The Gift of Giving

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  May 8, 2022

Due to technical difficulties, the service was unable to be recorded.  We apologize for the inconvenience.

Read Acts 9:36 – 43
Today is the day that has been set aside to honor the mothers in our lives, be they biological mothers, adopted mothers, step-mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins or even just dear friends… we intentionally take this time to pause and say, “Thank you.”
Thank you for every illness you have nursed us through… for every skinned knee you have bandaged… and for every other little boo-boo that you have kissed and made feel better.
Thank you for the hours you have sacrificed to ensure that your children, both those by birth and those by circumstance of the heart, have all that they need to navigate through what can be the rather murky waters of life.
Thank you for the countless hours you have spent pacing the floor or wracking your brain wondering and worrying about where we are and whether or not will we be okay.
Thank you for the infinite prayers uttered on our behalf that we would grow up to be productive citizens and leave this world a much better place than what we found it.
For all that… and so much more, we pause to say, “Thank you!”
Now, as we look at the lectionary text for today from the Book of Acts, it is not one that speaks directly to the fact that today is Mother’s Day… but one cannot help but wonder if Tabitha, who was also known as Dorcas, may have been a mother. 
Although we do not read about her having children in the text or even being married for that matter… what we do read is that she was a “disciple.”  And we also read about her willingness to do good and show compassion to others… characteristics that could lead one to believe that even if she was not a biological mother, she was someone who would have stood in the gap as a mother… someone who was known for helping others when they were in need… someone who had a reputation for showing others the love of Christ and sharing the Good News about the Savior.  Giving of herself for the benefit of others.
I think we could say she was someone who knew the blessing that comes with THE GIFT OF GIVING.
And it is probably not a far stretch to say that she was admired and appreciated for the ways in which her life exemplified THE GIFT OF GIVING to those around her… as evidenced by their response when she became sick and died.
The Scriptures tell us that they washed her body and placed her in an upstairs room… which in and of itself was not all that unexpected.  But what they did next was...  According to the text, when the disciples heard that Peter was in a nearby town, they sent for him and urged him to “come at once,” expressing a sense of urgency.
The disciples extraordinary appeal seemed to be an indication of their belief that there was at least a possibility that the Apostle Peter could resuscitate a woman whose body had already been prepared for burial… otherwise, what was the point in asking him to come?
Now, when Peter arrived, he was taken upstairs to the room where Tabitha lay.  The widows who were there gathered around Peter and cried as they showed him the robes and other clothing that Tabitha had crafted while she was alive… displaying for him just one of Tabitha’s many gifts.
Perhaps this was their way of letting Peter see how much of an impact she had made on the community… tending to the needs of others, particularly the widows who were there… and why they needed him to do something in this moment.
And in a manner that calls to mind Jesus sending everyone away before raising Jairus’ daughter, Peter sent everyone from the room before getting down on his knees to pray… before saying to Tabitha just as Jesus said to Jairus’ daughter, “Get up.”  Which is exactly what she did… with a little help from Peter.  (See Matthew 9:18 – 25; Mark 5:21 – 43; and Luke 8:40 – 56).
And while Jesus told Jairus and his wife not to tell anyone what had happened after He presented them with their daughter who was alive… Peter called everyone in so they could bear witness to what had happened. 
And apparently, they in turn told two friends who told two friends and so on and so on… because the text says that, “This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.”  The news about the gift of Tabitha’s miraculous healing brought the gift of salvation to many others…
It is yet one more way that we get to see THE GIFT OF GIVING that characterized much of Tabitha’s life.
And THE GIFT OF GIVING should be an integral part of our own lives as well.  Throughout the Scriptures we find passages that speak to THE GIFT OF GIVING and how we are to give.  
In Matthew 6:2 – 4 we read:

