More (discussion questions)

Each week I develop discussion or reflection questions to accompany my messages at Eastbrook Church. This past weekend I preached a message entitled “More” from our current series “Real Rich.” Here they are!

Discussion Questions:

1. What do you think it means to be generous?

2. As we continue our series, “Real Rich,” this week, we are going to explore the topic of generosity. Before you begin your study, ask God to speak to you through the Scripture.

3. The starting point for generosity with others is God’s generosity with us. Take some time to read the following Scripture passages, and then describe, in your own words, the generosity of God:

4. When have you personally experienced or felt the meaning of God’s generosity to you?

5. In Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:32-37, we read about the generosity of the early church in Jerusalem. One Greek phrase that appears in both places to convey the common life of the church is translated “had everything in common” (2:44) and “shared everything” (4:32). How would you describe what this phrase means as you look at the way the early believers lived with each other?

6. There were some in the Jerusalem Church, according to Acts 4:32-37, who sold personal property to help others in need. What do you think is going on here? How does this situation impact you as a 21st century follower of Jesus?

7. This week, we talked about something new God is doing with Eastbrook in launching a new church plant in the Fall, All Nations Church. Pastor Matt encouraged the congregation to consider supporting it in three different ways: praying for All Nations Church, financially supporting the new church, or joining in with those who will be part of the launch team of the new church. How do you sense God leading you today in regards to this endeavor?

8. How is God speaking to you now from this study of Scripture about generosity? If you are in a small group, discuss this together. If you are on your own, then perhaps you could write down some thoughts on this.

[Next week: We will begin a series on relationships entitled “Made for It.” Prepare by reading Genesis 1-3; Proverbs 17:17; 18:24; 22:24-25; 25:17,20; 26:18-19; 27:5, 6, 9-10, 14, 17; 28:23.]

One thought on “More (discussion questions)

  1. Generosity or Transparency and Solidarity?
    No book in the Old Testament has more to say about generosity and the wise use of money than Proverbs, both in the commercial realm and in eleemosynary activity. Yet is has next to nothing about gifts and tithes to the temple. Indeed, the only references to offerings (bloody or otherwise) is the requirement of righteousness on the part of the giver (Prov 15:8; 21:3; 21:27). The paucity of references to tithing in Wisdom literature is all the more striking in view of the utter lack of any specific instructions about tithing in the New Testament. These observations raise the question of whether something more than generosity is at stake in Christian financial planning. At least two specific attributes of giving in the New Testament come to mind: Transparency and Solidarity.
    Transparency is the conscious choice not to let the left hand know what the right hand is doing (Mt 6:1-3). Bonhoeffer calls the apparent paradox of voluntary inattention “sight illuminated by Christ (Cost of Discipleship).” At the very least it implies non-coercion. Gifts to ministries, charities or persons other than the local church were characterized as indicators of control issues in the recent sermon series on wealth. This characterization betrays the coercive element often associated with religious organizations in regard to money. It is the suggestion that religious organizations know better how to spend financial gifts that offends church goers rather than the amount suggested. Even if tithing is only presented as a guideline, it becomes instead a benchmark for satisfying one’s duty to God owing to the biblical requirement for tithes in the Old Testament. The New Testament practice of Transparency is based on the notion of total sacrifice to God for his total sacrifice to us. Christ loves a cheerful giver who gives spontaneously. Churches should be conduits for random acts of financial giving rather than obstacles to them. Churches should invite individual initiatives in ministry and provide contacts, review business plans or even providing seed money. The church can be a conduit rather than a receptacle because land and temple in the Old Testament have been replaced by the body of Christ in the New Testament, the temple is a spiritual household. Theoretically, no funds are needed for the local church. Practically, bricks and mortar are needed for the well-being of the church, not the being of the church. Church buildings should be constructed with the capstone missing to remind us they are not the Kingdom of God on earth.
    Solidarity is the goal of giving. Donations should be given “that there might be equality” (2 Cor 8:13), Paul instructs the Corinthians. Equality is not on the supply side or the redistribution side. It is an exchange between needs of different kinds–financial gifts for Jerusalem in exchange for spiritual gifts for Corinth. The basis for this exchange is the substitutionary life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who “though He was rich for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). Christ’s sacrifice makes real the equality implied by the miraculous gift of Manna in the Exodus, where “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little” (2 Cor 8:15). Solidarity establishes identity with the poor, not a bias towards poverty. Economic hardship should be escaped wherever possible, and poverty can breed materialism just as easily as wealth. But poverty does not imply inferiority. The poor can give spiritually as much or more than the rich. Therefore the rich need to give up the trappings and luxuries of wealth so that the poor can give spiritually. A good example of this exchange comes from the “Secret Church” meetings described by David Platt in his book Radical, where church services are held on Friday evenings under circumstances similar to persecuted churches in foreign lands. Solidarity services like Secret Church meetings promote extraordinary gifts of time and money to ministries outside the church.
    Generosity is a virtue, but is it a gift of the Spirit? Do we need Christ to be generous, or should generosity be practiced by everyone inside and outside of the church? The Gospel of Jesus Christ is necessary to sustain the paradox of transparent giving taught by Christ when he warned us not to do our righteous deeds to be seen by men. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is also necessary to break down the barriers of sin and establish solidarity with people not of our own economic, social, cultural, ethnic, gender or age backgrounds.

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