Volume. XXX, No. 14
Friday, 09 October 2015


From the Pastors Heart: More thoughts about Giving - 2


One of the problems in giving is found in the spirit of pride.  We all theoretically know that we must be humble.  However, in practice, givers are consciously or unconsciously experiencing a sin of pride, though at different levels.  Some people say that we should learn to be humble.  It is true, though we cannot deny that pride cannot be removed by teaching at all.  It is because we can be proud of anything we have learned.  It is no wonder that Paul describes an act of giving as a powerful work of the grace of God.  

As we studied last week, it was the Corinthians who gave, but it was God who got the thanks!  The human givers received thanks only indirectly.  This particular understanding removes one of the most serious problems in human relationships between the haves and the have-nots.  If the givers recognize that the ultimate giver is God and they are only the channels, they should know that no one is better than or superior to others who happen to be receivers.  The receivers are not inferior to the givers, because the only true giver is God Himself.  It leads us to further thoughts of giving.

In the treatise On Benefits, Seneca wrote, “In the case of the benefit, this is a binding rule for the two who are concerned – the one should straightaway forget that it was given, the other should never forget that it was received.”  Probably all of us have heard it at least once before, somewhere.  This common experience may be an indicator that his advice was wise.  Givers must forget, and receivers must remember.  Our question is whether this wonderful advice can be a working principle.  Givers' forgetfulness refuses a significance of receivers’ gratitude.  Why is it necessary for us to remind someone of something that he has already forgotten?  Even if receivers desire to remind their givers of what they have done for them, the overall tone of this idea seems to encourage ingratitude from receivers.  On the other hand, if receivers practice to show and express their gratitude to their givers, it may feed the arrogance of givers.  Thus, though we may agree with Seneca in principle, we are doubtful that this principle may be workable in reality.  

Paul’s teaching on giving may resolve the tension in this seeming contradiction.  It is because givers recognize them only as channels of God’s blessings, while receivers give thanks to God directly and human instruments indirectly.  Thus, givers are thankful to God for the fact that He has used them to share His blessings with others and keep themselves humble.  Receivers are grateful and do not feel ashamed that they have received from God through other people.  Givers will be delivered from the vice of arrogance through their giving, and recipients will remember the gifts and give thanks to God who has given them the gifts and human channels.  In this way, there is true equality shown between givers and receivers under the same conviction that both are God’s creatures.  

The toughest obstacle in giving

There is a wide range of obstacles that keep us from giving; including selfishness, covetousness or even jealousy.  Therefore, I should have titled this paragraph as “one of the toughest obstacles in giving.”  A reason why I chose a phrase, “the toughest obstacle in giving,” is because I am going to talk about one particular obstacle that pulls us down not to give, even though we are willing givers and desire to give.  Though we have means to give and even a spirit of giving, one particular problem often prevents us from being cheerful givers.  This particular hindrance is none other than recipients’ ingratitude.  Should we give gifts to people who do not appear to be grateful?  The recipients’ ingratitude has two problems: their ungrateful heart and the wounded pride of the givers.  Givers would say that their hard work and sacrificial contributions toward the needs of the needy are neither appreciated nor recognized.  There is even no “thank-you” from the receivers.  From the receivers’ point of view, they could argue that givers are exaggerating about their sacrifices or they are giving either reluctantly or arrogantly.  It is more than possible that givers hurt and insult receivers with inappropriate words and attitudes.  In such cases, the injury outstrips the benefit.  We all need to know that we must not only give but also give well.

However, these thoughts still cannot remove our question about a recipient’s ingratitude.  Should we give gifts to the ungrateful people, though they have needs and we can meet their needs?  If enemies are hungry and thirsty, should we feed them?  They are just enemies.  I must admit that there are difficult cases I cannot ignore.  It is true that sometimes givers give for their own pleasure, while receivers do not feel like receiving.  On the other hand, sometimes even a gift well given is received ungratefully.  Probably, ingratitude by receivers is like a deadly weapon to dissipate the passion and zeal of givers.  Should we continue to give to such ungrateful people?

