Lesson 12 -- second quarter 2000
May 21, 2000
© Copyright 2000, Christian Light Publications
I think I can make you squirm! I'm confident, because I squirm myself, and have seen many others squirm. Actually, though, I'm not the one that's going to make you squirm. God's Word has a way of making us all squirm. Listen.
"And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need" (Acts 2:44,45). Frightful, isn't it? Maybe even frightening? OK, I'll grant you that it may be neither. I'm even willing to recognize that you haven't been made to squirm. After all, we have our defenses well-lined-up against the personal, contemporary application of these verses: "That's how they did it in their unique circumstances. This in no way represents a pattern for us to follow." (Whew! That was a close call, wasn't it?!)
I suppose, then, that we are also safe from this: "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common" (Acts 4:32). I thought so.
If I so easily and readily concede that these verses may not be patterns for us today, why do I bother bringing them up? Because I want us to see ourselves again. I want us to see how quickly we will rise to protect and hang on to what we possess. I want us to recognize that verses such as those can still make us at least a wee bit squeamish.
Verse seven in today's text commands, "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give." Can we find an "out" here also? Well, it does say that I should give according to the purpose in my heart -- so if I purpose to give next to little, so be it. Right? (Seems awfully self-focused to me.)
Maybe verse six is the foundation for seven: "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." Notice that we should not sow as we have reaped; rather, we should sow according as we would like to reap. Oh, OK. So then I'll purpose to give generously because that's the kind of harvest I would like to enjoy. Right? (Still seems awfully self-focused to me!)
God wants my gift to come from my heart, yes! But even more than that, He wants my gift to come along with my heart!! Otherwise it tends to be a grudging gift born of obligation and lacking in joyfulness. In Deuteronomy 15:7, God instructs His people, "Thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother."
God's gift to us made His love for us tangible (1 John 3:16). If we withhold from those in the brotherhood (in particular), how shall our love become tangible? Or in God's words, "How dwelleth the love of God in him?" (1 John 3:17). In Matthew 25:40 we learn another dimension to love, brotherhood and giving: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
And there, my friend, we have the hard reality of the context of 1 John 3:18 -- "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth."
Is our love for God and for one another strong enough to pry open our hearts and hands? I testify from personal experience that for many, the answer is "Yes!" To them and to God I say, "Thank you!"
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