Nov. 11 - The Christian grace of giving.

The Christian grace of giving

            It is surprising what you can do without. It is also remarkable the way that little savings can mount up. That has certainly been my experience recently. Why do I say that? For most of this year Lorna has been unemployed and, as you would expect, such circumstances necessarily involve a re-evaluation of the household budget. With three sons travelling through the school-university system, there are particular and pressing demands. Those of you with kids away from home at university will appreciate that such circumstances create a fiscal black hole at the heart of family finances that would rival that of Greece!

            Yet when the crunch of unemployment came last December, it was surprising how much we found we could save, and how much we were able to divert (a meal of chicken legs is massively cheaper than chicken breasts. I have an excellent recipe for the slow cooker!) The enforced austerity brought with it a greater realisation of how difficult it can be to make ends meet at a time when prices seem to rise relentlessly. I would like to think that I have a greater sympathy with those struggling on low wages or who are dependent on State Benefits.  More than that, our own family experience has been an eye-opener as to how much can be saved from things which can be cut out without going hungry!  Do I really need to subscribe to that magazine? Sadly, ‘National Geographic’ must await better times. Do those chocolate biscuits really need to lurk in the shopping trolley? Is that car journey really necessary? Must you spend your day off travelling as far as that particular hill for a walk, or is there not something nearer to hand? That Gym membership will need to go for now (hence the loss of herculean physique). Do I really need to buy that book? Holidays will have to wait. And so on… Many of you have been there, and are perhaps still there! It is not easy.

            My life had acquired more ‘luxuries’ than I had realised. Not that I subscribe to a mean-spirited hair-shirt mentality - many of these things can be, and perhaps should be, legitimately enjoyed as gifts from God. It seems to me that a God who can create this universe in love, for the sheer joy and beauty and delight of it, is hardly likely to want us to do anything other than share his delight in it all. Yet, it is good to learn not to take things for granted. A period of austerity helps regain an appreciative outlook, and perhaps realise afresh how good God is. Lorna now has a part-time job and we did enjoy our first holiday in a year this summer - never was a camping holiday such a delight. Having forsaken such luxuries as occasional meals out, it was such a special treat to share a family meal out to celebrate Philip’s graduation. These things seem all the better following the austerity budget. God is good.

            There is a lesson to learn about gratitude to God and about not taking things for granted. It is also important that I do use what I have for the right things, especially when what I do have is much less than what I used to have!

             As a church fellowship we have suffered a difficult year financially. Our finances were good up until the summer, since when they have dipped somewhat. We appear to be heading for something approaching a 4% drop on last year’s income, which amounts to a loss of about £80 per week. If each member of our church were to increase their weekly giving by at least the price of a newspaper, this would be more than sorted. Would you do that? Would you consider diverting a little more towards the Lord’s work in Dalry Trinity? Would you be prepared to have a look at what you do with your money and find a little more for Trinity? A series of small increases, rather like our series of savings in the family, can soon mount up.

            I firmly believe that when we do the Lord’s work, then the Lord provides. However, sometimes the Lord has to invite us to rethink our priorities. That happened to us as a family and it may be happening to us as a fellowship as we think about our individual giving to the church. Some of our number have moved away and some have suffered unemployment, all of which may account for the blip in our income. It is up to the rest of us to try to make up the difference.

 

            If you read 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 you get a wonderful insight into the blessing of giving. We find that giving is central to the life of a church fellowship. The grace of giving is rooted in the grace of God, the cross of Christ and the unity of the Holy Spirit. It is wonderfully Trinitarian.  

            Christian giving starts not with our generosity, or with the needs our giving might meet, but begins with the grace of God. When Paul wrote to the churches in Corinth encouraging them to give to alleviate the desperate need of the impoverished churches of Judea, he wrote of how generous the poor Macedonian believers had been.

            We want you to know, brothers about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2)

            ‘Grace’ is another word for generosity. The generosity of the Macedonians arose out of the generosity of God. When we experience the generosity of God in our lives, we cannot but express that generosity ourselves.

           

            Christian giving is therefore inspired by the Cross of Christ, where we see the grace of God at work so clearly.

            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 by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

            Christ embraced the poverty of the Incarnation and the Cross that we might enjoy the riches of salvation. That self-giving ought to be reflected in my life, and therefore in my giving.

 

            Finally, Christian giving is also rooted in the work of the Holy Spirit. Giving is described as a gift of the Holy Spirit.

            But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also.” (2 Corinthians 8:7)

            Like many of God’s gifts, this is bestowed on all believers in some measure, and perhaps on some in a special measure. Just as we all ought to exercise a degree of pastoral care, but only some are called to be pastors. We are all called to give, although some may have significant resources with which they have been especially entrusted. The point is that the Spirit calls us all to ‘excel in this act of grace’.

            Let’s excel together, shall we?

            Martin Thomson

           

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