Jul 10 2022 Extravagant Generosity
10th July 2022
Acts 4:32 The group of those who believed were of one heart and mind,[cc] and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but everything was held in common.[cd] 33 With[ce] great power the apostles were giving testimony[cf] to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on them all. 34 For there was no one needy[cg] among them, because those who were owners of land or houses were selling[ch] them[ci] and bringing the proceeds from the sales 35 and placing them at the apostles’ feet. The proceeds[cj] were distributed to each, as anyone had need. 36 So Joseph, a Levite who was a native of Cyprus, called by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated “son of encouragement”),[ck] 37 sold[cl] a field[cm] that belonged to him and brought the money[cn] and placed it at the apostles’ feet.
Jeff: I have a friend from high school, Sonja, who - well, I’ll let her say it in her words – this was about a year ago:
My name is Sonja, and I am a full-time caregiver for my husband, Gary, who has battled ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) for the past 12 years, and for my special-needs daughter, Ashley, who is 28 and has a room in our basement. My son, Lance, and his wife and children also live with us to help care for Gary. Over the past 5 years, we have remodeled much of our home to accommodate Gary and his wheelchair. We’ve been gardening and selling produce just to survive.
Our landlord has informed us that a developer would like to bulldoze our home and we would be forced to find another place to live unless we can come up with $55,000 to buy our home outright.
The physical, emotional, and financial stress to move us out of here is more than I believe I can bear. Honestly, I have no idea where we would even go. Spiritually, we know God has been faithful to walk with us through it all and will continue. We have worked so hard, and so many people in the surrounding communities have reached out to help us without even being asked. The only asking I have done is asking if we were going in the direction God wanted us to go, and that He would continue to meet our needs and what was necessary to keep following His plan.
With our medical expenses and caregiving needs, it would be impossible to come up with that much money in such a short time – but we believe God is a God of miracles, and if you feel led to give, we would be eternally grateful. Thank you so very much.
Her response this year:
MAY is ALS Awareness month. It's also an exciting month as we start payments on our Forever Home. So many blessings. I use to focus on what ALS has taken from our marriage, each other and extended family and friends. I am so thankful to be able to see God restoring what the enemy meant for harm God is using and has been using for good. Grieving it has been at least a 13-year process. We made a lot of mistakes and as we confess God has restored us. So, we have a lot to be thankful for... We would love to go back through to share your part as a way of celebration and sharing our story. I know you want to be shy and not share but it is all to the glory of God.
Acts 2:42 And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
They were together – they were doing community.
Our topic is generosity. Their generosity and meeting of needs was connected…
And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,
Their generosity was connected with relationship and discipleship. When someone is in need and we with to meet that need, we need to view it as an opportunity for relationship and discipleship.
Say you are helping out in a situation – maybe like Jeff shared – or a food bank or homeless shelter – you generally give and move on – because someone else is there doing relationship and discipleship there.
In the church it is different – we all have the responsibility to do the relationship and discipleship. Our generosity needs to be connected to relationship and discipleship. This can sound scary or intrusive, but it is natural and done with sensitivity when we understand that the church is the family of God. You are not just giving to a charity, but to a family member, and hopefully there is relationship within the family.
There is a great example of this – “They were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart” – in our context, we think they were having people over for food and fellowship! We are having a cookout today for food and fellowship. Yes, it was that, but so much more. They are demonstrating generosity in these meals – they were meeting people’s basic needs. There were many who did not have access to food. We have to think back – last summer, we did team teaching – Table fellowship was one thing we looked at. Getting together for meals was much more than going to Wendy’s. You were accepting that person into your life and family – becoming community with that person.
This was a key practice for them in doing life together. SO, as we want to bring this into our lives – we must understand their context before we can apply these to our context. They were facing economic crises – their response of selling and sharing with those in need was appropriate for anyone in that circumstance. Our circumstances are different – but we need to identify the needs and respond appropriately –
The reason their needs were so great – there were many Jews who came into Jerusalem for Passover and Pentecost – they got saved and stayed! The church was filled with refugees – and there was no system in their world to meet those needs, so the church created a system to meet those needs.
There were many helpless and vulnerable people in that church.
In the US ,somewhere between 20-25% of people are receiving assistance from the government, not counting social security.
Let’s say – tomorrow that ended. This is not a political thing. Outside of that, we have food banks -and charities that give assistance to people. Say all of that was gone. That is what this church was facing – so their response is completely appropriate to what was going on.
There is a lot we can learn from them. We need to first identify the needs and to meet those needs. In this situation – they were meeting basic needs – food and shelter. The people who were lacking those things had no way of meeting those needs on their own – it was not possible. Desperate times.
There is a balance to this in the Bible – Thessalonians – if one won’t work, will not let them eat. That is a situation where discipleship and relationship steps in. There are two possible assumptions we can make – and it is one side of the coin and the other, and we need to be careful to guard against these. What side of the coin you are on depends on your personality and experience. One side – we think the person is irresponsible and lazy and that is why they are in that situation. The other side – they are in a situation they can’t meet. And that may or may not be true. But this is why we need to do life together.
When we connect relationships with needs in the church – it provides opportunity for spiritual transformation of all the members.
Acts 6:1 Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.
The Hellenistic Jews were from all over the empire – integrated into the culture of the Empire – they were still Jews by culture and religion – but they looked very different. And they would have been looked at differently – and there is this opportunity to break down barriers and prejudice.
Acts 11:27 Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. 29 And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.
Sometimes in this situation, needs come up due to an environmental or economic circumstance – for them it was a famine – for us, right now, we are not in an extraordinary circumstance just yet. We are all experiencing inflation and fear of recession. The biggest impact is on those of lower income who ARE entering into extraordinary time. As someone once said, predictions are especially hard, especially when they are about the future (Yogi Berra).
The church in Acts is not a blueprint for us. We don’t have to join a commune or sell our stuff to meet needs. But we do need to learn to meet needs. Some of you are really good at that – having close enough relationships to meet needs and to respond to the need appropriately.
All this is to be done while doing life together.
When Covid first hit – people were losing their jobs and we pastors felt like we might need to step in to help people. All of that is past to a degree now.
The Roman Empire did not like the church but learned a lot from the church. They put together things to meet social needs.
When it comes to generosity – God is generous – and when we are generous, we look like Jesus.