Sermons

Generous Living, Generous Giving

January 26, 2014

Series:

The Grace of Giving (Mini Series)

samplesermon

2 Corinthians 9:1-15

“Generous Living, Generous Giving”

(2 Corinthians 9:1-15)

Mini-Series: The Grace of Giving

 Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

 Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson

 •Take your Bibles and join me in 2 Corinthians, chapter 9 (page 780; YouVersion).

 

We are studying this morning our last of three messages on Christian giving.  The first month of the year is always a great time to talk about resolutions and priorities for the new year and so we have been in a short, mini-series on “The Grace of Giving.”  And we’re looking at what the Bible teaches about Christian giving.

 

One thing we’ve noted in our studies of the passages in 1 and 2 Corinthians is that the New Testament focuses not so much on specific percentages of giving but rather on the grace of generous giving.  We’ll note that again this morning in 2 Corinthians 9.

 

The Old Testament focus on giving concerned the matter of the tithe, which means tenth.  That’s what the word tithe means, tenth.  The Old Testament believer was expected to give minimally one tenth of his or her possessions to the Lord.  He was to give what the Old Testament refers to as the “first fruits,” the first gleanings of harvest, the first tithe of the harvest went to the Lord acknowledging that it had come from Him.

 

The Old Testament teaching on the tithe is not specifically taught in the New Testament, leading some to conclude that it apparently no longer applies to believers today.  As part of the Law, it is something, they say, that is no longer binding.

 

But we must be careful here because while the tithe is not explicitly taught in the New Testament, neither is the tithe explicitly “set aside” as a teaching that no longer applies to believers.  What is more, the principle of the Old Testament tithe predates the giving of the Law through Moses at Mount Sinai.  Long before the Israelites gathered around Moses at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19, we read of Jacob’s freely giving one tenth to the Lord in Genesis 28.  He was not commanded to give a tithe, rather he freely gave a tenth as a means whereby he recognized the blessing of God upon his life.

 

So we have noted that while the New Testament never explicitly teaches the tithe, neither does it set it aside as something that no longer applies.  If anything, we have noted that for most of us living this side of the cross, receiving the blessing of Christ Jesus as Savior, for most of us the tithe is merely the place to begin in Christian giving.

 

The New Testament focus is on our giving generously, regularly, and proportionally.  We are to give relative to what we have received.  We give proportionate to our income.  God has blessed most of us so that our giving proportionately means our giving even more than a tenth, more than the tithe.  But we are never to give begrudgingly.  As the passage teaches this morning, “God loves a cheerful giver.”

 

Well, let’s read about it now.  Our text is all of chapter 9 but to get us started we’ll begin by reading just the first half of the passage and we will pause for prayer.

 

•Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.

 

1 Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you; 

2 for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority. 

3 Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready; 

4 lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting. 

5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation. 

6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 

7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful (i˚laro\n); from which we get “hilarious”) giver. 

 

•Pray.

 

Introduction:

 

With the Parent Summit fresh on our minds I recall a couple years ago when we were blessed to have with us Tedd Tripp.  Tedd made a comment about Christian giving some time ago that I find refreshingly honest.

 

He was talking about New Testament giving, generous giving, giving in proportion to your blessing.  And he was talking about a time many years earlier in his life when he and his wife didn’t have much money.  It was a time that was quite a bit different from where they are today.  Like many people over the years, he and his wife have much more today than they did many years earlier.

 

Earlier in their marriage they didn’t have as much and yet as Christians felt a kind of smug satisfaction in quoting Paul’s statement in Philippians 4:12, “I have learned in all things to be content.”

 

Tripp said not too long ago:

 

Tedd Tripp, “My wife and I used to think we were content, but we were really just poor.”

 

Hear it again: “My wife and I used to think we were content, but we were really just poor.”  In other words, from the writing and selling of his books and from his speaking engagements, he started to prosper.  He began to receive a lot of money, more money than he had ever had before.  And as he received more money, he began to understand how dangerously real is the sin of greed and how greed can creep up on a person.   As he received more money he discovered more temptations to spend that money on himself.  So he concludes that while it sounded really spiritual years earlier to speak of his contentment, he said, “we were really just poor.”

