A MESSAGE FROM COREY WIDMER
Have you ever received a totally surprising, completely undeserved, generous gift?
I still remember an experience in the early days of our marriage. Sarah and I were on a date in a fancy restaurant for our anniversary. In that impecunious season, a nice dinner was a rare indulgence, and we ordered carefully to ensure we stayed within our budgetary constraints. During dinner we saw some friends of my parents as they were leaving the restaurant, and we chatted with them for a few minutes. Later, when it was time to ask for the check, the server told us with a smile on her face that a nice couple had paid for our dinner and that we owed absolutely nothing.
It was a surprising, undeserved gift of grace. Not only did their gift make us happy and grateful, but it created a desire to extend that same grace beyond ourselves—and over the years we’ve had a couple opportunities to repeat that same kind of gift for others. Grace begets grace. Generosity begets generosity.
In 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul mentions the “grace of giving.” As he often does, Paul packs multiple layers of meaning into a succinct phrase.
First, “the grace of giving” means that giving is rooted in God’s grace for us. “Grace” is mentioned 10 times in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, and many of those times Paul refers to the gift of God’s grace in Jesus, giving us what we do not deserve: forgiveness, mercy, and eternal, flourishing life.
Second, “the grace of giving” means that our own acts of giving flow from an experience of grace. When we experience the joy of God’s grace to us, our own generosity becomes a joyful expression of our experience of grace rather than a begrudging duty or obligation.
Third, “the grace of giving” means that others experience God’s grace when we give. God extends the experience of his kindness and mercy through acts of human generosity.
So the “grace of giving” is about God’s grace TO us, God’s grace IN us, and God’s grace THROUGH us. The gospel of grace acts as a powerful engine in our souls as we receive grace, experience grace, and then extend grace to others. Grace begets grace. Generosity begets generosity.
As we move into our stewardship season at Third, we’ll be talking about the financial plans of our church as we prepare for Faith Commitment Sunday on Nov. 5. We’ll be looking at how God calls us to give not only financially, but also of our time, our talents, and even our homes and families. But the key to all this giving is grace. The deeper we experience God’s grace for us in the gospel, the more we will desire to extend the generosity we have received to one another and the world.
May God help us all excel in this grace of giving.
Our challenge now is to meet the call set before us. We remember God’s faithfulness this past year, and the many years before, and we look forward to this next year. Please be in prayer for the Lord’s leading as to how you will support Third’s ministry in 2018. Our prayer is that each gift—no matter the size—will sustain and increase Third’s ministry and mission.