FIRST, WE GIVE OF OURSELVES

FIRST, WE GIVE OF OURSELVES
Giving in Grace

A Bible Study exploring grace-full living and grateful giving

 

By

Rev. Kurt R. Nordby

 

 

Giving in Generosity/September 10 & 11, 2016

BIBLE STUDY: God’s Generosity
Read Philippians 2:1-11, John 3:16

The “generosity of God”!  What do you think of when you hear that description of God?  Does your mind go immediately to the things you have that you ascribe to God or perhaps to some sort of wealth that has come your way?  The “theology of abundance” has its roots in this type of thinking especially as wealth and material possessions are seen as given by God for some sort of faithfulness or action on our part.  There are two things about this way of thinking of which we must be aware.  First, generosity is not a result or response to some behavior by the one who receives a gift. It is given by the heart and for the heart.  Secondly, God’s generosity is not defined by our behavior but by God’s abundant love and sacrificial giving of Jesus Christ to die on the cross and rise again that we might have life and have it abundantly.  It is this truth that underlies God’s giving and generosity.

When we consider of God’s generosity, it is an action centered on the cross of Christ.  In speaking to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul reveals the depth and magnitude of God’s generosity.  He says, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”  Philippians 2: 5-8

God’s generosity lies in the incredibly sacrificial act of the cross and empty tomb.  In Jesus Christ, God’s gives the immeasurable and unconditional free gift of forgiveness and life to us.  That is the measure of God’s generosity and it lies at the heart of all of God’s giving.

Discussion Questions

  1. How do you define the term “generosity”?  How does your definition compare with the Apostle Paul’s description of God’s sacrificial giving of His Son?
  2. The text from the Gospel of John says “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”  John 3:16   What do you think was behind God’s generosity?  How do you think knowing God’s heart of giving can influence you in your own?
  3. What do you think the Apostle Paul meant when he said, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…”? Philippians 2:5   How do you think having “the same mind” would enable you to grow in discipleship and giving in generosity?
  4. The “giving” of Jesus to die on the cross was a sacrificial gift by God.  How does sacrifice enter into generosity?
  5. How would your giving change if it were sacrificial?
  6. In what ways have you experienced “giving in generosity” this week by either giving or receiving?

Print Week 1 Bible Study in PDF


Giving in Generosity/September 17 & 18, 2016

BIBLE STUDY: God’s Generosity and Our Own
I John 4:7-12

So how do we give in generosity?  Why do we give in generosity?  As with giving in general, there are many reasons that may move one to generosity.  However, for the Christian, generosity is initiated by God’s generosity.  God’s grace is always the first note in the composition of life.  Our giving and generosity is always in response to what God has done and is doing in our lives.  God’s generous and abundant love in Christ is always present in our lives, making things new, and giving us life.  Simply said, the generosity manifested in Christian discipleship and stewardship is in response to God’s generosity. The living edge of stewardship and discipleship is a deep gratitude for God’s grace and blessings in Christ.  This deep and abiding gratitude generates the joy and active presence of generosity in one’s life.

Our study text sets out this foundational relationship with God’s generosity and ours.  John tells us:  “ In this is love, not that we loved God but he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Beloved, since God loved us so much, we ought to love one another.” I John 4:10-11.  We love because God first loved us.  God is the initiator of love and generosity.  Our giving, our generosity is not done to elicit a response from God but rather in a joyful response to what God has already done for us in Christ.  Out of a vibrant sense of gratitude for God’s generosity and gift of grace in Christ, we give of ourselves in generosity.  Our generosity as a disciple and steward is always moved by God’s action in our lives.  God’s action of grace always underlies our life in grace and generosity.

Discussion Questions

  1. How would you define generosity?  What characteristics do you ascribe to generosity?
  2. John tells us that we love because God first loved us.  How do you think God’s gift of love and grace informs our understanding of generosity and how we give of ourselves in generosity?  How does gratitude fit into your understanding of generosity?
  3. What do you think are some defining characteristics of our generosity as a response to God’s generosity?
  4. How would a generous heart help in dealing with the constant pressure of consumerism and materialism that is so present in our culture?
  5. In what ways would a heart of generosity help one grow as a disciple and a steward?
  6. In what ways have you experienced “giving in generosity” this week by either giving or receiving?

