Thursday, November 20, 2014
Your Money & The New Covenant: LOVE WORKS
It’s happened to the church, too.
We seem ever to want to be motivated by crisis, by calamity, by a good cause and a good appeal, by a big need, or by a big kick to our backside. I know the church doesn’t really want that, but it seems like it does. And I sure don’t like it. It’s not that we shouldn’t be motivated by a sudden event, it’s just that we can become addicted to the energy and appeal of the moment. And there is something much better, something more true and constant, something given by God Himself. The church was made for it. You were too.
God’s love produces confidence and daring and assurance and peace and rest and hope and, well, everything we need for life. God’s very being is love, so if we, His sons and daughters, attempt to do much of anything apart from love, we fumble and act unnatural. We feel it, too. Like something’s seriously out of whack in us. And it is. When the behavior of the Corinthian Christians went seriously crazy, the apostle Paul pointed them back to the love of God because it is the prime motivator—it rescues and refreshes and compels the people of God (2 Corinthians 5:14).
God’s love works. That’s the New Covenant way: God in us, and God toward people and God toward situations that would involve Him in us.
I’m reminded of what love did to the Macedonian Christians not long after God first lived in them. God gave an amazing grace to these people who lived in “extreme poverty” such that in their joy they gave what little they had so others could hear the gospel. The Macedonians were in love with God, having first been won-over by His love for them. And that love “welled up in rich generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:2). Do you get the combination? They hit the big time! God was in them toward some kind of brilliant display—in this case, giving.
There’s no need and there’s no room for laws about your money, because you’re ruled by the grace of God in you, not law. Laws hijack love, stuff it in a closet and tell it to “Shut up! You’re too sloppy and unreliable!” and instead offer you method, calculated and loveless measurement, and ultimately, condemnation. That’s not the New Covenant way. That is not what the Macedonians had. They had the love of God Himself, and that, or rather, He moved them.
Paul then wrote to the Corinthians that they, too, should “excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you (I have no law!), but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others” (2 Corinthians 8:8, italics mine). Was it a test of whether they would give or be stingy misers? No! It was a test of love—love was the issue—and Paul was concerned about how love was issuing forth from the Macedonians.
That’s why the Macedonians gave – they were in love! They didn’t give motivated by an appeal to sacrifice, they didn’t give to make sure their tithe was on time, they didn’t give because others were in need, and they didn’t give because it was the right thing to do. They gave because they were in love, and that made their giving “acceptable” (2 Corinthians 8:12). Their gift wasn’t acceptable for any other reason but love that brought it forth.
(By the way, God’s love might compel you to actually give nothing sometimes. Are you okay with that?)
The foundation of the New Covenant is that you have no covenant to keep—Jesus took care of that—you have the Holy Spirit in you to notice and to follow. And He loves you! Love is His primary evidence in you.
And that’s what drives me bonkers for the church, frankly. I want believers to know and be motivated out of a burgeoning love affair with God. I don't mean that we should never give unless we're right then invigorated by a love we can feel, but I fear we've gotten used to giving without it. We've learned to motivate and to be motivated by something else. That's what makes pushy pastors and manipulative motivators out of our leaders. And I don’t think they like it any more than we do.
So let me sum it up: If we're not behaving well and doing good, it's because we're missing God’s love. That’s it.
If your motivation is low right now, what should you do? Go get some love. You need it and can’t live without it—not well, anyway. If your giving lacks, if your service is stunted or reluctant, if there is gossip in the church and “sin in the camp,” go get some of His love, because for you, love works.
(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Your Money & The New Covenant: LOVE WORKS,” and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video, click http://youtu.be/XzZZdSRGQus, or simply scroll down below.)