by James A. Fowler
Paul begins in II Cor. 8:1 by writing, "We wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia." It is interesting to note that there are more usages of the word "grace" in chapters eight and nine of II Corinthians than in any other two consecutive chapters in the Bible.
Christian giving is the grace of God at work, the free-flow of God's activity consistent with His character. This is predicated on the fact that the Creator-God is the owner of all that He has created:
"Every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. ...everything that moves in the field is Mine. ...the world is Mine, and all it contains." (Psalm 50:10-12)
Since God is the owner and giver of all things, we are but trustees, managers, stewards of Another's goods. God entrusts some things to us - whatever He can trust us with. It is not "my" home, "my" car, "my" money, or even "my" child. I must avoid avoid being "possessive." I am just a trustee of God's possessions. In fact, I do not even "possess" salvation or eternal life. Christ who is "Life" (John 14:6) and is the Savior possesses me! I am just a vessel for the functionality of God, the function of the Creator within the creature.
"the silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine; declares the Lord of hosts." (Haggai 2:8)
"Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.." (James 1:17)
The God who is operative in me is a giving God. His operative givingness is called "grace." Christian giving is an expression of God's givingness expressed through His people unto His glory.
This means that Christian giving is not merit-giving. It is not something I do that so pleases God that it prompts Him to get into action. Our giving does not make merit-points with God. We cannot buy spiritual favors with God. No one can buy their way into life or into heaven or into God's good favor. No one can "pay off" their guilt of sin and self-concern with guilt payments.
God's action is only by "grace." He took the initiative of grace in giving us His Son, Jesus Christ, who in turn gave His life that we might be "bought with a price" (I Cor. 6:20). "God did not spare His own Son..., will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). As Christians we became God's purchased possession (Titus 2:14; (I Peter 2:9), through whom God continues to give.
In the days of Martin Luther people were being asked to give in order to buy indulgences of God's favor. Today, people are being asked to give in order to buy prayer time and blessings. Is it any different? Neither has anything to do with Christian giving, for Christian giving has nothing to do with purchase or "works."
Neither is Christian giving to be conceived merely as altruistic benevolence. There are many solicitations for charitable and benevolent contributions today, but Christian giving is not just a warm-hearted, self-less compassion responding to reports of those in distress.
Christian giving is not something one does because when you do it, it will make you "feel good," or as one solicitor stated, "it will resolve your worries when you help others." We do not give for the subjective benefit we receive thereby.
Christian giving is the grace of God functioning in and through a Christian, the givingness of God expressed in the character of a Christian.
©1999 by James A. Fowler
This is a sequence of articles. Though they were intended to be read in order, each article also stands alone. We've numbered them below so that you may choose to read them in sequential order.
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