Open Hands - Living a Generous Life

Dave Jones April 5, 2008 Romans 12:1-21

 

Introduction

What does it mean to live a generous life?

What does a generous person look like?

How important are the issues of generosity and hospitality?

Read Rom 12:1-21

1ThereforeI urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  3For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.  4For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  6Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.  9Let love be without hypocrisy Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.  10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;  11not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  12rejoicing in hope, (persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,  13contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.  14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  15Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  16Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly Do not be wise in your own estimation.  17Never pay back evil for evil to anyone Respect what is right in the sight of all men.  18If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  19Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord.  20"BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD."  21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

John Piper says the following about this passage of Scripture:

Romans 12 is a description of how we live when we know and feel the truth that we deserve nothing but misery forever, but instead, because of Christ, we have the promise that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to glory that will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). Romans 12 is the way you live when you have been broken because of your sin—when you have said with the apostle Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)—and then, after being broken, you have discovered that in Christ God is for you and not against you, and that neither tribulation, nor distress, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor danger, nor sword can separate you from the love of Christ and from everlasting joy. Romans 12 is how you live when you know this Christ-bought, broken-hearted joy.

He later states:

Not only should you use your money and possessions to give to the needs of others, but you should bring people happily into your home or your apartment. “Contribute to the needs of the saints”—that’s giving things away for the sake of others in need. And “seek to show hospitality”—that’s not merely giving money and things away, that’s drawing others in, not just for meals now and then, but to stay with you if they need a place for a season. In times of official persecution it was a dangerous and subversive practice. For some today it still is. It was and is a radical way to live. That was the meaning it had in the early church.

This is the way people live who know and feel that moment by moment the sheer, undeserved, lavish mercy of God sustains them and brings them home to glory. I appeal to you by the mercies of God—by the lavish “contribution” of God to your need, by the inexhaustible “hospitality” of God to bring you into his house not as a guest but as an adopted child—I appeal to you by these mercies of God, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Generosity and hospitality are at the core of Christianity.  We have received these in great abundance from God!   If we then have received them, how much more we should be demonstrating them.  One of the ways we can do this is by loving our neighbors.  You may have heard of something called the “Social Gospel.”  This was saying that serving people on a humanitarian level was the same as preaching the Gospel of salvation. 

Two things are important:

  1. We are never to lose sight of the biblical Gospel of salvation by grace through faith, and…
  2. We are also supposed to love our neighbors – to meet whatever physical needs we can.

Why did we build the community center?

Why do we have food pantry? 

A clothing closet?

Yes we are concerned about meeting the physical needs of our neighbor, but we also want to use these opportunities to help meet the greatest need in their lives.

We should also ask the question, “Why do we have a counseling center?” 

All of these and other ministries of the church exist to fulfill our mission of reaching people for Christ.

Generous living is described as open handed living.  You cannot share when you have your hands tightly clenched around your possessions.  This reminds of the story of the monkey trap:

There is a kind of monkey trap used in Asia. A coconut is hollowed out and
attached by a rope to a tree or stake in the ground. At the bottom of the
coconut a small slit is made and some sweet food is placed inside. The
hole on the bottom of the coconut is just big enough for the monkey to
slide in his open hand, but does not allow for a closed fist to passed out.
The monkey smells the sweets, reaches in with his hand to grasp the food
and is then unable to withdraw it. The clenched fist won't pass through
the opening. When the hunters come, the monkey becomes frantic but cannot
get away. There is no one keeping that monkey captive, except the force of
its own attachment. All that it has to do is to open the hand. But so
strong is the force of greed in the mind that it is a rare monkey which can
let go.

Too many times we are like the monkey.  We become trapped by our own greed and then therefore unable to live a generous life.

Let’s look at FivePrinciples of Generous Living

  1. Generosity (Rom 12:8)

Romans 12:8 says that we should give “with liberality.”  We should give as God has given to us.  This means we give with joy, with eagerness, without ulterior motives, giving purely out of a generous desire to help those in need.

Examples in Scripture:

  1. Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37)
  2. Macedonians (2 Corinthians 8:1-4)

Others?

INPUT: What are some reasons people don’t give generously?

  • Won’t be used wisely
  • I may not have enough for myself
  • Don’t want to give
  • I earned it, I’ll spend it

The reality is that these reasons / excuses focus on ourselves rather than others and most importantly rather than our Father in heaven and His Glory!!  And it is definitely not Romans 12 kind of living! 

Let’s look at the second principle for living a generous life…

  1. Sincerity

INPUT: How does sincerity relate to generous living?

  • It speaks to our motive for giving.  Are we giving because we think we have to give, or do we really want to help?  Is just one more thing we check off the list of “Things to do as a Christian today?”