Before we come to any conclusion through our logic, we ought to consider the matter from God’s perspective, because our role model is God Himself.  We ought to imitate Him as His followers.  God gives to the ungrateful, and so should we.  It will help if we remember that it’s God who gives when we give.  We need to deflect gratitude that comes to us anyway.  We are not its proper addressees but God is.  And if we are convinced that gratitude doesn’t properly belong to us, then ingratitude doesn’t touch us.  We are not disrespected by ingratitude, and our pride is not injured.  The ingratitude of recipients, wrongs not us but the gift-giving God – the God whose goodness “gladly loses its good deed on the unthankful.” (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, ed. Harold J. Grimm, vol. 14, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1957, 106)

During the Nazi occupation of France, citizens of the small Huguenot community of Le Chambon saved the lives of many Jews by hiding them from their persecutors. When pressed to say why they courageously risked their own lives for others or when praised for their moral greatness, they were genuinely puzzled.  “How can you call us ‘good’?” they responded to the author of Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed, a book that offers an account of their extraordinary generosity.  “We were doing what had to be done . . . You must understand that it was the most natural thing in the world to help these people.” (Philip Hallie, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon, and How Goodness Happened There, New York: Harper & Row, 1979, 20 – 21).  Volf, Miroslav raises a question in his book, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace: “how is it possible to be a good tree growing in a forest of bad ones, as the Huguenots of Le Chambon certainly were?”  He continues, “We are good trees who bear good fruit, wrote the apostle Paul, because ‘we live by the Spirit’, whose fruit our gift giving is.” (Galatians 5: 25)  The Spirit counters our indolence as givers by molding our character to conform to Christ’s and employing our talents for the benefit of others.  The Spirit also gives us hope.”

Lovingly,
Your Pastor

More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

Kitchen Roster - Today: Group C. Next Lord’s Day: Group D.

*Warm Welcome to our pulpit: Rev Hyun Choi.

*Until further notice: Church office will be located at 86 Edmund Ave, Unley, from 9 Oct. All Bible studies & fellowship activities will be held there from Wed, 14 Oct.

*Please note that there are rules for the use of this rented property & areas that we are not permitted to enter.

*Daily Manna for Oct-Dec quarter available on the literature table. Donation $1.

*There will be no Tiny Tots Sing-A-Long on Fri, 9 Oct.

Praise & Thanksgiving

Journey mercies: Rev Hyun Choi; & others arriving safely at their destinations.

Church activities, & working bees in the past week.

Visitors & new worshippers.

God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.

God’s provision - temporary office location.

Prayer Items

Health & God’s healing - Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Rev Patrick Tan (S’pore); Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe; & others in affliction.

Special Prayer: Rev George van Buuren (heart failure)

House of Hope, Cebu - staff & volunteers; treatment & salvation of drug addicts; Provision of car & sufficient funds for ministry.

New Life BPC (London) - Dr Carl Martin; God’s guidance & encouragement for congregation.

Covenant BPC (Perth) - purchasing of church property.

Providence B-P Church, Mawson Lakes - Ps David & Sis Susan Weng, & congregation.

Youth & Assistant Pastor for Hope B-P Church.

Journey mercies: Rev Hyun Choi (S Korea); Rev George van Buuren (Adl); & those who are travelling.

Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.

Jobs: Those seeking for jobs in Adelaide.

Persecuted believers in Islamic countries.

God’s guidance: purchase of new church property.

Australia: God’s wisdom for our political leaders. People to repent and turn to God.

God’s guidance & provision of a permanent location for our church, office & fellowship activities.

Sparks4Christ & YAF Retreat this weekend: Speaker, Rev Hyun Choi; organisers & participants.

 

 

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PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063