A Reluctant Writer

Posts tagged ‘acceptable’

CH 5 APPLYING GOD’S TEACHING

He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. Deuteronomy 8:16

 It has never gone well for Jacob’s children. They have been a people without a land to call their own most of their existence. After they rejected Jesus, Rome razed their second temple to the ground and the curse of the law came upon them. Jacobs’ descendants continue to struggle under the curse of the law today. The only way for Israel to be blessed is the same way the Gentiles are blessed, by receiving heaven’s manna. Only in Jesus will it go well for Israel and for Gentiles in the end.

At the Desert of Sin God wanted to do more than teach his people how he administers his law. Treating people with equality is the same as treating people mercifully. But mercy is a double edged sword which can save or destroy. Therefore, we cannot live by the bread that feeds our physically body alone. Seasons of mercy give opportunity to triumph over the laws judgment against us by leading us to repentance. If we don’t repent, mercy reveals our true character and justifies God when he removes us from among his people. The people God delivered from Egypt ate manna, but they still died. A generation enjoyed God’s mercy but never received the things that were promised because they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved.[1]

It is hard to love God and easy to forget him when we can’t see anything good in him. When we fail to remember what God has spoken and desires it is hard to understand God. When we do not understand him it is difficult to believe his words. That is one reason God commanded Moses to,

 … Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt. 33 So Moses said to Aaron, Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come. 34 As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna in front of the Testimony that it might be kept. Exodus 16:32-34

 We have come full circle back to remembering.[2] God did not want his people to forget what happened at the Desert of Sin, so he commanded a jar of manna be kept for future generations. We are a future generation. How can we apply what happened hundreds of years ago to our day?

 PAUL’S WAY

We can apply the lesson learned at the Desert of Sin the say way Paul did. When Paul taught the churches how to give to the poor brothers among them, the events at the Desert of Sin were the foundation of his thought. Equality is the standard by which we should live and give because to practice equality is to practice mercy. Paul had witnessed mercy in action when the Jerusalem Christians were persecuted. Even though many in the newborn church suffered for their faith,

Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. Acts 4:34-35

 None of God’s people lacked because the early church practiced equality/mercy. Equality is based on need. Everyone does not get the same things, but everyone gets what he or she needs.

God’s ways are not our ways. Men build kingdoms on the sacrifice of others, but God doesn’t. The rulers of this world send the sons of others to fight for peace and freedom. God sent his own son to die so the citizens of his kingdom can enjoy peace and freedom. It is not God’s way to make us sacrifice so he can have what he wants, but and if God requires sacrifice, he will repay the one who sacrifices in this life and in the next.[3]

God sacrificed that he might build a nation that gives all of its citizen’s equality. If we sacrifice, we will lack. At the Desert of Sin God proved that he wanted everyone to have what they need. Those who gathered too little did not have too little and those who gathered too much did not have too much because when it was measured everyone had what God said they needed. One omer/quart! Those who hoarded the manna, awoke to a foul stench that revealed to everyone in the camp who trusts God and who doesn’t.

At the Desert of Sin God enforced equality to teach us how to live and give. Ideally, we will mature and live by God’s teaching of our own free will. No one demanded Ananias and Sapphira to sale their land and give the money to the church for distribution to those in need. When they did so for the sake of appearances, their insincerity cost them their life.[4] 

 SAME CARE

It is God’s will that the members of the body have the same care for one another.[5] God is righteous. He does not love the poor man more than the rich man. Nor does he love the weak man more than the strong man. Unfortunately, it is common in the church to love those with great gifts more than others but it is not righteous and creates an ocean of pain.

God defined righteousness in the law he gave to Moses.

 You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. Leviticus 19:15

 You shall not be partial to the poor! That is hard to do when you have been to third world countries and seen the misery of people living in poverty we can’t imagine in America. Some ministers return to shame us for the things we possess when others have so little, but that kind of judgment is an injustice in judgment. If you are going to condemn me for having so much when others have so little are you not also condemning God? I’m living in poverty compared to God. Why don’t you have the same care for me that you have for others? Why do you want to tear me down and build others up at my expense? Your judgment is an injustice because you are being partial to the poor simply because they are poor.  

 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.  2 Corinthians 8:9

 We don’t have to sacrifice like Jesus did in his earthly ministry because we are not called to be who Jesus is, the lamb slain for the sins of the world, the High Priest of a law that gives life and the King of the New Jerusalem. Jesus paid for his position at God’s right hand. We are exalted to God’s right hand by his grace. We don’t have to pay the price Jesus paid because he is gracious. His strength created an excess for the weak and then he returned to heaven to sit at the right hand of his extremely wealthy Father. The same father who extended an invitation to adopt whosoever will as his child. Jesus is not poor any more. If we lack and suffer need it makes his sacrifice vain. He sacrificed so all of his people can have what they need. If the church would live by the teaching given at the Desert of Sin, God’s people would never lack. They did it at Jerusalem and no one lacked even under severe persecution.

