Archives for posts with tag: helping the poor

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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There is a well-known proverb in Brazil that goes like this: “When you give to the poor it is the same as if you were making a loan to God.” All of us have been the recipient of generous and unpredictable gifts but the most memorable ones are always the ones we least expect. As a young pastor in Brazil I was the recipient of one such gift.

It happened at a time of tremendous duress in the life of my family. And it came from one who was among the poorest of the poor. An older pastor who lived in another town; one I had paid an unexpected visit to months before. A visit that would stay with me forever because I walked into his humble home only to catch a glimpse of his wife in the kitchen trying to warm the baby formula by burning newspapers under a small pot. They had no money to replenish their cooking gas tank and I was able to help him at his time of need.

But now it was my turn to suffer. The country’s finances were in shambles, inflation was at 3,000% and we lost all our support from the churches. My water was cut off and soon my electricity would be too if I didn’t pay.

One early morning the bell rang. I went to the gate and saw a little man carrying a big, beaten up case. It was that same pastor, who had gotten on a bus and traveled two hours to my city. He said, “Brother, I have heard of your troubles. I don’t have any money, but I want you to have this.” He handed me the case – it was his guitar, the only one he owned, the one used to lead worship at his church. He wanted me to sell it and use the money to pay my water bill.

I had tears rolling down my face and even though I didn’t keep the guitar, as I looked at the sincere and genuine face of that dear man, I learned that day about how the joy of giving was so much sweeter than the joy of receiving. Jesus said it this way: “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”

This week, as I thought of the implications of the death of Christ, I remembered that story again and my mind went back to the words of John 3:16. God gave us the greatest gift anyone could give – His own Son. We who receive forgiveness and a chance to live with God forever in heaven have no adequate metrical instruments to assess the size and value of this indescribable gift.

We should be elated, exhilarated, insanely infected with joy every awaken moment of our lives. But if there was a way for us to peek into heaven, we might very well catch a glimpse of God dancing with the stars, hardly containing Himself with divine laughter every time a person comes to the knowledge of His Son. Why? Because while we are the ones who receive, He is the one who gives. And the giver always gets the better deal out of the exchange. So this Easter season, let’s loan a lot to God by helping the poor and needy around us. All for His glory.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade