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The Ethics of Generosity

Notes & Transcripts

The Ethics of Generosity

December 21, 2003

 

Scripture Reading: 2Corinthians 8:16-9:5

Introduction:

Video: The Gift of Perspective

The last two messages in 2Cor. 7 and 8 have taught us that we can have joy, real Christian joy, because of what we have in Christ, no matter what trials we face.

We also learned that that joy is born out in generosity toward God, his work, and his people as we respond to the realization of what he has given us in Christ.

The video we just saw shows us just how that joy came to an older relative contemplating the end of her life with terminal cancer as she passed it on in all its truth to her stressed out family at Christmas.

The greatest gift any of us can give is our love for Christ, and indeed, it is his birthday isn’t it?

We “Pass It On” just like the song says, “You spread His love to everyone, you want to pass it on. The Lord of love has come to me, I want to pass it on.” (#309)

We are upon a time of year when many are suffering depression because of various family losses that conflict with expectations of family togetherness.

Many in our church family have suffered recent losses:

          Janet, Dorothy and Alice lost their husbands, Ted, Bill and Fred lost their fathers, Rose lost her mother, Diane lost her sister, and Paul Barnett lost his wife.

We should not think so much about what we have lost with these whom the Lord has taken, but more about what they have passed on to us.

Consider the gift of life and love they gave you, and all of us, while we knew them – and indeed, we still know them because of what they have passed on to us.

This is not a time of year for a “Blue Christmas” service that many main line churches are now offering to allow the grieving to vent their grief at Christmas.

These types of services are of increasing popularity probably because these churches have come to be cultural victims of Christ-less-ness.

No, this is a time for joy in new life eternal because of the new life that Father God brought to earth in baby Jesus.

This is a new life we can truly envision – God among men and women. It is the generous gift of God toward mankind.

But alas, I am afraid that the “customer return” lines will be full the day after Christmas once again this year as we scurry about to maximize our materialism.

As many return their gifts I fear that many also have hit the “return” on Christ himself. It was good while it lasted but now they have to get down to what they really want in life. They haven’t considered the value of the real gift.

Chicago Tribune writer Lee Bush puts a new understanding of returned Christmas gifts out for us on the commentary page:

ILLUS: “Time to appreciate the gifts that are returned”, Chgo. Trib. 12/12/03

The best gifts are the ones that are returned – not materially to the store but eventually to the giver in loftier forms.

So as we consider our lost loved ones, have we considered what they have “returned” to us? Have we considered what they have “passed on” to us?

And it is a short jump to put this again in Christian perspective, that God’s gift of love in Christ to us (John 3:16) has indeed considered the true nature of the person for which the gift is given – we sinners needed a Savior.

Because of Christ’s courage on the cross we have been given love and faith. His faith was passed on to us. So then let us consider what our loved ones in Christ have passed on to us that we might also pass it on.

And I submit to you that this, then, is not a “Blue Christmas.”

Christ returned to the Father with more than he came with. He brought with him a new kingdom to present to the Father.

The Father’s gift of love and faith to Christ has been returned to the Father in the form of our love and faith.

Will we do any less than to pass it on to our loved ones, and to rejoice in this, as the Son’s gift to the Father continues to increase?

All this involves the joy of generosity that we celebrate especially at Christmas.

This brings us to our passage about generosity in 2Cor. 8:16-9:5 this morning as we learn about the “Ethics of Generosity”.

READ: 2Cor. 8:16-9:5

We “pass it on” as we give monetarily to Christ’s work – the funding of benevolence and ministry.

If you have read the papers or heard the news this week, let me ask you a question.

What do Strom Thurmond, Gary Ridgeway (the Green River killer), Michael Jackson, Gov. George Ryan, and Saddam Hussein have in common?

They either are not, or may not be, what they seem to be. It is a common problem in life. People are prone to sin – and some greatly.

Not everyone is as they seem. Our public idols let us down.

