For this last two Sundays I have been preaching on generosity. It is a hugely important topic & one which requires a response as we reflect on how generous of spirit we are? God is incredibly generous to us in Christ. He calls us to live with open hearts & open hands which frees us from the grip of Consumerism, Materialism & other possession & finance related lifestyles; allowing these to space in our lives can lead to spiritual & financial bondage. The earth is the Lord’s & its fullness. He is the source of everything & calls us to live as good Stewards of all He has given us. Being generous is a spiritual weapon which helps lead us into a new place of spiritual fire & fervour. I will begin this week with nine New Testament words related to giving.
1. ‘Now after many years I came to bring alms & offerings to my nation’ (Acts 24:17). ‘Offerings’ is prosphora which is used for an offering which contains an element of sacrifice. It is the giving to God or to a person in need of something which requires an element of personal sacrifice by the one giving. Indeed, in Jewish thought, to give to a person in need was considered a sacrifice offered to God based on Proverbs 19:17, ‘if you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord – & He will repay you!’
2. The word for ‘alms’ in Acts 24:17 is eleemosune. This was an offering to help the poor. It also was seen as an act which brought righteousness & God’s favour to the giver.
3. ‘So two good things will result from this ministry of giving – the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, & they will joyfully express their thanks to God’ (2 Corinthians 9:12). The word for ‘ministry of giving’ is leitorgia. This was a noble word in Greek society describing someone who voluntarily paid the expense of another or of the State. Thus in Paul’s use, it denotes a voluntary offering given to the household of God & to be received as an offering which it was a privilege to receive. Leitorgia describes the weekly tithes & offerings made to the church.
4. ‘So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly’ (2 Corinthians 9:5). ‘Gift’ here is eulogia – a generous gift. It is not a gift given because someone feels pressured to do so or in spite of what they really feel. It is a gift given from a generous & loving heart – it is done with pure motives from an open heart & open, generous hands.
5. ‘We are travelling together to guard against any criticism for the way we are handling this generous gift’ (2 Corinthians 8:20). Hadrotes is the word which means a number of gifts pooled together to make this abundant, lavish or generous gift. This is the cumulative offerings brought together into one pot demonstrating the church member’s generosity over a period of time.
6. ‘They begged us again & again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem’ (2Corinthians 8:4). Gift here is diakonia, the same word for a church ‘deacon’ or a ‘servant.’ Here it means practical serving of others – this is giving which is practical in its origin for a practical purpose such as supporting ministers or the day by day running of the church & its ministries.
7. Also in the same verse, ‘sharing in’ is koinonia which is the word for ‘fellowship.’ A willing, loving participation offering oneself or what one has to the service of the church & those in need often done through financial offerings; literally, ‘our delight is in giving to our brethren in Christ.’
8. ‘On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there & then try to collect it all at once.’ ‘Collect’ is logia – an offering which is the opposite of a tax. Paul was concerned that if the collections were taken when he was there then these may have been seen as actually for his own private use. He wanted the church to take up freely weekly offerings as non-legalistic
forms of giving, & these to be seen as above reproach & for the benefit stipulated when the offering was taken up. This was a collection – not a tax imposed on the believers.
9. ‘When I come, I will write letters of recommendation for the messengers you choose to deliver your gift to Jerusalem’ (1 Corinthians 16:3). Gift here is the wonderful charis – the word we render as ‘grace.’ It was a free gift, freely given from a loving heart. He did not compel them to give – God was at work in their hearts motivating them to give. As we reflect on these nine words, may God open our hearts & minds to His word, & enable us to live with a more generous attitude than we presently have. In Jesus’ name. Amen