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Romans 12:1-9

LIVING STONES THEOLOGY:

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF GIVING

(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg



Romans 12:1-9

1 "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." (NIV)

Brothers and sisters in Christ:

THE ONGOING NEED

All around us are needs. Our neighbors within our own city have needs - as clearly seen through the work of Neighbourlink and Thunder Bay Christian community centre. If we dare look throughout the world - we recognize that the need is overwhelming. Refugees, persecuted Christians, famine devastated countries, natural disasters - even as we try to resolve one set of needs, more needs arise. Some months ago I red an article that suggested that if the world's 80 billionaires would give just 10% of their net worth to the cause of world hunger - world hunger would be solved. But the article was very short sighted - yes all that money would make a profound difference - for a little while, but it would not be long before another famine would arise. Jesus said - "the Poor you will always have with you" - giving is not just a one time affair, it is a constant necessity in this world.

Its in this context of unending need that God, in his grace, places in this world a giving Christian community, and within the Christian community individuals who have received a spiritual gift of giving. We want to focus on this gift this morning. For the purposes of our study this morning - you will notice the definition on your handout, The Gift of Giving is "The divine enablement to contribute resources and money to the work of the Lord with sincerity, liberality and good cheer." That definition basically arises from word pictures in the passage that we have read - and from II Corinthians 9:7. Lets spend just a few minutes on those very specific Greek words that convert poorly into English.

THE WORD PICTURES OF THIS GIFT

If it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously

This line which we translate is basically made up of two words that are rich in meaning.

The first word picture of this gift is translated for us "contributing." The actual Greek word is metadidomi. Now the Greek language had simpler words for giving or contributing - one of which was simply the word didomi. In this context Paul has added the prefix meta - and we are taking notice of this difference in the original language because behind this giving gift that Paul writes about is a certain nuance that does not easily come through in translation. The prefix "meta" was used in the Greek language to indicate that whatever followed it was in a certain context. There was something behind the subject talked about. Some illustrations...

Metaphysics - physics was the study of reality, Aristotle coined the word metaphysics to tell us that he was studying the the reality behind the reality, he was studying what made reality possible - this has commonly come to be understood as having to do with the supernatural, God.

Metabolism - a biological term - it is also a theological term - an early church doctrine which regarded the Eucharist as embodying both the real and the symbolic presence of Christ at the Lord's Supper (Webster's) There was a reality of Christ behind the symbolism.

Metagalaxy - the entire material of the universe - matter behind the reality of the galaxy.

Paul is telling us that this giving gift has something behind it - something supernatural. The picture that we see here is that God is giving through a person - this is not just one human giving to another or to some cause - this is God giving to a person, to a cause. God chooses through this gift to continuously meed the needs that arise in this world. And when God gives, he gives graciously and with abundance.

If it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously

The picture is that this is God giving through a person!

The second word that describes this giving in this passage is translated for us "generously"(haploitaes). If you were to take a variety of different translations of the bible - you would notice very quickly that the translations vary greatly - and the reason why - because the word behind this translations just does not come through easily - literally it would say Let him who gives (meta) do it with the style of an unfolded cloth. With that kind of literal meaning to the word, you can see quickly why this word is interpreted so differently. As with the children - a folded cloth could have two senses in that culture - one sense was that the cloth was folded to hide flaws in the material - parts of the material were hidden so that moth holes etc. could not be seen. God expects us to give our first fruits, our best. It is with this sense that Malachi (1:13b, 14) writes

"When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?" says the LORD.

"Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king," says the LORD Almighty, "and my name is to be feared among the nations.

The Lord insists that what we give, we give honestly - sincerely - truthfully.

The second possible meaning of this phrase - "not as with a folded cloth" - could have the significance of "ulterior motives." As with the children - the folded cloth tended to be one that was seized between the fingers so that the giving was not free but had the expectation of a return, - so to - a folded cloth between the fingers had this sense. It is very possible to give with ulterior motives. It is possible to give generously, so that when decisions are make - a person has the power to sway the decision. Or a person might give generously for purposes of fame or reputation - like the pharisees referred to in Matthew 6:1-4

6:1 "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

A person gifted in giving is a person who enjoys giving in ways that are not noticed by others - they do not have the ulterior motive of personal praise or power gained.

(Hendrikson in his New Testament Commentary interprets this passage this way "Let him who contributes to the needs of others do so without ulterior motive.". p.411)

A person gifted in giving is a metagiver - a person through whom God gives to the needs of organizations and others - the gifted giver is called to do this purely, sincerely, without ulterior motive. The reason why in looking at this passage I have included a third word picture is because, the context of this third word picture gives us another clue at what Romans 12:8 means - it comes from II Corinthians 9: 6ff.

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And 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. As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."

This passage too talks about the reluctance that we have to give freely - and in contrast with that reluctance - this passage talks about the cheerful giver - if you notice your outline - the Greek word here is hilarotaes - we get our word 'hilarious' from it - it literally means "with laughter." God loves it when we laugh as we give. But this is not just any laughter - its the laughter that arises from realizing the true math of God's grace. Its the laughter that arises from realizing that God gives, and gives to the us the undeserving grace upon grace, and we can afford to be exceptionally gracious in our giving to others because God will continuously and abundantly lavish his grace on us. God chooses to do this again and again because he is the one interested in supplying for the needs of his children. He is the one who scatters abroad gifts to the poor.

The tradition of St. Nicolas or as our culture calls him Santa Claus is a tradition that pictures him laughing with a jolly ho - ho - few people realize the scriptural truth behind what has now become an empty American tradition. God gives amazing grace, with hilarity, out of his infinite riches to us.

It may be that you have this gift of giving - God calls you to exercise the gift of giving - understanding that he is actually doing the giving through you. And do it with unfolded cloth - do it with the undemanding joy of God as you give.

Let me notice very quickly just a few more related points with you. First of all, the gift of giving is

A Gift of Quality before Quantity.

Jesus taught that very clearly in Mark 12:41ff

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything--all she had to live on."

You see, it is the heart that gives that demonstrates the gift, it is not the quantity of the gift given.

Each of us is called to give - this is one of the disciplines of the Christian life - since we have freely received so richly from God, we are also to freely give. And so each of us is called to give to the needs around us, the worthwhile causes, the kingdom projects that continuously need our support. But like so many other roles within the Christian community - though all are called to do it, there are some that are especially gifted givers, and the word of God tells them to fan their gift into flame - use it for the glory of God and his kingdom.

Finally - the privilege - it is a privilege to give - and if you are a gifted giver - you are probably very aware of that. Just as with the other gifts - we discover that through the gift, we have the privilege of influencing other peoples lives, influencing the advancement of the kingdom of God - so to, those who have the gift of giving are often very aware that it is a privilege to give - their privilege through their contributions to minister within the body of Christ and so shape its future.

All of us are called to give - some of us are gifted at giving exceptionally. Let us all do it with joy and as with an unfolded cloth.

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The Gift of Giving
Definition: The divine enablement to contribute resources and money to the work of the Lord with sincerity, liberality and good cheer.


*(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Next Sermon in series: Luke 19:1-10 How Giving Starts Zacchaeus

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