(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)
Freely and Joyously
A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.
Genesis 12:1-3, Deuteronomy 26:1-10
Abram had no son when God called him, yet God said that his descendants would bless “all the families of earth.” When Israel was a settled nation, they structured their giving to help them remember that God was the ultimate source of all they had. They brought the first part of each crop to God, and recited words that acknowledged their humble human ancestry, and God as the creator and deliverer who had made their well-being possible.
In the passage just before today’s reading, Moses introduced Bezalel and Oholiab to Israel as the gifted, skilled leaders who would execute (and teach others how to execute) the plans for the Tabernacle (cf. Exodus 35:30-35). But the workers met an unexpected problem. They came to Moses, reporting, “The people are contributing way too much material for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” What an amazing outpouring of generosity!
1 Chronicles 29:3-12
The Chronicler recorded that God told King David he couldn’t build the Temple (cf. 1 Chronicles 28:1-3). But David didn’t sulk about that. He enthusiastically set out to gather the material Solomon would need to build the Temple, starting with a large chunk of his personal fortune. The people rejoiced, and David blessed the Lord for the chance to be part of this great project.
Jesus began Luke 16 with a challenging parable about the use of money. Then he told his disciples, and the listening Pharisees, that those who are faithful with a little are also faithful with much. The human heart, he said, can only have one ultimate master. Jesus’ message wasn’t popular with the Pharisees, who were “money-lovers,” and they “sneered” at his teaching.
2 Corinthians 8:10-15
Hebrew Christians in Jerusalem faced persecution and hardship almost from the beginning. Paul was concerned for them, and asked his relatively well-off Gentile Christian converts to give for a fund to help those in Jerusalem. They responded gladly, and he urged them to finish the collection with as much generous enthusiasm as they showed at the start.
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
We are tempted to think our time, talents, energy and money are parts of a closed system, so that if we give any to someone else, we will have less. Paul told his Corinthian converts that that kind of thinking makes one big mistake: it leaves God out of the equation. “God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace,” he exclaimed in verse 8. And out of his own experience (even though he had, as far as we know, no earthly wealth) he promised the Corinthians, “You will be made rich in every way” (verse 11).
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
Lord God, soften our hearts, and to help us be cheerful givers with our words, with our talents, and yes, with our money. Help us to sow generous seeds and reap a generous crop in your name. Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
Do you know or know of some people in your community who are extraordinary “givers”? Do you admire their generosity? Do the most giving people you admire give out of their abundance? When the word “giving” is used, is money the only thing you think of?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.
Read Genesis 12:1-3, Deuteronomy 26:1-10. The people were told to give to God from the first fruits of their harvest. In other words, don’t pay everything else, and then give if there is any left over. Do most of us follow this principle today? Do you view this as burdensome or unfair in any way? How did you react inwardly when you read that line about “My father was a starving Aramean”? Were you brought up to be proud of your distinguished family lineage, or was your ancestry more humble or anonymous? Why would Israel (and us) be better off glorifying God, rather than human ancestors?
Read Exodus 36:1-7. Not only did the people give freely for the building of the Tabernacle, they gave more than enough. Why did this happen? What motivates us to give so freely to God? Does God carry away gifts made to him? Where do gifts to God go—what are these gifts used for? Must we have confidence in the proper use of our gifts? Can our time, freely given, also be a gift to God? Does our gift of our time free us from our responsibility to give monetarily to God? How do people feel after giving freely to God? How do we feel if we don’t give our share to God?
Read 1 Chronicles 29:3-12. King David, although forbidden by God to build the Temple himself, gave freely and very generously to the project, serving as an example to the people. Can the same kind of leadership serve God and at the same time serve as examples to people today? Can the modest gifts from people of little or no means serve God as well? What’s more important, the size of our gift or our attitude in giving? Can anyone, even God, force you to do anything willingly and wholeheartedly? When it comes to giving, what helps you to do it in a willing, wholehearted way?
