Joy Manual: Poverty

joy manual

Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy.

There has been a long tradition which sees the mission of the Church primarily as obedience to a command. It has been customary to speak of ‘the missionary mandate.’ This way of putting the matter is certainly not without justification, and yet it seems to me that it misses the point. It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel.

If one looks at the New Testament evidence one gets another impression. Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact? The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving. An explosion of joy.

-Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

Last bastion of our lordship of our own lives? Money or rather giving it away. What’s the joy in that.

About 800 times  scripture speaks of money, wealth, finances, possessions, and the like, between the Old and the New Testament. Furthermore, Jesus teaches on finances and wealth about 25 percent of the time, which means were I to speak of money as much as Jesus, we’d take one whole Sunday a month and I would just talk about money.

 

In the Old Testament, we see that God’s people were expected to give what was called a tithe. Tithe literally means ten percent. The ten percent would be given to the Levite priestly ministry to fund God’s work and to fund the feasts and festivals.  Them there were various offering, and money to be given to the poor, and the needy, and widows, and orphans, and aliens, and strangers, and when you totalled it up, the obligatory giving in the Old Testament was about 25 percent or more.

In the New Testament, we see that that concept of tithing, that was dominant in the Old Testament and old covenant, is replaced by what we’ll call "grace giving" in the new covenant in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 8 and 9). Paul lays out four different criteria by which those of us who are Christian should decide how much God has apportioned for us to give back to him funding ministry. He says that our giving should be sacrificial, regular, cheerful, and proportional.

1. God is a giver (v19).
Though we’ve sinned, he gives us Jesus. Jesus gives us his sinless life. Jesus gives us his substitutionary death to pay the penalty for our sin. Jesus gives us his bodily resurrection for our eternal life and our future resurrection. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to empower us for a new life. Jesus gives us the church for friendship. Jesus gives us the Bible for truth. Jesus gives us skills, talents, abilities, to do ministry. Jesus was a giver. He fed hungry people, though he himself was very poor. He was generous, even though he didn’t have a lot.

2. We are to be good stewards (v15-18)
We take the skills, talents, abilities, resources, pounds that God gives to us, and we steward them. We do so wisely and generously. We do so proportionally, but we also do it cheerfully (Luke 16).  We tend to start very humble and simple, and if we’re faithful, then God would entrust to us more, so that we could be good stewards. I’m not teaching prosperity theology. Some of us struggle financially because we’re not good stewards. Our world is too focused on "Are you rich, or are you poor?" The Bible is focused on "Are you a good steward, or a bad steward?" Jesus was rich, and Jesus was poor. Jesus is in heaven and he’s rich again. But, he was willing to become poor to be a good steward, to love you and I, to serve us, to give us salvation, eternal life, forgiveness of sin.

3. We are to be content (v12)

a) The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

b) The Philippians are an attentive and gracious people.

c) They’re generous.

d) Their giving was worship (v18).

e) God will supply every need of yours, according to his riches and glory and Christ Jesus

Paul’s final point, in verse 23, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit." Now, had Paul not concluded with that word grace, this all would be legalism, moralism, and horrible religion.

Our God is a giver. We call it grace. It’s unmerited favour, undeserved love. Christianity is all about grace. This makes it different then every other religion. We don’t get what we deserve.

There is saving grace that makes you a Christian. There is empowering grace, that makes you like Christ. We are saved by grace alone. It’s totally a gift of God, as we have faith in Jesus, God gives us the gift of his son for the forgiveness of our sins.

Saving grace connects us to God. Empowering grace allows him to change our lives, so that we increasingly become more like Jesus.

The theme of Philippians is joy, and joy sometimes, in spite of hardship and pain, and death, and illness, and conflict, and poverty, places that no one would expect to find an opportunity for joy. The question is, well, how can we have joy, even joy in poverty? And the answer is by understanding that God is a giver. Joy is to be found in living your life in relationship with God the Father, being adopted into his family as his sons and daughters.