Growing A Culture Of Generosity – Responding to God’s Generous Grace
Small Group Intro and Discussion Points.
Week 4. 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. Give Generously
Over the last 3 weeks we’ve looked at some key ideas relating to living generously as Christians: the truth that everything belongs to God and is to be used for his purposes; the wisdom of living within our resources and being content with what we have; the value in building up ‘treasure in heaven’ and investing in eternity.
Today we close our series by looking at Pauls second letter to the Church in Corinth in which he asks them to give generously.
In The Money Revolution
John Preston introduces the topic of generosity n giving with the following words: “…our giving is in response to God’s grace. The degree to which we give (not only of money, but also of hospitality, time, care, compassion etc) reveals something about us, and about how we respond to God’s love and grace.” I’d also want to add that it may say something about how we see God and whether we do infact see him as the Lord who loves to give good gifts to his people or whether we see him as a miser who grudgingly gives only what is strictly necessary!
Q – What is your view of God? Do you see him as a generous giver who longs to bless or do you see him as a reluctant giver who does so grudgingly? Does your picture of God portray abundance or restriction?
As well as being linked to our view of God, our giving exposes our heart. Both Matthew (12:34) and Luke (6:45) report Jesus making the connection between what our heart believes and the actions we take in the famous “out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” phrase. We might just as easily say ‘out of the overflow of his heart he gives…’ – the principle is the same.
Perhaps it’s worth exploring some of the ‘heart to action’ paths, here are some examples:
“I’m worried that God’s promise to meet my needs may not be true = I give but only what I know is going spare when I’ve made provision for everything else”
“God gives so generously to me because I’m worthy of the investment = I give but only when I think the recipient is worth it”
“God gives generously but attaches all kinds of clauses to the gifts = I give but I control the use of my gifts very tightly”
“God lavishes his generous gifts on me and all that I have came from him = I will give equally generously to others”
Q – What is your heart to action path? What effect do your assumptions about God’s generosity have on your giving? Are these assumptions correct and do they mirror the wonderful reality of God?
In our passage from 2Corinthians Paul draws a direct link between our giving (of money, hospitality, time, care, compassion etc) and our effectiveness in the world. He says “whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will reap generously” - the principle is simple and clear and oft repeated – you’ll get out what you put in…
These words are challenging. Giving is by nature sacrificial and time, money, emotional energy, etc are often in short supply. We exhaust our reserves simply by doing the day-to-day things required of us and so often we do sow sparingly because, to keep the metaphor going, the seed baskets are running on empty.
If and when this is the case, perhaps we need to pause and think about where our resources come from. We know that all things come from God, that we give what is his and not ours, but we also know that we give not in our own strength but his. When Jesus was feeding the five thousand the resources at his disposal were pathetic when compared to the level of need – but we all know what happened – as he gave out so the resources multiplied until he ended up with more than he had at the start. There’s something important here for us when we think about giving, and particularly when we feel as though we’ve no more to give. As is so often the case, it is as we give that we receive. As we bless others so too we are blessed. Paul says “…God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2Cor9:8)
In a busy Church it’s tempting to think of this in terms of giving more time to church activities, joining more teams, serving on more groups etc etc. But this isn’t really the point. Many people give huge amounts of time to the Church already, and our giving shouldn’t only be focused on the church and its activities. Living generously is part of our mission to the world and is an important part of the naturally evangelistic life.
Q – Perhaps it is helpful to do a ‘giving inventory’ with time, money, compassion, hospitality etc. Where does most of the giving fall? Is it spread across things within the church and in the wider community of is it all focused on the church? Is it spread across organized giving and also spontaneous giving?
It’s easy to see giving and a life of generosity as an additional demand in an already busy and fraught life! But living generously doesn’t need to be an extra demand. Perhaps the question is not ‘what else can I do?’ perhaps the question is ‘how can a culture of generosity be established in the normal patterns of my life?’ We have to eat each day, so why not open the offer to others? We have to shop so why not add some things to the basket for someone in need?
Q – How might we establish and ever greater degree of generosity in our daily lives?
Ministry and Response:
‘God loves a cheerful giver’ says Paul.
Take some time to reflect on the answers to the questions already posed:
- What is your view of God as giver?
- How does your view of God affect your giving generously?
- What is your heart to action path?
- What does your giving inventory say about your priorities and is it balanced across needs inside the church and outside in the local community?
Now take some time to pray through these answers. Perhaps asking God to change your view of him if necessary. Maybe asking God to impress upon you the reality of his unconditional generosity. Perhaps thank God for his generosity. If necessary ask God to grow your own generosity in life as a response to his generosity to you. Ask him to guide you to areas of church and community life where the generous giving of your time, money, hospitality, compassion etc will reap a rich and generous harvest for the Kingdom of God.