Read Luke 16:10-15. In your own words, how would you interpret the meaning of verse 11? Thinking in a broader sense, how might it apply beyond our financial wealth? How does our giving of our many kinds of gifts require trust in God? Must we also trust our local church? Is our trust in our church tied to our trust in God? How do we build our trust in God? Must all our gifts to God be given to our local church? Can a gift to an individual be given as a gift to God? Is God opposed to wealth? What are the dangers of wealth? Do you ever find yourself trying to justify your attachment to material goods?
Read 2 Corinthians 8:10-15. Is giving one of the most personal things we can do? Can we fairly judge ourselves by the level of our willingness to give to God and to others? What forms can our giving take? What motivates us to give? What prevents us from giving? What role do our own wants and needs play in our decisions to give? How do we feel about having to “sacrifice” something before giving?
Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. If we give our time, talents, energy and money, will we have less? Why? How is God an often overlooked part of this question? Have you ever volunteered your time or money because you felt pressured into it? How did you feel about that? Now think about a time when you volunteered your time or money because you felt led by God to do it. How did you feel about that? Rhetorical question: Which is the better feeling?
From last week: Did you prayerfully reflect on how worship is a gift, not a difficult duty? Did you remember that worship can and should take place during the week as well as on the weekend? Did you find ways in which you can worship God every day, capping the week off by being able to worship freely with your fellow believers? Please share your experiences with the group.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, February 23, 2014:
We’ve been talking the last two weeks about the building plans we feel God is calling us to pursue to help our congregation do effective ministry for generations into the future. Our dream is that, with the right buildings, twenty years from now 10,000 members of a new generation of young adults will come to faith in Christ here and be raising their families and serving God. We see 10,000 low-income children on a different path because of our continued partnership with six Kansas City area elementary schools. We see 10,000 other churches that were strengthened by our leadership training and resources.
In our scripture today we see King David leading the Israelites to build what would serve as their permanent sanctuary for 400 years. Our aim is to learn from them as we prepare for next weekend when we’ll be asking those of you who consider this your church family to make your pledges in this effort to build our permanent sanctuary, renovate this sanctuary into Vibe worship space and a fellowship hall, kitchen, missions space and a dedicated space for Matthew’s Ministry….
In today’s Scripture, David is nearing his own death. He feels called to ensure that the faith that sustained him is passed on to the next generation. The Israelites had been worshiping in a tent for two hundred years (perhaps 400 depending upon when you date the Exodus). David felt it important to build a permanent sanctuary, one that was beautiful, sacred, holy, that reflected God’s presence, majesty and glory. The man who wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and who wanted to “dwell in the house of the LORD forever,” believed it was critical that those who came after him know God and call upon him as their shepherd.
I think David believed that the Temple would be an important part of passing on the faith to generations after him. In that building people would sing, pray, offer their sacrifices, find forgiveness for sins, and every time they walked past it, they would remember their God. It would be a visible reminder of the God who created all things, who loved them and gave them hope and blessings.
David also knew that he would not live to see the temple built. God had already told him that it was his son, Solomon, who would build the temple. But though he would never worship in the building, he felt it was important that he give to make this temple a reality. So he gave gold, silver, bronze and more. Then he cast the vision to the leaders of Israel, and he asked them to do their part. 1 Chronicles tells us what happened next: “Then the leaders of ancestral houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of the thousands and of the hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work.”
We’ve been going through this same process. In the last twelve months I invited our leaders to come together, to pray and invite God to guide them so that they might make their commitments in advance. I shared with them what LaVon and I were doing in this campaign, had others share, and then invited them to make commitments in preparation for this day, so that their leadership and commitment in this campaign would inspire you. Some of these were lead donors, some were staff and committed lay leaders of ministries. As of today 383 households have committed $43,004,506 towards our goal in this campaign of $60 million. These persons who have turned their commitments in early did so to say, “I believe this matters, and we can do this together!”
Notice what happened when the Israelites heard what their leaders had done: “The people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with single mind they had offered freely to the LORD.” The people were unified around this vision and inspired by the generosity of their leaders, and they gave what they had. David, seeing how the people were moved to generosity, began to pray saying: “Blessed are you, O LORD…I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you.” I love this line: that they offered freely and joyously. That is what I hope for you, as we prepare for our commitment weekend next week—that you might give willingly, and with singleness of mind, that you would give freely, sacrificially, and in this you might find great joy….
