John 3:16 (Say together)
This is the season for gifts and giving. Of course, it’s also the season for receiving gifts. With Christmas coming up this Wednesday, it seems appropriate to talk about gifts and giving for our lesson today.
Someone once said that a great hearted person is one who can’t remember gifts he/she has given, but never forgets a gift he/she has received.
There was a cartoon in a Christian magazine that I saw some years ago: two men had just come out of church services with tears in their eyes, wearing nothing but their boxer shorts and T-shirts. One said to the other: That was the best sermon on giving I ever heard!
It’s no secret that most of us, if not all of us, are born with a selfish streak in us. We come into this world very vulnerable and needy, do we not? Self preservation dictates that as babies we let it be known when we are hungry, thirsty, uncomfortable, afraid, upset, sick, etc. How do we let it be known?
We cry out for help and someone has to give it to us or we will die. We enter history on the receiving end of a lot of giving! Do we not? Now let me put a Christian perspective on this: Even Jesus did. Mary gave birth to and nursed and cared for the Son of God. Who? Yes, God become flesh, in Mary’s lap. Humanity gave birth to divinity there! How ironic! The Creator of the universe entered our world in need of being given nourishment, given care, and given love, just like we all did. Through Jesus Christ, God lets humanity give to God what God in Christ needed as a human baby who grew up in a home where He was on the receiving end of a lot of giving. He didn’t have to give us that opportunity, but He did. And it was necessary in part for our salvation! If Jesus had not come to us as a human, like us, He could not save us! This gift of Christ was a giving opportunity for Mary and Joseph, and, guess what? It hasn’t stopped there. Jesus said in Matthew 25 to those He calls the righteous, who gave food, drink, clothing, care, and visitation to the needy… In as much as you did it to the least of these, my brethren, you did it unto Me! Wow! So, God can still be on our Christmas list! Giving, ironically, is a kind of gracious gift of God to us! Acts 20:35 Paul does something we find only this one time in the New Testament, Paul quotes Jesus verbatim. And what is that one quote of Christ? “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Why does Jesus give us that honor? I suppose that there are lots of reasons, but one chief reason is this: Our Lord wants us to be like Him. God is the most amazing giver of all time, amen? Therefore, through giving, God invites you and me to share in His own likeness and image. How do we learn to give? Is it not primarily through the examples of others? Just think of the example of giving that we see in God!
What do you and I have that we have not received? Everything in our lives, including our very bodies and souls are not from ourselves, they are a gift of God! God is the all giving original source of all good that there is or ever will be. James says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, in whom is no shifting shadows.” Jesus said, “If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?” Jesus said, “Give and you will get, pressed down, shaken together, running over, it will be poured into your laps.” Paul said, “Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, but he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
God has shown us that giving is the ironic doorway of greater and fuller blessing from God. God’s word even goes on to say, Malachi 3:10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this and see, says the Lord Almighty, if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Who among us honestly believes this is true? Who among us is giving like this is true?
Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 – (read) This echoes what Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:19-24 (read)
Lord willing this spring in April, I will be going to India to see and witness some of the works that Mani Pagidipalli shared with us a few weeks ago. Mani said that there are thousands of new Christians who do not have a Bible in their own language. He has found a printing company there that will print them for about $8 each and it will cost $17,000 to print a minimum order of 2000 Bibles. The church in India is growing rapidly and many baptisms are reported daily. Our elders want us to help in the effort of getting Bibles to these new Christians.
I was sharing this need recently with a group of youth and asked, “Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to be able to give Bibles to these new brothers and sisters in Christ in India?” One of them immediately brought and gave me $104, saying, “I want to help give some Bibles to them.” This is my Christmas money to buy Christmas presents, and I just know that this is more important. Seeing this, some of the others also gave a total of almost $200 more dollars. I’m telling you this by way of example.
I couldn’t help but think of a song by Ray Boltz that says, I dreamed I went to heaven and you were there with me… then the song describes people who keep coming up to you to say: Thank-you for giving to the Lord. I am a life that was changed. Thank-you for giving to the Lord, I am so glad you gave! God takes our gifts and offerings and multiplies them. Just imagine, what God might do because we gave to send Bibles to these new Christians who live in a place where so many are receptive to the gospel. What if a Bible you helped purchase lands in the hands of someone who shares the gospel with others, who share the gospel with others and God multiplies your gift into a floodgate of new Christians who enter eternal life because of your gift?
When Jesus arrived on the shores of Galilee where a crowd was waiting, he had compassion on them and taught them and healed their sick. Over 5000 men, not counting women and children were there. They were hungry and Jesus’ disciples wanted to send them away to go get food for themselves. Jesus said, “You feed them.” Philip, the engineer among the apostles looked and said, “There’s 5000 people here! Eight months wages would barely buy enough to feed them!” Jesus said, “How much food do you have?” Andrew found a boy with five loaves of bread and two fish, he brought him to Jesus. The boy gave his five loaves and two fish to Jesus. What good was that? I mean, what kind of miniscule gift is five biscuits and two fish for 5000 hungry men, plus women and children?
God isn’t limited by our limitations. Jesus took that gift and multiplied it so that over 5000 men ate till they were filled and 12 baskets of leftovers were gathered after the meal.
What can out little church offerings do for thousands of Christians in India? Let’s give and see what God will do, what do you say?