Generosity

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Philippians 4:14-17  Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.

We all love good news. However, we tend to qualify news as good or bad based on how it benefits or hurts us. I have been challenged by this passage in Philippians to consider that news about what God is doing for others should have a deeper impact on my life.

Several years ago, people from our church responded to the needs of a young couple who lost a five-month old daughter to a serious heart condition. I saw them volunteer their time and resources to provide food and service for a meal to feed 300 people following the memorial service. One couple single-handedly furnished all the meat and potato salad. Then I watched as people responded to a request to help send this couple on a healing trip to Florida to be ministered to by another family that experienced a similar loss recently. Three people came forward to donate their frequent flier miles for the plane tickets. Two people were willing to pay for up to two nights each in a hotel. Cash gifts were received to help with meals. By the time they left the entire trip was paid for.

Let’s compare our response to news items that benefit us to news items that benefit others. Which one brings more joy to our hearts?  There will be joy for both, but why do we still find more joy in what we receive than in what God is doing in the lives of others?

That’s the context of Paul’s teaching today. The fleeting happiness we feel when we receive a blessing is not worthy to be compared to the joy that God brings when we sacrificially give to others. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

True joy comes from being a part of the caring fellowship of God’s people who love one another sincerely and deeply.  James wrote about that in his epistle and said, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” The Father grants us the greatest measure of joy when we do his greatest work, which is to care for the hurting and needy people around us by sharing what we have with them.

Paul commends the people at Philippi for their generous spirits. Again and again they gave, and according to 2 Corinthians 8:1 – 5, they gave not from a position of prosperity but one of poverty. Paul says, “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.  Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”

What makes this kind of giving possible? Paul says it’s because the people had given themselves to the Lord first, and then they had given themselves to Paul’s ministry. The reason the Philippian people shared so much was because they had first determined to care so much.

It is the caring and compassionate heart of Jesus that makes sacrificial giving possible. There is a huge difference between the joy that is experienced by giving out of our surplus and the joy we experience when we make a sacrifice on behalf of another person.

That’s what Paul means in Philippians 4:17 when he says “Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.”  Paul cared more about the heart of the people than he did the size of the gift. Paul knew that true joy in receiving comes not from the gift but from the heart of the giver. The caring that results in sharing is what is credited to our heavenly account, not the actual gift.

That’s what I saw in our church – God’s people caring deeply, then sacrificially giving to meet the needs of another person.

When I called the husband of the couple to inform him of how God’s people had responded, he broke down on the phone. He couldn’t believe that from our congregation, in addition to all the money that is currently being given to fund our church’s ministries and building project, that people would give so generously. He knows that we are not rich according to the world’s standards of financial wealth, but he now knows that we are rich in our love for Jesus Christ and for our brothers and sisters in the family of God.

The value of any gift cannot compare to the value of the giver when their heart is committed to Jesus Christ and expressing His love to others. That’s what fills me with the greatest joy – to watch God’s heart come through people as they care for others.

Keep it up!

Pastor John

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