Giving opens us to the joy and freedom of living as disciples of Jesus Christ.
This week as we continue our exploration of Healthy Plate Discipleship, our focus will turn to the portion of our healthy plate called “Give.” We talk about giving in a lot of different ways in the church setting — partly to raise funds for all of the life-giving ministries of our church, and partly because Jesus spent a lot of time talking about the place of money and possessions in our lives and the importance of giving.
This Sunday we’ll look at a passage from the Apostle Paul — 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. Here the Apostle Paul tells us how our own thoughts and feelings about giving as a spiritual practice can impact the very quality of our lives:
What I mean is this: the one who sows a small number of seeds will also reap a small crop, and the one who sows a generous amount of seeds will also reap a generous crop. Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work.
Why give? There are a lot of reasons, to be sure, but here Paul speaks of the sheer joy of giving. There is a particular kind of joy you can only get from giving — and that is coupled with the joy of those who are blessed by your giving. Paul also emphasizes that as you give generously, God “provides you with more than enough of every kind of grace.” Now, to be clear, this is not“prosperity gospel” stuff we’re talking about here. What you reap abundantly when you give abundantly is more than enough of every kind of grace.
The joy we can reap from giving is in knowing that our practice of giving is a way we love God. In our giving we express our love for God’s children and God’s work in the world in a tangible way. In our giving, we also declare our trust in God and our freedom from the hold of “stuff” on our hearts and lives. A few years ago in the season of Lent, a member of the church was talking about giving up “stuff” for Lent, saying, “You know, whatever you can’t give up possesses you.” That statement really struck me. Echoing that Lenten discipline, I’ll have to agree that if there’s something we can’t give up for 40 days, we are not free. And, while that’s a Lenten idea, it also says a lot about giving as an expression of freedom.
To practice healthy discipleship, we must give generously. When we examine the life and teachings of Jesus, it becomes very easy to see that this spiritual practice is all about giving of oneself with generosity. Holding this picture of giving as our guide, we open ourselves to the joy and freedom of living — and giving — as disciples of Jesus Christ. When Jesus said that he came to give abundant life, he surely had in mind that abundance of life that comes from giving.
I look forward to exploring these ideas more with you on Sunday!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster