This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, we continued our series “Living Church” by looking at the generosity of the early church in Jerusalem. My message was built around seven characteristics of the generosity seen in the early church in Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-37.

You can listen to my message online at the Eastbrook web-site here. You can also subscribe to the Eastbrook podcast here or follow Eastbrook Church on Twitter.

The message outline is included below.

A Generous Church is together (Acts 2:44; 4:32)

  • Unity – “one in heart and mind” (2:44)
  • The diversity of the Jerusalem church

A Generous Church knows God’s grace (2: 38-39; 4:33)

  • The power of grace (4:33)
  • Jesus our generous Messiah (2 Corinthians 8:9)

A Generous Church isn’t chained to possessions (2:44)

  • Having appropriate perspective on our possessions (1 Timothy 6:6-9)
  • Two warnings about the power of possessions (1 Timothy 6:10; Luke 18:22)

A Generous Church know the needs (2:45; 4:34-35)

  • Giving means knowing needs (2:45)
  • Distributing to those in need (4:35; 6:1-7)

A Generous Church gives sacrificially (2:45; 4:34-35)

  • “Sold property and possessions” (2:45)
  • “For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them” (4:34)

A Generous Church tells the stories (4:36-37)

  • The example of Barnabas

A Generous Church doesn’t fake it (5:1-11)

  • Deceiving God and people about generosity (5:3)
  • The importance of voluntary giving (5:4)

3 thoughts on “Generous

  1. I am curious as to why you chose the word “generous,” since it does not appear in the text. It is striking how the author calls attention to the fact that the early church sold property and possessions and gave to anyone who had a need…and no one claimed any possessions as their own…and there were no needy persons among them. Read against the background of Luke’s Gospel, the criticism of wealth and property is implicit. It’s hard for me to reconcile Luke’s criticism of riches, wealth and property with modern capitalistic consumerism. I think Luke had more than the giving of alms in mind, more than generosity, when he linked the early church with the poverty of Jesus. If Luke 16:9 was not included in the parable of the shrewd manager (use worldly wealth…), it would be hard to argue for property rights and capitalistic acquistion of wealth. Is there something like a Christian capitalism that measures wealth in terms of heavenly goods? Or is a bias toward the poor a standard of Christian living and social justice in this life? I am aware that 1 Tim 6 is used to explain that love of money is evil rather than money itself. For Luke, it seems that money itself has a quasi spiritual power. It is not a neutral possession.

  2. Thanks for the questions, Bruce.

    In my approach, coming up with titles for sermons or sermon series is always a balance between the text itself and language that is accessible for us today. Thus, you’ll see that the title of our current series, “Living Church,” isn’t strictly in the text from Acts anywhere. It is a concept that I am using to organize the thoughts. The titles of the individual messages are a combination of words descriptive of the text, such as this week’s “Generous” or an earlier week’s “Living in the Holy Spirit,” and words straight from the text, such as “Devoted to Prayer” and “Devoted to One Another.”

    I agree with you that, in your words, “It’s hard for me to reconcile Luke’s criticism of riches, wealth and property with modern capitalistic consumerism.” I don’t think that we can reconcile that. The church must not subject itself to or by co-opted by capitalistic consumerism. At the same time, it does not seem to be that Luke is depicting total economic equity within the church in Jerusalem. It is evident that there are strong needs within the church then that were being met largely by those with great means. The wording in Acts 4 is that the land-owners and those who owned houses were selling them to provide for the needy. This, in my mind, is a radical generosity which goes directly against the justification of social separation and lack of consideration of the poor in Luke’s days and the idols of consumption, greed, and acquisitiveness in our culture.

    I also agree with you that, not just for Luke, but for Jesus money (i.e., ‘mammon’) has spiritual power. As many have said, Jesus speaks about money more than He does about many apparently more ‘spiritual’ topics like salvation and hell. Why is this? Because money has real power and, as Paul writes, is the root of all kinds of evil.

    I was not really advocating any type of Christian capitalism in my message. Not sure where you heard that.

  3. Christian capitalism = my term. Refers to the injunction in Luke 16:9 to use worldly wealth to accumulate heavenly rewards.
    As regards wealth, Weber’s majestic Protestan Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, along with Wesley’s famous sermon on money (“make, save and give”), was pretty much how I understood the Evangelical teaching on money. Generosity was an activity alongside making of wealth. We now may be hearing something different from conservative Evangelicals such as David Platt. Platt asks Christians to forestall the American Dream and invest in eternal wealth. It’s not the old social gospel of economic justice, but a venture into an individualistic, achievement, and contributory use of money. And he is gaining a hearing.

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