“Abounding in the Grace of Giving”
(2 Corinthians 8:1-15)
Mini-Series: The Grace of Giving (2/3)
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson
•Take your Bibles and join me in 2 Corinthians, chapter 8 (page 780; YouVersion).
We are interrupting our verse-by-verse series through the Book of 1 Corinthians to study a three-part series on Christian giving. We began last week, have this morning and then next morning we will conclude our mini-series on “The Grace of Giving.”
We have begun a new year, a time many of us take to sort of re-boot and re-prioritize a number of things and for many of us that includes our giving. We have in the past began the year taking 2 or 3 Sundays to study the matter of Christian giving and so we return to this topic today.
Last week our one main passage was the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 16 and this week we are looking at 2 Corinthians chapter 8 and then next week we will study 2 Corinthians chapter 9. These two chapters in the New Testament tell us a great deal about giving in the New Testament church.
Paul uses the word “grace” to describe giving here in chapter 8 as well as chapter 9 and I think the reason he does so is because everything we have and do is according to God’s grace. The reason we live is because of grace and so the reason we give is because of grace.
In fact, I want to read the key verse of chapter 8 here. We’re going to study the first fifteen verses, but let me just read the key verse and then we will pray and go verse-by-verse through the passage.
•Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word. Do you know the key verse? It is verse 9:
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
Preaching and teaching on Christian giving can get very personal. And it should because it really causes us to think deeply about the inclinations of our hearts.
I read recently where one pastor wondered what his sanctuary would look like if all the chairs in the sanctuary were positioned according to the inclinations of each member’s heart. In other words, in the sanctuary where he preached, all the chairs in the room were set up to face the front where the cross is. And so the idea is, each person is sitting in the chair and each person is focused on the cross.
But he wondered what it would look like if the chairs were positioned in a way that reflected the actual feelings and leanings of each person’s heart. How many chairs would still be facing the cross? How many would be facing in another direction? Facing towards a person, or facing in the direction of the member’s job or workplace, or facing the direction of the house, or the new car, or the bank?
Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a person thinks in his heart, so is he.” Jesus says in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
In other words, whatever is in your heart, that’s the direction your chair will face. So you can sit in a sanctuary where the chairs are positioned toward the cross, but your heart will be somewhere else because most of the time that’s what you’re really living for.
If our giving reflected the disposition of our hearts, then a case could be made that the hearts of the majority of American Christians are elsewhere because the average giving of Christians in America is not a tithe, not 10% of one’s income, nor even 5% of one’s income, but right around 3%. Of course, some give more and some give less.
Someone said, “When it comes to giving, some people stop at nothing.” Think about that!
So where is your heart when it comes to Christian giving? That’s the question for each of us to ask this morning as we allow the text to instruct us, encourage us, and challenge us to response.
This morning we’ll note about four heart attitudes Christians are to have when it comes to giving. Four heart attitudes. Number one:
I. Christians are to Give Generously (1-7)
Kevin DeYoung defines generosity as, “The spiritual discipline of having holes in your pockets.” That’s good, isn’t it? Generosity is “the spiritual discipline of having holes in your pockets.”
In Paul’s day, the Christians in Macedonia had holes in their pockets. They were generous. Paul is like, “Hey, Christians. We need to give some financial aid to our Christian brothers in Judea.” This is like last week in 1 Corinthians 16. Paul says, “Some folks to the South of you need help” and the churches in Macedonia said, “No problem. We love to give.” They were generous. Look at verse 1, Paul writes:
1 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia:
Macedonia is the northern province of Greece. It includes the churches of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea (Acts 16:9; Acts17:15; Acts 18:5; Acts 19:21-22, Acts 19:29; Acts 20:1-4; Acts 27:2).
What did Paul say that these churches did? Verse 2:
2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.
In other words, they’ve been through a lot of affliction and they are very poor, because of their joy, they just naturally give in abundance. What motivated them to give so much? The answer is grace.
See Paul doesn’t begin by saying, “Let me tell you about the grace giving of the Macedonian churches. He begins the passage by talking about the grace of God. See that back in verse 1? “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia.”
It’s because of God’s grace we live, and it’s because of God’s grace we give. God’s grace is the underlying motivating factor driving Christian generosity. To quote John Stott, “Behind the generosity of Macedonia, Paul saw the generosity of God.”—Stott, The Grace of Giving.
3 For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing,
In other words, they really “couldn’t afford” to give and yet they gave anyway. Have you ever said, “I really can’t afford to give?” Are you sure? I think it would be hard for many of us to make that case. There may be some, but I think the majority of us would admit that we have money to give, and yet we find ourselves spending it on things that arguably are either not necessary or may be downgraded in terms of size or cost.
