Sermon: How to Invest in God’s Program
Scripture: Matthew 6:1-4
In this week’s lessons, we learn about the principle of giving, and the blessings that come from the Lord upon both the giver and the recipient.
Theme: First Given to the Lord
Sometime during the course of his long association with this church—presumably during his second missionary journey—Paul presented the need of the poor at Jerusalem. We do not know much about the state of the church there, but since it was an outlying and underdeveloped area of the Roman Empire, it was probably true that it was much like the Appalachian region of the United States today or like Scotland in the last century. That is, there was probably just not enough work for normal men to earn sufficient wages. At any rate, the case of the poor was so bad that the church there practiced a form of voluntary communism in which the believers shared their possessions. And when the first council of the Church met in Jerusalem, a request was made through Paul for help from the Gentile churches.
This request Paul honored. He wrote to the Galatians in his report about the council, “Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was diligent to do” (Gal. 2:10). At Philippi he presented the case of these believers, none of whom any of the Philippian Christians had ever seen, and the response was so overwhelming that the believers at Philippi actually competed for the privilege of giving. Having learned to give to Paul in his need, they were ready to give even more liberally to others.
How do we know? We know this because some time later Paul wrote to the Corinthians of the outstanding charity of the Macedonian church. He wrote,
Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God (2 Cor. 8:1-5).
That’s the Lord’s formula: joy plus great poverty equals abounding liberality.
Here was a church composed entirely of those who a few years previously had known nothing more than the values of the Greek and Roman world. Yet, they were competing beyond their actual resources to give to poor Jews in a distant area of the empire. What made the difference? The answer is in the last phrase: “And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.” They gave because they had first given themselves to the Lord Jesus. One commentator has written, “In the natural course of human nature, the individual seeks only to get for himself. But when the grace of God has touched his heart, he turns toward the Lord, and thus inevitably toward others.”2
2Donald Grey Barnhouse, “The Grace of Giving,” radio message on Romans 15:25-27.
What is the Lord’s formula for giving? How can you apply this in your own life?
Before we give to others in need, what must happen in our lives? Describe what this looks like in actual practice.
For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “The Grace of Giving.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
Key Point: That’s the Lord’s formula: joy plus great poverty equals abounding liberality.