Print Week 2 Bible Study as PDF


Giving in Generosity/September 24 & 25, 2016

BIBLE STUDY: Generosity and Blessing
2 Corinthians 8: 1-7

Generosity is simply a matter of the heart.  The motivation for generosity is a deep sense of gratitude and joy that wishes to be shared.  Generosity in itself can be a powerful blessing in one’s life.  For the Macedonians, the act of generosity proceeded from a deep sense of gratitude for God’s grace to an act of abounding generosity.  In describing the Macedonians and their giving, the Apostle Paul says: “We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia, for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.”  2 Corinthians 8: 1-2  

For the Macedonians, generosity flowed from the realization of God’s grace and in their giving, they also experienced a great blessing. Giving in generosity flows from the heart and the deep thanksgiving for God’s own generosity.  Giving in generosity is that which comes regardless of
the measure of one’s wealth and resources.   The Macedonians gave generously out of their
own poverty.  Generosity is not calculated by how much or how little is given.  Generosity is not
a practice based on what might be received in return.  Generosity is simply a product of a grateful and thankful heart.  Therein lies the blessing of generosity.  It is the joyful sharing of a thankful heart that embraces and celebrates God’s generosity in Christ through the giving of ourselves.

Discussion Questions

  1. Place yourself in the shoes (or sandals) of the Macedonians.  What would move you to give in the generous way that the Apostle Paul describes?
  2. Recount ways that generosity has been obvious to you whether it was received by you or someone else.  Was there a common thread in those generous moments?  If so, what were they?
  3. Generosity can take place regardless of the amount of wealth, possessions, or size of gift.  Think of the story of the Widow’s Mite whose offering was two coins, all that she had.  What is important is the condition of the heart.  How would a heart of generosity change the way you consider what God has given you in life and the way you live with those gifts?  Would this make your giving more free and joyous?  If so, how?
  4. Generosity comes with blessings.  Brainstorm a bit as to what blessings might be received from a heart of generosity.
  5. In what ways would a heart of generosity enable one to grow as a disciple and steward?
  6. In what ways have you experience giving in generosity this week by either giving or receiving?

Print Week 3 Bible Study as PDF


Giving in Generosity/October 1 & 2

BIBLE STUDY: Giving in Generosity
John 12:1-8

What does it mean to give in generosity?  The story of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus is one of giving in generosity.  In this study text, John tells us that Mary took a very costly perfume, anointed the feet of Jesus, and then wiped them with her hair.  This doesn’t sound like something that many would do today, but for Mary, this was an extraordinarily generous gesture.  We don’t know the exact cost of this perfume, but it was significant.  Why did Mary do such a thing?  What moved her to such extravagant generosity? Just prior to this event, Mary experiences Jesus raising her brother Lazarus from the dead.  Could it be that her generous act of anointing the feet of Jesus was done out a profound sense of thanksgiving for this life changing event?

Giving in generosity is just that.  It is the delight of a heart filled with joy and thanksgiving for God’s abundant grace in Jesus Christ.  It is a giving based not on what we might receive in return but rather on what God has already done for us in Christ.  Our giving in generosity hopefully follows the examples of God’s giving in generosity.  It is a giving that is done freely and without condition.  It is a giving with no expectation of something in return.  It is a giving simply done in joy and through grace.

Discussion Questions

  1. When was a time that you experienced extraordinary generosity?  What was the nature of the generous gift?  What do you think motivated this gift?  How do you think it impacted the lives of those involved whether it was giving or receiving?
  2. As you think about your life of faith, how does God’s gift of grace in Christ move you to generous giving?  Does that giving need to be done only at church?  Can generosity take expression in other forms?  If so, what?
  3. If we describe giving in generosity as the delight of a heart filled with joy and thanksgiving for God’s love and grace in Christ, how might this change how you or your congregation thinks of why we give to God and for ministry?  Is one’s giving “gift sharing” or “bill paying”?
  4. What difference would the delight of a heart filled with joy and thanksgiving make in how one faced life each day with its joys and challenges?  What would change?
  5. In what ways would a heart of generosity enable one to grow as a disciple and steward?
  6. In what ways have you experience giving in generosity this week by either giving or receiving? 

Print Week 4 Bible Study as PDF