ILLUS: “Star’s charity work not always charitable”, Chgo. Trib., 12/10/03

This article states that many stars appear at charitable fundraising events not solely out of the goodness of their hearts to occasionally perform for the common good because they are rich but because they want to line their pockets.

The event comes off as a plea for you to give because they are giving, but the opposite is often true. It is not as it seems.

Actor David Schwimmer received goods worth over $26,000 for appearance to promote the John Wayne Cancer Institute. Singer Engelbert Humperdinck received $17,000 for a benefit appearance at the Friar’s Club. Piano legend Ray Charles received $75,000 for appearance at a SHARE gala to benefit developmentally disabled children. And the event organizer and promoter, Aaron Tonken, was charged in November by federal authorities with two counts of fraud related to charitable fundraising. He raised as much as $7 million at events that never made it to designated charities. He evidently kept little of the money, however. Most of it was spent on, even demanded by, those who needed it the least: the rich and famous. The article quotes, “Stars know they can literally steal from charity. Otherwise they don’t perform. They don’t appear.” Even Bill Cosby wanted $85,000 just to make an appearance to receive the “Humanitarian Award” at a cancer research benefit this year scheduled by Tonken just before his business collapsed. And Pres. Gerald Ford got $200,000 just to receive a “Special Giving Award” at a fundraiser for 18 different charities that was 4 times his usual speaking fee and 15% of the event’s total giving that night.

Our state government has let us down. That is why Gov. Blagojevich just signed into law an ethics package aimed at cleaning up operations as usual in our state government. There have been too many scandals wasting tax money.

ILLUS: “Blagojevich signs ethics package”, Chgo. Trib., 12/10/03

The governor quoted, “Today we are re-establishing the primacy of principle over politics, and in Illinois that constitutes real change.”

We will now have inspectors general with subpoena powers to root out misconduct in office. There will even be the creation of a commission to supervise these inspectors general.

We have a right to expect ethics in government. We have even more the right to expect it in the church.

Even people in the church are still covered with flesh. That is why Paul lays down some guidelines here about ethics regarding our generosity.

We have every right to expect that what we give to the Lord’s work actually goes there and that the work we give to is actually legitimate.

It needs to be what it claims to be to merit our involvement. And nothing threatens our joy like being “ripped off”.

In fact, being ripped off can make us so incensed at this time of year when we hold generosity in high esteem, that when charitable contributions are stolen, like what happened to an estimated $7,000 in Salvation Army kettle coins at Crystal Lake this season, people end up giving even more to make up the difference.

ILLUS: “Theft from charity puts people in a giving mood”, Chgo. Trib., Dec. 2003

In fact, the extra donations more than doubled what had been stolen. We will not have our joy stolen too. Christ and Christmas are too important. We have our ethic of giving to consider.

Big Question:

What ethical safeguards might we expect in concert with God’s call to generosity toward his work?

Those who are committed to our generosity must be enthusiastically committed to our own welfare.

Those who are committed to our generosity must be widely accepted in their own commitment to the purpose of it.

Those who administer our generosity must be fully accountable to both God and man.

Those who administer our generosity must be honorable to Christ in their teamwork with each other and for us.

Those who call for our generosity must be responsible to share with us the big picture of how and where it all fits in the Kingdom of God.

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (vv. 16-17)

          B.      Implication

Those who are committed to our generosity must be enthusiastically committed to our own welfare.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

(not be opportunistic or take advantage – not to press for that which is more for them than for us – to minister to us in our giving)

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (vv. 18-19)

          B.      Implication

Those who are committed to our generosity must be widely accepted in their own commitment to the purpose of it.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (vv. 20-21)

          B.      Implication

Those who administer our generosity must be fully accountable to both God and man.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

(fear God, their life matters more than their name)

IV.    Cycle Four

 

          A.      Narrative (vv. 22-24)

          B.      Implication

Those who administer our generosity must be honorable to Christ in their teamwork with each other and for us.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

(speak well of us, represent us)

V.      Cycle Five

          A.      Narrative (vv. 1-5)

          B.      Implication

Those who call for our generosity must be responsible to share with us the big picture of how and where it all fits in the Kingdom of God.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

Big Answer:

What ethical safeguards might we expect in concert with God’s call to generosity toward his work?

