A Generous Heart
The questions in this small group guide relate to the sermon from Nov. 8, 2020. If your group has not had a chance to listen to the full sermon related to this discussion guide, they can find it in our sermon library. Rev. Adam Hamilton preached this week’s sermon.
Lord Jesus, generosity was a defining trait of your life as our example and savior. It defined what you as the Creator did from the very beginning of our world, as before we even existed you gave us a beautiful world filled with all we needed to thrive. And you generously promise to guide our thinking as we seek to more deeply understand the power of uncommon generosity. We open ourselves to your presence and invite you to teach us what we need to learn. Amen.
- Read Genesis 1:27-31, James 1:16-18. Pastor Adam said, “Generosity in the Bible begins with God. It is God’s nature and character to be generous. The Bible starts with God’s creation of the universe, then our planet. It is all an act of God’s generosity. He creates this wonderful home for us, giving us light to warm our planet, water and oxygen and soil, plants and animals to sustain us. We rightly recognize this as gifts from God, which is why we stop to give thanks before each meal.
Not only that, we rightly see our very lives, all the blessings, each day we live, every breath we take, as a gift from God. When we recognize this our primary response as creatures to our Creator is found in just two words: THANK YOU….James 1:17 captures the sweeping generosity of God well when James writes, “Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father.” Name 1 or 2 things which you recognize as gifts from God, and for which you are particularly grateful.
- Read Matthew 20:1-16. God’s didn’t limit generosity to creation but extended it to our salvation. Jesus told a story in which people who worked all day watched the vineyard owner pay people who’d only worked one hour the same amount they had agreed to work for. They got angry—obviously figured they’d get more than they’d agreed to. But the landowner sadly asked, “Are you resentful because I’m generous?” Does the master’s way of paying the workers in this story feel unfair? “It was not unfair, of course. No one was underpaid; it was just that some received ‘unreasonable’ generosity. That is what the kingdom of heaven is like.” * In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul said Christ was treated as we deserved, and we are treated as he deserved. In what ways does that “unfair” exchange deepen your gratitude for Christ’s generosity?
- Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19. The apostle Paul didn’t want the often short-lived joys of material wealth to blind Timothy or the members of his church to God, “who richly provides” for our well-being. Pastor Gary Demarest wrote, “Consumerism is an infectious lifestyle, and most of us American Christians are more deeply infected than we realize or admit. Is our trust in God limited only to ‘spiritual’ things, or is He the Lord of all of life? Does God really promise to provide for our necessities? What are necessities? At what point do we cease expanding our ‘needs’ list? How much is enough?” ** Do you agree with Paul that generosity and sharing, more than having wealth for yourself, allow you as one of God’s people, to “take hold of what is truly life”? Why or why not?
- Read 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, Romans 15:25-28. When Christians in Jerusalem faced adversity, Paul’s Gentile converts in churches in Greece and Macedonia sent an offering to help the Jerusalem believers. Paul guided the collection and delivery of that offering and was proud that the Gentile Christians wanted to help other churches, even those they hadn’t met personally. Paul wrote that “Macedonia and Achaia have been happy to make a contribution for the poor among God’s people in Jerusalem.” What experiences can you remember when you have been happy that you can contribute to help others? Have you ever felt inner resistance to that, a sense that “we ought to take care of ourselves” and let others do the same? If so, how did you work through those feelings?
- Read 2 Corinthians 9:5-7. Pastor Adam said, “In the New Testament, St. Paul teaches extensively about giving. But most of what he writes was preparing the churches he started, made up of Gentile Christians, to participate in an offering he was taking up to help the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who were struggling. Paul hoped this offering would build a bridge between the Gentile Christians and the Jewish Christians, including the apostles, in Jerusalem.
Today we kick off our Joy in Serving campaign. We’ll serve and provide thousands of Thanksgiving meals for people who are struggling in Kansas City. We’ll also be serving meals for the homeless and low-income people in multiple sites on Thanksgiving Day. In December we’ll have multiple ways to give to others in our city. These are all acts of uncommon generosity. I love the thought that someone will have a Thanksgiving meal because I gave–as they give thanks to God for their meal that day, you and I will have become the answer to their prayers. And each year our members pray about their commitment to God–for our offerings are an act of worship first to God, then an investment in the ministries of the church. They consider what constitutes an offering that honors God weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. We’ll talk more about this next week–today I just want you to know that in a few weeks that time is coming.”
Discuss how you, as individuals and as a group, can respond Pastor Adam’s invitation to support Joy in Service. And begin thinking about your personal participation in the coming appeal for financial commitments to support the church’s ministry next year.
Loving Jesus, guide us in thinking about how your generosity motivates and encourages us to live and give more generously. In a culture that too often treats “mine” as the most important word, help us to learn how much more important the word “give” is in the life of your kingdom. Amen.
* R. T. France, article “Matthew” in New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994, p. 930.
** Gary W. Demarest, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 32: 1, 2 Thessalonians / 1, 2 Timothy / Titus. Lloyd John Ogilvie, gen. editor. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984, pp. 225, 226.