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Lesson 9: Offerings of Gratitude *

Introduction: What does it mean to make an "offering" to God? In the Old Testament, it was often bringing an animal. To me, the phrase "tithes and offerings," brings to mind giving money. I recall fondly the many times when I was up in front of our church with our pastor. When it came time to collect the "offering," I would hand him a dollar to donate because he never remembered his offering. It became a point of humor between us, that I would automatically hand him a dollar. This week we will explore a different kind of offering, one that does not involve small amounts of money, but rather large amounts of your life. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. The Offering of Devotion

    1. Read Luke 7:36-38. What do we learn about the past life of this woman? (She lived a sinful life. The text does not describe the sin. While some say this woman is Mary Magdalene, it makes no sense that Luke would not state her name, for he mentions her by name in the very next chapter ( Luke 8:2).)

      1. Why do you think this woman did this for Jesus? (The context argues that Jesus had done something wonderful for her to bring her out of her past life of sin.)

        1. If Jesus has helped you out of sin, are you grateful or are you looking longingly at your past life?

    2. Read Luke 7:39. Do you think that Jesus knew about the past life of this woman? (What we will read next shows that He absolutely knew. That supports the argument that Jesus previously intervened to help her.)

    3. Read Luke 7:40-43. Do you agree with Simon's answer? (I hope so, because Jesus tells us it is the correct answer!)

    4. Read Luke 7:44-46. Why do you think Simon invited Jesus to dinner, but did not show Him the proper hospitality? (Simon was curious about Jesus. He was not a believer. He undoubtedly thought he was better than Jesus, and when Jesus tolerated the conduct of this woman, it made Simon more certain of his conclusion.)

    5. Read Luke 7:47-48. Why were this woman's sins forgiven? ("She loved much.")

      1. In Jesus' story, the one forgiven the larger debt loves more. How is it that this woman loves Jesus so much before her sins are forgiven? (I think Jesus had previously forgiven her sins or shown her that He accepted her. That triggered her response to Him. Jesus says at this point, "Your sins are forgiven" to assert to those listening that He is God, He is the Messiah.)

    6. Let's think about this story and how it applies to you and your church. Are the current leaders of your church those who have been terrible sinners in the past, or are they people who have generally been obedient to God most of their lives?

      1. If so, do we have in leadership the people who love Jesus the least?

    7. Are the successful people in your church (in the eyes of the world) those who have been terrible sinners in the past? (Probably not. Recall past lessons in which we learned that God gives us His commandments to make our lives better. Thus, those who have led a life of obedience are likely more successful.)

      1. If I'm right, does that mean that those who have the most money and talent to give to the cause of God are the least motivated to give?

    8. My statements connecting obedience with success are generalizations, and those are always incorrect for some people. But, if you see the general problem I'm describing, what would you do to fix it? Or, is it something that cannot be fixed? (The Pharisee class during Jesus' time appeared, at least on the surface, to be obedient. This leads our minds to the problem of pride and self-sufficiency. Perhaps we need more teaching on the less obvious sins so that more members will love more.)

    9. Read Luke 7:48-50. What issue did Jesus cause the people to consider when He said, "Your sins are forgiven?" (Who He is. This is the central issue of the gospel: who is Jesus Christ? Only God can forgive sins, and that is Jesus' point.)

      1. The woman has been doing a lot of things that Simon did not do. Is that the "faith" that saved her? (No. Her attitude was the complete opposite of that of Simon. She was grateful to Jesus. Her gratitude demonstrated itself in her gift and her actions.)

        1. What is the result of your attitude towards Jesus?

  2. The Offering of Gifts

    1. Read 1 Peter 4:10. What kind of gifts have humans received from God? (Peter does not list spiritual gifts as Paul does in his writings (1 Corinthians 12), but if you read the context of this verse Peter mentions love, hospitality, speaking and serving.)

      1. What is our obligation with regard to these gifts? (To share them! To make an offering of them.)

    2. When someone encourages you to make offerings to God (to the church), do you only think they want money?

      1. If so, why do they want money? (The point of money is to buy goods and services.)

      2. Would your gift of services be a substitute for money? (If the point of money is to buy some service, then giving that service simply provides a shortcut to the process.)

  3. Payback

    1. Read Matthew 6:2-4. What does it mean that those who announce their gift "have received their reward in full?"

      1. If we follow what Jesus recommends here, will our reward from Him be in secret? (It seems hard to believe that it is in secret.)

    2. Read 2 Corinthians 9:6. What does this text promise with regard to our giving? (That God will reward us. We either have a small reward (when we are stingy) or we have a large reward (when we are generous). Does this make the nature of our giving clear to all? Does it make our generosity public?

      1. How would you explain the difference between the "keep it to yourself" direction, and the "you'll get a big reward promise? (It is God, not you, who is the source of praise.)

    3. Read 2 Corinthians 9:7. In this series of lessons we have considered whether the Old Testament sanctuary tithing system, with its Malachi 3:8-9 statements about robbing and curses, is still fully applicable. What does this text suggest? (The specific context is helping fellow members, not supporting the clergy, but Paul seems to be speaking very broadly about giving - it is not "under compulsion.")

    4. Read 2 Corinthians 9:8-9. What is the "payback" promise here? (That "in all things at all times" we will have "all that you need." Having what we need releases us to "abound in every good work.")

    5. Read 2 Corinthians 9:10-11. In what way will generosity make us rich? ("You will be made rich in every way.")

      1. Is God talking about money or just mental blessings? (The text refers to "seed to the sower," "bread" and "harvest." These are tangible blessings. These are the equivalent of money.)

      2. Do you doubt this? (Many reject the promise of financial blessings. "Prosperity gospel" is a negative label for this. Yet we have repeatedly read, in both the Old and New Testaments, promises of financial blessings for those who pay a faithful tithe or in some similar way are generous towards God.)

      3. Why the resistance to God's promises? (Some point out that Jesus was not rich. He was also not good-looking ( Isaiah 53:2). Being poor and average looking was so that every person could say that Jesus experienced the "sorrows" that are common to humans. (See Isaiah 53:4.))

      4. Is the problem that everyone who is not rich says, "I don't think this is true - based on my experience?" (There are two answers to this. First, we need to be honest about whether we have been generous with God. Second, being "rich" is a relative term. Consider how you are compared to most of the rest of the world.)

    6. Friend, will you offer your devotion and your gifts to God? He makes a great offer in return! Why not test Him today?

  4. Next week: The Role of Stewardship.
* Copr. 2018, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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