Friday, November 6, 2015

This Week's Reflection: Giving in Faith, Hope and Love

This week’s lectionary readings: 1 Kings 17:8-16; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44.

This week’s reading focuses on the faith of two widows: the widow of Zarephath in the OT and the widow at the Temple in the NT. Both of them were poor and both of them gave everything they had to live on. In the case of the widow of Zarephath, we were told that her jar and jug never ran out after she did that. While we were not told what happened to the widow at the Temple, we can be quite certain that God would not have left her destitute. Those who dare to obey God in faith will be rewarded: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). 

The other two passages Psalm 146 and Hebrews 9:24-28 give us the theological reasons why we should give. Psalm 146 tells us that God takes care of those who dare to trust in Him and Hebrews 9:24-28 gives us the ultimate example of giving by Christ. He gave sacrificially by offering himself as the ultimate gift: “he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb 9:26). In fact, John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” Giving is the ultimate expression of our faith and love. If we love God, we give to him and his kingdom work, just as He gave himself to us to save us. 

Some Christians don’t like preachers to talk about giving. To them giving is about money. But really, giving is about faith and love—and I may even add, hope. Our giving is the ultimate expression of our love for God and His work to seek and save the lost. 

It is faith because there is a promise attached to giving: “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6:38). 

It is love because agape-love is about giving, not getting. Those who go to church to get but give only symbolically rather than sacrificially do not really understand the true nature of agape-love. 

And finally, it is about hope, because giving is like sowing seeds—like farmers, we sow in hope of reaping: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:6-7). 

We can’t give cheerfully if we think of giving up our seeds as an expense rather than an investment in hope of return. The farmer sows his seeds by giving them away. But he doesn’t just give away the seeds without hope; he does it cheerfully during the sowing seasons because he knows that months later, the law of harvest will kick in—and he will reap a harvest on his investment in seeds.

Many churches find giving as a sermon topic a sensitive subject. Most preachers avoid it for fear of being seen as money-minded or preaching the "prosperity gospel". But preaching giving should be no more sensitive than preaching faith, hope and love in which the congregation will say amen. It's observed that congregation will say loud "amens" to the preacher so long as he preaches about faith, hope and love. But the moment he talks about giving (money), the congregation will become strangely quiet--and uncomfortable. 

But it should not be so: Pastors preach giving not to stress but to bless the people of God.

Father, forgive us for our stinginess and failure to love as You have loved us. Amen.

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