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in giving & receiving


receiving grace

A makeover show on TV featured a women from a poor background.  As the makeover progressed she was visibly struggling with the idea that she could have nice things.  It was lovely to see the makeover happening on on the inside as well as the outside.  Learning to receive with joy is a spiritual discipline every bit as much as learning to give with joy. 

The fact that women of means supported Jesus’ ministry (Lk 8:1–2) reminds us that Jesus knew how to receive as well as how to give himself in his preaching and healing.  He gladly received hospitality from Pharisee and tax collector alike.  Compare this to Peter’s theatrical refusal to let Jesus wash his feet in John 13 or the shallow receiving of debt cancellation by a servant who throws another debtor into prison.

For Christians the grace of giving always starts with the grace of receiving.  We give because we have first received grace from God in the immeasurable gift of his Son, Jesus.  That’s why in Deuteronomy Moses talks so often about possessing the land which is being given.  We must learn to receive, possess, inhabit what is given to us. 

Like the lady in the makeover show, receiving does not always come easy.  There is a challenge, a spiritual discipline and a rich joy in learning to receive..

Lord God, make me rightly discern in what
close connection my money stands with
my spiritual life. Let the Holy Spirit lead
and sanctify me, so that all my earning
and receiving, my keeping and dispensing
of money may always be well-pleasing to
Thee and a blessing to my soul. Amen. (Andrew Murray)

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receiving and grace

It is amazing that in two chapters about a major financial collection Paul avoids using the word ‘money’!  But he does use the word ‘grace’(charis) 10 times.  Even more amazing, it is in a chapter about money that Paul so beautifully expresses the heart of our faith: You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, though he was rich he became poor that you might become rich (2 Cor 8:9).  For Paul money is always about more than money, more than financial support though he never denies that this is important (2 Cor 9).  In its giving and in its receiving money speaks of grace.

Before the poor but generous Macedonians gave a single penny Paul tells us they were the recipients of grace (2 Cor 8:1-2). Or look at Zacchaeus.  The rumour of grace led him to climb a tree to see Jesus.  It was grace that freed him to accept Jesus’ self invitation to his home.  It was grace that transformed his relationship with money.  Both financial integrity and generosity were expressions of grace received.

The gifts that we receive from others speak of practical support for our ministry; they speak of love and of extending the kingdom.  But above all they speak of grace in the giving and the receiving..

Each act of giving and receiving, each BACS transaction to a Stewardship account, each letter of thanks, update on ministry or request for additional support, each new supporter is certainly about money but it is above all about transforming grace through transforming generosity.

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receiving, blessing and thanksgiving (2 Cor 9:12-15)

For Paul the grace of giving (2 Cor 8:8) is not a one way street!  Material and spiritual blessings complement each other (Rom 14:27).  The spirituality of receiving reaches outward to others in prayer and upward to God in thanksgiving.

In 2 Cor 9 Paul writes of the Jerusalem Christians: while they long for you (Corinthians) and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that has been given to you.  A key part of the spiritual discipline of receiving is to pray for those who financially support us.  But Paul says that prayer goes beyond our intercessions for the needs of our supporters.  He also speaks of a ‘longing’ for those who give.

Our partnership in the gospel is not just functional but deeply relational.  Of course our most generous and committed supporters are usually those closest to us but it seems also true that financial support should deepen and strengthen those relationships.  That is why supporter communication is so important.

Receiving also directs out hearts upward in thanksgiving to God.  The New Living Translation of 2 Cor 9:12-13 captures the meaning well: So two good things will result from this ministry of giving - the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.  As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God.

We can never underestimate the value of expressing appreciation to our supporters.  Paul challenges us here above all to give our thanks to God.

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receiving, giving and partnership (Phil 4)

Some churches broke Paul’s heart, but not the Philippians.  His letter is warm and it is no accident that Philippi was one church that actively supported Paul’s apostolic ministry in practical and financial ways.  Right at the start he speaks of their partnership in the gospel (1:5); at the close he speaks of their partnership in the matter of giving and receiving. (Phil 4:15).

Financial support both given and received is an expression of gospel partnership.  Money becomes a tangible symbol (some would even say money is in one sense sacramental) of that partnership.  From the gospel perspective raising funds in support of ministry is never about a financial crisis (although there may well be financial pressures); it is never about begging.  It is always about partnership.

Paul’s own attitude to financial support underlines this.  Those who work for the gospel have a right to support. Paul did not claim this for himself (1 Cor 9) not because he was embarrassed but because he refused to be bound to anyone by contemporary notions of required reciprocity when a gift was given.  But he did expect support from churches who had received when he left to minister elsewhere.

Giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin.  Our giving starts with the richness of what we have received from God in Christ.  I think also that as we grow in maturity of giving so we also grow in maturity of receiving.  Surely that is why in this same passage Paul is able to speak to easily of contentment with little or much and be so grateful for the gifts that have been given to him.  Surely that is why the Levites who received the tithe were required themselves to give a tithe from their tithe.

Giving and receiving enrich each other.  Together, not apart, they form what we call generosity.

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