Summary: A message on stewardship.
BE READY TO GIVE
INTRO: In the early chapters of Acts, we find a very exciting church continuing in the apostles’ doctrine, in fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers — having all things in common. To this day we find the church emphasizing doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers. However, with a few notable exceptions, we no longer have the spirit of giving that caused the early believers to share their possessions with one another and to carry the gospel across the earth.
If we are to meet the challenge to send missionaries to every area of the earth before the return of Christ, we must give freely and even sacrificially as never before.
I. READINESS TO GIVE SPRINGS FROM A LIFE-STYLE OF GENEROSITY.
Christian giving is not to be something we practice occasionally. Paul encouraged the Corinthian believers to be ready to give to the needy believers in Jerusalem when he made his regular visits.
In the last chapter of 1 Cor., he tells them to set aside their gifts every week as God has prospered them. Here Paul gave them a life principle of generosity. He compared it to a farmer’s planting seed. If he sows generously, he will reap abundantly.
This is a principle of daily living. It is not only true of giving money, but it is also true of whatever you give. If you work hard at your job, your business will in turn work well for you. If you give your time and energy to others, people will always be willing to help you. If you plant seeds of friendship, you will reap many friends. If you want a good family life, devote yourself to your family. If you want to be loved, give your love away. Still, this is more than a principle of daily living; this is a promise of divine love.
ILLUS: One day I visited in the home of a man who is well known for the productiveness of his gardens. He made a statement to me that stuck in my mind. He said, “After you have prepared the soil and planted the seed, just keep the grass out and leave it alone; it will produce better without your help than with it.” When you plant the seed, God makes the garden.
So it is with giving. When you give to others, especially to those in need, the Bible says you are giving to God. When you make a regular practice of giving, God will bless you more than you could ever imagine. God accepts your gift as an expression of your love, and He returns His great blessings as an expression of His greater love.
II. READINESS TO GIVE SPRINGS FROM A HEARTBEAT OF COMPASSION (v. 7).
When your heart is concerned for the needy, you will naturally want to give. When your heart weeps for starving children in Uganda, you will find room in your pocketbook to give. When you are burdened to send missionaries to the uttermost part of the earth, you will be willing to give as God directs you to give.
I suspect Paul ran into people with critical hearts as he urged the early churches to give. Surely some did not agree with everything that was done with the money. Someone probably thought too much went to widows and not enough to hungry families. Some probably thought part of the money was going to freeloaders. Some probably thought more should have gone to send missionaries, while others thought missionaries should support themselves.
Needless to say, they would not have given anything if a critical spirit had dominated the church. The same is true today. Sixteen million plus Southern Baptists could never agree on how to spend every penny given, but, as we bind our hearts together in concern, we can forget our disagreements.
Some members in Corinth had calloused hearts. They did not give because they did not care about others in need. We can easily shelter ourselves from the sinfulness and heartache of a world without Christ. We can close our eyes to the evening news. We can isolate ourselves from all those outside the narrow fellowship of our Christian family. And we can conveniently find an excuse to stay home from the missions programs at our church. With very little effort at all, we can push from our hearts any awareness of those who are cold or hungry or lost without Christ.
Others in Corinth had carnal hearts. They could come up with all kinds of reasonable objections to giving. Judas was one of those. He objected to Mary pouring the vial of expensive oil on the head and feet of Jesus (John 12). He said it should have been sold, and the money given to the poor. But he really didn’t love the poor; he loved the money. He hated to see anything of value sacrificed to the Lord. Have you had a carnal heart, too? A carnal spirit can spread. A whole church can be ruined by a carnal spirit.