It is the week of Thanksgiving, a week during which most of us will introspect on all of the many ways God has generously blessed us while we feast with our friends and our families.
It is a celebration, indeed, but I also find myself feeling some pressure during this week from year to year. As the overtly materialistic experience of Black Friday and Cyber Monday have slowly but surely crept into the public's notion of what this holiday is about, I feel pressured to do something different--to go against the status-quo that our culture has deemed normal, especially considering that there are millions of people suffering in the world that don't get to feast on this holiday.
I desperately want to wrestle this holiday back from the grips of materialism and encourage my brothers and sisters to remember what Thanksgiving is truly about. Something we have a tendency to forget is that the word "giving" is contained within the title of our holiday. Is it only about giving thanks and eating copious amounts of pumpkin pie, or could there be more to the "giving" component of Thanksgiving?
Scripture makes it clear that God is generous and loving. It is also clear that He expects His people to be generous and loving, too. What better time of year to live up to this standard than the week we celebrate His generosity to us?
As I ponder this, I'm drawn to the passage 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, in which Paul communicates to the church in Corinth what will happen if they choose to generously give of themselves in order to meet the needs of others. I discern that there are at least three truly beautiful consequences of our giving. Let's take a look:
"The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!"
1) God Enriches the One Who Gives
--But not in the way we might think. This passage does not teach us some type of false prosperity-gospel in which God will line our pockets with riches and nothing bad will ever happen to us ever again if we give. Instead, Paul writes that God will "enrich [us] in every way to be generous in every way." If we choose to give cheerfully to provide for those in need, then God will supply us with more to give away! Friends, I think we each have experienced the deep guttural joy that giving produces in us at one point or another. Can you imagine what it would be like for God to provide you with more resources ("bread" and "seeds") and more time ("every good work") for the sole purpose of giving it all away to meet others' needs? It is as if God is daring us to see in what joyous ways He will use us. Giving is an invitation to experience the spiritual joy of our generous God in a way that cannot be replicated by materialism or selfish consumerism.
2) Your Generosity is Multiplied
Paul writes that not only will the "seed" that we sow be multiplied, but also our gifts will produce "overflowing" thanksgivings to God. In other words, God may use our gifts in multiple other ways to bless multiple other people despite our original intention. Not only will those who receive our gift rejoice, but also those around them that witness it will rejoice, and perhaps even be inspired to give of themselves, too. This has incredible potential, friends! You might remember the story of Jesus multiplying the five loaves and two fish to feed several thousand people. In John's account of the event (John 6:9), it is a little boy who gives the five loaves and two fish to the disciples. Clearly, Jesus multiplied that little boy's small gift to bless many, many more people. Surely those families were thanking God that they had a meal that evening. Who's to say that God will not do something similar with our gifts, no matter how large or small?
3) People See and Know Jesus Christ
This is certainly the most wonderful consequence of our giving. At the end of the passage, Paul outlines that those who are being helped will "glorify God" because of our generosity that flows directly out of our "confession of the gospel of Christ." It is impossible to miss the magnitude of the grace of Jesus that is expressed when His people work together in order to bless the needs of those who are suffering. The love of Jesus and the good news of his sacrifice for us is exemplified in magnificent ways when we give generously. Paul says that those served will be moved to "long for [us] and pray for [us]" as God's surpassing grace blesses our efforts to meet their needs. What a beautiful cycle of blessing.
The last verse that Paul writes is, "Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!" Perhaps he is referring to salvation and eternal life by this, but he may also be referring to another truth about giving. You see, the ability and opportunity to give to others is actually a gift from God to us. We understand that He absolutely does not have to include us in the joy He experiences in providing for those who depend on Him. But instead of keeping all of that joy to Himself, He invites us to participate and experience it for ourselves. Giving is a gift.
As we visit and eat with our families and friends this week, let us remember these things and put them into practice in the days to come. May God bless you and may He make His grace abound to you, so that you may abound in every good work.
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director @ IDES
#GivingTuesday: Want to put your generosity into practice sooner rather than later?
Check out our #GivingTuesday campaign by clicking the button below, and consider making a Thanksgiving gift on Tuesday, November 29th to make a difference in the life of someone in need, proclaiming to society that God's people choose to give instead of receive.