The Power of Generosity
Scripture Reading: Acts 2: 44, 45
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
Message: The Power of Generosity (#6 in Power of the Holy Spirit Series)
Ironic as this may sound, this Scripture passage was used in the past to justify the ideology of Communism
Here we read of a congregation coming together, selling their possessions and sharing it with “all men” - everyone
Is that not one of the core principles of Communism? They gave up their ownership to share with everyone…
All the believers were together and had everything in common…
Now I know this idea makes us all uncomfortable
Just to think how this might look like - everyone in the congregation selling off all their possessions and put it all into one pot to be shared among each other where it is needed
Does that make you uncomfortable? Yes, I am uncomfortable with it!
Reading about this first congregation - does this mean we should sell off all we own and share it with everyone?
I can think of so many arguments that will arise from being confronted with an idea like this…
Who will have the responsibility to manage these funds…? Is someone going to check that everyone gave all they could…? How would you be rewarded for hard work…?
And looking back on history, this first congregation ran into huge financial difficulty - impulsivity plunged them into bankruptcy
We read in Paul’s letters how he raises money for the believers in Jerusalem
I see the managing minds in our congregation being relieved that I bring up this fact that the Jerusalem congregation ran into bankruptcy
And to answer the question I left in the air just now - No! I don’t think we are required to sell everything and share it blindly with everyone!
We saw the other day how that got exploited with a yard sale for Ukrainians where people were asked to give a reasonable donation for the goods they purchased - most donated abundantly, but there was this one guy that got a lot of stuff and just donated a quarter - and on the way out he wanted to grab some more stuff….
So, what should we learn from the way the early church handled their possessions?
What is God’s message to us today?
Relationship with possessions and people
I think we cannot walk away from this passage not thinking about the connection our relationship with our possessions has with the relationships with people around us…
Moving to Canada, we had to ged rid of most of our possessions - even our house and cars
It might just be the closest thing to physically experience something of what we read about in Acts 2 - selling off what you owned…
In this time, remember it was in the early days of the pandemic when we were binging Netflix, there was a Netflix documentary film called “Minimalism” (it is not available on Netflix anymore, but you can watch it on Youtube - see link below)
There was this quote in the film that really struck me: “Love People Use Things: Because the Opposite never works, it’s about relationships. And about why our relationship with stuff gets in the way of developing meaningful relationships with people.”
That really made me think of how I have a relationship with my things and how that can even impact the relationship with people
I think we need to hear about the generosity of the first church today - so that we can reflect on our relationship with things and people
This is personal - it is between you and God - I hope you will really reflect on this when you pray
Hence the words from our Call to Worship this morning, that was taken from 2 Corinthians 9 where Paul is raising money for the congregation in Jerusalem: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
Standing before God, He sees your heart
He knows your relationship with things and with people
He will show you the way
Please don’t accuse me of delivering a “money sermon” (That’s something on which a minister is not allowed to preach, right?)
I do want us to reflect on how consumerism plays a role in our living today
In the back of our minds (subconscious) there is this thing of “what’s in it for me?” Or “what do I get for my investment?”
We pay the minster to do a job… we pay the music director… we pay the secretary… we pay the custodian…
And for all the efforts we put in as volunteers, surely there must be some kind of return on our investment?
One of the worst moments of my career as a minister was at a year-end function in the large congregation in Johannesburg, where the chairman of the board commended the staff on the good financial state of the congregation saying: “At the year, the only thing that matters is the bottom line, whether we make a profit and end up in a surplus.”
This so shocking to hear, because it surely is not what church is about!
But let’s not get into church finances too much today…
Generosity as an alternative lifestyle
Rather, let’s consider generosity as an alternative lifestyle as we reflect on the sharing that took place in the first church
Perhaps we can ask - what makes Christians different today?
I am sure there’s many things to be listed, but I am sure that our generosity should be right up there in the list of things that makes Christians different than the world we live in
Jesus says: (Matthew 6: 3, 4) “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Generosity is not complicated and it is surely not about scoring points somewhere or with someone
It is an alternative lifestyle that God is calling us to live
It is a lifestyle that acknowledges that everything we have comes from God
It is about giving up “ownership” for “stewardship”
Because we really are “stewards” over the things that God has given us
Power of Generosity
And the Power of Generosity lies in the way it impacts lives
It is where I use things and love people
It is where my right hand does not know what my left hand is doing
It is where I give, not because I feel it is my duty, but because of my love for God and my neighbour
I have felt the Power of Generosity in this place, Durham Presbyterian Church!
May we use things God has given us to touch the lives of so much more people!
That is how the Holy Spirit moves us!
YouTube link to the Netflix Documentary Film "Minimalism":
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