“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” ― John Bunyan
Abraham Lincoln said, ““I care not for a man's religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.”
Generosity is seen in action.
This morning I want to give you a paradox. This statement contains two ideas that fight against each other.
Notice what I am not saying. I am not saying that people who are generous enough to give should expect pay. At that moment, the giving is not truly free.
Nor am I saying that the support needs to be money. The fact is that when people freely give, that is what Jesus wants them to do. However, the ones who receive the gifts should honor the givers.
Matthew 10:8 and 10 are key texts.
Ministry is not for sale. We are to be generous to those who minister to us.
Before we go further, lets look at the background of these sayings.
They are to avoid the Gentiles and Samaritans and go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
We note that this is a one-time instruction. At the end of Matthew, he tells the disciples to go into all the world. In Acts, Peter comes down to a Samaritan village when they had put their faith in Jesus Christ. If this was meant to be a universal command, that never would have happened.
One of the ways of determining whether something is cultural or universal is to see whether the teaching is repeated everywhere or whether there are times something is taught and other times something is taught different.
For example, is it a shame for a man to have long hair? If so, then why was Samson’s God-given strength associated with long hair? The answer is that we have instructions in two different cultures. When we look at the background, we find that long hair on a man in Corinth identified him as a male prostitute. Now we see why it would be such a shame.
Here we have a limited ministry for this time and occasion. We find in John 4 that Jesus and the disciples went through Samaria. So on this trip they were not to co-mingle with Gentiles or enter the cities of Samaria. They were to focus on the lost sheep of Israel.
This ministry is not only limited in the fact that they are to focus on Jewish people, the ministry is also clearly an evangelist ministry.
They are to preach the kingdom of heaven and go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.
Within this are the two sentences that speak of God-given generosity.
Look at what they can do! They will heal the sick without twelve years of medical training. They will raise the dead without scientific training. They will cast out demons without any idea of what they are really doing. Everything that they are going to do is the result of God’s generosity to them. They have earned none of it.
What God has freely given them; they are to give to others without making other people pay.
What has God given you? Forgiveness? Be generous with your forgiveness. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Grace? Be generous with your grace to others. Love? Love has you have been loved. By this shall all men know that we are his disciples if we love have one for another.
The disciples entered a village. They had no money, no food, no extra clothing, and no place to sleep. They came and presented the kingdom of heaven, healed the sick, raised the dead and cast out demons.
How did the people respond? The response was an attitude of gratitude.
They were to open their homes, provide meals and welcome the disciples openly. It’s Jesus who is sending them out. It’s Jesus who is expecting that those who support him will also support his disciples.
There are people who do that. There are people here who open their homes to missionaries and visiting pastors. They come to minister. God blesses both those who minister freely and those who open their hearts and homes.
It’s a two way street. The disciples were to freely give what they had been given. The people were to freely give as an expression of thanksgiving and support.
If the disciples demanded payment, they showed a lack of gratitude for what God had given them as well as placing a burden on people who needed most to hear the message.
What if I was to go to a gathering of your friends who do not know Christ and tell them, “I will preach the kingdom of God to you if you give me one hundred dollars!” They would laugh at me and keep their money in their pockets.
What would the result of that be? They wouldn’t hear of the great love of Jesus for them. They wouldn’t know that Jesus died on the cross for them, was buried and rose again to give them new life. Instead of heaven, hell would be their destination. Why? Because of a measly hundred dollars!
The gospel is to be given freely.
Those who support the gospel should be willing to help those who are freely giving the gospel. It’s a team effort. Jesus is not as much concerned about the money as he is the support. The support some of the people gave the disciples was tremendous. The housing and food allowed them to preach the kingdom of God. Without it, they could not sustain ministry. If no one in the village cared, then they left to go to the place where someone would step up and team with them.
This church is the product of generous people. Early pioneers came and shared the gospel. The first pastor at the First Baptist Church in Palermo not only preached, but worked and was supported by people giving him food from their gardens.
Mostly volunteers built this church building. The ministries of the clothing exchange, Senior Dinner, small groups, Celebrate Recovery, greeters and Junior Church and nursery workers are all maintained by generous people.
Come around this building and you will see various people using their gifts and talents to do electrical work, paint, clean and maintain the building. As God has freely given us gifts, we are to give back to God what he has given us.
On our part, we are to be thankful people. We who are receiving should at least be generous in our thanks. The people who serve us are not looking for thanksgiving. They are serving God. Yet, we have the responsibility to say thanks.
We should also give financially so that they have the ability to do the jobs. Our fellowship ministry asks for help providing food on Sundays. That is a reasonable request and one we should honor. If teachers need supplies, small groups materials, we should provide those and we do.
Your generous gifts on Sunday and the special gifts that many of you give allow us as a church to give back to those who freely give to us.
This paradox is straight from the heart of God. People who freely give deserve support.
John said that we love God because he first loved us. This is the same principle. Loving God for loving us is the right response. God loved us while we were yet sinners. He sent Christ to die for us. The right response is to love someone who loves us that much.
We are to forgive others because we have been forgiven. It’s not right for us to hold back forgiveness for one or two sins when Christ has forgiven all our sins.
The disciples were given the glorious truths of the kingdom of God. It was only right for them to pass them on without demanding payment.
Yet it was also right for those who believed to support those who were teaching truth.
Would I be a pastor if the church did not provide financial support? If the church could not provide financial support, I have been called to us my gifts and talents for Jesus. That would certainly continue.
Would I be able to be as effective? I doubt it. Your generosity makes it possible for me to be freed to study, pray, counsel and preach the word of God without the distraction and time consumption a regular job would provide. For that I am thankful.
Take a look at the people who are serving you. Look especially for those who may feel overloaded, over looked or overwhelmed. With an attitude of gratitude ask God how he can use you to support and encourage that person for the glory of God.
Be generous. Be generous in your sharing of spiritual truths. Be generous in your support for those who are generous to you.