 

See in one sense, if you don’t have a lot of money you may find it pretty easy to speak of your contentment.  After all, you don’t  have a lot so you’re not as tempted.  But when you begin to get more and you find yourself prospering as a result of your work or some windfall you receive, the question is, “Do you then remain as content in the Lord as you were previously?”

 

I find Tedd Tripp’s comment a helpful introduction to our study of generous giving.  I want to share with you a few principles of generous giving from this passage.  First:

 

I.  When we Give Generously the Gospel is Amplified (1-5)

 

Amplified in the sense of enlarged upon or magnified.  This point is not explicit, but it is implicit in these opening verses as we read them in the wider context of chapters 8 and 9.

 

When Christians give generously they illustrate, they amplify, the power of the Gospel.  It’s like a statement Brother Matt made last Sunday night in his preaching.  And this is a paraphrase, “The works of God and the power of the Gospel remain invisible to unbelievers unless they see it working in us.”

 

And think of what the Gospel does.  Among many things the Gospel brings some of the most unlikely people together.  We read last week and we’re reading again this week of the working together of the Gentile believers in the northern province of Greece and the Gentile believers in the southern province of Greece in order to bless Jewish believers in Judea.  It really is remarkable, something that would hot have happened apart form the Gospel, what with so much religious, cultural and racial division.  But the Gospel brings people together.

 

Here is a visible witness to the world of the power of the Gospel, how the Gospel transforms lives, that through the Gospel God brings together all persons so that there is no longer “Jew or Gentile, slave or free, man or woman, but that all are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).”

 

The tying together of the Gentile congregations in Macedonia to the Jewish congregation in Judea amplifies the powerful work of the Gospel in bringing people together to advance the Kingdom of God.  When we give generously the Gospel is amplified.
Well, let’s study these opening verses of chapter 9.  Verse 1:

 

1 Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you; 

 

Sort of like when we say, “It goes with saying that….” and then we go on and say what was supposed to go without saying!  That’s what Paul does here.  He’s like, “It is superfluous for me to write to you,” but all the same he goes on and writes to them.

 

2 for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority. 

 

So Paul had been boasting to the churches in Macedonia, churches in the Northern province of Greece.  We mentioned last time that these would be churches like Philippi, Berea, and Thessalonica.  Paul is boasting to the churches up north about the a church down south, a church by the name of Corinth.  And he’s saying, “Look, the Corinthians down south are really big givers.  I said to them, “Achaia is ready to give.”  Achaia, Southern Greece, includes the church at Corinth.  So Paul says it is the church of Corinth’s zeal to give that stirred up the churches to the north.  The churches to the north are like, “I am so inspired by the promised generous giving of the Corinthians that I, too, wish to give generously,” sort of like “matching funds” or “matching grants.”

 

Of course we must be careful with this.  We must be careful not to boast of our own giving.  This is a temptation especially noted where we are asked to give by organizations and alliances that offer to put your name in the yearly thing that everyone sees.  Give $1000 and you are called a Platinum Giver or something and your name is bold and in caps, give $500 and they put your name in bold but a smaller font.  And on down it goes so that if you give only around $25 bucks, your name is buried within a sea of small print, requiring you to hunt for your name with a magnifying glass.  And in your pride you may think, “Well, gee, I don’t want people to think I’m poor or some kind of cheapskate and so I’ll give at least to the gold level.”

 

No offense to those of you charged with the important task of raising funds.  I’m merely pointing out the way our egos may, at times, play into our charitable giving.  Paul is not seeking to guilt anyone into giving.  He is merely inspiring to give, largely by reminding them of their prior commitments.

 

3 Yet I have sent the brethren (Paul sent a couple guys ahead), lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready; 

4 lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting. 

 

Paul says, “Look, I boasted of you all to the churches up north.  I told them the churches down south are like all people down south—full of good ole’ Southern hospitality,” amen?  Anyone here from the deep south?!  Southern hospitality.

 

So Paul says to this church down south, he says to Corinth, “Don’t embarrass me by failing to carry through with your southern hospitality.  Don’t embarrass yourselves!  I mean, I’ve been encouraging the churches up north to give generously because I said you guys agreed to give generously, what a disappointment it would be to them if, when the men come down to take up the offering that they find you guys like, ‘Aw man!  We’ve got to give!  I forgot about that!  I’m not prepared to give!  The money I said I would give I have spent on myself!”

