What Generous Giving Shows

What Generous Giving Shows

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

After praising the Corinthians in the midst of his second letter to them, Paul challenges their growth in a specific area of their Christianity. It is an area where several need to be challenged. Jesus urges us to have proper hearts by laying up treasure in heaven (Mat. 6:19-21) and Paul spends time showing what a proper heart looks like. Notice what he says on this subject in 2 Corinthians 8. 

GENEROUS GIVING REFLECTS THE GRACE OF THE LORD (1-2,9)

Paul holds up the impoverished churches of Macedonia and the Lord Jesus Christ as examples of grace for the Corinthians. The poor saints of Macedonia, in a great ordeal of affliction, had abundant joy and a wealth of liberality to give generously despite that poverty. Who does that look like? The Lord Jesus Christ, who, though rich, for our sakes became poor that we through His poverty might become rich. Do you want to look like Jesus? Give generously and abundantly.

GENEROUS GIVING REVEALS AN EAGER, SACRIFICIAL HEART (3-6)

What kind of hearts did the Macedonians have? They had willing hearts, which caused them to give “beyond their ability” (3). They had begging hearts, which considered being allowed to give a favor (4). They had giving hearts, which prompted a financial generosity out of their first giving themselves to God (5). How is my giving? Let me first ask how my heart is, when it comes to “my” money. Paul uses Macedonia’s example to spur on Corinth.

GENEROUS GIVING REINFORCES OTHER OTHER SPIRITUAL QUALITIES (7-8,24)

Paul credits Corinth for their faith, utterance, knowledge, earnestness, love, and sincerity. The first three seem to be alluding to their spiritual gifts (cf. 1 Cor. 12-14), necessary to grow the church. The last three are attitudes Christians must possess. Yet, Paul tosses generosity right onto that figurative pile. He calls for them to abound in this gracious work, too. It proved the sincerity of their love. Later, Paul urges them to “show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you” (24). It’s not generous giving or these other qualities, or vice versa. God wants all of us. 

GENEROUS GIVING READIES ONE FOR COMPLETION (10-15)

Paul calls for them to finish what they intended to do in this matter. Intentions, as great as they may be, cannot be spent or used to meet the various needs Paul is concerned about. The completion of it was as vital as the readiness to do it. God sees giving as the great equalizer between those with abundance and those with need. He’s not talking about redistribution of wealth. He’s talking about a healthy attitude toward one’s wealth that leads to God supplying all that’s needed through our generosity. Don’t just intend or desire to give. Do it!

GENEROUS GIVING RESULTS IN ACCOMPLISHING GOD’S WORK (16-24)

This is a matter of practicality. Real needs in spreading the gospel existed, requiring monetary aid to accomplish. Titus brought it to their attention. Paul is reminding them of it. As they participated in this gracious work, they were helping the church. 

Do you find it interesting that for the inspired Paul, the subject of giving was not off-limits whether he was talking about the rich or the poor or the weak or the strong? Giving is a fundamental aspect and expression of our faith. It is not a substitute for good works. It is a specific example, one of many good works. We need to excel in this gracious work also!

Better Living 

Better Living 

Neal Pollard

We find ourselves often bobbing in a sea of religious confusion. Many groups claim to be the best religion and point to their ingredients as reasons for such claims. Several years ago, our boys played basketball in a league hosted by a huge community church in the Denver area.  Their church’s campus includes a K-12 school, two restaurants, a gymnasium half the size of our church building, a coffee shop, and a hundred social program. Other groups would make their claim as “better” or “best” based on their numeric size, the number of programs they have, or how socially active they are.

Our religious attitude ought to be one of humility, which does not boast of our achievements or compare ourselves with others (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12).  Genesis 4 is not just about two kinds of worship, but also about two ways of living life. Cain is mentioned by three Bible writers after Moses introduces him in Genesis. The writer of Hebrews calls Abel’s offering more excellent than his (Heb. 11:4). John calls Cain’s works evil and his allegiance “of the wicked one” (1 Jo. 3:12). Jude implies that the way of Cain is the wrong way to go (11). Let’s make a few brief observations from Genesis four and see if we can find the elements which make for a better way of living today.

