Monday, November 19, 2018

Taking Stock

Recently the stock market has tanked pretty hard, losing almost all of its 2018 gains, with the outlook for 2019 fairly pessimistic. (Wait a minute, I thought this was a Bible study? It is, hold on!) Savvy investors do their research and try to place smart bets on what they think the outcome will be to maximize their return while minimizing their risk.  In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul gives us a blueprint to realize some amazing gains that are guaranteed.  But as is usual with God, it comes with a hitch…

2 Corinthians 9:7-8
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And 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.

Things to think about:
·      Let’s start with the end in mind.  What are some of the dividends we can expect if we give willingly and generously? According to our passage and the succeeding verses:
o   You will have all that you need (to quote one of my favorite pastors, “He supplies our needs, not our greeds”)
o   You will abound in every good work
o   It will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness (translation – more people will be in Heaven because you gave)
o   More praise and thanksgiving will be given to God
o   You will experience the love of others
o   You will help meet the needs of people in the here and now
o   People will pray for you
·      WOW, that’s a lot of blessing! 
o   Which of these are resonating with you right now?  What about that particular blessing is significant to you?
·      But as our text tells us, God doesn’t want us to give under compulsion or reluctantly.
o   Why do you think our attitude towards giving makes a big difference to God?
o   Can you think of a time when you gave a gift to someone that you were so excited give?  What made it so special?
§  Not that this has happened to anybody reading this but how is that different than the last minute, check the box gift?
·      Chapter 8 of 2 Corinthians sets up chapter 9.  In it, we read that the Corinthians had made an enthusiastic pledge to support Paul’s ministry to less fortunate Christians in Judea but they hadn’t quite gotten around to writing the check.
o   Paul even says that the Macedonians had heard about the Corinthians enthusiasm to give and as a result they gave lavishly even though they were of limited means.
o   Now Paul was going to be seeing the Macedonians and didn’t want to have to report that they actually hadn’t fulfilled their commitment.
·      A very interesting element in this (that may not sound very capitalistic to some ears) is that no one should have too much while others have too little.
o   2 Cor. 8:15 -  “The one who gathered plenty didn’t have more than he needed; the one who gathered little didn’t have less.”
o   This system also has a built-in insurance plan in v.14, “One day it may be the other way around, and they will need to supply your needs from what they have. That’s equality. “
·      If you are in a financially difficult season, in 2 Cor. 812-14, Paul has good news for you too, “Now if there is a willingness to help, give within your means. That’s perfectly acceptable. No one expects you to go without or borrow to give.  The objective is not to go under so others will have some relief; the objective is to use this opportunity today to supply their needs out of your abundance.
o   This was a bit of a new learning for me in that God doesn’t expect our family to do without so we can legalistically meet a church obligation. 
§  How about you, have you seen this before?  What does it tell you about God?
·      Give cheerfully and out of your ability and God has promised that your portfolio of benefits will bless others, you, and Him!
·      To go back to the beginning of our topic, when we give it prompts thanks to God from others.  Maybe that’s one of the real meanings of Thanks-Giving!

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