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Home > Research Library > The Biblical Case for Giving > Theological Topics > Eternal Reward

Everyone Needs One: An IEA

By Alistair Begg



Alistair Begg is senior pastor of Parkside Church and president of the Truth for Life treaching ministry, both in Cleveland, Ohio.


When I was small and unwilling to share with my sisters, my father would say to me, “There was a man they said was mad. The more he gave away, the more he had.” I’m still challenged by that doggerel, and still tempted to doubt the truth of it.

Now that we are officially in a recession, our minds are on Wall Street. Whether we have money in stocks or not, there is concern. Some have invested in an Individual Retirement Account. Rather than an IRA, consider what I call an IEA. Namely, an Individual Eternal Account. It’s a kind of spiritual investing; having a portfolio that is eternal; becoming the kind of individual who is as mad as the gentlemen in the story above.

Do you have an IEA? What is in it? And when did you make your last contribution to it?

In Philippians 4:14-20 the Apostle Paul commends the believers for their willingness to share with him in the matter of giving and receiving. He spells out for them God’s giving guidelines of partnership, perspective, prospect and pleasure.

Partnership

Paul views the gifts shared by the Philippians as a partnership. Just as a stockholder has a partnership with a company, Paul explains that we have a partnership with the ministries God calls us to support.

Several things marked Paul’s partnership with the Philippians. First of all, it was an outstanding partnership. He didn’t enjoy this kind of fellowship with other churches.

The partnership was not only outstanding, but it was also long-standing. We all understand the distinction between making a one-time contribution and making a contribution that is marked by continuity.

Paul also says that their giving was not convivial, it was essential. Convivial giving would be sharing with one’s friends who would then reciprocate. Essential giving is sharing with those who have no way to reciprocate.

What makes God’s people sacrificially generous? Is it an emotional plea? Is it external manipulation? I believe it is neither. Rather, it is the awareness that we have been given to freely. When Jesus sent out the disciples in Matthew 10:8 he said, “Freely you have received, freely give.”

The foundation of sacrificial, generous, resourceful partnership is the grace of God—the realization that all that we are, and all that we have has been freely given. So when asked, “Will you freely give?” there is only one response. “Yes, I must. Not because you manipulated me, or made me emotional, but because God has freely given to me.”

Perspective

The generosity of the Philippians made Paul glad, not because of what their gifts meant to him, but for what their gifts would mean to them. It is a whole different form of accounting. The Philippians were investing in eternity. They were able to anticipate rich dividends in much the same way that accumulating interest comes to the one who makes deposits in the bank. If you buy CD’s or annuities, you understand that you make the investment now and you receive the benefit later.

In Luke 6:38 we are given an incredible promise: “Give, and it will be given to you.” The only way we can foul up our giving is not to give! You never know this principle unless you make this sacrifice. Many people never get to the second half of this promise because they never take the first step of giving.

Perhaps you are tempted to think, “I can’t afford to give.” Christians can’t afford not to give, once they truly understand this dynamic principle of Jesus’. Our returns come in proportion to our generosity. “For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

My paraphrase of Paul says, “I’m so thankful that you’re partners with me in this way! I want you to know that what energizes me is not the benefit I receive from your gifts but the benefit you will receive from your gifts.”

Pleasure

At the end of verse 18, we gain a new perspective on the idea of pleasure. Paul says that the gifts he receives from the Philippians are pleasing to God. Our gifts bring God pleasure! You may never have thought of this, yet the Scriptures teach that once we begin operating under this principle, we live our lives underneath the smile of our heavenly father rather than underneath his frown.

Our sacrificial giving also creates a fragrant offering, Paul says. In referring to the fragrant offering, he is hearkening back to the system of sacrifice in the Old Testament. Every animal offering had a fragrance associated with it, just as the burning incense did. These aromas were attractive and pleasing to God in the same way that certain perfumes are attractive to us. We’re drawn to them, whether because they are associated with culinary pleasure or floral décor. In the same way, God says to us, “When you bring offerings to me that come from a heart that is in tune with mine then they are a beautiful aroma to me. They bring me pleasure!

Generous giving, however, is not necessarily the same as sacrificial giving. It is possible to be generous and to see wonderful things happen through our giving. But the sacrifice that the Philippians made in order to reinforce Paul’s ministry was not simply generosity at work, it was sacrifice at work.

Jesus made this point forcefully when he drew attention to a woman going into the temple treasury. He looked up and saw the rich who were offering their gifts, and he also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. Her offering didn’t look like much at all. And it wasn’t. But Jesus knew its value, and he said, “Verily, verily I say unto you, this poor widow has put in more than all the others.”

Prospect

Paul wants everyone to be certain of the outcome. “The prospect is this, that God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” God is ensuring that the sharer doesn’t suffer for sharing.

Once a woman wrote to me and said she enjoyed the TFL broadcasts and would like to help us with a gift. She mentioned her love of ice cream. She felt that if she stopped eating ice cream she would be able to send some money. It would be a bit of a sacrifice, she said, but she was thinking about it. I wrote her back and told her that I was praying for her. I included a $5 bill with my letter with a P.S. which read, “Have a large chocolate chip cone on me!”

I wanted her to know about the freedom in the Lord Jesus. Unless she has a health problem, it’s probably okay for her to enjoy her ice cream cones. Each person must work out her own salvation in fear and trembling. I’m glad she illustrates that sacrifice can lead to giving. And giving leads to blessing.

Common wisdom says if you don’t receive, you won’t be able to give. Jesus turns this idea on its head and says, “If we don’t give it away we will never have it to keep.” Do you personally believe that God will supply all you need if you give sacrificially?

Paul’s response to all this is to let loose with praise. “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” When God’s people live and give, when they care and share in this way, then glory comes to God the Father. Our Individual Eternal Accounts bring glory to God.


Copyright © 2002, Alistair Begg. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2002 edition of TruthLines.


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