 

But I intended to!  I thought it!  Isn’t it the thought that counts?!  Sometimes the thought doesn’t count.  I heard someone a week ago talking about this.  He said it’s like a husband’s intending to write his wife a poem, but not following through.  He says imagine saying to your wife, “Honey, I intended to write you a poem.  I thought about it.  It rhymed.  It was great!”  Sometimes the thought doesn’t count.

 

We must keep our commitments to give.

 

5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation. 

 

God wants us to give open-handedly, giving as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.

 

And when we give we visibly demonstrate the power of the Gospel to work through all kinds of persons.  We amplify the power of the Gospel through our generous giving, working together to build the Kingdom of God.

 

We see this illustrated through your generous giving here through Henderson’s First Baptist Church.

 

15% of your giving is channelled through the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention, monies that go to support the teaching of seminary students who will serve all over the world, monies that support the various agencies of our denomination working together to advance the Kingdom of God, monies that support the work of global missions from Kentucky Disaster Relief, to the North American Mission Board, and the International Mission Board.

 

Then your generous giving also blesses folks serving in our missional partnerships, work in this community like the jail ministry and Marsha’s Place, work throughout country and the continents: Redemption Hill Church in Boston, Gateway Church in Cleveland, Connection Church in Carmel Indiana, missional work in Toronto, Jamaica, Brazil, and Thailand.

 

When we give generously the Gospel is Amplified.  Secondly:

 

II.  When we Give Generously our Gift is Multiplied (6-11a)

 

Look at verse 6:

 

6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 

 

This is a proverbial principle not an unconditional promise.  This is not some ironclad guarantee that if you give a lot of money God will give you back a lot of money.  That’s the Health, Wealth, Prosperity Teaching we sometimes hear from people on so-called Christian Television.  Be wary of that false teaching.

 

Verse 6 is a proverbial principle, not a categorical promise.  I think most of us know this but it bears repeating as it underscores the importance of applying sound, biblical hermeneutics as we interpret the Bible.

 

David Mathis of Desiring God Ministries, whose children’s curricula this church uses, writes of our wrongly treating proverbs as if they were promises.  He notes that most of us know this is wrong when we apply the proverbial principles on giving and yet we wrongly go on and apply the proverbial principles to families.  Mathis writes, “Far too many of us who rightly renounce the so-called ‘prosperity gospel’ wrongly coddle our own little version of it as we focus on our families.”

 

He explains by quoting favorably Richard Pratt from an article offered through Ligonier Ministries.  I will quote some of this article as provided by Mathis.  Pratt writes:

 

In recent decades, Christian television has spread what many call the “prosperity gospel” — the misguided belief that if we have enough faith, God will heal our diseases and provide us with great financial blessings.  Of course, most people reading this article scoff at the thought that faith can yield such benefits. But don’t laugh too hard.

 

We have our own prosperity gospel for our families. We simply replace having enough faith with having enough obedience. We believe that we can lift our families out of their brokenness if we conform to God’s commands.

 

You’ve probably encountered this outlook at one time or another.

 

Teachers and pastors tell wives that they will enjoy wonderful relationships with their husbands and children if they will become “an excellent wife” (Proverbs 31:10). After all, Proverbs 31:28 says: “Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her.”

 

At men’s conferences, fathers recommit themselves for the sake of their children because “the righteous who walks in his integrity — blessed are his children after him!” (Proverbs 20:7).

 

In much the same way, young parents are led to believe that the eternal destinies of their children depend on strict and consistent training. You know the verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

 

Passages like these have been taken as indicating that Christian families experience blessings and loss from God, quid pro quo (something for something).  We believe that God promises a wonderful family life to those who obey his commands.

 

Pratt adds:

 

But excellent wives, faithful husbands, and conscientious parents often endure terrible hardship in their homes because proverbs are not promises. They are adages that direct us toward general principles that must be applied carefully in a fallen world where life is always somewhat out of kilter.

 

As the books of Job and Ecclesiastes illustrate so vividly, we misconstrue the Word of God when we treat proverbs as if they were divine promises.

 

So we must remember that proverbs, including this proverb from verse 6, is not an unconditional, ironclad promise.  As a general rule, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”  It is a principle.

