“Give what you decided beforehand—neither grudgingly nor because you were goaded into it.  Because ‘God loves a cheerful giver.’” (2 Corinthians 9:7, referring to Proverbs 22:8 in the Greek Old Testament)

A Call to Christian Living –

Charitable Giving

2 Corinthians 9:1-7; Matthew 25:31-46
1 Corinthians 9:7-14; 2 Kings 5:1-16; Luke 18:35-43
Ephesians 5:15-6:9
Romans 12:9-21
1 Corinthians 12:4-31
Matthew 10:1-20
Matthew 23:13-36
2 Corinthians 9:7-15

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God says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” “Jesus says, Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” One of the easiest ways for us to be like God is through our giving.

2 Corinthians 9:1-7; Matthew 25:31-46 (10/10/11)

Charitable giving is an ancient tradition among Jews and Christians.  The first mention I find (after about two seconds of looking) is in Exodus 23:11.  When Moses first received the Law from God on Mt. Sinai, God included commandments for the support of the poor through various means.  This commandment-cum-tradition of support for the less fortunate was incorporated whole cloth into the early Christian church, as shown in Acts 6. 

Paul wrote to the church at Corinth to let them know that he was coming and that some members of the Macedonian church might come with him.  The Macedonians had already given generously toward the support of their impoverished fellow-Christians in Judea, even though they themselves were not particularly wealthy.  Paul doesn’t want the Corinthians (or himself) to be embarrassed by any potential lack of funds for the mission, and Chapters 8 and 9 are devoted to encouraging them to give generously and to collect the money in advance.  So when Paul says that “God loves a cheerful giver,” he doesn’t intend to imply that the only people who should give are the ones who are cheerful about it, but rather that he fully expects the Corinthians to give money, and they should be cheerful about it.

1 Corinthians 9:7-14; 2 Kings 5:1-16; Luke 18:35-43 (9/27/11)

I spent most of the day working with two of our fellow-readers, Rob and Deanna, who are going to take a crack at preparing pages for the Bible study archive at a faster rate than I do.  I emphasized to both of them that any rate they work at will be a faster rate than mine, so I am really grateful for the gift of their time!

If you’ve ever looked at the at the bottom of these pages, you’ve seen that they say “Copyright by Regina L. Hunter.”  I told them to add a sentence that says, “ This page has been prepared for the web site by (their name).”  I said, “I believe in giving credit where credit is due.”  Rob said, “Or blame.”

Today’s passages are about giving credit where it’s due.  For the work that we do – even in the kingdom of God – we should get some credit, Paul says, and even appropriate payment.  On the other hand, if God did the work and we were only the instrument God used, God should get the credit, as we see in the passages from 2 Kings and Luke.

Ephesians 5:15-6:9 (10/11/11)

Sometimes, eyes narrowed and teeth gritted, I used to say to my kids, “Just humor me.”  Once when #2 Son was about 8 and we were discussing whether he would do some optional activity, he said, with considerable exasperation, “Will this humor you?”

Paul wants Christians to humor each other.  This section of his letter to the church at Ephesus does not start with “Wives, submit yourself to your husbands.”  It starts, “So, be careful how you live. … submit to one another out of reverence for the Messiah.”  Wives and husbands, parents and children, servants and masters, everyone should give way to each other. 

One of the gifts we should give to each other is the gift of humoring.

Romans 12:9-21 (10/12/11)

In a typical letter, Paul’s sentences are long, with many subordinate clauses, parenthetical comments, and complete changes of topic.  If you read a single chapter, normally either you won’t get the beginning or you won’t get the ending of the discussion.  He uses Greek literary forms like the diatribe, in which the writer takes on the personae of two different people and argues with himself.  He is by turns sarcastic, gentle, sorrowful, and boasting – sometimes all in the same paragraph!  Consequently, things that Paul says are frequently taken out of context and used to “prove” something that he never meant at all.

Once in a great while Paul writes well thought-out, straightforward prose.  We read one such passage today, in which he lays out a simple, beautiful explanation of how Christian love behaves.  We could choose any one verse and apply it in our daily lives with no risk that we are misunderstanding his message or taking it out of context.

1 Corinthians 12:4-31 (10/18/11)

Are you a member of AAA?  Or maybe CostCo or Sam’s Cub?  Or National Geographic Society? Or a student body?  Or a church? 

Church membership is, or at least should be, different from your other memberships.  Try getting AAA to visit you in the hospital, or Sam’s Club to bring you some meals after you get home.  Paul says that the members of each church are parts of the same body, not figuratively but literally, and that is the body of Christ.  Years ago I heard a UMC bishop preach.  He said, “Jesus of Nazareth was the incarnation of Christ before the resurrection, and the Church is the incarnation of Christ after the resurrection.”  He was probably preaching from this passage.

In Greek, the questions in vss. 29-30 expect the answer “no.”  Paul is not asking for information.  He’s asking, “Not all are apostles, are they?  No! … Not all can interpret, can they?  No!”  Every question is of this form.  Paul says your gift from God is important, because not everyone has it, do they?  No! Use it well.

Matthew 10:1-20 (10/19/11)

Back when we were kids, my dad – and I’m sure your dad, too – would stop the car to help someone with a flat tire, an empty radiator, or whatever.  The person often offered to pay my dad back for this service.  My dad always said – and I’m sure your dad did, too – that they should pay it back by helping someone else whenever they got the chance. 

“Paying it forward” has a long history.  Jesus told the disciples, “you received freely, give freely.”  Especially in our church families, we have opportunities to be helped by other members when we need help, and opportunities to pay it forward when others need help.  Freely you have received; freely give.

Matthew 23:13-36 (10/4/11)

Jesus seems to have lost his temper a bit with the Pharisees.  The Pharisees were extremely religious people, determined to fulfill every tiny bit of the Law and the strictest rabbinical traditions that had grown up around it.  They were intent on the trees. 

The verses that should especially pinch us, as daily students of the Bible and presumed devout worshippers of God, are 23 and 24.  How often we are just like the Pharisees!  We attend church every single time the doors are open, but do we invite anyone else to join us?  We tithe, but do we love mercy?  We volunteer in our home church, but do we do justice?  We worship on Sunday, but are we faithful on Monday? 

Jesus characterizes justice, mercy, and faithfulness as the “weightier matters of the law” and says this is forest that we need to concentrate on.  Then he adds, almost offhandedly, that we mustn’t neglect any of the lesser parts of the Law either.  A very high standard.  I haven’t met it yet.

2 Corinthians 9:7-15 (10/21/11)

There are several good reasons to be cheerful about giving.
More about Living the Christian Life
A Call to Christian Living
Christ-Centered Community
Charitable Giving
Christlike Compassion
Christ-Led Courage
Living So It Shows
Overcoming Sin
Sharing the Good News
Who Is Your Legacy?
Five Spiritual Disciplines
Christian Character
New Life and New Standards
Living in the World
Love One Another
Again, Love One Another
And as a Final Word, Love One Another

Copyright 2011, 2013 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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