The Benevolent Church
Two weeks ago we prayed together over Don Angel as our leader for benevolent giving to those who need the help of the church. We want to become a benevolent church, a body of people known for their love and generosity to our neighbors and to our world. We began this new phase of ministry with a grand outdoor concert where we raised over $2,800 for the Reaching Out Homeless Shelter.
Today I’d like to talk to you about what it means to be a benevolent church…, a giving church, a church with its eyes on the real needs of those around us. The Word of God has much to say about this and so I’d like to talk to you today about the Biblical principles of giving to others. Let’s start by talking about why.
Why #1 - We are generous because GOD IS GENEROUS.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son…” John 3:16a
We often talk about how much God loves, but we must always remember that God gave! God’s giving matches His loving! God gave everything He had… “his one and only” so that we might have the one thing we needed most and the one thing we could not provide for ourselves. Each week we celebrate communion in which we remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us, but we should always remember that it was God the Father Who gave up His Son! Children imitate their parents. If God the Father is really our Heavenly Father, then we will also want to be generous just like He is.
Why #2 - We are generous because GIVING PLEASES GOD.
“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13:16
Not only is God generous, but He loves it when we are generous too. We don’t have to imagine much here because even earthly fathers are proud and happy when their children imitate their own best qualities. That’s my boy there! That’s my daughter! I’ve raised them right! They are generous with others just like I’ve been generous with them. We might even go so far as to say that Royal blood flows through our veins - and this is not the royalty of arrogance or presumption, but rather the royalty of love and generosity! We love to give because it pleases God.
Why #3 - We are generous because GIVING IS PROOF.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” Galatians 5:22
Not only is God generous and is therefore pleased by our own generosity, we become more generous in all our attitudes and actions when God the Holy Spirit lives inside us. We call this the fruit of the Spirit, the evidence that the Spirit lives within us. All who are Christ-followers have God’s Holy Spirit within them. Since God is a vital part of who we are, we demonstrate the attributes of God to all who are around us. We will be more loving, more kind, more good, more generous. Generosity is the simple outpouring of all of these attributes. Generosity is love in action. We know we are changed… we know we are children of God… when we begin demonstrating His generosity, which is so much more than what we have ever shown before.
We should not treat this idea of “giving is proof” lightly. One of the most haunting statements in the Bible is the one that talks about the end times when we come face-to-face with Jesus the King:
“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:40
Our giving spirit is not only proof to us, but in the end is the evidence that Jesus also knows us personally. As we have done good to those who are Christ-followers - even the least ones… even the poorest ones… even the ones who we may not be sure are even Christian… Jesus says that He takes it very personally. What we have given to these we have also given to Him! He knows us because of our generosity to those He loves so much.
Why #4 - We are generous because GIVING RECIPROCATES.
“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38
On the surface this sounds selfish: we give so that we might receive. But that’s not it at all. This is simply the rules of the universe that God has created. Those who give away discover they still have more than they ever dreamed. Those who give away are trusted with more to give away. God gives to those who He can trust to be generous with what they have been given. No one is more generous than God. It is not possible to out-give God! The more we give away, the more He entrusts to us to give away. Don’t you love the descriptive words Jesus uses. “Good measure. Pressed down. Shaken together. Running over!”
We have lots of good reasons to be generous - to give what we can give. But how should we go about it? Are there Biblical principles for our generosity? Are there priorities we should prioritize in our giving. Yes!
How #1 - We give to THE CHURCH.
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
These are Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church as they prepared to give a generous offering to the Jerusalem church. Today’s sermon is not meant to be a talk about tithing or to give you any guilt at all about the amount you give to the church. In fact the passage I’ve chosen here is just exactly the opposite of giving out of guilt. Giving to the church is an act of worship. It is our means of showing God how much we love Him and how much we want to please Him. We are told here that God loves a CHEERFUL giver. The description here is not one of emotional pull, but rather of rational push. The giver DECIDES. Ahead of time. The description of attitude? Not reluctantly. Not under compulsion. In other words, our giving to the church is a “want-to”, not a “have-to”. If we do it because we have to, then we have missed the whole point.
