Ask for 5 volunteers
Show OHP with piles of 5,4,3,2,1 bricks. Allocate one pile to each person. Say that you would like to have 5 equal piles. How will the five rearrange their blocks ?
Ask the ones with 5 and 4 how they felt about giving away their blocks to 1 and 2.
Make two points.
The one with the most gave the most.
They couldn't give more than was available to them. For example, they couldn't have created five piles of four bricks, because they didn't have enough bricks to do this ( had 15 would need 20 ).
In today's reading we will be hearing about some of the first Christians who had a lot who shared with those who didn't have enough.
Acts 11: 27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
Wish list : On OHP write down things that we wish that we had...
e.g. new car, foreign holiday, lots of money, full size snooker table, 2 GHz state of the art computer, 32" widescreen TV with Dolby pro-logic surround sound, et al...!
Need list : Write down the things we think that we need...
e.g. food, drink, home, love, running water and sanitation ? clean air? central heating ? car ? doctor/health care ? Bible ? savings ?
Do we really need everything that we think that we do ?
In the Western world we often have much more than we need. This, and other passages challenge us to think about what is really important and to make a choice.
Those Christians in Antioch had a choice.
Firstly, would they truly believe in the prediction that Agabus made? The test of this was whether they would act upon it ?
Most people here would probably say that they believe that the Bible is the word of God and shows us how we should live. But, if we are honest we find it difficult to wholeheartedly trust in God. We tend to get sucked into the way of the world and to rely on money and possessions. To keep rather than give away, and justify it by thinking that we are not as rich as some of those around us, or rich enough to replace our car, or go abroad for holidays, or maintain and improve our homes in the way we would like, or dress in a certain way, and so on...
This is related to the second issue. Would they be prepared to give up their surplus, not knowing if this would lead them with little or nothing when the famine really hit ? I would suggest that this is a faith issue : what or whom do we put our trust in ?
The Bible teaches that we have a generous and sovereign God. He calls those who have been blessed to share with those who have not. An example of this is 2 Corinthians 8 : 1 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.
The Macedonian Christians first gave themselves to God, and then they shared what they had. They even pleaded with Paul to do this ! It has been said that the true sign that someone is a Christian is to see if their wallet has been converted !
The reason why there is starvation in the world is because of man's sin, not God's inability or unwillingness to provide.
The average person needs about 2,200 calories per day to stay alive, which is equivalent to 220 kg of gain per person. Global grain production is about 350 kg per person, so in theory there is more than enough to go round.
As Christians we are called to share with those in need. We did this at our Harvest Festival last month, giving our Sunday offering to Tear Fund.
We give a portion of our income to God to acknowledge that everything is from God. As well as giving to the poor tithing is important to support the ministry of God's work. Whatever we give, it must be done voluntarily, regularly and cheerfully. 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
I am encouraged by the amount that was given for our Gift Day two weeks ago which was the highest since I came here over seven years ago. But we are still not receiving enough in the weekly giving to pay our way.
William's family was poor and at the age of 16 he left home to seek his fortune. The only thing he knew was how to make soap and candles. He met an old canal-boat captain who gave him this advice: "Be a good man, give your heart to Christ, pay the Lord all that belongs to Him, make an honest soap, and I'm certain you'll be a prosperous and rich man."
He arrived in New York and got a job in a soap factory. The first dollar he earned, he gave 10% to God. Soon he became a partner. Later he became the owner. The business grew, so he gave a double tithe, 20%. Then a triple tithe, a four-fold one, half his income - finally he was giving all his income to the Lord. He was faithful to God, and his name is with us today millions of tubes of toothpaste - William Colgate, of Colgate-Palmolive.