Summary: Giving is a challenge and a privilege. God offers us a way to be among the blessed as we give in response to God’s grace through our congregation.
Acts 4:32-27 “Giving to Church”
During the month of October, we are hearing stories of how our brothers and sisters in Christ have discovered the joy and blessings of giving. Shelley Krispin, Carol Baker and now Steve and Deb Weber have shared their journeys. They have seen their gifts minister to the needs and ease the burdens of others and have known the joy that gives. Giving has also made their lives fuller, more abundant, and touch them in surprising ways.
The sermons for the past Sundays have focused on the source or inspiration for giving. We saw how a life of gratitude and generosity was based on God’s grace and our contentment. While it is true that we give TO a specific need, budgeted items, or requests, we want to continually stress that motivation for giving springs FROM what God has first done in our lives—his steadfast love and overwhelming grace.
While we seek to learn more about stewardship and how it impacts our lives, we may wonder how the church is connected to stewardship. We might not argue about the fact that we can develop an attitude of gratitude because of God’s grace, and that this gratitude may lead to a life of generosity. But we may ask why we should give to the church. Our Scripture reading today gives us a glimpse of the reason why.
The book of Acts paints a picture of the early church. It is clear in this picture that something dramatic had happened in the lives of the early Christians.
The early Christians were a diverse group of people. The first converts to Christianity, according to the second chapter, came from all over the known world. The early Christians were various nationalities, colors, sizes, shapes, religious backgrounds and political persuasions. Yet, the writer of the Book of Acts, Luke, observes in this passage that, “The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul.” Though a diverse group of people, the early Christians were deeply united. Having all been touched by God’s grace, they had one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. The truths that brought them together were greater than the forces that divided them.
The early Christians also saw all of their “possessions” as gifts. Luke writes that, “No one claimed private ownership of any possessions. This was truly a work of the Holy Spirit. The concept of “mine and “yours” seem deeply imbedded in our DNA. One of the first words children say (without coaching) is “mine.” The early Christians had a dramatically different perspective—everything they had was a gift. Because possessions were a gift, there was no “mine”, or “yours”, there was only “ours.”
The level of giving by the early Christians was amazing. They didn’t simply drop extra change in the offering plate. They didn’t even pay a lot of attention to the age-old guideline of a tithe. Luke writes that, “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them.”
The homes they sold were not their summer cottages or their RV’s. The homes were their primary residence and the selling of their homes necessitated a dramatic shift in their life style. Likewise the lands that were sold were not useless pieces of swamp or desert landscape. The lands were income producing lands.
Luke does not intimate that the depth of one’s faith or the validity of one’s Christianity can be measured by amount one gives. He is only noting the an encounter with the living Christ and being overwhelmed by God’s love and grace made a radical difference in the lives of the early Christians. No one was forced to give sacrificially. The early Christian Church was not some cult where the leader demanded all of his followers to become poor so that he (or she) could become rich. Those who sold their homes and lands (not everyone did) did so of their own volition because of what had happened in their lives.
GIVEN TO THE CHURCH
When the early Christians gave, they set their gifts down at the feet of the disciples. This is to say that they gave their gifts to the church and the church dispersed their gifts.
Many religions encourage their followers to give to the poor. Such activities are considered good. Of course Jesus encouraged his followers to give to the poor, also. But, Jesus made the act of giving more meaningful. Jesus taught that demonstrating one’s love for the poor by ministering to their needs was also and act of loving God.
The combined gifts of the early Christians were able to do much more than their individual gifts.
We combine our gifts as members of Desert Streams so that we can accomplish our mission of “Inviting everyone to a new life in Christ, a deeper relationship with Christ, and spirit-filled service for Christ.” Together we are able to impact the city of Surprise and its people in a more significant way than we can separately. Not only do our gifts touch lives in the city of Surprise, but also in our state, nation, and around the world.