The Benefits of Giving "Up" the Spiritual Food Chain
Giving Up the Spiritual Food Chain
Ro 15:25 But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. 26 For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia (ak ahhí yuh) to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. 27 It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things. 28 Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain. 29 But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. 30 Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me,
31 that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you. 33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Before Paul could come to Rome, he had one more duty he felt compelled to carry out. He needed to deliver an offering to the church in Jerusalem...to headquarters if you will. Now, where did he get such an idea? The first mention we get of such an offering comes from Acts 11.
Paul and Barnabas had been working in Antioch for about a year when they were visited by a prophet from Jerusalem named Agabus.
Ac 11:27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. (NKJV)
So the believers in Antioch based on the prophecy of Agabus (a Word from God) take up a collection and give as they are able to meet the need, (even though the need did not yet exist!) That my friends is faith! Acting on what has not yet been seen as if it has actually happened!
Itís one of the things the Holy Spirit produces in believers, the ability to act on Godís Word even though we have not yet seen.
Joh 20:29 Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
This past Thursday is the day we observe as Ascension Day. By faith we carry on here in this world believing that one day our Lord will return. We donít stand around gawking at the sky, we know He will return and it is not given to us to know when and so we by faith carry on with the Fatherís business, believing that it will come to pass.Believing that He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.
After that initial offering was brought to Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch and began their missionary journeys, but later on would go to Jerusalem again and get the blessing of the church fathers to continue to bring their message to the Gentiles. Paul talked about it in his letter to the Galatians.
Ga 2:9 and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.
So Paul gets the idea from the church in Jerusalem, but having seen the poverty, and being thankful for the spiritual benefits handed down to them from the church in Jerusalem, Paul was eager to challenge his churches to give. He was eager for these new believers to taste of Godís grace of giving. We see mention of this challenge in his first letter to the Corinthians
1Co 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. (This was not to be a one shot free will offering deal) 3 And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. 4 But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.
The first day of the week is Sunday, and the people were enjoined to do some planned giving. If they had a good week....they were to set aside a percentage of their income to help provide for the poor in Jerusalem. This was to be a cumulative thing. In fact it went on for at least one year. Only those who prospered (had a net gain) and only those who would give from a cheerful heart need apply.
The size of the offering would be determined by the prosperity of the Christians at Corinth and the cheerful generosity of their hearts! Paul then asked them to choose someone to bear the offering to Jerusalem with him, lest they think he would sail off to Las Vegas.
This is sound practice with church finances, and accountability must always be maintained. Itís one of the reason most churchís have an auditing committee, and some of you may be asked to be a member of that committee in the near future. I ask that you prayerfully consider saying yes.
Paul also takes the time to write about this offering in his second letter to the Corinthians:
2Co 8:1 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: 2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. (Their giving) 3 For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, 4 imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
What a testimony to the Corinthians! Paul tells them of the love offerings of the other churches, many of them in poverty themselves, yet they found a way to cheerfully give. They begged Paul to take the offering as a token of their eagerness to participate in this graceful act of giving and experiencing fellowship (oneness in Christ), witrh these other believers.
This willingness to give to the needs of the saints at Jerusalem was evidence of Godís grace being active in these churches. And it makes a connection in fellowship that is ....well, for the lack of a better term....sweet.
5 And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.
This giving was a sign of surrender to the Lord, and a special blessing for Paul and his workers because in a sense they were also giving themselves over to a ministry responsibility that had been laid on Paulís heart. (Hey, weíre with you on this Paul! We understand the grace of giving.)
Then Paul tells the Corinthians that he sent Titus to them to remind them not to get lazy with their weekly setting aside, lest they miss out on this grace of God. It was not a legalistic command to give, but an invitation to taste of the grace of giving! Oh that we would see the difference!
6 So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well.
7 But as you abound in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us--see that you abound in this grace also (Faith, speech, knowledge, diligence, love, all great things, but donít forget the grace of giving.
8 I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. (The other churches who had caught the giving vision and stuck with it)
And of course the One who had the ultimate vision of giving and carried it out to the end.....Jesus Christ!
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
10 And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; 11 but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have. (Where would we be if Jesus had stopped in the Garden?)
Here Paul speaks of the necessity of following through. He says ďit is to your advantageĒ to follow through! And so it is with all of Godís grace. When He gives you grace to accomplish something, it is to your advantage to follow through on it! So many times people get all excited about a cause and then they begin to let it slip.
How much grace do you think the Corinthians wouldíve tasted in this matter if they wouldíve forgotten about this weekly offering after a month or two?
In the next verses, he talks about the poor, those who cannot give! He says the amount of your gift does not matter! Itís your heart that matters. 12 For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.
13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened;
This kind of giving comes from surplus. And one of the reasons we work is to have a surplus to be able to provide for the poor. Eph 4:28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
Believe it or not, we do not work just to accumulate toys. Toys are a byproduct of Godís blessing and while they are something to be thankful for, something we are able to purchase if we have an abundance... they are not to come first. First we set aside from our abundance something to help those in need.
