17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Mark 10:17-22 NIV
The rich young man came to Jesus for something that he lacked. He seemed to have everything but that which only Jesus could offer him. He most likely sat under the instruction of the Rabbi Jesus and listened to the same words we have access to today in the Gospels and discovered that there was a lasting peace and satisfaction that he was unable to find in his own life. He also was impressed that this Rabbi could give him a pathway to heaven but he was told something he didn’t want to hear. In fact, in his extreme disappointment he went away sad.
Jesus is concerned about wealth causing us to become less dependent on Him and having only a share of our devotion. There is a paradox in the Scriptures “We lose what we keep and we gain what we give away.” The Scriptures are very plain about God’s generosity and how being generous ourselves can give us much joy and treasure in heaven. In II Corinthians 9:6-15 NIV we find words that help us understand the purpose for generosity.
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
My clients are grateful when they receive help and it is a good opportunity for me to steer that praise and thanks to God for bringing us together and making it all possible. It is because of his grace, the indescribable gift, within the people who act to support the work of Christos House that we can offer these services. C.H. Spurgeon, a minister in the 1880’s aptly describes this indescribable or unspeakable gift and that it is centered in giving.
“The Gospel is founded upon giving and its spirit is giving. Buying and selling are unknown in spiritual things, unless we buy without money and without price. Payment is for the Law. Under the Gospel, everything is a gift. God gives us Jesus, eternal life, grace and glory, and everything. . ., and then, moved by love to him, we give ourselves back to him and to his people.
As it is the glory of the sun that he gives light and heat to our world, so is it God’s Glory that he gives mercy and peace to the sons of men.
And, moreover, as the sun is the author of reflected heat and is all the more valued because his beams can be reflected, so is God glorified by that part of His goodness which we are able to impart to others.
God is glorified in the thanksgiving which is excited by the gifts of his people to the poor, as well as by their personal thanksgivings for his own gifts he gives to us and we thank him.
We give to others and they thank God for the kindness which he has inspired in us.
Thus a round of thanksgiving to God is created by the spirit of giving which first of all displayed itself in the unspeakable (indescribable) gift of God!
We are as cups filled at the spring and from us the thirsty drink and praise the Fountain! “ C.H. Spurgeon http://www.spurgeongems.org
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” I Chronicles 29:14 NIV
However great our abilities, we have nothing which God did not give to us, and which he cannot withdraw if these tokens of his favor are not recognized, appreciated and applied where we are called to apply them. I believe that which we are given as gifts from God are given with the intention that they be returned in such a way as to add to the glory of the great Giver. We do this for our spiritual well-being. The glory of God should be the joy and the blessing of all. When we seek to promote His glory we are seeking for ourselves the highest good which is possible for us to receive.
In the lives of the Saints of the early church following the day of Pentecost there must have been great dependency on one another. For a Jew to embrace Christianity was to lose everything worldly in the way of a livelihood. Their family ties would be severed and even their national identity. Though, as they received the grace of God through Jesus Christ, their numbers grew daily because they were performing acts of grace toward one another, living out the principles of community outlined in the Gospel.
The following is taken from II Corinthians 8:2-15 NIV as Apostle Paul gives us a glimpse of how life was in that time as they learned to come together as a community in Jesus Christ.
2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”.
We may be in the mindset of thinking that the key issue of giving is “how much should I give to the Work of the church? or in other words what does God require?” But this is not the case. The key issue is whether we have received the grace of Jesus Christ. If so, there will be no seeking of the right percentage of our income so we can be comfortable within those giving limits but we will be seeking opportunities and the privilege to give generously, not only of our material wealth but our time and dedication to the raising up of others. And as that grace works within us, we will seek to do it all, not for our glory but for God’s glory.
Christ told us: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked”.
Luke 12:48 NIV
Jesus grew up under the Jewish system where people were taught to be liberal when it came to sustaining God’s cause through helping others. There were special offerings to take care of the needy. The corners of the fields were reserved for the poor. God sought to teach Israel that he came first as everything they had was his and that they were his stewards, his caretakers. The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; Psalm 24:1NIV
“We are as cups filled at the spring and from us the thirsty drink and praise the Fountain!” Spurgeon
Imagine our communities where the living sweetwater of generosity flows between us – where each one is doing their part in responding to the needs of others God places in our lives each day. “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” From II Cor. 9NIV