It is easy to give with hypocrisy.  The religious leaders in Jesus’ day did. (Matt. 6:1-4)  They gave to glorify themselves, not God.

Closely tied to sincerity is the idea of …

  1. Humility

Romans 12:10 says “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;”

John MacArthur in his study of Romans has this to say about verse 10.

If we are truly “devoted to one another in brotherly love,” it almost goes without saying that we will give preference to one another in honor. The virtue here is humility, not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think (Rom. 12:3). It is doing “nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind,” regarding “one another as more important than” oneself (Phil. 2:3).

Proēgeomai(give preference) has the basic meaning of going before, or leading. But the idea here is not that of putting ourselves before others in regard to importance or worth but the very opposite idea of giving honor to fellow believers by putting them first.

To honor is not to flatter, to give hypocritical praise in hope of having the compliment returned or of gaining favor with the one honored. Again, the very opposite is in mind. To honor is to show genuine appreciation and admiration for one another in the family of God. We are to be quick to show respect, quick to acknowledge the accomplishments of others, quick to demonstrate genuine love by not being jealous or envious, which have no part in love, whether agapē or philadelphia.
MacArthur, John: Romans. Chicago : Moody Press, 1996, c1991, c1994, S. 188

Sincerity and Humility talk about the heart of a generous life.  Giving in a way that shows honor to God not to ourselves or to impress others.

  1. Sympathy

One definition of sympathy is: the fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, esp. in sorrow or trouble; fellow feeling, compassion, or commiseration.  It is seeing a need and then taking steps to meet that need in real and tangible ways.

Verse 13a talks about contributing to the needs of the saints.

Deuteronomy 15:11 is a powerful verse in regard to this regard:

For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.'

The concept of the open hand!  We are to open our hands to our brothers in need.

One real way to that right now is regarding the announcement about the first Sundays of the month.   Read announcement about Food Pantry and Clothing Closet

Clothing Closet / Food Pantry

Around Faith we want to construct a mentality of caring for those who are less fortunate. The scripture encourages us in James 2:14-16 saying “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?”We want to make every “First Sunday” of the month the week when you bring food and clothes for those less fortunate. You’ll be able to drop these off in the grey bins outside of the Resource Center. Make it a point to add a few items in your grocery shopping and drop them off in the grey bins on the first Sunday of each month. A little effort by a lot of people can make a great impact

This brings us to our last principle…

  1. Hospitality

INPUT: What are some ways you have experienced hospitality?

INPUT: What are some ways you have demonstrated hospitality?

Hospitality is one of  the most gracious ways to demonstrate open-handed living.  To be hospitable, we cannot wait for the knock on the door.  We must initiate it.  1 Peter says we must be hospitable without grumbling.  Quite frankly, if we grumble at any point in the process of showing hospitality , we really aren’t being hospitable.  We are just doing a task.

John Piper talks about practicing strategic hospitality:

What I mean by strategic hospitality is a hospitality that thinks strategically and asks: How can I draw the most people into a deep experience of God's hospitality by the use of my home or my church home? Who might need reinforcements just now in the battle against loneliness? Who are the people who could be brought together in my home most strategically for the sake of the kingdom? What two or three people's complementary abilities might explode in a new ministry if they had two hours to brainstorm over dinner in my house?

Strategic hospitality is not content to just have the old clan over for dinner again and again. It strategizes how to make the hospitality of God known and felt all over the world, from the lonely church member right here, to the Gola farmers in Tahn, Liberia. Don't ever underestimate the power of your living room as a launching pad for new life and hope and ministry and mission!

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Did you get that?  Not just having the “old clan” over again.  Are we reaching out to those that are new?  Are we showing hospitality regardless of where they work or live?  Regardless of where their kids go to school.  Regardless of any labels we could place.

Living a generous life is not about staying in your comfort zone.  It is about looking at needs and finding a way to meet them.  Let bring to you another need.  This need doesn’t necessarily need you to contribute your money.  This is an opportunity to give of your time and talents.

The church is looking for an individual to serve as a liaison to the right-to-life organization.  We would like someone to be our Pro-Life representative.

I don’t have all the details as to what exactly that looks like.  But, if you would say that you have a passion for this area and want more information please contact Pastor Viars.

Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:1 to be living sacrifices.  Having open hands is one way to demonstrate Romans 12 kind of living.

Are we going to be living sacrifices this week?

Dave Jones

Dave works for human resources at Purdue University.  Dave and his wife, Becky, joined Faith in 1986.  He co-teaches the Ambassadors ABF as well as several FCI classes.