Opening and Introduction
In our lesson tonight, we hear about farmers that plant seeds. If a farmer doesn’t plant, there won’t be anything to harvest later in the year. His livelihood depends on generously planting as many seeds as he can.
This passage uses a lot of farming imagery. But what it’s really talking about, is giving generously. God wants us to be generous with the gifts He’s given us. He wants us to share with joy and thanksgiving.
Tonight, we’re going to take a look at the generous gifts that God has blessed us with. We’ll also take a look at how God wants us to share those gifts. And finally, we’re going to take a look at how giving can be a joyful experience.
The Generosity of God
God’s generosity starts right at the beginning of Genesis. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, ESV). Many of us are probably familiar with this passage in the Bible. It’s the first story of God, and His gracious sharing of His love by making everything that we see around us, and leading up to the creation of man.
Every day-of-creation built on the last, constructing a perfect world. And on that 6th and last day, He created Adam, and continued to bless him generously with a wonderful place to live.
God made a garden to take care of the special creation. A perfect home to live in. Perfect food to eat. A perfect place for God’s ultimate creation. And later, a perfect partner in Adam’s bride, Eve. God was gracious, and generous, and gave them every gift of life.
Like Adam and Eve, God generously blesses us with everything around us, and provides for our daily needs too. But He also provides for the pleasure of interacting with creation. All of our senses to explore the world, to enjoy the smell of a rose, the sight of a beautiful sunrise, or the taste of a delicious meal.
If you take a moment to think about the wonders of creation, the amazing nature of our bodies, and the beauty of the world around us, we see an untold number of overwhelmingly generous gifts. God has blessed us all.
Adam and Eve took these gifts for granted. They had everything they needed, but didn’t appreciate what they had. Instead, they wanted even more. They got greedy and decided to take the one thing that they couldn’t have, the one thing that belonged to God alone, the forbidden fruit.
But even then, God’s generosity overflowed. Instead of getting rid of the first couple and starting over, He chose to destroy the disease of sin, by offering forgiveness through the ultimate gift, the sacrifice of His Son. And that gift was designed to heal the rift that sin created between God and man.
When we look at all that God has done, we can see, that His generosity is really a reflection of His unending love, His mercy, and His kindness. Even today, God provides for us. We can rely on Him for anything and everything.
God’s View of Sharing
Generations after Adam and Eve, a man named Moses entered the scene. With God’s guidance, Moses led the Hebrew people away from Egyptian bondage and slavery.
God’s blessings continued as they moved from place to place with God providing manna and quail to satisfy their hunger. While wandering in the desert, God gave Moses instructions on how to share their gifts.
Offerings were established to glorify God as well as allow the Levite priests the capability to sustain themselves. The Lord gave these words to Moses:
“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the LORD.” (Leviticus 27:30, 32, ESV)
Through this law, the Hebrews understood that a tithe of everything was dedicated to God. They were blessed with crops, with herds and the ability to work. But, the first and best 10% of everything they had, THAT belonged to God.
When the Hebrews accepted and respected what belonged to God, He blessed them. Through the prophet Malachi, God said:
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” (Malachi 3:10, NIV84)
God wanted the people to be grateful for all the gifts they received, and to move their hearts towards a good relationship with Him.
But God didn’t just want gifts given to Him, but for the people’s hearts to be open, and to consider the good of those around them. He wanted them to share what they had with the needy, rather than just looking after themselves.
Jesus gave us a command that talked about this when He said to, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:34, ESV). We should give just like we’d be willing to take care of our own needs. Sharing God’s gifts is a way to follow Jesus’ example. It’s a form of worship and thanksgiving for all that God has blessed us with.
All of creation belongs to the creator. Because of that, we shouldn’t be shy to share God’s blessings. God wants us to love others, just like He loves us. Not forced giving, not giving out of obedience, but a passion for service, giving naturally, and cheerfully.
Joyfully Sharing our Gifts
Everything that we have, originated in God’s heart as He poured out his love for us. When we offer gifts to God, or we pour out blessings to those in need, how do we feel about sharing those gifts?
In the time we have remaining, I’d like to talk about three ways that we can not just feel good about giving, but joyfully share our gifts.
First, giving is not a matter of wealth.