 GIVING TO ONE ANOTHER

In 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 Paul applied the torah to our lives today. For clarity, let’s say it this way, Paul applied the things God taught Israel at the Desert of Sin to the way we should live and give today. As we examine these two chapters I want you to keep in mind that we are not talking about the church caring for the poor saints. The Gentiles had received from the Jews spiritual things. Therefore, it was righteous that the Jews received carnal things in compensation.[6] Paul taught us how to give to the citizens of God’s kingdom that lack because they are being persecuted for preaching the gospel. This has nothing to do with giving to poor people who hate our God. This is about giving to people who love God, because we have the same care one for another. This is about giving to people who worship the same God we do who are going through difficult times.

If we do more than a surface reading of these two chapters, and if we don’t have an agenda, and if we are looking for God’s heart, we will find that the churches of Achaia, where Corinth is located, promised to give a large gift to help the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem. When Paul wrote 2 Corinthians they had not kept their promise.

Paul was so impressed by the Corinthians zeal to help the poor that he boasted about the Corinthians willingness to give when he went to Macedonia. His bragging stirred up the Macedonians to do one better. Corinth was not going to out give them. The Macedonians gave above and beyond what they had to give. While Paul was preaching and raking in money for the poor, he received word that the Corinthians zeal for giving had faded. They had not even started collecting the gift they promised.

Paul addressed this situation delicately and kindly. First, by describing the good affect the Corinthians zeal for giving had on the Macedonians.

 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.  2 Corinthians 8:1-5

 If bragging about Corinth to the Macedonians provoked them to give of their own free will and count it a privilege, maybe bragging about the Macedonians to Corinth will renew their zeal. Listen Corinth, the Macedonian churches gave liberally even out of their poverty. They gave according to their ability and beyond their ability. Paul was reluctant to receive this gift from the Macedonians, but they implored him with much urgency to take the gift for the poor. Paul did not ask the Macedonians to give beyond their ability. The Macedonians gave beyond their ability because they wanted to.

Paul wrote to Corinth because he was concerned that some of the Macedonians would accompany him to Corinth and find the Corinthian’s were not as zealous about giving as he boasted they were.

 2 For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. 3 But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we– not to say anything about you– would be ashamed of having been so confident.5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given. 2 Corinthians 9:2-5

 This is the problem with boasting about people instead of boasting about God. They will make a liar out of you. Paul did not want to show up in Corinth with some Macedonians in tow and shame the Corinthians into keeping their promise. That is why he sent some brothers in advance to make sure the gift was collected before he arrived. He wanted Corinth to give the gift they promised willingly not grudgingly out of embarrassment. Nor was he bragging about the Macedonians to shame the Corinthians into keeping their word. What the Macedonians did is OK, if that is what you want to do, but it is not God’s will for his people.

  I am not commanding you,… 2 Corinthians 8:8

 Neither God nor Paul commanded the Corinthians to give beyond their ability. Paul could not talk the Macedonians out of giving more than they had to give. If God did not command Paul to shame the Corinthians into keeping their word why, did Paul write this letter? Look at the next clause.

 … but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 2 Corinthians 8:8

LOVE

The reason we do something is just as important as what we do. As God’s people what ever we do should be done sincerely. Did love provoked the Corinthians’ desire to give to the poor saints in Jerusalem or was it all for show. The Macedonians did more than talk. Paul knew their love was sincere because he had their money in hand. They did not give according to the will of God but they did it sincerely. Corinth promised a generous gift but didn’t give it. Paul was concerned about their love more than their money.

The Corinthians did not have to promise a generous gift for the poor, anymore than Ananias and Sapphira had to sale property and give the money to the church, so why did they do it, if they really did not want to give it? It’s your love God is concerned with more than your money, because he doesn’t need our money. He needs us to love each other sincerely. It’s the only command Jesus left for us to keep.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

 What good is our money and the corruptible things money can buy if we don’t love one another?

 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  1 Corinthians 13:3

 Paul encouraged the Corinthians to finish what they started a year earlier because love is more than words and if you give but don’t love you gain nothing. Yes, God wants you to gain. The Corinthians zeal for giving had stirred up others to give or stirred up others to love. But Paul did not want to shame Corinth into giving to the poor because that would not profit them.

If you read closely and in context Paul was not telling Corinth to do what Macedonia did. Paul was teaching them how to give God’s way; with equality that no one would lack. If we teach what the Macedonians did as God’s will in giving we are teaching human ideas as God’s doctrine. When we walk in human ideas we worship God in vain. God did not command the Macedonians to give what they did not have. That was their idea, and if that is what they wanted to do it’s OK. We have done nothing wrong until we insist our way is God’s way and develop the arrogant attitude that we are better than others because we sacrificed and they didn’t. That is the problem with sacrifice; it makes us arrogant.

OK, than what is acceptable to God when we give to the poor saints among us? I’m glad you asked!

