Four Possible Giving Teachers…Which one most influenced you?

We enter this world selfish as a result of the fall. This leaves us in need of being taught to give generously, but who will teach us? There are at least four very good possibilities.

But since you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you –see that you also excel in this grace of giving. – 2 Corinthians 8:7

I recently cleaned out 20+ years (1986-2006) of tax return documents and receipts and took them to my friend’s document shredding company for proper disposal. As I made my way through mounds of paper, I came across some mail in each year’s tax files from the church I was attending during that tax year. I could not resist the opportunity to open these letters and review my year-end giving record to my church as I cleaned out these files. I was amazed that I never missed any money I gave away during my lifetime, and I noticed a pattern of increasing my giving over this time as my income and resources grew. I smiled as I reflected on what God had entrusted to my care and how blessed I have been on this journey of learning to trust God to provide for my entire life! I was thankful, but to whom?
The Bible makes clear that my gratitude goes first to God, because “every good gift and every perfect gift comes from above…” James 1:17. I also realized that I am grateful to four others who have taught me how to give of what God has entrusted to my care. Maybe you have benefited from the same teachers in your life. If so, today is a good day to stop and say “Thank you.”

PAUL
From reading my bible, and especially the letters written by Paul to the New Testament churches, I have gleaned much from God inspiring Paul to be very specific in teaching other followers of Jesus about giving. He took seriously the command of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20) to teach new believers everything that Jesus had commanded, including his instruction on giving. For more about Paul’s teaching on giving see , Romans 12:3-16, 1 Corinthians 16:22, Galatians 6:7-10, II Corinthians 8-9, Philippians 4:6-20 and 1 Timothy 6.

PARENTS
As a young child, I was keenly aware that my mother specifically gave a tithe of her income each and every week. She took out her checkbook each Saturday evening and wrote out a check for one-tenth of her week’s pay and placed it in her offering envelope, ready to place in the offering the next day. While we did not have a lot in material possessions, we always had enough. I credit my mother with teaching by example and instruction about the portion of our possessions that we were to return to God. I am thankful that I was taught by word and deed the value of giving to my church as a child.

PASTORS
In the summer of 1980 before leaving for college, our church air-conditioner had to be replaced. I am forever grateful to my pastor, Dr. Fred Lackey for calling our church to a challenge that summer to double-tithe for one month to meet the needs in our church. I trusted my pastor, and God used him to teach me about the blessing of giving over and above my tithe. His call to action stretched my faith to do more than I thought possible.

PEERS
It was election night in November of 1980, the day Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States that I recall getting a phone call that my father had collapsed from a heart attack and I needed to return home from college. As a broke college student, I was unsure of how I would make this trip back home. I had gone to see a friend in my dorm and when I returned another friend, Dale, had left an envelope on my desk with “Philippians 4:19” written on the envelope. Inside was cash I would need to travel home. I am sure I had read the book of Philippians before, but never had this verse come so alive before now. It was in this moment that I saw a living picture of how “My God would supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus!” This peer was used by God to teach me a lifelong lesson in being generous with God’s blessings. His example spoke volumes. That summer, I also saw God provide for my needs for college in ways I could have never dreamed or imagined.

So, my question for you is…Who taught you to give? Giving is not our nature. The effects of sin are overwhelmingly strong, so we enter into this world selfish to the core. As a result, we must be taught to give. A heart transformed by the love and grace of God expressed in Jesus is the only remedy for this selfish nature. Once we follow Jesus, we begin a journey of learning what it means to give generously and sacrificially for God’s kingdom purposes. God uses many tools and teachers to help us grow in this journey. As we grow, we learn to live with our hands open, receiving from the Lord and giving generously as he entrusts his blessings to us.
Would you reply with your story of who taught you to give?

Parents

Benjie Correos, an artist and carpenter, was on an outing with his family on the Millennium Trail that runs alongside the Yukon River. He was fishing when his seven-year-old son Myles, playing nearby, slipped and fell into the river’s swollen, fast-moving water. He and his wife went in after him, and Benjie was able to grab on to Myles and hold his head up. However, the father could not get free of the undertow. Two other men jumped into the river and were able to pull Myles to safety but Mr. Correos disappeared (The Globe and Mail)

Parents live a sacrificial life for their children. The role of parents with their children is found in the powerful love that God has shown us in sending Jesus to give His life so that through faith in Christ we might live. Our children learn more from our conduct than from our words. It is not enough merely to say the right things. We must live out loud the life of a transformed heart.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, ESV)

God’s plan is for parents to help their children know Him and live according to His plan so that they experience the best in life.