When Jesus watched people put their offerings into the temple treasury, He saw many rich people putting in large amounts of money, and a poor widow who put in two small coins, worth about a penny. Jesus told his disciples:
“This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth;
but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:43-44, NIV84)
Back then, people were cared for different than today. There was no social security. There was no unemployment insurance. There were no government welfare programs. Men were normally the bread-winners, and when husbands died, widows often became beggars or lived off of the kind and generous donations of the community.
When this poor widow donated all that she had. She probably didn’t know for certain if she would eat that day. She relied on the goodness and grace of others just to survive. Jesus could see her generosity.
True generosity is not a matter of how much we’re willing to give. It’s a matter of how much we love, how big our heart is, and how much we’re willing to give up. True generosity denies ourselves of something we value, and puts the needs of others ahead of ourselves. Joyful giving doesn’t require great wealth, but a kind heart, and a generous spirit.
Second, giving shows how much, we trust God.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of giving the message to our chapel service for our Child Care Center. The service was wonderful with lots of songs, and lots of bobbing heads with the kids jumped up and down with the music. Although I shaped the message for their age group, the passage I used had to do with trust. Jesus said:
“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?” (Matthew 6:26, ESV)
Sometimes, the worries of the world get into our head and they might be all we can think about. Sometimes, we might get so focused, that it’s hard to see past our problems. Some of those problems might be around money. Even if you can’t see past the problems, God can.
The birds don’t worry about things, yet God gives them the ability to get things done, to create a nest to sleep in, a place for their eggs to rest, and the means to feed them each day. Birds have needs too, and God takes care of each of them.
Worry is one of those things that may stop us from giving gifts to others. Sometimes, we don’t put enough trust in God to allow Him to take care of our problems. God knows everything we’re going through. He knows every problem, every challenge, every obstacle, and every difficulty in life. God knows it all.
Giving, often reflects just how much we trust God to take care of us. It shows that we can share our gifts and still know that He will provide for our well-being. If the birds don’t’ have to worry, neither should we. We can joyfully share the gift’s that God has blessed us with and trust Him to take care of everything we need.
Third, giving is an offering of thanks to God.
There are gifts and blessings that we can never really say thank-you enough for. Although all of us might not have been around this kind experience, this example is probably one we can all understand.
One of those gifts is an organ transplant. I read recently about a man in Scotland who donated a kidney to someone he never met, because of a card his wife received in a package she bought from eBay.
A thank you note included with the package said that “her husband was on the transplant waiting list, had lost his job and that now and then they would sell things so they could buy their kids a treat” That note touched this family, and led a man to donate one of his kidneys to save someone he never met.
On the scale of things to be grateful for… where does a kidney fall? We can live with only one kidney, but God really created us to have two. How thankful would you be if you received the life-giving gift of a kidney? How would you say thank-you? Could you ever say thank you enough?
Thinking on a life-giving gift like that, one where someone is really giving another a part of themselves, I think that God’s generosity is even more impressive than that. God loves us and has blessed us with the air we breathe, the roof over our head, and the food on our table. He even looked past all of our mistakes, all of our rebellious sins, and sent a savior to open the door to eternal life for us. Jesus died for us, so that even when we leave this earth, there’s nothing to worry about.
There’s nothing that we have that didn’t come from God. And a whole lot of blessings we’re still looking forward to receiving.
God supplies us everything that we have, and everything that we need. Generous giving is a way to take care of those around us and shower God with thanksgiving, showing Him that we truly appreciate all that He’s done for us.
Looking back at how God loves us, we can see that He’s generous in every respect for our well-being. He’s taking care of our physical needs, our spiritual needs, and most importantly our eternal needs.
All of us have the opportunity to give. It’s not a matter of wealth, but a matter of heart. Sometimes we give out of obedience because we feel it’s what God wants us to do. Sometimes we give out of guilt or shame. Other times, it might be thanksgiving and celebration that motivate us. But all times, we should be giving with joy in our hearts.
Giving trusts God, and turns our problems over to Him, rather than relying on our own understanding.
Giving shows our thankfulness for God, who has blessed us in so many ways.
Perhaps, we can find a way to share out gifts, with joy in our heart, praise in our hands, and love in our actions.