By Matthew Roberts, 14 Jan 2016
In January and February we're going to be looking at Paul's letter to the Philippians in our Sunday morning sermons. It's a wonderful, warm, heartfelt letter to a church made up of people Paul was clearly deeply attached to. But what makes it really wonderful is that it's about the gospel - about the extraordinary privilege of serving Jesus Christ, and what the implications are of that for how we live. We'll be able to watch that unfolding over the next few weeks.
This coming Sunday, 17th January, is our annual Giving Review Sunday. It's when we ask all the members of our church - and anyone else who wants to - to think about, pray about, and then pledge what they are going to give to the church regularly over the coming year. You can also give one-off gifts, of course, but that's not the main point of it. You can download a copy of the giving review leaflet, with all the information, here.
So why should Christians give money? Particularly because giving to a church is neither giving to a 'good cause' in the normal sense people say that, and nor do you get anything very much back?
Philippians is a good place to find the answer. Paul will in fact thank the Philippians for a gift they've sent him, at the end of the letter. But the reasons we should give to the Church - particularly our own church - are on every page of this letter. Think about what Paul says in 1:7-8:
It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Paul speaks about the great love he has for these Christians. But his point is really about the love that Jesus has for them: the intense, eternal, cross-carrying, life-giving love which Jesus has shown them. That is the 'grace' which we have been shown by Jesus, which all Christians are sharers ('partakers') in. That is the 'affection of Christ Jesus' with which he also yearns for the Philippian Christians.
So the reason we should give is, in a way, the same reason we give things to anyone who loves us, especially those to whom we owe a great debt, like our parents. But of course we are not here giving to someone who is merely human like us, but to the Lord God of the universe, who made us and has rescued us through the Lord Jesus Christ. So for him the love and gratitude which we show by giving to him is an act of worship: putting ourselves, and all we have, at his disposal. We give money as an indicator of that.
So as we all think and pray this week about our giving, can I encourage us all to think particularly about the 'affection of Christ Jesus', the love he has shown us in giving himself for us and making us his.
Yours in Christ