Archives for posts with tag: generosity

Last week we started a new series at Grace titled “Taking Inventory.” This Sunday we will continue it by looking at how Paul dealt with a group of people who needed to strengthen their grip on generosity.

Those who are close to me know that I have never been into the whole New Year’s resolutions thing. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, just that I have never been a practitioner. The grind for me has to be daily, purposeful, 24 hours at a time, one building block after another.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, let me say that I am also a big planner and like the rest of you I get frustrated when a goal goes unrealized or the grind grinds endlessly.

In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul dealt with a group of people who started a project with a bang but were on the verge of ending it with a big yawn. The project had to do with the noble task of collecting offerings for the saints in Jerusalem who for various reasons had been impoverished within a few years after the birth of the Church.

Paul made an impassioned plea for the Gentile believers to step up to the plate and help alleviate the abject needs of God’s people in Jerusalem. The church in Corinth immediately jumped onto the band wagon, but now it’s been a year, they were immersed in never ending controversies, and the project was languishing. So what do you do when the people lose the early enthusiasm for generosity in the work of God?

First, you don’t dictate. Paul is so skillful in saying he is not commanding the people to give, even if he is strongly encouraging them to do so. Generosity cannot be ordered. If it’s not voluntary, it’s not acceptable by God.

Secondly, you give perspective. Paul said he used the example of the Corinthians’ early enthusiasm to encourage other Gentile Christians to do the same and now that those other Gentiles had excelled in their gift, he was concerned that if the Corinthians didn’t finish their project, he (and especially they) would be terribly ashamed of the situation.

Thirdly, you draw the big picture. In other words, you go to the bottom line, the first cause, the raison d’être. And so we have it: “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 through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9.

I can’t read these words without crying. Generosity is rooted in, motivated by, and delivered through the incarnation of Christ, His death on the cross and the resurrection that took place on the third day. God’s divestiture of His Son is the only reason I need to lavish generosity on others. I can’t even be saved if I don’t get the impact of this amazing truth.

So make this the year of generosity and finish the work of grace which God has already started in you by focusing more on others than on yourself in 2017.

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

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Sermon Graphic iWallet Long-2America’s obsession with making money is embedded in the very language we speak. In social settings (not social media, real social gathering) people who meet for the first time even in casual conversations with total strangers are not afraid to ask, “What do you do for a living?”

Talk about a question that cannot be answered with just a couple of words like, “I am a school teacher.” “Living,” after all, is a lot more than “doing” something. Living is sitting mindlessly in the woods listening to wildlife pass. Living is listening to people. Living is making sure you take your blood pressure medicine. Living is drying your kid’s tears after a tough loss in a soccer game. Living is arguing with your spouse about where to go to dinner. Living is reading your favorite blog. Living is obviously unquantifiable and “un-dollar-signed.”

By using “making a living” to mean only “make money,” we have cheated these words from their full and potentially rich meaning. And the reason I say that, first of all, is that I don’t really “make a living” – the living makes me. I am defined by the wealth of my relationships and not by the wealth that I leave behind. Obviously, this is not the same as saying we shouldn’t aspire to do better in life, but this is a subject for another day. The Bible is clear that one must work hard to provide for his family.

The other reason for this assault on the meaning of these words is that if we the want to be defined by what we “do” or “make,” which essentially means that we are creative beings (not in the sense of creativity only but in the general sense of productivity), then why restrict such a variegated sort of activity to the one area of our lives in which we have little or no control? My money is here today, gone tomorrow. Wealth generation and management assume that others will have a huge say on my “worth;” and if not others, circumstances will.

The story of the rich fool told by Jesus in Luke 12 illustrates this last point. The main character in the story had a huge problem. Most people think that the problem was that his fields produced too many crops and he was not prepared to store it all. Wrong. That was only part of the problem. In fact, if that were the sole reason for his troubles, it would be an easy fix. Consider:

He could have harvested the crops and quickly sold it to other producers who collectively would have room to store all the grain.

He could have donated a significant portion of his harvest to his workers who would in turn become more productive since they wouldn’t have to be overly preoccupied with the business of survival.

He could have sold the excess to the provincial government to ensure that people would have enough to eat in the winter time.

Finally, he could have simply made an outright donation of a good portion of his surplus to the poor, orphans, widows and aliens living in his town.

But no. This man’s problem was that he wanted all the toys for himself. So putting himself first, he decided to tear down his existing barns and build bigger ones to hoard all his surplus for future malefic use. This guy would probably be a great candidate for a typical Wall Street investor today.

