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II Cor. 9:15 gives us one of the richest statements in scripture; “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” Christmas is all about the greatest gift ever given. The word indescribable literally means too wonderful for words. The words in this verse are the concluding comments of chapters eight and nine. They tell the story of the generosity of a people who display their appreciation through their generosity. This unspeakable gift is the basis, foundation, and motivation for all Christian giving.

Your church is never more like Jesus than when you live generous lives. Every church is there is help people find and follow Jesus. Notice the “helping people!” True biblical prosperity equals generosity. When Paul was headed to Jerusalem with a love offering from the believers in Macedonia and Achaia he said they were pleased to make a contribution to the poor. They were not just willing but saw it is a blessing and privilege to help. They were thrilled to have an opportunity to be a blessing.

We need to be mindful of those who may struggle during the holidays. This time of the year is wonderful but to many it reminds them of their loneliness, their losses, and their lack of hope. They need a little extra giving of our time and attention. Their hearts are breaking and they should not have to face this season alone. We can be generous with our love, encouragement, prayers, and other expressions of kindness. They need to be reminded that they may struggle and suffer for a season but God’s purposes will prevail.

We must make sure our motives are pure in our generosity. What we do is very important but why we do it is even more important. Remember, God loves a cheerful giver who gives out of their appreciation for Him as the indescribable gift. Paul told the Corinthians that the key to their giving was their eagerness and had nothing to do with how much they had. The Gentile believers felt a debt to the Jews who had brought the gospel to them. Generosity to others comes out of His generosity to us.

Here are some things to consider, as your church desires to be a generous church.

First, make sure you are not defined by what you have but rather by what you give. People see our nice buildings and wonder if we have placed too much emphasis on what we possess rather than how we can help those who are less fortunate. There is nothing wrong with nice things but materialism can cause so much focus on what we have that we are then unable to focus on helping others. Do people see your church as a generous church?

Second, make sure you are not defined by how much you give but by your willingness to give. II Cor. 8:12 says, “…it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” The principle is not equal amount but equal willingness. God does not ask us to give what we do not have. It is not about the size of the gift but the size of your heart in doing what you can to help others. Prov. 3:27 says, “When it is in your power, don’t withhold good from the one it belongs to.”

Third, make sure you are not defined by what you do personally but by how it glorifies God. If you do it for recognition or to be noticed you already have your reward. God blesses it the most when we do not care who gets the credit. You should be more concerned about Jesus getting the credit than you or your church. We are not in a competition with other churches but rather with the devil. Praise the Lord when someone turns to Christ because the love of Christ was displayed to him or her in a practical way.

Fourth, make sure you are not defined by how you look but by how you live. If you are going to help people you will have to help them where they are and that can be very messy. They are often broken and looking for someone who cares about them. People want to know that you are real and authentic without pretense. They are not impressed by outward appearances that are not backed up by your daily practices. Matthew 6:1 says, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people to be seen by them.”

Fifth, let’s not be defined by a tight grip but by an open hand. Your church should always be eager to help and ready to respond to the needs of others. Sometimes we hold on too tightly to what has given to us. God told Abram in Gen. 12:2, “I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” You are blessed so that you will be a blessing to others. Open your hands and see what God has given your church in order that you might bless your community.

Your church may say it values lost people and wants to be a blessing to the people in your area but that must be backed up by regular practices that show you really do care. It is not just monetary but is a combination of investing your time, talents, and treasures. God is not asking you to give out of what you do not have but instead is looking to see if we are eagerly excited to be generous with what we has entrusted into our hands. Live with open hands and do not hold on too tightly!

Healthy churches are always generous churches!

Blessing Others

Lately, whenever I go into a gas station someone is always asking for some help because they are out of money and stranded. I have been approached more lately than I can ever recall and it does not matter if I am travelling in state, out of state, or close to home. I am always confused on who to help and who not to help. There have been times I have helped and other times I have refused and when I have helped it felt good but I must admit when I didn’t help I felt terrible. It makes we wonder if sometimes I use stewardship of my money as an excuse to be stingy more than a reason to be wise.

Allow me to relate one recent encounter I had and I must admit that I really didn’t want to be bothered. I noticed someone approaching the gas pump I was using. Aggravation began to swell up inside me and I was about to tell them, “Hey, get a job like the rest of us!” When I turned around to set them straight it was a young lady about 21 years of age balancing a baby on each hip. I looked at her and sternly said, “Pull your car up over there and I will put some gas in it for you!” She told me she wanted to pay me back but I told her it was a gift not a loan. When she asked me why I just told her I wanted to display the love of Christ to her in a practical way.

Recently, my wife and I were discussing our S.O.A.P. (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer) devotions in Proverbs 3. We were comparing which verses we had chosen to journal on. It is actually a lot of fun to see which verse we choose and we hardly ever choose the same verse. She had chosen Proverbs 3:27 which says, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.” Wow, that really got me and I begin to study more what God said about being generous to those less fortunate. Honestly, I am a pro when it comes to thinking of reasons why I should not help those in need.

The principle here is clear; we have been blessed so that we can bless others. It is not ours but belongs to the Lord. It is a question of stewardship. When God leads us to help someone and we do not help them then we have betrayed His trust in us. Still need some convincing? Still struggling a little with this one? Jesus exhorts us Matthew 5 to go the extra mile and in verse 42 He says, “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” The general rule that our king gives us is that it is better to give sometimes to an undeserving person, than to turn away one who really is in need.

Matthew 25:35-40 says, “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

We should make it a habit to be generous! I shared the story of the young lady needing gas at Jackson Missionary Baptist Church during a revival I recently had the privilege to preach there. On the last night of the meeting the pastor came to me with an envelope and told me that an anonymous person had given him this so I could help buy people’s gas who were in need. Later I opened it up and there was $300 all in twenties. Once again God had confirmed to me that it is better to give than receive. This evening I went to the gas station looking for someone I could bless but came up empty. Oh, well, I seem to be in gas stations a lot these days so there is always tomorrow!