God is a Cheerful Giver
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
(John 3:16–17 ESV)
- What was the motivation for God the Father to send his only Son Jesus?
- What is God's desire for the world?
Jesus is a Cheerful Giver
Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
(John 15:12–17 ESV)
- Jesus says that the highest form of love is self-sacrifice (i.e. laying down his life for his friends). Jesus laid down his life for you and all people at Calvary's Cross. What did this cost God the Father? What did this cost Jesus? What did it cost you?
- Jesus calls his followers his friends. How does this make you feel to be considered a 'friend of God'?
God is Rich in Mercy
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Ephesians 2:4–9 ESV)
- How has God richly loved you?
- What did you do to earn his grace?
- How do you respond when you receive priceless gifts?
Jesus Sermon on the Mount
Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
(Matthew 6:19–34 ESV)
- We would expect Jesus to say, "You cannot serve God and the devil (or evil)." We would expect Jesus to say something like that. Instead he says you cannot serve God and what?
- Jesus describes a "tug-of-war" within the human heart. What does Jesus teach us about the human heart? Describe it.
- How does Jesus address anxiety?
Generous to God
Someone in the crowd said to him [Jesus], “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
(Luke 12:13–21 ESV)
- Jesus encouraged the person in the crowd to guard their heart against what?
- This teaching is similar to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount where he teaches the crowd, "Where your treasure is there your heart will be also." What is the rich man's treasure? How does he approach life?
- Life in the Kingdom of God resists individualism, materialism and consumerism. What does Jesus say about one's possessions?
- What was God saying to you in this parable?
Generosity in the Early Christian Church after the Resurrection
And they [followers of Jesus] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
(Acts 2:42–47 ESV)
- The verb "devoted" used in verse 42 means to persevere or to continue steadfast. What were they devoted to? What was the result?
- How generous were first-century Christians? Was anyone lacking anything? What was the result?
Paul's Call to Preach the Gospel in Macedonia (Greece)
And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
(Acts 16:6–15 ESV)
- Paul has been preaching the Gospel, baptizing and starting new Christian churches in Turkey. He is called by the Lord to leave Turkey and sail across the Aegean Sea to Macedonia (Greece) for the purpose of preaching the Good News of Jesus.
- Lydia is a successful business woman in a city called Philippi. Her and her entire household are baptized into the Kingdom of God. What is her response to Paul and Timothy? (verse 15)
- What is the posture of Lydia's heart as a result of experiencing the gospel (Good News of Jesus)? Compare Lydia's response to Luke 10:7.
- Paul leaves Philippi to start other Christian churches. Eventually Paul is in a prison cell in Rome where he writes a letter to the beloved Philippians.
Paul finishes his letter saying, "Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4:14–20 ESV)
- What surprised you about Paul's letter to the Philippians?
- What does Paul say regarding God's provision?
The generosity of the Macedonian church is later described in Paul's letter to the Corinthian church located about 485 miles South (see 2 Cor. 8:1-9 below).
Generosity of the Macedonian Church
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.
I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 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 by his poverty might become rich.
(2 Corinthians 8:1–9 ESV)
- The gospel transformed the Macedonian churches (Greece). How did they respond to the gospel?
- How did the Lord Jesus make you spiritually rich?
- How does the Good News (gospel) of Jesus transform your view of generosity?
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
(2 Corinthians 9:6–11 ESV)
- How has God's grace abounded in your life?
- How does God view a cheerful giver?
- Who supplies the seed to the sower and bread for food?
- Write a definition of cheerful giving.
Feed the Ox that Works for You
Let the elders (pastors) who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”
(1 Timothy 5:17–18 ESV)
- The apostle Paul compares a pastor to what animal?
- What does the ox need when it is working hard? Do you think this is fair?
Giving cheerfully and sacrificially of our finances is part of our worship. Those who call ConnectingPoint their home church give, not by meeting some obligatory percentage, but gladly sacrificing for the sake of the gospel because Jesus sacrificed for us, and all we have is His. We thank those who have helped us meet these needs in faithful, consistent giving as Scripture instructs.
Additional Readings about Biblical Generosity
Giving to the needy: The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing (Matthew 6:1-4)
Widow's mite (Mark 12:41-44)
Generosity of first-century Christians (Acts 4:32-37)
Proclaiming the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:12-14 in the New Testament compared to Numbers 18 in the Old Testament)
Generosity flows to bless others (1 Corinthians 16:1-4)
Paul labors and toils to preach the Gospel without being a burden on the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2:1-12)
Paul's teaches about true contentment and encourages those who have been financially blessed to put their hope in God not the uncertainty of riches (1 Timothy 6:6-19)
God invites his people to test his generosity (Malachi 3:6-12)
Aaron's house and the responsibility of the tribe of Levi (read Numbers 18, especially verse 24 explains why the tithe in the Old Testament, then read 2 Chronicles 31:5-6)
Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.
(Proverbs 3:9–10 ESV)