By doing this he would accomplish two things: a) he could ration the availability of the product and thus drive prices up at will. (The man was not stupid. He knew that in a time of shortage food is king); b) when his barns were built and full, they would become his insurance. This was, essentially, his 401K.

Remember Emperor Kuzco from the Emperor’s New Groove? All he cared about was that he had a great time – forget the misery of others. So if somebody asked this fool what he did for a living, he might as well have said, “I am the guy who decides if you live or die next winter.”

But at least in this story, the Great Equalizer shows up in time to save the day. While the man is busy self-congratulating: “Self. You’ve got it made. You’ve shielded yourself from financial trouble for years to come. Get that bucket list out and let’s have myself some fun!” Barely were the words out of his mouth when he heard a voice, “Shut up, you fool. You’ll drop dead tonight. How about them wills?”

And not surprisingly, Jesus concludes with a stern warning that applies to all of us. Here is Ivanildo’s Unauthorized Version: “Obsession with ‘making a living’ will cause you to leave the Maker behind. Turn around and change or you might be the next fool to drop.”

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (Luke 16:20-21 NLT).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

My mother has always been a model of strength for me. And I don’t mean only physical strength which by itself would be an amazing feat. She took care of nine children, most of the time without the modern “luxuries” of refrigerators, wash machines, dishwashers, etc. One of my early memories of my mom is seeing her outside in the backyard boiling our clothes in a big “cauldron,” while turning them with a wooden stick. But all that strength was puny compared to her strength of character.

Being around my mom doomed me, for the good. Seeing her share her meager resources with total strangers gave me a bias for the poor. Observing how she always told the truth even when it was not convenient made me a prisoner of truth-telling. And her honesty while handling finances forever freed me from the thought that I could possibly get ahead by taking some unlawful detour. My mother pretty much ensured that I would be poor for the rest of my life. Her detachment from the love of money made me a giver not a keeper. My mother doomed me and I am so thankful for that!

Our study this weekend will feature the story of a man whose life was also “doomed” when he came face-to-face with Jesus. Zacchaeus was a very short man but he grew in stature the moment he saw Jesus. Not physical but moral stature. Jesus took a short walk to Zacchaeus’ home where he was going to have dinner and at the end of that walk the unscrupulous, odious tax collector was talking about the poor in a way he had never talked about them ever before.

Isn’t it fascinating to think that in such a short period of time the subject that surfaced right away was the plight of the poor? Do you think Jesus felt passionate about that issue? Of course, personal integrity surfaced as well. Zacchaeus decided to pay back four times the people he had defrauded. In my mind I imagine Zacchaeus asking Jesus, after Jesus talked to him about repentance and the hope of eternal life. “Lord, what should I should do?”

Jesus could have answered that question in more vague terms. “Walk righteously.” “Make your life count from now on.” Whatever. But instead, Jesus was practical and precise. He touched upon the only area of Zacchaeus’ life where he didn’t feel “short.” Zacchaeus was not short on cash. Luke calls him “very rich,” but the more appropriate expression should be “filthy rich.” So I imagine Jesus may have told him something like, “You know, ‘Z’, part of the money you have in the bank is not even legitimately yours, since you got it at the expense of the common man on the street.”

That’s all Jesus needed to say. Zacchaeus got the message and he didn’t even need to call his wife and children to tell them of the major downsizing that was about to happen in their lives. He got up in the middle of dinner and made an announcement that would be the nightmare of any financial planner anywhere: “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” (Luke 19:8).

Like I said, Jesus “doomed” Zacchaeus somewhat like my mom “doomed” me. When Jesus came to dinner, Zacchaeus understood clearly for the first time the necessity of making restitution. And for the first time in his life he got connected with Kingdom priorities. Zacchaeus would never be the same again. In fact, some traditions place him as the Bishop of Caesarea later on. In other words, a dignified, but otherwise poor man.

So, I am just wondering, if you are a follower of Christ, in what ways has He “doomed” you?

What arch principles of righteous living have invaded your soul since you gave your life to Jesus?

Have you ever done anything for the sake of Christ that your friends thought was “outrageous” or even “crazy”?

Do you need to make restitution in words or deeds?

How do you feel about people like Zacchaeus, who appear to be outside of God’s grasp?

And finally, what have you done to comfort the poor?

I hope you will take these questions to heart and not rest until you feel like you have been “doomed” enough.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade