This week, I’m publishing a series about the kind of “exercise” that helps churches remain (become) healthy. (If you haven’t read it yet, here’s the “introduction” post.) This series goes along with my series from last week called “A Healthy Diet for the Church.”
There are many different types of exercise which go above and beyond the normal things necessary for existence. This series focuses on three such exercises: 1) trusting, 2) giving, and 3) proclaiming. In this post, I investigate how the exercise of giving is necessary for a church to remain (become) healthy.
To begin with, I need to specify that I’m talking specifically about giving to those who cannot give back. I’m not talking about giving that primarily helps ourselves or giving to friends/family who will repay what we give.
Also, when I say “giving,” I’m not just talking about giving money. In fact, at times, giving money may be the least helpful type of giving. I’m talking about giving any kind of resource, time, energy, talent… any kind of “gift” that will benefit others – not ourselves – and particular benefit others who cannot repay the gift.
Jesus talked about this kind of giving often. Here’s one example:
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14 ESV)
The same idea is found in this passage, but within a broader context of showing love, where Jesus says:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:43-47 ESV)
This is the kind of giving that stretches us toward maturity in Jesus Christ. It is giving that, as Jesus says in that last passage, is motivated by love, which always focuses on others and never on the self. It is giving/love that is willing to do without for the sake of others.
This kind of giving would urge Barnabas (among others) to sell property and give all of the proceeds to those who were in need. (Acts 4:32-37) A counterfeit of this kind of giving will give a little (though not all) but pretend it is giving much, much more. (Acts 5:1-11) Counterfeit giving may be based on pride, selfishness, fear, conceit, religion/duty, etc. The kind of giving that is based in love finds its real source in trusting God completely.
What would you like to add to my discussion of giving as exercise for a healthy church?