Bible Study - Possessions Why Be Generous? - Luke 19, 1 John 3 and 2 Corinthians 8 - June 26, 2011
Bible Study – Possessions – Why Be Generous? – June 26, 2011
This is our final lesson in our series of study entitled “Putting Possessions in Perspective.”
Our scripture is Luke 19:1-10; 1 John 3:16-18 and 2 Corinthians 8:3-4.
During the financial turmoil over the past few years, most of us have seen our possessions lose value. The stock market is down and real estate is down but gasoline is up and food prices are going up. Many of us can look at what we have lost. I thought, “Gee, I wish I had given away what I have lost rather than it falling into a dark hole where no one benefited.”
We bring nothing into this world and we take nothing physical from this world when we die.
So why be generous? Shouldn’t we have the attitude of eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow we die? JESUS had a message regarding this attitude in Luke 12:16-21:
16 Then He (JESUS) told them a parable: “A rich man’s land was very productive. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops? 18 I will do this,’ he said. ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. 19 Then I’ll say to myself, “Youhave many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.” ’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your • life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared—whose will they be?’ 21 “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
The Bible is very clear; we are to place our focus on serving GOD, through our relationship with CHRIST as led by the HOLY SPIRIT. We are to seek first the Kingdom of GOD and HIS righteousness. When we have the right relationship with CHRIST, then GOD will add things to our lives. HE will never give us things that will lure us away from HIM. When our hearts are pure, free of greed and selfish ambition, GOD knows that we will use what HE provides to us as HE directs.
Why is everything through CHRIST? JESUS came in the flesh and proved that HE was and still is the ONLY SON OF GOD. No one has seen GOD but CHRIST, WHO was both GOD and man, lived upon earth and revealed GOD. If HE had died and that was the end, we would have no more reason to believe in CHRIST than any other human. So what is the difference?
It all began in the Old Testament and was fulfilled in the New Testament. CHRIST was sinless and gave HIS life to pay the price GOD required for the penalty for sin. Giving HIS life does not separate HIM from others who have given their lives but because HE was sinless does. How do we know that HE was the sinless Lamb WHO was acceptable to GOD? The critical difference is that HE conquered both sin and death. How do we know that? It is because GOD raised HIM from the dead.
CHRIST’S resurrection is proof that HE fulfilled GOD’S purpose. CHRIST is the promised Messiah. HIS shed blood redeems all who believe upon HIM for the forgiveness of their sins. Have you accepted CHRIST as your SAVIOR?
If you haven’t, ask HIM to forgive you of your sins and to come into your life right now. HE will save you and you will experience the miracle of salvation through the miracle of rebirth and receive the free gift of eternal life. Not only does GOD give all who believe in CHRIST eternal life but HE gives them GRACE through the shed blood of CHRIST. GOD’S grace, through the shed blood of JESUS, washes away all sin - past, present and future. WOW!!! Now that is something to get excited about. Because CHRIST gave HIS life and was so generous in that while we were still sinners HE died for all who would believe. CHRIST is our example of generosity; as a result, we should in turn be generous to the physical and Spiritual needs of others as the HOLY SPIRIT leads us.
Why do I keep harping on as led by the HOLY SPIRIT? It is because there are those who will try to take advantage of those who are generous. One of the gifts of the Spirit is discernment. I believe generous givers need the gift of discernment. Giving is a balance. There are givers and receivers. It is all about the attitude of the heart and the HOLY SPIRIT knows the hearts of all people. Many of us fall upon hard times but most of us want to be able to stand on our own two feet and strive to get to the point that we don’t need help. We desire to be able to help others in need.
Those who give must be careful that their giving does not cause those to whom they are giving to become dependent. GOD’S desire is for those who are helped, and are able bodied, to provide for themselves so they in turn can become givers. The heavenly rewards are in giving – resources, time, talents and the list goes on. Those who give receive the benefit of giving. If we give grudgingly then our giving is in vain.