 

Furthermore, this principle is to be taken not as an incentive to give, but a principle that describes the general consequences of giving.  In other words, when you give generously, consequentially you receive generously.  It’s just a matter of fact.

 

But Paul does not wish to incentivize the principle.  He doesn’t want us thinking, “Well, if I give a lot of money, then I’ll get rich!  I’ll have even more money for myself.”  The whole point of giving in this context is so that we may help others.  We give generously to help others and when we do this, God not only sees that our needs are met but we also often find that He then gives us more—so that we may give again.

 

7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 

 

We are to give “not grudgingly or of necessity…but cheerfully.”  This is to be the attitude of our hearts.  Giving requires the right heart attitude.

 

It’s not the having of money or even the amount of money that is the concern.  It’s rather a question of what claim that money has upon your heart.  The attitude of your heart in giving is more important than the amount you give.

 

Attitude is more important that amount.  Say, “My attitude is more important than the amount.”

 

Some people give grudgingly, giving back to the One who gave to them in the first place.

 

Deuteronomy 8:18, “Remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth.”

 

1 Corinthians 4:7, “What do you have that you have not first received?”

 

James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down to us from the Father of lights.”

 

8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 

9 As it is written (Psalm 112:9):

“He has dispersed abroad,

He has given to the poor;

His righteousness endures forever.”

 

10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 

11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 

 

So generous giving leads to God’s supplying all of our needs, verse 11, we are “enriched in everything,” for what purpose?  Enriched in everything for what purpose?  Verse 11 says, “Enriched in everything for all liberality.”  In other words, God gives us more so that we may what?  Give more!  That’s what this verse means.  God gives us “for all liberality.”

 

As the Philipps paraphrase puts it, “The more you are enriched by God the more scope there will be for generous giving.”

 

Or as the ESV memorably captures the sense of verse 11, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way,”

 

Randy Alcorn, “God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.”

 

When we give generously, the Gospel is amplified, our gift is multiplied, and thirdly:

 

III.  When we Give Generously our God is Glorified (11b-15)

 

Note again verse 11, “you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.”

 

When we give generously God is glorified.  Note this truth four times now in these final verses.  No less than four times do we read how our giving will result in thanksgiving and praise to God.

 

Verse 11, “you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.”

 

Verse 12, “The administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God.”

 

Verse 13, “Through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God.”

 

Verse 15, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

When we give generously God is glorified.  When we give generously, others are blessed and they praise God with thanksgiving.  God delights in being thanked and praised and worshiped.  This is man’s chief end, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  So when we give generously we are praising God, glorifying God.

 

12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, 

13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men,

14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. 

 

I think a fair paraphrase of these verses would be something like, “When you give generously, you show that you take seriously what it means to be a Christian and your generosity brings glory to God.”

 

To quote from John Stott:

 

Here is a crucial test as to whether our giving is authentically Christian or not.  Truly Christian giving leads people not only to thank us the donors, but to thank God, and to see our gift in the light of His – the indescribable gift of His Son (10 Principles of Christian Giving).

 

15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

 

What is God’s indescribable gift?  The gift of His Son, the Lord Jesus.

 

For God so loved the world that He gave, gave His one and only, unique, one-of-a-kind Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

 

God is a cheerful giver!  What a wonderful place to end.

 

•Stand for prayer.

 

Heads bowed, eyes closed.

 

A number of you have made commitments to grow in Christian giving.  Some of you have said, “Lord, I am now beginning to give minimally the tithe, 10% of all that you have given to me.”  For many of you, this is where you begin in your Christian giving.

 

Others of you will be led of God to give more, giving the tithe to fund the work of the local church, bringing “into the storehouse” as God has blessed you, and also giving more as gift offerings as God leads you and prompts you to give here and there as you journey through this world.

 

Sill others of you are making commitments right now for the first time.  You are committing to give.  Silently before God, tell Him of your intentions to give and tell of your desire to carry out your intentions for God’s glory.

 

When we give generously, the Gospel is amplified, our gift is multiplied, and our God is glorified.

 

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!  Have you received the gift of God’s Son?  John says in John 1:12, “To as many as received Him, to them God gives the authority to become children of God.”

 

Receive God’s generous gift this morning.  Receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, God’s indescribable gift.

 

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