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Explanation of the four parts:
- Giving In is how we share and contribute to the body of Christ. We give in, meaning that we share what we have internally to the community of believers. Understanding what it means to truly have all things in common.
- Giving Out is how we share with those outside the body of Christ. We give out meaning that we share what we have with the outsider, the alien and the stranger.
- Giving Up is how we share all that we have with God. We give up meaning that we perceive all giving as sharing what God has already shared with us.
- Giving Away is how we share something that is not ours to control, to sell, or to hoard the gospel of Christ.
Lets be visionary. What will heavens economy look like? What will finances look like in the world to come? We probably do not tend to think of those very common categories of life in the world that is to come. And yet, Jesus teaches us very plainly to store up treasures in heaven. Notice that he is using the language of economy and finances to describe the world that is to come.
I think it is safe to assume that finances and economy are going to be radically different in the new heaven and earth. This radical change ought to cause us to take another look at how we view economy and finances in the now.
Do we have any clue as to what it will be like? Gods people (Israel and the Church) have always been a community that is living like heaven is here and now. In Acts 2:42-47 the church is described in this way ...
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
This is a glimpse of what it will be like in the new heaven and new earth. This is very much beyond any statement on economic policies (i.e., communism vs capitalism). This is the outgrowth of life in the Holy Spirit. This is the future kingdom of God seeping in present.
What is the economics of the kingdom of God? To put it another way, what happens to stuff in the kingdom of God? Well it is all about fellowship. There is radical sharing, feasting, celebrating. Theres no buying, selling, loaning and saving. Is that possible? Well it was then and I would say that we have seen glimpses of this over the ages. In fact the only things that hinder us from being radical about giving in is the brokenness, sinfulness, and unredeemed nature of the world. For instance, we might think, well its fine to share with one another but what about those who would take advantage of that? Thats a problem now (but the one who would take advantage of generosity doesnt have the Spirit of God). We can still, even now, experience what is to come even if everything isnt perfect.
How shall we practice using our stuff and spending our money for the future of Gods kingdom?
When inclination and intention combine and we grow in our practice of Giving In, can you imagine what we might be able to do? The good news is that we have the funds and resources to do anything we might imagine. The bad news is that it is in your wallet. Now lets try and change that bad news to good news and start practicing the economics of the age to come ...
- Lets put aside notions of doing good deeds and investing in God so that we get a good spot in heaven. We dont buy our way into the kingdom of heaven. Our place in Gods Kingdom has been purchased by another. And it came with a bonus gift! The Holy Spirit! So lets put this spirit into practice.
- Giving In means having the Inclination to give. In Acts 2, the believers were filled with awe. They had glad and sincere hearts. No one had to tell them to give, they just did. They understood how Christ changed everything, including their economy.
- Too often say that one of the things that effects our ability to give is the economy. Whos economy? We encourage one another to be different morally, why not economically? Whos economy are we invested in? Notice that in Acts that they do not pull their money out of the banks and run off to live in caves. But they do participate in earthly economy with a vision beyond Dow Jones. Why cant we? Lets try and develop the inclination to Give In by paying attention to our economy as it relates to Gods Economy.
- Notice that in Acts 2 all this Giving In results in God adding to the church those who were being saved. Do we really believe that God controls the borders of his kingdom? God is entrusting those who seek him to churches that have learned how to Give In and share. Imagine a soul seeking God. When this soul finds God and has a relationship with Christ and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, God will add him or her to a fellowship of believers. God can add him or her to any group of his people that he chooses. God set up the appointment between Peter and Cornelius. It did not have to be Peter. God had his reasons that it was. Lets be the community that God trusts by developing the inclination to Give In.
- Giving In means being Intentional about giving. The Inclination is not enough. It has to become action. Practicing means doing.
- The tithe is the way to get intentional about this. Texts like Numbers 18 and Deuteronomy 14 spell out intentional ways of giving. It would be a mistake to read these texts legalistically. Tithe simply means tenth. To think of it as a maximum or minimum is to miss the point. It is a means of being intentional about the way we give. Lets more attention to what was done with it.
- The use of the tithes in Numbers 18 and Deuteronomy 14 were for three things: Supporting the Levites and the worship is Israel, fellowship feasting and worship, and caring for the poor.
- Notice that most of these functions are Giving In. They are supporting the development of their culture and sharing with one another. The description may not be as visionary as Acts 2, but it is still a glimpse of how we use our stuff for kingdom purposes.
- West-Ark has made some intentional decisions about the ways we give in. We all benefit from that. I was noticing how my family and I were blessed by that just this weekend ...
- How do you use your stuff? Do you plan your spending? Are you intentional?
- Some of us can look over our spending and spend less on self so that we can give more. Lets have the inclination and get intentional.
- Some of us cannot give more because we in debt or other financial stress. How would you like to get out of debts economy? Do you have the inclination to give? Then get intentional. Lets encourage one another in that. Lets build the sort of momentum that allows us to give in.
- Some of us just cannot give more at all and may have to give less. But do you have the inclination to give? Then what can you be intentional about giving? I have heard that the poorest in a certain African church would put their hand in the offering tray. This was there way of giving themselves. The Levites had no inheritance, but they gave God their service for the sake of Gods people.
Lets show the world what the kingdom of God looks like.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 31 May 2009
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