The Transformed Life – Sharing With Others In Need
Note: This is Post # 10 in the series titled “The Transformed Life” based on Romans 12. Please click here for previous posts: ST # 1, POST # 2, POST # 3, POST # 4, POST # 5, POST # 6, POST # 7, POST # 8, POST # 9
As we continue in the series of the transformed life, this post deals with sharing our material resources with other Christians in need, drawn from the first part of Romans 12:13a, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.” The word “share” is from the Greek word “Koinonia,” from which we get the word “fellowship.” It’s a word that’s often used in Christian circles. The New Testament translates this word depending upon the context in various ways: participation, partnership, sharing, and fellowship. The basic idea is about having a common life together.
The Bible reminds us that the foundation of all fellowship is our fellowship with God. 1 Corinthians 1:9 tells us, “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” And those who are in fellowship with God through his Son are automatically brought into fellowship with other Christians. After all, we are all members of one body, of which Christ is the head. And one aspect of this fellowship calls for sharing material things with believers in need. That’s the point of Romans 12:13a.
Here are a few other passages in the New Testament that call for believers to share their material resources with other believers in need.
1 Timothy 6:18 “Command them [i.e., the rich] to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”
Hebrews 13:16 “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
So, we can see that sharing is not an option for the believer. It’s an explicit command. We are all members of one body, and as members, we are to live out the Christian life in care and concern for one another.
John Murray, a theologian, said, “We are to identify ourselves with the needs of the saints and make them our own.” That was the attitude of the early church. Acts 2:44-45 states, “44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” This was not communism but basic Christianity! Later, Acts 4:32-35 describes that this was the continuing attitude of the believers.
So, with those thoughts, let’s practically apply this command by asking and answering 2 questions.
Question #1. Who are the people we should be giving to?
While the Bible has many references that call believers to help unbelievers, here, the command is to give to believers—both known and unknown believers. The Bible has examples of both. Acts 2:44-45 above refers to believers giving to other believers they knew. Romans 15:26-27 relates to believers from the churches in Corinth, Thessalonica, and Philippi giving to other believers in Jerusalem they didn’t know.
So, we give to both known and unknown believers in need.
Question #2. What are the attitudes that should mark our giving?
3 attitudes should mark our giving.
#1. We are to give with an attitude of Eagerness. In describing the giving of the Macedonian believers, Paul said, “3… Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people” [2 Cor 8:3-4]. The Macedonian believers needed no push. They knew of a need, and they were eager to give. Believers living under the subjection of the Holy Spirit will want to give. Their hearts open immediately when they hear a need, and so do their wallets! They don’t need to be pushed to give.
#2. We are to give with an attitude of Generosity. When we give, we must not give with a grudging attitude but with a joyful and generous heart. Our giving should not be like the coins you put in a slot machine to get more coins back. In other words, we are not to give with an attitude of bribing God to get more. Instead, we are to give generously without expecting anything in return.
Here are the words of Moses as Israel was ready to enter the promised land in regard to this issue: “7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need…10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land” [Deut 15:7-8, 10-11].
Jesus commanded us to give generously [Lk 6:38]. Giving generously is an act of faith. Faith believes and acts upon the premise that if I meet the needs of others with my resources, God will take care of my needs.
#3. We are to give with an attitude of God’s Glory as the goal. Ultimately giving to others is not so that we will feel good [which we will if we do so with the right attitude], not so that others may see [which in some cases is unavoidable], not so that others might benefit [which will be the case]. But the goal must always be for God’s glory.
Paul writes these words in 2 Corinthians 9:12-15: “12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
God will be thanked [v. 12]; God will be praised [v. 13]. That’s the ultimate goal. His glory should be our goal in all we do in life, including our giving.
So, 3 attitudes to mark our giving: Eagerness, Generosity, and God’s Glory as the Goal.
The key to the right attitude is this: We must first give ourselves to the Lord. I say this based on 2 Corinthians 8:5, “They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.” The more we give ourselves in surrender to God, the more we will have the right attitudes when it comes to sharing with others. The more we see this God as a generous God who gave his Son to die for us, and the more we fall in love with this Savior who gave himself for us, the more we will experience growth in the right attitudes when it comes to sharing our resources with others.
A Word of Caution, Though When It Comes To Giving.
Just like any good thing that can be abused, it is easy for abuse to occur in giving, also. What I mean is that there is always the possibility of some professing Christians taking advantage of others. This was the case in Thessalonica. We read in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”” The issue was not that some of the lazy people in Thessalonica could not work; they simply would not work; they were unwilling, not unable! And they were taking advantage of other Christians who shared their resources with them. So, Paul warned these lazy believers to get their act together and warned believers from supporting them.
In the same way, we also must be careful. Having said that, I also want to add this: A few bad experiences should not stop us from withdrawing in obedience to this command. We must prayerfully ask God to help us apply this command faithfully.
Helping Christians in need is not a one-time or seasonal activity. As we can, we ought to help struggling believers. Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Remember that God does not expect us to give from what we don’t have. Only from what we have. The wiser we are with our finances, the more we can give. Giving to meet the needs of believers should be part of our monthly budgeting. We never know when an urgent need may come. Titus 3:14 says, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.”
Often God increases our wealth not necessarily so that we can improve our standard of living but so that we can increase our standard of giving. Sharing with others in need is also a way we can examine if we are genuinely saved. James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Failure to do so is a religion that God will reject. Jesus himself said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” [Matt 7:21]. And one of his intentions is that we share freely with others.
Are we faithful givers? Is our giving more than our storing? Bank accounts don’t lie. They tell us where our real treasure is. They tell us who our true master is: Jesus or money? It’s important to continually examine our lives by asking this question since the transformed life will progressively show evidence that Jesus is indeed the Lord, even over our finances!
It’s been said that we are most like God when giving. True words! God is the greatest giver. His children should also pursue the same mindset. Here’s a promise from God to those who faithfully put this command to share with others in practice, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” [Heb 6:10].