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Everyone Needs One: An IEA
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.
Alistair Begg is senior pastor of Parkside
Church and president of the Truth for Life treaching
ministry, both in Cleveland,
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
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.
Paul views the gifts shared by the Philippians as a
partnership. Just as a stockholder has a
with a company, Paul explains that we have a
partnership with the ministries God calls us to
Several things marked Paul’s partnership
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
between making a one-time contribution and
making a contribution that is marked by continuity.
Paul also says that their giving was not
was essential. Convivial giving would be sharing
one’s friends who would then reciprocate. Essential
giving is sharing with those who have no way to
What makes God’s people sacrificially
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.”
The generosity of the Philippians made
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.”
At the end of verse 18, we gain a new perspective
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
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
hearkening back to the system of sacrifice in the
Testament. Every animal offering had a fragrance
associated with it, just as the burning incense did.
These aromas were attractive and pleasing to God
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
was not simply generosity at work, it was sacrifice at
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
knew its value, and he said, “Verily, verily I say unto
you, this poor widow has put in more than all the
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
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
be able to give. Jesus turns this idea on its head
and says, “If we don’t give it away we will never
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.