?” Sure it is, but what is grace? Grace is, now listen to this, “unmerited” or “undeserved” favor. In other words, no one owes it to you. God is not indebted to you. Rather, He paid the debt you could not pay and did not deserve. The same thing is true of money, stuff and even the essentials of life. They are gifts of God, not merits.
In this day, when you feel sorry for yourself and are tempted to think someone owes you, or that you are entitled to this or that, remember the Savior who died for you and be content. Learn the value of appreciation, and show it to all. Your life will be truly blessed and much more enjoyable.
Joe C. Magee
My experience with the subject of giving could be called a paradox. For years as a young husband and father, struggling to support a growing family, I would resist, even become upset every time the subject of giving came up. I readily admit that part of the problem was that I knew that I was not giving to support the cause of Christ as I should. However, there was another problem.
So many times when the end of each year was approaching, the preacher would be asked by the elders to preach a sermon on giving. At times, the sermon would be based upon the budget, which the elders had apparently already prepared, or would be an apologetic approach to the subject. On one occasion, the preacher even apologized, saying, “I promise not to touch on this subject again this year.” I began to study the subject of giving from a biblical standpoint. I immediately recognized that we were creating an attitude of necessity, which is exactly what the Bible teaches not to do. “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
What constitutes a cheerful giver? Do you remember the first time you had an opportunity to give a gift? What prompted that action, if not love? Love for a mother, father, friend or sweetheart makes the giving of a gift an exciting and cheerful act. How different from giving out of a sense of obligation.
We should be reminded that we serve a loving and giving God. He gave us life. He gave us a beautiful world in which to live. He gives the strength and resources to supply our needs. Most of all, He gave us His Son to die for our sins, and He gives us the opportunity to share with others our bounty. This is the opportunity with which Paul deals in his letter to the Corinthians. The saints in Jerusalem were in great need. Paul writes of how those in Macedonia responded to this need. “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2). Note how closely joy and liberality are tied together. Then, as Paul admonishes the Corinthians to be prepared, he writes, “Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation” (2 Corinthians 9:5). Notice the words “generous,” “previously promised” and “not as a grudging obligation.” I get the impression that these brethren were excited about the opportunity to help even those whom they did not know, and yet those who were of like precious faith. What prompted this enthusiasm among the Macedonians? We find the answer in verse five of chapter eight: “And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.” Of all the gifts we may offer, none can compare with the one for which our Lord yearns the most: ourselves. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
Let me share with you a method that has been used with surprising results where I have served. First, the leaders would determine to let the congregation set the budget. In order to do so, they would set forth proposals concerning the work of the church. Two months before the budget would go into effect, a series of lessons on giving would be presented. These would be Bible-based and not budget-centered. Following this, the congregation would be asked to search their hearts and determine what they would give over the next year, and would give that much over the next three Sundays. Why three Sundays? This would determine an average and would allow for any casual giving by visitors to the services. The average of these three Sunday contributions would then serve as a basis for what the leaders could determine they would have to carry on the work. In essence, they have let the congregation set the budget. The amazing thing about this is that, in every case where I have seen this put into effect, the congregation purposed more than the leaders proposed, and at the end of the budget year they had given more than they purposed! What’s more, the congregations found themselves personally engaged in more of the activities of the church, more enthusiastic and rejoicing in the work of the Lord as never before! Under this method, I have seen congregations double and triple their giving in less than three years.
Giving as described and taught in the Scriptures is an act of love and a glory to God. It can become one of the most exciting experiences that a Christian can enjoy.