  • BETTER LIVING IS NOT DETERMINED BY AGE (1-2).  By birth order, Cain came first. He was the first person to be born in the natural order of childbirth. He was the very first newborn to be held in his mama’s arms. She didn’t realize that her cooing, sweet infant was a future murdering, and she was proud of him. She called him “a man child with the help of the Lord.” This depicts such a bright, optimistic future, and by contrast Scripture says, “Again, she gave birth to his brother, Abel” (2). Abel began in his brother’s shadow, first known to us as “his (Cain’s) brother.”
  • BETTER LIVING IS NOT DETERMINED BY OCCUPATION (2). When we look at these brothers, what they did for a living was not the determiner of the quality of their lives. While what they did had an indirect bearing on the events of this account, the fact of their occupation was spiritually neutral—Cain farmed and Abel tended sheep. One can reap blessings from tilling the ground (Heb. 6:7), but they may have to fight thorns, thistles, and weeds doing it (Gen. 3:18-19). Tending sheep may be done by slaves (Luke 17:17), kings (1 Sam. 17:34), or apostles (John 21:17). God’s pleasure or displeasure was not connected to either’s occupation.
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY WORSHIP (3-4). Moses says both brought an offering to the Lord. He also says God responded to bother offerings, accepting one and rejecting the other. That very notion is foreign to many people in our society today, even those in religion. Many make worship nothing more than taste, preference, and personal inclination. But, Moses shows us (1) Not all worship is equal: God had regard for Abel’s, but not Cain’s. The words “had respect to” signify in Hebrew to look at something with a very serious glance. God tells us how He wants worship done, in attitude and action; (2) The worshipper and the worship rise and fall together: God had regard for Abel AND his offering and did not for Cain AND his offering. That’s a sober reminder for me that my personal relationship with God is hindered or helped based on the way I worship God. Can I offer God vain and ignorant worship, and have God reject it but accept me? We are not earning God’s favor by getting worship right. At the same time, are we tempting God and hoping we stay in His favor while disobeying His commands for worship? People have tried to make this an “either-or” proposition, that Cain and Abel’s offering was either about getting the worship right or was about the nature of the person offering the worship. In other words, is it sincerity or obedience, our both sincerity and obedience? To thoughtfully ask the question is to answer it!
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY ATTITUDE (5-7). Cain reacts to having himself and his worship rejected by God by burning with anger and his face taking on an ugly look. He sounds like a small child in the throes of a tantrum or a teenager huffing and sulking in anger. God warns Cain of the recipe for disaster he was making through his attitude. He told Cain that his tempestuous attitude was an invitation for sin to pounce on him, but He told him he could master it! You can have a positive attitude without prosperity, education, or earthly success, but you cannot have a positive attitude without mastering self.
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY ACTION (8-16). Improper worship and attitude preceded and precipitated improper action. The first time “sin” is used (Gen. 4:7), God was looking ahead with perfect foresight to what Cain would do to his brother. He does the unthinkable, killing his own brother (cf. 1 Jo. 3:11-15). His deeds and ways were a recipe for disaster: He is rebuked by God, punished by God, and separated from God. Sin promises a good time and fulfillment, but it’s not true.

It’s been said that the lineage of Cain gave us murder, cities, polygamy, musicians, metal workers and poetry, but not one who walked with God! Thanks to his legacy, a descendant repeats his violent ways (Gen. 4:23). Abel seems to leave no physical lineage, but he still speaks after death. His was a life of faith, generosity, good works, righteousness, and obedience. We get to choose the kind of life we want to pursue. If we choose well, we will be satisfied, others will be blessed, and God will be pleased.

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