In last week’s lesson, Paul told us that giving was a reflection of our hearts toward GOD and giving benefitted those who give as led by the HOLY SPIRIT. Giving from pure hearts equates to Spiritual growth. However, giving in hopes that it will gain favor with GOD is of no value unless it leads to salvation or a deeper walk with the LORD. Only GOD knows the end result.
Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred, then just feed one.”
Let’s read Luke 19:1-10:
Jesus Visits Zacchaeus
1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 There was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but he was not able because of the crowd, since he was a short man. 4 So running ahead, he climbed up a sycamore tree to see Jesus, since He was about to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, because today I must stay at your house.” 6 So he quickly came down and welcomed Him joyfully. 7 All who saw it began to complain, “He’s gone to lodge with a sinful man!” 8 But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord! And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much!” 9 “Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus told him, “because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the • Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”
JESUS was traveling through Jericho. Jericho was located about 18 miles from Jerusalem and was a thriving center of commerce. In Jericho there lived a Chief Tax Collector named Zacchaeus. Tax collectors were despised by the people because they were known to collect more tax than was required by the Roman Government. They inflated the taxes owed by individuals because they could keep all the tax over the amount required by the Roman Government. Zacchaeus being the Chief Tax Collector likely meant that he had other tax collectors working for him. Zacchaeus was a very wealthy man and those living in that area did not look upon him favorably.
We are not sure of the nationality of Zacchaeus but his name is Jewish. Tax collectors were despised but a Jewish tax collector was the worst in their eyes.
JESUS was walking and a crowd was following HIM. Zacchaeus was a short man and he wanted to see this man called JESUS. He tried to get a glimpse of JESUS but being short and not liked by the people, the crowd likely made sure that he could not do what he wanted to do. I can see Zacchaeus jumping up just to try to get a glimpse of JESUS. GOD had a plan for Zacchaeus and the crowd. Zacchaeus also had a plan. He knew where JESUS was headed so he ran ahead of HIM and scrambled up a sycamore tree. The sycamore tree was an easy tree to climb because it had a short trunk and the limbs began close to the ground.
This gave Zacchaeus a great vantage point to see JESUS and little did he know it would put him in the spotlight. JESUS stopped and looked up into that tree and guess who HE saw? I can imagine that a hush came over the crowd because JESUS had HIS eyes fixed upon this terrible tax collector. The crowd likely expected JESUS to scold Zacchaeus for cheating the people. The crowd was eager to hear what JESUS was about to say. JESUS called his name. This probably startled Zacchaeus. He might have thought, “Gee, JESUS knows my name. How does HE know my name?” Tension likely mounted in the hearts and minds of both Zacchaeus and the crowd. Then JESUS spoke. HIS words shocked him and the crowd when JESUS said, “I must stay at your house.” In the eyes of the Jews, staying/eating with such a notorious sinner made a devout Jew unclean and socially unpopular. The love of CHRIST transcends what others think about a person and extends to all who seek HIM and need HIM.
WOW!!! These words were unbelievable to both Zacchaeus and the crowd. Zacchaeus was amazed that JESUS called him by name and then this Man of GOD was going to stay at his house. The crowd could not believe their ears – JESUS was going to stay with this sinner. This was a strong message to all.
JESUS had observed the effort Zacchaeus was making to get to see HIM. JESUS knew his heart and that he was seeking salvation. When a person’s heart is ready to receive CHRIST, all it takes is reaching out to him/her in love and acknowledging him/her as a person of value regardless of his/her profession or past. Zacchaeus was excited that JESUS thought him worthy enough to go to his house to stay and eat with him. This was a vote of confidence from JESUS to Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus accepted CHRIST as his Messiah on the spot. He did not wait.
We see that there was more to Zacchaeus excitement than the emotion of being accepted for who he was. His heart was changed because HE saw JESUS as genuine. On the spot and in hearing of those in the crowd who complained, he told JESUS that he would set matters right between him and anyone he had taken advantage of. Zacchaeus’ heart had been changed and he meant business in following JESUS.
