Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Putting the Giving Back into Thanksgiving


Well, I thought I would be creative with this title…until I googled it and saw dozens of references to it…c’est la vie.  I still believe it is a good subject to consider this time of year.  It has been well-documented how the world has sought to void Christmas from the holiday season.  But, it is just as troubling concerning what has happened to the current holiday, as it has become much more about Thanksgetting than Thanksgiving. Caution…a mini-rant is coming. :-)  A holiday once reserved for family time has become another casualty of the world system, as Black Friday has overridden family time for shopping time.  And, this in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing…I usually do some shopping myself.  But, when folks line up at stores on Wednesday (and before, much of the time)…and have their cold turkey and dressing on the street while waiting for the stroke of midnight on Friday…something is amiss.  This subject is about our allegiance…it is about the heart. If the focus of this message is that we “give,” then it misses the point.  Giving is a revelation of where the heart is in relationship to our spiritual condition.  There are a number of good passages in the New Testament that help us to understand the importance of this…one of these is 2 Corinthians 9, and it here that we will focus.

God has blessed the Corinthian church in many ways, and yet they are hesitant in some ways to share what they have with others (Chapter 8).  Paul encourages them to give from grace.  And this is not only money, but resources and time. Paul has used the zeal of the Corinthians to challenge the Macedonians in certain ways, and now he turns it around – he uses the Macedonians to challenge the Corinthians.  Paul shares with the Corinthians the example of the Macedonian churches – Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, who have given to the cause of helping the Jerusalem church out of their own poverty.  This becomes a blessing not only for the believers in Jerusalem, but for those in Macedonia, as well.  Our greatest encouragement for giving is to seek to please the Lord.  If our desire is to encourage others to share, then God’s grace can work through us to help others. And when we are able to accomplish this, we begin to see the grand connection between giving and thanksgiving.  The more that we give, the more thankful that we are for what God has given us.  And one of the blessings of giving is that it comes back – “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” (Luke 6:38)  We can’t out-give God!  He gives back to us.  It may not always be money or material goods, as some proclaim, but it is spiritual, eternal and always worth far more than we have given!  As I shared from the beginning, giving is not something that you do, it is someone you are! It is an indicator of where your heart is with the Lord…it is a measure of commitment.  Giving is a way of life for the Christian who understands the grace of God. 

When it all comes down to it, this message is not about the church, about the bills, about me, or even about God…it is about you.  This is the one message where “church” is about you. And as with other areas of our spiritual walk, we need to continue to grow in our understanding and application.  Our giving must not come from some obligation that we have, but from the heart…one that is seeking to please God.  If we cannot give joyfully, then we must truly do some soul searching…we must open our hearts to the Lord and ask Him to help us to grow in grace.  God is certainly able to bless a gift that is given out of a sense of duty, but He cannot bless the giver unless the heart is right.  In His grace, God wants to bless the giver and the gift!  Remember, those in Macedonia were not wealthy when it came to their giving to help others…they did so, and experienced joy.  Giving is a personal, communal and spiritual subject that we can’t take for granted or take lightly, but we need to ask ourselves how much we are willing to trust the Lord with what really is His.

Blessings, Don

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