Good giving begins with good theology. In other words, what we give, how we give, and who we give to is directly connected with our understanding of God. It is essential, therefore, to understand who God has revealed Himself to be, specifically, through how he gave to us.
In the first sermon in our GIVE series, we saw that God gave generously. God does not measure out his giving like some kind of greedy spinster. He holds back nothing. He did not give 10% of his time, service, or his love; He poured out 100% of everything of all He had–He gave 100% of Himself to us. Generous giving is sacrificial giving. And if Jesus gives us the picture of what sacrificial giving looks like most clearly, we know that sacrificial giving “hurts”. It hurts our popularity, it hurts our comfort, it hurts our lifestyle in that it is only possible when we make sacrifices.
In our second sermon, we say that God gave intentionally. God does not give aimlessly, carelessly, or thoughtlessly. God is a planner. As Pastor Chris said, “God, not the devil, is in the details.” God is specific. God is ordered. God is detail-oriented to the infinite degree. God plans. And, as image-bearers of God, we also need to plan to steward all that God has given us wisely. Just as we don’t want to waste a minute of the time God has graced us with, we don’t want to waste a dollar.
Let us not forget that, good giving begins with GOOD THEOLOGY. And while good theology will lead us to a “good” plan; I might argue that our plan may not look “good” to the world, or even feel good for us. Consider not only what our all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God planned to give, but exactly WHAT he ‘planned” to receive in doing so. An obscure, but powerful, verse about God’s plan is found in Acts chapter 4. Peter and John had been arrested and called to testify about Jesus before the religious leaders of the city. The boldness of these common, uneducated, spirit-filled men astounded them. Upon their release the disciples proclaimed said:
24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“ ‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (4.24-28)
Read verses 27 and 28 again. When we think about planning “like” God, our minds often wander ONLY into all of the ways we can be good stewards with all our stuff–to set ourselves up for God-glorifying success. On the surface, this is a good and right thing, but I wonder if these kinds of God-glorifying plans will always result in the kind of blessings we imagine. I don’t mean blessings in the sense of prosperity, but the more agreeable blessings that we naturally expect–“pain-free”, always appreciated, loved by the world giving. Without question, God plans to give intentionally. But in doing so, have you ever considered that the things God planned for are the very things that we actually plan to avoid. Before time began, our all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving Creator planned for the redemption of man. God planned to have less, so that others could have more. God planned to be made low. God planned to have to be misunderstood. God planned to be rejected. God planned to be disappointed. God planned to be used. God planned to be taken advantage of. God planned to be humiliated. God planned to be hurt. God planned to suffer God planned to According to all earthly measures, God planned to “LOSE” …all as a part of His plan to give.
I don’t know what all of this means, I am still processing it myself. I do know that most of my plans, even those in the name of “stewardship”, are designed for my MORE and not my LESS, regardless of how “sacrificial” they might be. It is difficult to imagine HOW exactly I am supposed to plan for my giving lead to my suffering. Perhaps the key is simply to stop making plans to avoid it; or maybe to plan with a completely different motivation all together and see what happens.
Next week, we will talk about WHY God would give this way…and why we don’t.