According to Jewish law if a man stole a sheep, was tried and convicted, the man would have to pay for the sheep at four (4) times its value. Zacchaeus said he would restore four (4) times as much as illegally taken from the people. Zacchaeus meant business. His heart had been changed because he encountered JESUS. Has your heart been changed because you have encountered JESUS? If not, ask HIM to forgive you of your sins and to come into your heart right now.
How do you think the change in Zacchaeus’ life made the complaining crowd feel? Some likely thought how they would spend the money they were going to get from him. Those whose hearts were pure toward GOD through CHRIST likely rejoiced at the salvation of Zacchaeus. The proof that Zacchaeus’ heart was changed would be evident by his actions. Did he follow through with his commitment? I believe so.
JESUS’ message to all who were in the crowd was, if GOD can save a wretched sinner by your standards, HE can save anyone. So do not hold back from coming to GOD through CHRIST by faith and ask CHRIST to forgive you. CHRIST was on HIS way to the cross to give HIS life to pay for the sin of all who would believe that HE was the promised Messiah. As stated earlier, the proof that HE was and still is the promised Messiah is in HIS resurrection.
Let’s read 1 John 3:16-18: Love in Action
16 This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but shuts off his compassion from him—how can God’s love reside in him? 18 Little children, we must not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth;
When we consider “Why be Generous?” this scripture gives us the answer and supported by the following scripture:
16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His • One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the • One and Only Son of God.
JESUS gave HIS life for all who would receive HIM as their SAVIOR when all of us were sinners – Romans 5:8:
8 But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!
Would I give my life in hopes that it would help someone? My love for that someone would have to be overwhelming. Guess what? HIS love for us was overwhelming.
Christians were bought with a price. Christians have been redeemed from the consequences of sin which is death. Paul put it best in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:
19 Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body.
Christians have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, CHRIST and made righteous. Therefore, those receiving salvation can be indwelled by the HOLY SPIRIT. Why? It is because of the grace of GOD. Grace is unmerited favor which cannot be earned. It is a free gift from GOD. GOD is overwhelmingly generous to HIS children. Let’s read 2 Corinthians 5:21:
21 He (GOD) made the One (JESUS) who did not know sin to be sin for us (Christians), so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
When Christians consider what CHRIST did for them, it is a small thing for them to be generous to others as the HOLY SPIRIT leads them. But Christians must have the right relationship to see this generosity through their Spiritual eyes and acknowledge it by their actions.
The Apostle John was telling his readers that having compassion is one thing but it is most important for a Christian to put compassion into action. James, the brother of JESUS, put it well in James 1:22:
22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
Let’s read 2 Corinthians 8:3-4:
3 I testify that, on their own, according to their ability and beyond their ability, 4 they begged us insistently for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints,
The Apostle Paul was writing from Macedonia in hopes that the generosity of the churches in the area of Macedonia would challenge the Christians in Corinth to solve their problems and unite in fellowship. It is nothing like a common cause to bring people together and unite.
Paul had collected money from the churches in Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea for the Christians in Jerusalem who were suffering from poverty. The Christians in these churches gave sacrificially because they were poor but they wanted to do their part to help others. Those who are poor understand the needs of others. Their willingness to give sacrificially reflected the nature of their hearts toward CHRIST. It was out of deep love for CHRIST they wanted to help their fellow Christians in their time of need. They gave freely from pure hearts of joy. They were not coerced in any way. It was a privilege to give. Privilege means grace. It was their ministry. The Jews used the word ministry to describe benefits for the poor.
Christians give because CHRIST gave HIS life for them to have eternal life and all the benefits that come from being born into the family of GOD. They want others to know the joy of salvation through CHRIST.
Why give generously? It is because of what GOD did for us through CHRIST, WHO gave HIS life for all who would believe in HIM to be redeemed from the ravages of sin, which is death. Give generously from a pure heart filled with the love of GOD. Blessings!