Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Unchangeables Part 5

If you have been keeping up with my most recent posts, you know we are in the middle of a series called "The Unchangeables." We have already examined the first four, and with part five we will begin to wind this series up. All of these unchangeables are very important, and number five is no exception: it is more blessed to give than to receive.

As followers of Jesus, our calling and purpose can be simply defined as knowing the Lord, becoming like Him and doing the works that He did. Among these works is giving. It is fundamentally a part of the Lord's nature, and Jesus was a very generous Giver during His earthly ministry. He gave of His time, His resources and, ultimately, He gave His life. Probably the most common verse in modern history, John 3:16, sums up the gospel and identifies the Lord as a Giver:

"For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life" (NLT, emphasis mine).

These words are the best news in human history, and eternal life is available to all of us because the Lord gave. Just as he gave, we are called to do the same. However, giving is not just part of our calling, it is one of the greatest privileges of the Christian life. But why is giving so important, and why did Jesus Himself say that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35 b, NASB)?

The third "unchangeable" we discussed is that God is a God of unity. This doesn't just mean that we all get along or that we all have a common goal. It also means that we need each other. The Lord created me to need you and you to need me. Giving is a crucial element in our relationship with one another. There will be times when I will have an abundance and will be able to share with you. Other times I might be in need and someone else will be able to help me. There will even be times when I am in need and am still able to help someone else. The Lord will always look after us, and often times He uses us to help each other.

Jesus had much to say to His disciples about how they treated others. He told them that whatever they did to someone else, even to someone who was held in the lowest regard, is what they did to Him. The manner they chose to treat someone else was the manner they were treating Him (see Matthew 25:40). The apostle Paul admonished the Philippian church:

"Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too" (Philippians 2:4, NLT).

One of the primary ways we do this is by giving. When we give to others, we are really giving to Jesus and we are selflessly looking out for another's interests. However, giving is also much more than that. Giving is an expression of faith in the Lord. When we clutch what we have, we are placing our trust in what we have and in what we can see. We are trusting in our own natural resources and abilities to provide for us. When we give of what we have, we are placing our trust in the Lord. We cannot always see and understand what He is doing, but by giving we are openly expressing our trust in Him. We are choosing to place our faith and trust in His goodness and plans for us, although they may not be apparent to us in the natural.

Things in this world are constantly changing, and our natural tendency is to cling to what makes us feel secure. Right now, all across the world, many people are experiencing a great deal of economic pressure. Markets are suffering, jobs are scarce and many are looking for whatever will bring them security. However, there is nothing in this world that can truly provide lasting security - not governments, not positions or associations and not even money. True security only comes from the Lord and the manifestation of His kingdom in our lives. That will never change, and giving is a key principle to help us align ourselves with His kingdom.

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