-Those who are committed to our generosity must be enthusiastically committed to our own welfare.

-Those who are committed to our generosity must be widely accepted in their own commitment to the purpose of it.

-Those who administer our generosity must be fully accountable to both God and man.

-Those who administer our generosity must be honorable to Christ in their teamwork with each other and for us.

-Those who call for our generosity must be responsible to share with us the big picture of how and where it all fits in the Kingdom of God.

Timeless Truth:

Ethics in giving matters because God did it first in Christ to show us. It is a matter of eternal perspective.

Conclusion:

Now, God requires our generosity, but I tell you that God’s commitment to ethics in his giving toward us far outstrips our own expectations of ethics in giving.

God has been generous in giving us his Son to save us from sin.

There is no other way we could have withstood his wrath against our sin.

God was concerned for our welfare.

God did not send Jesus to take advantage of us, not even to condemn us, but to show us mercy, grace, compassion and forgiveness.

It was not more for himself than for us - it was all for us.

He fully intended to minister to us in his giving.

He had no hidden agenda. But he would receive a phenomenal return in the kingdom that would come to him for their own good through his Son.

His purpose was straightforward and, in fact, foretold for centuries in prophecy after prophecy.

Through these prophecies it was widely accepted that the coming Messiah would set his people free – even the gentiles.

What was not readily understood was just how Jesus would set his people free.

What he had come to do was more ethically radical than anyone could imagine.

He himself would have to die.

Yes, God himself come to earth as man would die as the one and only righteous sacrifice God could ever accept.

It is as if God said to himself, “If you want it done right you have to do it yourself.”

God was unalterably committed to the purpose of his generosity toward us.

He did not give someone else, he gave himself.

And talk about accountability before God and man!

God presented the gift of his only Son not only through the witness of centuries of his word in prophecy but also now through the fanfare of angels, the heavenly star of Bethlehem, shepherds, wise men, the saints Simeon and Anna in the temple, his own mother Mary, and even through the wrath of King Herod.

The Father honored the Son in speaking well of him, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.”

We see the marvelous teamwork of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) all through Christ’s ministry on earth.

Their teamwork was for our benefit – so much so that the Spirit has remained to minister long after Christ left.

And God has not failed to give us the big picture of how it will all come to pass as we look forward to Christ’s return, righteous government, judgment, the new heaven and earth – the heavenly kingdom.

God’s ethics are inscrutable.

His gift is unfathomable.

His purpose is unchangeable.

His love is insurmountable.

His salvation is unstoppable.

His reward to us for receiving the gift of Christ is eternal.

Our joy in knowing him is boundless.

Our praise of him is deafening.

Our devotion is as deep as the sea into which he has cast our sins.

Our lives will never the same because we know him.

We are constantly being renewed day by day.

We are privileged beyond belief.

This child of God has embraced us more than we could ever embrace him.

God among men.

The righteous among sinners saved by grace.

Will you receive him today?

You have no other hope.

You have no other joy.

You have no other peace.

You have no other salvation.

You have no other God.

He is the One and Only who came from the Father full of grace and truth.

There is no other miracle that has spanned the heavens like this One.

Will you receive him?

There is no one else who says or who can dare to say,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.

If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”

Are you thirsty today?

Come like the shepherds did to present their praise.

Come like the wise men did to present their worship, their devotion and their gifts.

The greatest gift you can give Jesus is yourself.

After all, God gave himself to you.

This was by far the greatest and most ethical act of giving that the universe will ever see.

Isaiah 9:6

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ASV
6 For a child has been born—for us! the gift of a son—for us! He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness.The Message
6 For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us. He shoulders responsibility and is called: Extraordinary Strategist, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.NET Bible
5 For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.NABWRNT

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