Formations lesson for October 19: What's In It For Me?
October 3 2003 by John Norman Jr. , 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Philippians 4:14-19

Formations lesson for October 19: What's In It For Me? | Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Formations lesson for October 19: What's In It For Me?

By John Norman Jr. 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Philippians 4:14-19

"What's in it for me?" Most of us do not begin a Bible study or spiritual discussion asking this question. Or, at least we do not admit we begin by asking this question. To do so would give the impression that we merely follow Jesus Christ because of what He can give us, rather than following Him because of what we can give Him. But, let us be honest - isn't that exactly the reason we follow Christ? Don't we follow because we cannot obtain spiritual stability on our own? Indeed, it is something provided for us by God. But, is it okay to ask this question as it pertains to material provisions as well?

In this week's study, we are given a chance to ask this question and to see what scripture has to say concerning it.

The Corinthians 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 The Apostle Paul is the complete opposite of one who preaches a prosperity gospel - the idea that if one loves God enough, does everything God wants, and offers money abundantly to a particular ministry, then God will make that person wealthy. Yet, Paul does seem to suggest that in a mysterious way, giving to others as a response to God's grace toward us is beneficial to the giver. In order to comprehend this truth, we must remember the context of Paul's comments to the Corinthians.

Paul struggled with this church in many ways, theologically and ethically. In 1 Corinthians, he dealt with questions concerning strife within the church, sexual immorality, marriage, idol worship, the Lord's Supper and gifts of the Spirit. And now, at the heart of 2 Corinthians, he is dealing with the offering the Corinthian church was to collect to help the suffering church in Jerusalem. For whatever reason, the Corinthians have failed to gather the collection.

The Philippians Philippians 4:14-19 In contrast to Paul's relationship with the Corinthians is his connection to the church at Philippi. This partnership of ministry is different from the one with Corinth: as we read the Philippians' letter, we get the feeling that they have given generously, even in the midst of their own material suffering. The Philippians appear to be for Paul a supreme example of a giving community.

However, Paul approaches both churches in the same way - with encouragement and assurance that because they give, they will be blessed by God. Even though the Corinthians have not lived up to their part of the bargain in gathering the collection for Jerusalem, Paul is attempting to help them understand that there are personal benefits associated with such an act of love. For the Philippians, Paul commends them on their efforts and the spirit with which they have given. Through their acts of generosity, the Christians at Corinth and Philippi will be blessed. But how does this concept work?

There are two extremes that we must avoid in contemplating this fact. First, when we talk about giving, we are not talking about paying God for our salvation. Our relationship with God is accomplished by God's gracious gift in Jesus Christ. We did not earn it and we cannot purchase it. Second, when we talk about blessings, we are not talking about God paying us for our allegiance.

Instead, you have probably heard of someone who has come to the end of the month and struggled with writing the check to the church, but did so anyway. The following week the person received an unexpected monetary gift. Or, you may know someone who set out to help a person in need, only to find that rather than being only a giver of blessing, the person was also the recipient of blessing. In both of these examples, people of faith have given of their time, energy and money, and been blessed in return.

As the texts for today remind us, giving to God through giving to others has its rewards. We are talking about stewardship - managing that which we have been given as the representative of the One who is the owner. As we are a blessing to others, we become an extension of God's love for the world.

10/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by John Norman Jr. , 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Philippians 4:14-19 | with 0 comments
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