So, when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
In other words, we do not need to make a grand display when it comes to our giving to others.  It should actually be done for an audience of one and that is the Lord, our God.  God is the only one who needs to know what we are doing to honor His command to show love to others and care for those who are in need.
Now, over in Romans 12:6 – 9 we read:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Paul’s words to the Romans are still pertinent for us as well.  Giving is a gift that we have been given and it is one that we are to use in a generous manner… remembering that we have been blessed to be a blessing.
And that leads us to 2 Corinthians 9:6 – 8 where we find these familiar verses:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
When we give in the way that God says we are to give, cheerfully and willingly, we will find that our resources are not depleted.  On the contrary, the more we give, the more God gives to us so that we can continue doing the good work that He has called us to do.
But even as we think about THE GIFT OF GIVING, we need to keep in mind that it is not always about monetary or material gifts. 
In fact, in Luke 6:38 we read, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
And while we often hear this verse lifted up in appeals to give financial support, particularly to the church… when we look at this verse in context and go back to the verse just before it, we read, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
In these verses, Jesus makes reference to THE GIFT OF GIVING as it relates to showing grace, mercy and forgiveness toward others so that we will receive the same in return.
Now, let me be the first to say, showing grace, mercy and forgiveness is not always easy to do, especially when we feel that we have been wronged in such a way that we have a “right” to hold onto our bitterness, anger and righteous indignation.  But we are reminded time and time again to forgive as we have been forgiven… Now, at the core of the word forgiveness… at the very heart of what it means to forgive… is the call for us to give.
Forgiveness is about giving… giving graciously and mercifully to others even as God has been gracious and merciful to us.  And that is what sets us apart as Christ’s disciples.
As we think about our text this morning and the story of Tabitha… when we live our lives with an intentional focus on THE GIFT OF GIVING and do so generously, graciously and mercifully, it will allow us to leave a legacy like Tabitha’s… one in which the people around us will feel the absence of our presence in a truly profound way.
It would seem that is why Tabitha’s friends called for Peter to come, because they believed he could do something to bring her back to them… which he did.
But what exactly does that mean for us today?  It’s not like we hear a bunch of stories these days about people being brought back from the dead… Then again, this text does call to mind a movie we watched on Family night a few years ago entitled, “Breakthrough.”
It was based on the true story of a teenage boy who fell through the ice on a lake in Missouri while playing with two of his friends.  He was submerged for more than 15 minutes and when he was pulled out and taken to the hospital, the doctors pronounced him dead. 
They allowed his mother to go into the room where his body was laid… ostensibly so she could say goodbye.  However, his mother did not say goodbye.  She called on the Holy Spirit and prayed for her son’s life to be given back to her… and it was. 
But that was not where the story ended… the doctors believed John would be brain-dead… having been deprived of oxygen for over 15 minutes.  But his mother kept praying.  His family kept praying.  His pastor and church community kept praying.  His friends, his teachers and the town kept praying… that is until they all got the point where they believed there was no hope left.  All of them that is except for his mother… 
She held onto her faith and she kept praying in spite of what everyone else was telling her… from the doctors, and her family and friends, and even her husband… their encouragement for her to give up, to let go, fell on deaf ears… ears that were only attuned to what the Lord was speaking into her spirit.
And just as Peter gave Tabitha back to her friends in our text for today… and just as Jesus gave Jairus’ daughter back to him… the Lord brought that young man back to live a full life.  He is now married and continues to share his powerful testimony of what happened when he was just 14 years old. And just as Tabitha’s story was told all over Joppa and many believed in the Lord, the 2019 film “Breakthrough” helped to spread John’s story around the world… and because of it, many have believed in the Lord.
Now, our stories may not be as miraculous as Tabitha’s or Jairus’ daughter or the teenager, John Smith, but we all have a story to tell…
Perhaps we can identify things in our lives that we thought were dead and beyond hope but the Lord breathed life into them once again… relationships we thought were over but that have been restored… physical or mental health issues that we thought were beyond hope and yet we received our healing nonetheless… finances that had hit rock bottom but God made provision anyhow.
We ALL have a story to tell… but, the question is where will it be shared and how many will believe in the Lord as a result of hearing of our story?
Because make no mistake about it, the stories of our lives are a gift that is meant to be shared with others. 
We have been given the gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
And His command is that we take what we have been given and “go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19a).
Let me just say, there is no greater gift than being able to share the Good News about Jesus with someone else.  But I know someone may be sitting there thinking, I am not an evangelist… I don’t have the gift for sharing the gospel with other people… I don’t have the right words to say…
While that may be true, there is one thing I think we can all agree on which is that our actions can often speak louder than words…
It is over in James 2:14 – 17, that we read:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
We spread the Good News by spreading the love of Christ wherever we go.  And it is through THE GIFT OF GIVING of our time, talent, and treasure that we show others what love in action looks like, just as Tabitha did.  It is through our loving and giving that we serve the Lord, just as He commanded. 
In John13 (34-35), Jesus said:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
So, on this Mother’s Day and every other day, let us make it our mission to live our lives as true disciples like Tabitha in our text, promising to serve the Lord with all of who we are.
And if you are willing to make that promise, I want to invite you to join now in singing our Hymn of Discipleship: O Jesus, I Have Promised #612.