Not For Sale
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Two Types of Contributions
I attempted above to differentiate between contribution and distribution. I explained that contribution is where we decide what to give. We may even decide not to give anything because what we are giving is actually ours to use. The basis of testing our generosity is by how much we share what was for our use. This is unlike in the case of distribution where we are commanded to pass along what we have been given.
One type of contribution is where we give away what we don’t need. The other is where we give away what we equally need. I mentioned above that giving away what is ours provides the basis of testing our generosity. It is a good thing to give away what we don’t need, but to be precise, the core of testing our generosity is by how much we share the best of our possessions—things that we not only use but are also our favourites. It is one thing to give away what we don’t have use for, it is another to give away what we equally need.
One who is willing to sacrificially share his personal things will not find it difficult to pass along things that he has been given to distribute.
In Luke 3, John the Baptist had challenged the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him: “Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance” (v.8). What did this constitute? They wondered. This was his answer: “He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise” (v.11).
John the Baptist’s message was that of repentance. And the evidence of that repentance was good stewardship. The primary question about stewardship is: What do you do with what you have?
Note that John the Baptist exhorted people who have extra to share. To him, extra can be as little as having two of the same thing. Extra must therefore be understood relatively. You have extra if you have two but your neighbour has none.
We can also categorise what we share into offerings and sacrifices. If we give away what we don’t have any use for, it may be called an offering. It also remains an offering if after giving, we are as comfortable as we were before giving. For those that have nothing left after sharing what they had, it is a sacrifice. The Lord Jesus implied this difference by the comment He gave after watching people give into the collection basket.
“And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.”—Luke 21:1-4.
There is sharing when you have surplus and one where you kind of lay down your life. Self-sacrifice is an applauded virtue in Christ. A steward that cares for others is sure to touch the heart of his master. Sharing is so important that it defines, in many contexts, the work of the steward. The Lord exhorted His servants, the stewards, to be spiritedly engaged in it.
“Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. …
“And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.”—Luke 12:33, 42-46.Just in case the reader missed it: blessed is that steward whom the Master will find busy sharing out portions of meat at the right time to the fellow servants. The steward is in charge and his main assignment is to make sure that the servants are fed. Isn’t this the same thing the Lord Jesus commanded Peter: Feed my lamb! Note also that the perception that the Master has delayed His coming, is likely to make the steward become irresponsible, given to minding his own indulgences—eating, drinking and beating instead of feeding the other servants. This is a parable and we can sure interpret who these stewards are and in what ways they eat and drink and beat other servants. It is chilling to realise that lapses in stewardship would cause some believers to end up in the same damnation as the unbelievers. Stewardship is truly a big issue.
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