1. Don’t provoke your children.

Paul called mothers and fathers in the church to protect the uniqueness of their children. He said, “Don’t provoke your children to wrath.” This wrath is the emotional and psychological disruption in their lives that can give the devil opportunity to make hay with our children. We need to understand our children and the uniqueness that God has given to them. We must avoid attitudes, words, and actions which drive our children to resentment and bitterness.

2. Direct their steps.

God has given parents the responsibility to direct their children in wisdom with warning and correction. We must lead our children along the path of Jesus Christ. We set their path by training them each day in the school of wisdom. We correct them and help them adjust their steps so that they become more like Jesus Christ. The content of this training and admonition is Jesus Christ Himself.

As parents, we want to lead our children to “fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 1:7-9). We teach them to learn and follow God’s will. If we don’t follow God’s will as parents while teaching our children to fear God, then we really are teaching them that fearing God is a good religious lesson but not important in living life. Parents, we direct the steps of our children toward fullness of life in Jesus when we show them a full life in Jesus by how we live each day, not merely by what we say.

So stop, take a breath, and pray:

“God, by Your Spirit, help me to nourish my children, showing them and teaching them the fullness of life in following Your will each day.”

 

Children

One of the greatest struggles when you move to a new city is finding your way. I’ve noticed that some cities have an “easy-read.” Take Oklahoma City. The city’s laid out on a grid with most of the main roads numbered and directional – like NW 23rd street. It doesn’t take long to figure out your direction in that city. But some cities are more difficult. For instance, if you live in a city that began as a river town, the direction of the streets is not always constant. Sometimes the road will go east, and sometimes west. It can be difficult to navigate in a city like that.

Children need clarity to experience life in all of its fullness. Parents have that role.

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6–9, ESV)

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’” (Ephesians 6:1-3, NKJV)

Parents pass on God’s wisdom and instruction to their children, and children obey. Paul called the children to be ready to listen and to carry out the instruction and commands of their parents.

1. Obey your parents.

When we hear someone knocking at the door of our home, we have the choice to open the door to them or to ignore it. Obedience is hearing the knock (instruction from parents) and opening the door (obeying the instruction).

“The obedience of Christian children to their parents is all of a piece with their submission to Christ: the additional motivating phrase, ‘in the Lord,’ is virtually synonymous with ‘as to the Lord’ or ‘as to Christ’ (cf. 5:22, 6:5) and indicates that their obedience is part of their Christian discipleship.” (P. T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, p. 441)

Obedience to our parents is the right and proper thing to do. Obedience is what God commands in His word. We obey our parents because it is what God has demanded, and we live to honor Him.

2. Honor your parents.

Children are also called to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12). Now obedience is the act, but honor is the attitude that children should possess behind their act of obedience. When we enter adulthood, obedience to our parents is replaced by honor for our parents.

In Grimm’s fairy tales an elderly man was taken into his only son’s care. Living in his son’s home, however, had its challenges. The elderly man’s shaking hands and poor eyesight caused problems for the woman of the house. She and the elderly man’s son decided to put the elderly man in a corner, at his own table. Everything was fine until the elderly man broke one of the woman’s bowls. So, the elderly man’s son made a wooden bowl for him to eat out of in the corner of the small home. A few days later, the elderly man’s son and his wife entered the home to find their 4 year old trying to make something out of wooden blocks. They asked him what it was, and he said: “I’m making a wooden bowl so that when you are old, you’ll have something to eat out of too.”

God told His people then and tells us today that we must honor our parents. It is not perfection that demands honor, for we have already seen that no one is perfect. God has deemed it important to honor those whom He has placed in a specific position. For God, it is supremely important to honor those whom He has placed as our parents. They are imperfect, but they deserve our honor. How can we accomplish this command today?

To honor means to value them as preeminently important in our lives. We must show our parents that they are preeminently important to us. For those who are under the direct authority of their parents, this command means that we submit to their direction.  Sometimes I am amazed at how well parents submit to their children, but that is not the model that God established. God expects us to spend time with our parents and to take care of them, to bless them, to love them. Again this is not dependent upon their perfection or imperfection. It is dependent upon their position as parents.

The promise God gives children when they honor and obey their parents is divine blessing. As God evaluates the heart of the children for their parents, He rewards those who have honored them with a life immersed in His touch.

So stop, take a breath, and pray:

“God, by Your Spirit, help me to obey and honor my parents so that You may lead me to health in my relationships.”