The Macedonian Churches really did not have much at all. Comparatively speaking, they did not have a fraction of what you and I have 2,000 later living in a very prosperous country. So Paul just notes their Christian generosity, that they gave—last part of verse 3— “Beyond their ability.” Beyond their ability, “they were freely willing,” or they freely gave.
That’s the spirit we are to have, voluntarily giving. We’ll see that next week when we talk about being a “cheerful giver.” We give freely.
Listen: “What you do not freely give, God neither needs nor wants.” Did you know that? What you do not freely give, God neither needs nor wants. So verse 4:
4 imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
So the churches in Macedonia are just so full of the grace of God and the joy of the Lord that they are giving generously, giving with huge smiles on their faces. This is not the obligatory paying of a fine or paying taxes. This is worship. That’s especially clear in verse 5:
5 And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.
Note the order: They first “gave themselves to the Lord,” and then “they gave themselves to the us.”
So they committed to Christ, then committed to the cause.
They committed themselves to the Lord. They were like, “Lord, I love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Jesus, You are number one.” Then they were like, “Now what can we do for you, Paul?” That’s what commitment to Christ does.
If you are truly saved, it touches your heart! You just want to give. You love to give. You are a generous giver. No one has to remind you to give each week at the church. You don’t argue about a percentage, you’re just like, “I love the Lord and His church, so—here!”
They gave themselves wholly to Christ, then they gave themselves wholly to the cause.
It’s like the hymn-writer said:
Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
“Behind the generosity of Macedonia (is) the generosity of God.” Verse 6:
6 So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well.
In other words, “We’ve sent Titus to you to tell you about the gracious giving of the folks up in Macedonia, the churches of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, that it might inspire you to give likewise.” Paul reminds the Corinthian congregation that, while they’ve got their share of problems in the church, there are some areas where they abound or excel. Verse 7:
7 But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also.
So the Corinthians were abounding or growing in their faith, in their knowledge, in their love, and so forth. They were growing in those areas and Paul is like, “Now see that you abound or that you grow in this grace also,” the grace of giving.
Question: Are you growing in your faith? Are you growing in understanding of the Bible? Are you growing in love, abounding in love? Everybody wants to grow in those areas! Listen: Are you also growing in giving?
So if you have more faith today than you had five years ago, if you know more Bible today than knew five years ago, and if you love more today than you loved five years ago, are you also giving more today than you gave five years ago? Are you, to use Paul’s words, are you, “abounding in this grace also?”
Heart attitude #1, Christians are to give Generously. Heart attitude number two:
II. Christians are to Give Devotionally (8-9)
Remember last week? We were talking about the tithe being arguably the place for most Christians to begin in their giving. And yet we said that we shouldn’t get all worked-up about a particular percentage.
Rather, we said as you give, think about the cross, reflect on the cross. Get on your knees, look to the cross and, based on what you see, give accordingly. That’s giving devotionally. That’s focusing on the worship, the why of giving. Verses 8:
8 I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others.
In other words Paul says, “I’m not trying to guilt you into this, just asking you to examine your heart,” and then this bombshell in verse 9:
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
I love the way Paul weaves-in some necessary theology here to motivate our Christian giving. Paul is saying, “The reason you and I should give is because of what we celebrated a few weeks ago at Christmas,” the incarnation. God came to us, the second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God came to us. He left the riches of His position in heaven and thus became poor, taken on flesh and living and dying in this sin-cursed world.
Remember, the Son of God is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. The Son of God is just as “rich” as the Father. He became “poor” when He set aside His glory in Heaven and came down to this fallen world, taking on flesh in the incarnation (John 1:14). Why? So that you, who are by nature spiritually poor, may become spiritually rich.
By the way, are you saved? Have you confessed your sins, turned from them in repentance, and placed your faith wholly in the Lord Jesus Christ?
If you are then you know that our giving is motivated by His giving. Or, His devotion inspires my devotion.
When I remember what the Lord did for me, then I will want to do for others. When I recall His giving to me, I become giving to others. His gift motivates my gift.
Someone said, “You’ll see how rich you are when you add up everything you have that money can’t buy and death can’t take away.”
His devotion inspires my devotion.
Heart attitude #1: Christians are to give Generously, #2: Christians are to give Devotionally, number 3:
III. Christians are to Give Consistently (10-11)
In verse 10 and following, Paul reminds the Christians at Corinth about their good intentions expressed a year earlier. By the way, did you intend to do something a year earlier, last year, and did you follow through? Were you consistent in carrying out your commitment?