 ACCEPTABLE GIFT

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. 2 Corinthians 8:12

 The gift is acceptable IF you are willing to give it and IF YOU HAVE IT TO GIVE. God does not expect you to give what you do not have. Listen carefully; the gift is acceptable according to what you have not according to what you do not have. If all you have is $10 dollars don’t promise to give a $1,000. Don’t get caught up in the flow of what everybody else is doing.

When we try to give what we don’t have, we will end up like the Corinthians. Our zeal for giving will fade. Shame and guilt will nag us because in our zeal without knowledge we have made a promise that has become a burden. Jesus said, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” He does not require us to give what we don’t have because that is a heavy burden.

But what about people who did not have it, yet they promised to give it and something miraculous happened to put the money in their hand. I’ve heard testimonies like that. It happens, but it does not happen to everyone. Some people make pledges they can never keep because they were manipulated instead of being moved by love. If the desire to give came from a sincere heart of love God is able to supply the things we need and the seed for us to plant because God has commanded us to love one another.

 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food…2 Corinthians 9:10

 God will supply seed to people that will sow it instead of hoard it for a rainy day. If we are being motivated by love God is able to give us both, the bread we need and the seed to sow. If all we ever have is what we need, perhaps God knows we will not sow the seed. Why should he give us an abundance to sit in a warehouse collecting dust because we are afraid to give it to those in need? Jesus died so we could have more than we need that we might have seed to sow creating equality produced by love and not compulsion. Equality produced by men and women giving freely because we have the same care one for another not because we are shamed and manipulated into giving.

Reading 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 carefully reveal Paul making a clear distinction between what the Macedonians did and God’s will for his people. Paul sent two men to Corinth to prepare for his arrival and gave them some advice on how to fulfill what the Corinthians had already promised to do, 

 10 And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.[7] 2 Corinthians 8:10-11

 If the Corinthians love for the poor brethren in Jerusalem was sincere they will keep their promise to help. The best thing they could do is finish what they started a year ago but don’t do what the Macedonians did. Do it God’s way by giving according to your means or by giving from what you already have.

 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. 13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality,… 2 Corinthians 8:12-14

 When will there be equality? When our plenty supplies what another needs and when their plenty supplies what we need. Paul did not want the Corinthians to be burdened so the Jews could be relieved. That is what happened at Macedonia. It wasn’t Paul or God’s will for them to give away what they needed. It was the Macedonians will. They gave themselves to God and Paul according to the will of God because they loved, but they did not give themselves to the poor according to the will of God. God loved the Macedonians just as much as he loved the poor saints in Jerusalem and God will not tear one of us down so another can be built up because that wouldn’t be righteous.

Twice Paul referred to equality in giving. Twice Paul referred to giving out of your abundance or out of your plenty. God does not want others to be eased at our expense. Sowing and reaping proves what I say is true because Paul said fruitful seasons witness the truth about God. Nature itself teaches us that God supplies and multiplies the seed not the need.

 Let’s examine God’s witness, a reliable witness, an apple. If I plant the meat of the apple will anything grow? NO, because God doesn’t want what you need. If all I ever did were eat the seeds of an apple would it keep my body alive? NO, my body does not need the seeds in the apple. If I take the seed that I do not need to keep this body alive and plant it in the ground what will happen? If all the conditions are right, enough sunlight and water etc., I will get more than another apple to eat. I will get an apple tree full of more apples then I can eat and enough seeds to plant a whole orchard of trees. If I work, I will eat. Now, not only can I eat, but I can also give my neighbors what they need and if the neighbor I gave an apple to will work they can have their own tree and start feeding their neighbors to.

  as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.” 2 Corinthians 8:15

Where is that written but in Exodus chapter 16! Paul expressed God’s will for giving by pointing us to God’s actions at the Desert of Sin. Not the Macedonians actions!

God commanded a quart of manna be kept as a memorial for future generations that he might do us good in the latter end. If we would remember God’s ways and put them into practice, no one would lack and no one would be riddled with guilt for having what he needs. The jar Moses put the manna in for future generations to see justified having more than you need.

Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Hebrews 9:3-4

 What kind of jar held the manna? A gold one! This is not a reference to the color of the jar. I looked up the Greek word for gold. The jar was made out of solid gold. God has so much while many have so little simply because we do not obey his command to remember his mercy, the mercy he taught us at the Desert of Sin. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Jesus told his disciples as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup REMEMBER ME! Remember MErcy for a very good reason! When you remember you will understand, when you understand you will believe the scriptures. When you believe the scriptures you will have the strength to obey them. When we obey the scriptures those who gather much will have nothing left over to spoil because willingly out of love they will give to those who gather little and everyone will have what they need. Then the world will look at us and be jealous to become one of us for they will see a people who have the same care one for another, living and loving like God does!

 


[1] 2 Thessalonians 2:9, KJV

[2] See Surviving the Wilderness Lesson #3 Starting Over

[3] Mark 10:29-30 / Luke 18:29-30

[4] Acts 5

[5] 1 Corinthians 12:25

[6] 1 Corinthians 9:1-11

[7] KJV says “out of that which ye have”

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