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What Luther Says

Give Biblically On 'Giving Tuesday'

Just a brief reminder (as if any of you needed it) that today is "Giving Tuesday" or a national day of giving at the start of this Christmas season.

Since it is estimated that Americans spent approximately $57.4 billion (that's "billion" with a "B") on "Black Friday" and roughly $2 billion (that's "billion" with a "B" too) on "Cyber Monday" (or a COMBINED $60 billion on OURSELVES and THOSE WE LOVE), perhaps we could resolve to give just a little to those around the world who are truly in need right now.

You know, those who barely have enough food to feed one member of their family and who aren't even remotely thinking about the Xbox One.

Now, I want to be very careful though. I don't want my old American Evangelical self (fueled by my Old Adam) to show itself here.

So, I'm not going to suggest that you might be going to Hell if you don't give to the poor like one well-known Christian has. I'm not going to suggest that you "radically" sell your house or give it to a family that's living on the streets right now while you and yours take their place to prove your commitment to and love for Jesus.

What I am going to do is suggest that you simply recall what God's Word actually says about such things. Imagine that, huh?

1 Peter 4:10 (ESV) As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (ESV) 6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Matthew 6:2-4 (ESV) 2
"Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

1 Corinthians 3:6-15 (ESV) 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

To summarize, in 1 Peter 4:10, we learn that the Spirit gives different gifts to Christians to be used in service to others. God's gifts are not personal possessions, but are meant to be used according to His will.

In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, we learn about God's bountiful grace. Not only does He freely pardon our sins and adopt us as sons and daughters, but He also promises rich reward as we keep His commands, however imperfectly, and echo His own generosity, however faintly. Through generosity, God's adopted children give joy to their heavenly Father by displaying His image and likeness.
"Truly good works should be done willingly, or from a voluntary spirit, by those whom God's Son has made free"
[Formula of Concord SD IV 18]

In Matthew 6:2-4, we learn that Jesus calls us to hide our good works when we are tempted to show them. Our works must glorify the Father. The only blessing that counts is the one received from His generous hand. His grace perfects even the least of our good works.

In 1 Corinthians 3:6-15, we learn that there is a reward for faithful service, but this does not imply that one can earn salvation. God's favor is unmerited (Ephesians 2:8). In addition, as a part of God's team so-to-speak, He allows us to participate in His work, but the results are always due to Him and not our own efforts or wisdom. The joy of success in Christ surpasses any payment. On Judgment Day, all people will be called to account for their work.

"We teach that rewards have been offered and promised for the works of believers. We teach that good works have merit, not for forgiveness of sins, for grace, or for justification (for these we receive only through faith), but for other rewards, bodily and spiritual, in this life and after this life"
[Apology of the Augsburg Confession V 73]

"Black Friday," "Small Business Saturday," "Cyber Monday" and now today is "Giving Tuesday."

After all the money we spent on ourselves and our loved ones in recent days, perhaps we can spend just a little on complete strangers who need it more than we do.

However, Christians should not guilt one another into "tithing" or into doing "good works" for His glory so please understand that's not what this is about (2 Corinthians 9:6-7; Matthew 6:2-4; 1 Corinthians 3:6-15).

Likewise, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let's not confuse "Doing Good Works In The Name of Jesus Christ" with "Sharing The Gospel With Sinners" either (Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 10:12-17; Acts 2:38).

What "good" is it to merely improve people's lives with food, clothing, and shelter in their Here-And-Now if you never give them what they need the most (Jesus Christ and His life-saving Gospel!), which will actually have an eternal impact on their Hereafter?

Yes, we are to show God's love in the form of "good works" to others as we are able to in our vocations (James 2:14-26; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17; Colossians 3:23), but how "loving" is it really to do all sorts of "good" things for people without ever telling them about Jesus Christ and what He did for them?

Friends, we must always give 'em the Gospel, and we should never confuse those "good works" we do as the means of their salvation or ours (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 3:16; John 14:6). And we certainly should never confuse "good works" without a confession of faith and a presentation of the Gospel as "Sharing The Good News With Sinners" because it's not.

Jesus Christ alone saves sinners from the wrath of sin -- not food, not clothing, not housing, not medicine.

So, by all means, give to others, but give cheerfully (as you are able to) both the time and resources that God has blessed you with today.

In a Lutheran Layman's terms, please make sure that any donation you make to a "Christian" organization this Christmas, or any time you spend partnering with one, is a "good work" that will be used to actually glorify, honor, and praise the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by sharing the Gospel with people who need to hear it, and that it's not just about providing them with material blessings when it's the spiritual blessings they need the most in this life, and the spiritual blessings they need to get to the next.

What will you give? This year, send Gospel-based resources throughout the world.

[NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with Lutheran doctrine -- in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word -- so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray. Thank you in advance for your time and help. Grace and peace to you and yours!]


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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