Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Giving out of grace, not law

OK, so let's get first things first. Why do (notice I didn't say "should") Christians give? We give because it's our nature. We are give-ers because we are in Christ, new creations who have the very life of Christ living in us (2 Corinthians 5:17). Who is more giving than our God, who did not spare His own son but generously gave Him for us (Romans 8:32)? Who is more giving than Jesus, who though He was rich for our sakes became poor so that we through His poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9)? The Lord does not change, and this same Jesus lives in us and has given us His very life and nature. So I am, by nature, a give-er.

So why don't I/we give more, then? Because we have been taught from birth to fend for ourselves, to depend on ourselves. It's the way of the world and the only way people who don't know Jesus can make life work. It's called "the flesh", and the flesh is any way that we make life work apart from dependence on Jesus. Once a person comes to Christ, they receive a new nature, but their flesh is still there. So Christ in me longs to give and be generous, but my natural instincts are to take what's mine, hang on to what is valuable, to save just in case I need it later. Living this way is self-provision, which is, more simply, sin. (Note: this does not mean that I do not have a savings account or that I am not planning for retirement or that saving is sinful. It does mean that perhaps I should worry about these things less and put my hope in them less).

Giving generously is a declaration of dependence on God, acknowledging that all we are and all that we have are from Him, and that we do not have to provide for ourselves. Its is an opportunity to live in freedom from our own efforts, freedom from materialism. It is an act of worship, declaring that we love God more than our stuff, and that we seek to honor Him by passing on the blessings that He gives us in order that others might be blessed.

Giving is also an act of grace - Paul prays that the Corinthians might excel in the grace of giving and even puts giving on par with faith, knowledge, earnestness, speech, and love (2 Corinthians 8:7). Giving is a spirit-empowered, grace-empowered act that reveals the goodness of God in our lives. It is a reminder that God is always the give-er, we always the receive-er. We would have nothing to give if it were not for God. We would not have life or breath or being if it were not for God the give-er (Acts 17:28). This not to say that we need to feel guilty about what we have but rather be thankful and from that thankful place, enter into the joy of our giving God by participating in this act of blessing.

To me, this is a grace-empowered, Spirit-led call to giving, and it is the place where we must begin.


Ashleigh said...

Brings me back to GUPY... Was so frustrated that you wanted to begin w/ identity in Christ! It makes a lot more sense now, and I would say my internal resistance to beginning w/ Jesus has lessened though it's still a journey, I think, before it entirely subsides.

Looking forward to the rest of the series. :o)

B-U-R-L-Y said...

Good stuff, Marshall.