Christian Universe ™
Love Your Neighbor
Part 2: God Loves A Cheerful Giver
August 23, 2009
God has always commanded His chosen people to look after one another, and to provide for the poor among them, including non-believers who dwelt among them. Christians followed the example of the ancient Israelite teachings on collecting resources to provide for the poor and the needy. The two letters that the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church give us much insight into their approach, as do the opening chapters of the book of Acts.
Love Your Neighbor
Part 2: God Loves A Cheerful Giver
by Bernie Parsons
presented to the Globe church of Christ on 08-23-2009
I spoke last time about God’s universal law, which tells us to meet the needs of those whom we meet in this life who are poor or needy. I showed from Old Testament scriptures that this was God’s law before and during the Law of Moses. I now show from New Testament writings that the apostles and disciples recognized this universal law.
Mark 12:38: “And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces,
39: And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts:
40: Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.
41: And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
42: And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
43: And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
44: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”
The wealthy should have been looking after the poor. Yet, this poor woman was expected to contribute to the treasury, when she, herself, had great need.
The activities of Jesus and His entourage show us more of God’s will in action.
Luke 8:1: “And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,
2: And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,
3: And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.”
John 13:29: “For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.”
Jesus and His disciples were funded in their ministry by others, and out of the pooled money that they carried, they met not only their own needs, but also helped the poor that they encountered along the way. It did not say that they helped only the poor who believed on Jesus, but that they helped the poor—period.
We see that God wants us to take care of the poor and needy, even those who are not believers in Jesus. This is borne out in the further teachings and practices of the apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ.
Acts 2:4: “And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
45: And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
46: And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47: Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
Acts 4:34: “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
35: And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”
The first disciples of Jesus Christ looked after each other’s material needs. This common pooling of resources harkens back to the gathering of manna, as well as the gathering of tithes and other offerings into the cities of the priests, and later, the temple in Jerusalem. The apostle Paul refers to this also in his letters to the Galatian and Corinthian churches.
Galatians 2:9: “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
10: Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.”
1 Corinthians 16:1: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.
2: Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
3: And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.
4: And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.”
Some take verse 1, or verses 1 and 2, out of context, and make up a doctrine that we are commanded by God to put money in a collection every Sunday. To what end? If we keep the context, this was a one-time collection, over a year, to be taken to Jerusalem!
Romans 15:5: “But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.
26: For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.
27: It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.
28: When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.”
This was a collection, over the space of a year, of resources to be taken to the needy saints in Jerusalem. It was not a general commandment for all Christians to give weekly.
2 Corinthians 8:1: “1: Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;
2: How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
3: For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;
4: Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
5: 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.
6: Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.
7: Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.
8: I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.
9: For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
10: And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago.
11: Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.
12: For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.
13: For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:
14: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:
15: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.”
By the apostle Paul’s own written word, he rescinded his previous order, admitting that it was not by commandment, but was his advice. Again, note that it was a collection for the needy saints in Jerusalem. Therefore, we can use this as an example, but not a command!
2 Corinthians 9:1: ”For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you:
2: For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.
3: Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready:
4: Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.
5: Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.
6: But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
7: Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
8: And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
9: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.
10: Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)
11: Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.
12: For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;
13: Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;”
Galatians 6:10: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
This transcends the Law of Moses and is the universal law of God. Instead of making up a commandment and then inflicting it on everyone, let’s instead teach what the Bible teaches. There is not a commandment to give into a treasury on the first day of the week, money that may then be used to build “church buildings” and maintain them, but which we say cannot be used to help the needy outside of the church membership! We hardly agree to assist the needy within the church, which is in itself a great scandal.
We have ancient godly examples of the righteous assisting the poor and needy, including those who do not believe as we do. God has always told His people to help one another, provide for the poor and needy, and even meet the needs of the poor and needy outsider, or nonbeliever—the “stranger”, as it were. This has never changed!
Love your neighbor as yourself, which is the second great commandment!