We place this as How #1 because this is the strategy that God chooses to take care of his own. In this passage, the church at Corinth is raising funds to give to the church at Jerusalem. The church, the body of Christ, can do so much more together than any one of us can do apart.
We have seen this ourselves, haven’t we? If we had simply said to each one during the concert, give to the Homeless Shelter, I’m sure that we would have raised some money for their benefit. But it was doing it together, as a church, in the name of Jesus Christ, sacrificially, corporately, that we were able to give such a large gift.
For the rest of the how-to’s, I’ll address both how we give as a church as well as how you give personally - always as a Christian in the name of Jesus!
How #2 - We give to THOSE WHO CAN’T PROVIDE THEMSELVES.
“Honor widows who are truly widows.” 1 Timothy 5:3
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in distress.” James 1:27
Widows and orphans are given a high priority throughout all of Scripture - in both the Old and New Testaments. To fully understand the underlying principal here, we must also understand the economy of the ancient world. Only adult men could own property. Women and children found their economic security through a husband and a father. If a married woman lost her husband, she lost her economic source of living If a child lost his / her father, they lost their economic source of living. Some ancient cultures were ruthless about this and killed women and children so as not to burden society with the need to care for them.
God says this is NOT how His Kingdom will be managed. God’s Kingdom is known for mercy and not for efficiency. In God’s Kingdom, if a woman or a child cannot care for himself/herself, the church steps in and provides this care to those who cannot care for themselves.
The English word widow describes a woman whose husband is dead. The Greek word chēra (“widow”) includes that meaning, but is not limited to it. It is an adjective used as a noun, and means “bereft,” “robbed,” “having suffered loss,” or “left alone.” The word does not speak of how a woman was left alone, it merely describes the situation. It is broad enough to encompass those who lost their husbands through death, desertion, divorce, or imprisonment.
How #3 - We give to FAMILY NEEDS FIRST.
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8
The Bible prioritizes family taking care of family over church taking care of family. There were people within the church who wanted to make a donation to the church but not take care of their own widows and orphans. Or there would be men who would divorce a wife or send his children away, but still want to be known as a man of God accepted within the body of Christ. There is no place for such duplicity within the church.
How #4 - We DON’T give to THOSE WHO REFUSE TO WORK.
“If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat.” 2 Thess. 3:10
Paul was quite clear about this instruction to the early church. We give to support those who cannot support themselves. “Cannot” is not the same as “will not.” The Bible tells us that if someone is unwilling to work, then let him starve! Seems extreme, but crystal clear. The reasoning is clear - if we give to someone who really doesn’t need it, then we are taking away those same resources from the one who does. This even applied to widows. The early church was to only give to those widows who physically could not work themselves. Younger widows were expected to work.
One of the things I have so admired about Don Angel and his leadership here is his willingness to apply this last how-to. Don tells me its fascinating to watch those who ask for help scatter away when asked to do something to earn the help they ask for. On the other hand, we have been so encouraged by those who truly do want to work and are willing to help out where they can.
Conclusion - We now begin a new journey of ministry here at Church Requel. A journey that is built upon the generous offerings and giving of those who make up our church. As a church we also want to be known for our generosity - helping out other ministries who are providing for those in serious need. We have been placed in this strategic location in the midst of downtown Mansfield. As we sang and praised God in our concert we were surrounded by the sirens of great need in our city. It was as if God saying to us: “You are here as my church, as my representative, as a small island of My kingdom in the midst of an evil world.”
What about you? Will you join us on this journey? There are two distinct ways you can respond to God’s calling to us as a church.
The first is to continue your generous ways. As your pastor, I thank you. I applaud you. I cheer you on for the way you have provided for this church. And I promise you that our goal is to continue to provide for those around us in a way that would please God.
The second way you can respond is to join Don Angel in his efforts to give assistance to those around us. Don cannot do it alone. He needs a team… a Benevolence Team! Would you like to be a member?