Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Generosity: The Four Ts–Treasure

In our Advent series, we are discussing the generosity that flows from the gratitude we have for the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

 

The 4Ts are the way we talk about generosity: Touch, Talent, Treasure, and Time. A few weeks ago, I talked about touch and last week, Pastor Brad talked about talent. Today, as a prelude to our business meeting, I will give a short message on Treasure. To begin our conversation, 

 

let’s read 2 Corinthians 8:1-4:

 

We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; 2 for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4 begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints.

 

In our passage, Paul discusses the generosity of the Macedonian churches. That generosity began with the grace of God. God gave the churches grace in abundance. From that grace begins their generosity. In other words, they gave of their treasure because of the abundant grace that God gave to them. The churches in Macedonia had suffered a severe ordeal and affliction. This past year has certainly been a year of ordeal and affliction. The economy has been tough. Inflation hit hard. Expenses went up. People have endured affliction. We have lost people we love. The year has been a challenge. How did the Macedonian churches respond to their ordeal? The Macedonian churches did not use affliction as a reason not to contribute to Paul’s ministry and the suffering church in Jerusalem.

 

Paul tells us that the Macedonian churches were poor churches.

 

Yet, because of the abundant joy that came from their having received Christ and experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, they were pillars of generosity.

 

Paul goes on to say that their giving was not coerced or forced upon them. Paul did not suggest that if they did not give, they would be cursed, or that the Spirit would exit their lives. Paul did not attach giving to some promise of prosperity or super abundant blessings. Paul gave them no prosperity message.

 

In fact, the text would suggest that their affliction and poverty would likely continue. The churches gave voluntarily out of their means and even beyond their means. They gave because the ministry of Paul and the Jerusalem church were in need.

 

Finally, the Macedonians considered it a privilege to contribute to the ministry and to provide for the needs of the saints.

 

In Christian circles, the standard amount to give to the church is the tithe of 10% of your gross income. Few people do this, but that has been the standard throughout the Protestant church. Some give sacrificially beyond that amount to support the church and other valuable nonprofits. If I am talking about treasure, that would be the starting point. Do you tithe?

 

It is interesting that Paul doesn’t discuss tithing in his letter to the Macedonian churches. The question Paul asked was, can you help meet the needs of the ministry? I imagine it was beyond a tithe. But that is not my point.

 

The Macedonian churches would have sought the Holy Spirit for guidance on how to share their treasure. Sure, they considered their affliction and their poverty, and they assessed their means, yet they considered the needs of the ministry, they measured their grace and their joy in Christ, and they gave voluntarily to meet the needs of the Jerusalem church and of Paul.

I think we as followers of Christ face the same question asked of the Macedonian church. What does the Holy Spirit ask of me in response to the grace and joy that I have been given in Christ? Christ does ask for our treasure to meet the needs of the church and carry the gospel to the world. God knew the financial struggles of the Macedonians, and God knows our struggles.

 

Regardless of the amount we give, God knows the heart behind our giving. Like the Macedonian churches, the question is, how are we asked to give? Does Christ ask us to follow the tithe rule and calculate a percentage of our means? 

 

Or, like the Macedonian churches, are we asked to give voluntarily, in some cases sacrificially, considering it a privilege to share in the ministry of Christ? As a church family, we seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance and figure out together how to meet the needs of Place of Grace Fellowship.

During our Advent series, we have taken inspiration from Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan that sees a man who was robbed and beaten, lying on the side of the road. He takes care of the man, while two earlier passersby ignored his plight. 

 

Let’s read Luke 10:33-36:

 

But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

 

Jesus doesn’t say the Samaritan was calculating what he could afford to give and making sure he met his tithe. He was not thinking about himself; instead, he was moved with pity by the man’s injuries. The Samaritan met the needs of the injured man. The injured man needed an amount to recover and to be lodged during his recovery time. The Samaritan met that need.

 

As far as the previous passersby, “a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” No doubt these two religious persons saw the man on the side of the road and did a calculation in their mind about the cost to assist the man. Perhaps they thought about their own safety. Maybe they determined it would take too much time. Of course, they would need to touch him and then they would not be religiously pure. They would need to care for his wounds, and they were not doctors. No doubt they thought about how much money it would cost them. Once they assessed the total costs of assistance, they determined it was too costly and they passed by.

 

The Samaritan knew the costs just like the religious persons. In fact, the Samaritan, being a business traveler and not a Holy person, probably knew the costs better than the two who passed by. Yet, he was moved by pity and helped the man.

 

The Samaritan, fully aware of the cost, stopped and met the needs of the man on the side of the road. He did not meet some of the needs, he did not limit his exposure to the man. He paid in full to meet what the man required.

Jesus asked, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”  The answer is the Samaritan. The Samaritan was a neighbor and loved his neighbor because he met the needs of his neighbor without question and without calculation.

 

Today we will have our business meeting. Some of the discussions may be difficult. It has been a tough year. The church has some serious decisions to make going forward. We may need to accept some uncomfortable changes. We may be asked to contribute more treasure to the needs of the church. The recommendations and proposed changes have been prayerfully considered by the board. We all share in this ministry and want what’s best for Place of Grace Fellowship. Let us pray for the Holy Spirit to guide our hearts and minds in our discussion today.

 

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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