Did you start last year like, “This is the year I’m going to master that skill, lose that weight, write that book, lift those weights,”—this is not biographical by the way! But you had good intentions and you didn’t follow through. Paul tells the Corinthians to follow through on their intentions, follow through on their commitment. Verse 10:
10 And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago;
11 but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have.
Paul is saying keep your commitments. If you resolved to give, then give. A number of you last week prayed, “God, by Your grace I will begin tithing.” So I want to encourage you to keep your commitment.
What if you bought a car and you agreed to make a certain number of payments and you just decided one day not to keep your commitment? What happens? How many of you think it’s not good?! Right, it will not go well for you.
But you don’t give to the Lord in the same way you make a car payment. You’re not paying a fine. You are giving graciously in response to the grace given to you. So Paul isn’t threatening the Corinthians, you know, “Pay what you owe!!” He’s just reminding them to keep their commitment to give. Christians are to give regularly—remember last week, on the first day of the week?—regular and consistent giving.
Some of you don’t even think about coming to worship and Sunday school. It is just a routine. You do it consistently. You don’t plan to do other things Sunday mornings because you have pre-planned to be here. This is the same way we are to give. It is a commitment we have made previously that we intend to keep and so we keep ti.
So keep your commitment and be consistent. Be consistent in your giving and watch God honor that.
Heart attitudes: 1) Christians are to give Generously, 2) Christians are to give Devotionally, 3) Christians are to give Consistently, and number 4:
IV. Christians are to Give Proportionally (12-15)
We noted this truth last time and we see it here again. Christians are to give to the Lord in proportion to what He has given them.
12 For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.
Give according to what you have not according to what you do not have. So when we speak of sacrificial giving we don’t mean that a person is to go into debt in their giving, you know sacrificing the health and well-being of their family because they have given all the food and transportation away and the wife and children are now homeless. That’s not right. But give according to your blessing—which may feel like a sacrifice to someone who has never before giving in proportion to his blessings.
Maybe you’ve heard the statement, “Give till it hurts.” The problem with this principle, as someone noted, is that when it comes to giving until it hurts, most people have a very low threshold of pain.”
Like the old country preacher who was challenging one of his farmer church members about proportional giving. The preacher said to him, John:
If you had two cows, would you be willing to give one to the Lord? “Yes”
If you had two goats, would you be willing to give one to the Lord? “Yes”
If you had two pigs, would you be willing to give one to the Lord? The farmer said, “That’s not fair preacher, you know I have two pigs!”
Well, the Bible says give according to what you have. The percentage will vary for each of us. Some of us have more and should thus regularly give more. But give proportionally, give according to your blessing.
This is why one guy’s $1,000 gift may actually be less of a true gift than another guy’s $50 gift. The idea is to give according to your blessing, according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.
Some people may, indeed, give a tenth to the Lord, but maybe the tenth they are giving is a tenth of what they ought to give! Think about it.
13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened;
14 but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality.
Equality is perhaps better translated as fairness. I think the New Living Translation best captures these two verses. Here them:
13 Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality.
14 Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal.
So this is kind of wealth re-distribution that is unlike a political re-distribution of wealth, a forced giving, a paying of a tax that benefits others who arguably may not even be in need. Don’t confuse biblical giving with a modern political policy. This is a gracious, voluntary giving by Christians who give proportional to their blessing. And Paul applies a principle from the Exodus story in verse 15:
15 As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.”
That’s from Exodus 16:18 where the Bible talks about God’s providing manna for His people in the wilderness. The idea is, “Just as God provided for you after delivering you from bondage in Egypt, so He will go on providing for you after delivering you from bondage to sin.”
And the means of His providing is through those to whom He has given much. “Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it.” Some of you have been blessed in the past by those who had plenty and now you are in a position to bless others in need.
There was a guy in my first church like this. We had very little at the time, all four of us in my little pickup truck. We’d drive an hour and a half up to this tiny church to preach and then an hour and a half back home. The church did not have much and yet it was a delight to be there. This man…every other week he had $20 in his hand and as he shook my hand, he would give me that $20 for me and my family. That was lunch for the day! It’s just a small example of one of the many ways God provided for me during those lean years. Today it is incumbent upon me to do the same for others, giving proportionally to the blessing I have received.
Please stand. Let me read this and we’ll pray. Mark 12:41-44:
41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.
42 Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans
43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;
44 for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”
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