Let’s talk about how people give in a building campaign. Pledges can be paid over a period of three years. The pledge cannot be shifting money from your regular offerings to the building campaign. That robs Peter to pay Paul and leads to us having a building while laying off staff and shutting down programs. In a capital campaign people give over and above their regular giving—a special offering to a special cause. This is what the Israelites did. They still gave their tithes, but this was a special free-will offering.
We also don’t all give the same amount. By now some of you accountants have done the math. You’ve realized that we are $16,995,494 away from our goal of raising $60 million. If we expect 3,500 households to commit, and 383 have already done so, we hope another 3,117 will commit. When you divide that number into $16,995,494 you get an average commitment of $5,452.52 over a three-year period. That’s just $35 per week for the next 3 years. But that’s not how it works. When a single mom bringing home $2,000 per month after taxes and insurance makes a commitment for $140 per month, it is far more of a sacrifice than someone who makes $10,000 per month. This is why Jesus said: “To whom much is given, much more is expected.”
This reminds me of the moment in Luke’s gospel when Jesus was teaching in the temple courts. He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.” Interestingly, the offering she was giving was likely for the building and maintaining of the temple….
David says something in his prayer in 1 Chronicles I think is important for us to note. It captures several important truths about our giving and the spirit with which we give. Listen: “[Lord,] who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to make this freewill offering? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.…O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. I know, my God, that you search the heart, and take pleasure in uprightness.”
Biblical stewardship knows that all we have belongs to God, our capacity to generate wealth comes from God, and our lives are a gift from God. It happens when we recognize that our giving is a reflection of, and a means to, a heart God takes pleasure in.
For more detailed information about Resurrection’s 10,000 Reasons campaign, please visit future.cor.org. To view Pastor Hamilton’s sermon in its entirety, including much detailed information we do not have space for here, visit http://www.cor.org/sermons.
What is “generosity”?
For our purposes, we use the word generosity to refer to the virtue of giving good things to others freely and abundantly.
Generosity thus conceived is a learned character trait that involves both attitude and action—entailing as a virtue both an inclination or predilection to give liberally and an actual practice of giving liberally.
Generosity is therefore not a random idea or haphazard behavior but rather, in its mature form, a basic, personal, moral orientation to life. Furthermore, in a world of moral contrasts, generosity entails not only the moral good expressed but also many vices rejected (selfishness, greed, fear, meanness).
Generosity also involves giving to others not simply anything in abundance but rather giving those things that are good for others. Generosity always intends to enhance the true wellbeing of those to whom it gives.
What exactly generosity gives can be various things: money, possessions, time, attention, aid, encouragement, emotional availability, and more.
Generosity, to be clear, is not identical to pure altruism, since people can be authentically generous in part for reasons that serve their own interests as well as those of others. Indeed, insofar as generosity is a virtue, to practice it for the good of others also necessarily means that doing so achieves one’s own true, long–term good as well.
And so generosity, like all of the virtues, is in people’s genuine enlightened self-interest to learn and practice.
Source: http://generosityresearch.nd.edu/more-about-the-initiative/what-is-generosity/ (University of Notre Dame)
The wisdom of generosity
Generosity is freely sharing what you have with others. It is being willing to offer money, help or time when it is needed. To be generous means giving something that is valuable to you without expectation of reward or return. Many traditions measure generosity not by the size of the gift, but by what it cost the giver.
Sometimes generosity requires pushing past a feeling of reluctance because we all instinctively want to keep good things for ourselves. Even so, we can structure our lives in ways that make generosity more spontaneous and fun. When we intentionally “live below our means” and avoid over commitment, we cultivate a sense of bounty or surplus that makes us want to share. When we give, we reap the pleasure of knowing we have made someone else’s life a little happier.
This week prayerfully reflect on the idea of true generosity. During the week, strive to be as cheerfully generous as you can with everything at your disposal, in everything you do, for everyone you are with. Next week, share your experiences with the group.