Itís pretty simple really. First of all give your tithe to the church. You pay God first, then pay your bills. If you do have a surplus at the end of the week....set a portion aside to either meet the needs of fellow saints, or to bless up the spiritual food chain.
14 but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack--that there may be equality.
15 As it is written, "He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack."
The idea being that as you supply those in need now, they may be able to supply your need later. That is the ďfellowship of ministering!
16 But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus.
17 For he not only accepted the exhortation, but being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord.
Titus was so pumped about this grace of giving that he volunteered to go to Corinth to pump them back up!
18 And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches,
19 and not only that, but who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to show your ready mind,
20 avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us--
21 providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
22 And we have sent with them our brother whom we have often proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, because of the great confidence which we have in you.
23 If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.
Again this speaks of the necessary accountability required for such a large gift!
24 Therefore show to them, and before the churches the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf. (Giving....the proof of love...(God so loved that He gave!) whether financially or other measures of giving of self.)
9:1 Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you;
2 for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia (ak ahhí yuh) was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority. 3 Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready; 4 lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting. 5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.
(Paul doesnít want egg on his face after bragging up these Corinthians and using them as an example to the other churches. But thatís not his primary reason for pumping them up!
6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
It seems few things are more difficult for Christians to believe than this. Yet it is an undeniable law of nature. The more you sow, the more you reap. Some say that the last thing to be converted in a Christian is their wallet....personally I would put it near the end, but I believe the last thing converted nowadays is the Christianís reproductive life.....but thatís another sermon.
Oh that we would all understand and believe this about our God! That we would learn to sow bountifully! He says:
8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
9 As it is written: "He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever."
In other words God is able multiply your seed in ways you canít even manage.
Ps 81:10 I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
Further, God loves it when you bless the poor with your finances.
Ps 41:1 Blessed is he who considers the poor; The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.
2 The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive, And he will be blessed on the earth; You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies. 3 The LORD will strengthen him on his bed of illness; You will sustain him on his sickbed.
But there are even more benefits attached to the grace of giving as we learn from the last portion of this letter to the Corinthians.
10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, (Increased righteousness and itís subsequent fruit)
11 while you are enriched in everything (enriched in everything!) for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.
(Thanksgiving comes to God through the recipients of your generosity...that in itself should be enough donít you think! Imagine someone saying thank You Lord for something you did on their behalf!) Selah
12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, 13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, 14 and by their prayer for you, (your generosity prompts prayers on your behalf....or donít you covet the prayers of others?) who long for (not just ordinary prayers, but prayers of great longing (great desire for God to hear their prayers) for you!) because of the exceeding grace of God in you.
(All because you allowed Godís grace to come through you in your giving. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (The gift of giving that He gives to His children)
Back to the Romans. Paul makes it clear that this offering was not just out of compassion for the poor, but to show gratitude to the spiritual food chain. (Verse 27) ďFor if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.Ē
We have a duty to supply our spiritual food chain. Are you as an individual getting fed by a Christian ministry. Then you should help supply their need out of your abundance. Our immediate spiritual food chain at Living Word Lutheran is the AFLC. I am so pleased that we are sending 10% of our offering to the various ministries of the AFLC, but I think we could do even more.
I know there are tremendous needs for our seminary and Bible school. I know there are needy churches in our fellowship, needy missionaries....it is not difficult to find need. What if I were to ask you to consider joyfully setting aside from your ďnetĒ each week a firstfruit portion that you would joyfully be willing to give up the spiritual food chain.
It is an investment in the future. Should the Lord tarry, we will need men trained as pastors coming from a biblically based seminary. Who knows when you will have to call another pastor here?
We need a Bible school to train our young men and women to live out their faith in this world. As these young people are fed, they come back to our churches and bless us for a lifetime! We need missionaries! We need to help the less fortunate in our fellowship.
So please, consider this method of experiencing Godís grace and fellowship of ministry to others. I wish I could come up with a clever name for this fund, but I havenít yet...Iím open to ideas.
But my proposal is that we make it an annual event. When I go off to seminary (to headquarters) for Summer Institute, Iíll take a check along and turn it over to the elders and let them distribute it to the need. in our fellowship.
Itís called giving up the spiritual food chain and when itís done with the right attitude God promises to bless it.
No need to ask prayers for my safety when I arrive as Paul had to do with the Romans. Iím sure Bob Lee and Paul Nash and the others at the AFLC will be glad to see me, and they will be happy to take our gift.
So thatís the challenge to you today. Taste of Godís grace in a way you probably have never tasted before. Give to the storehouse, the church, off the top of your income, and then give the firstfruits of your surplus (whatever you can joyfully part with) to those who supply spiritual benefits to you.
33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.