Example of Christian Giving
2 Corinthians 8:1-6
Paul brings us back to earth with a thump! The subject changes from Christian living to Christian giving, which is as vital as living, since Jesus said that where our treasure is, our heart is. Our heart is very much tied to our wallet, or what we treasure most.
This section, which includes chapters 8 and 9, divides this way:
Example of Christian Giving, 2Co. 8:1-6
Exhortation to Christian Giving, 2Co. 8:7-15
Explanation of Christian Giving, 2Co. 8:16 through 2Co. 9:5
Encouragement to Christian Giving, 2Co. 9:6-15
I preach very few messages on giving, yet people give over the years. This confirms my belief that God's people will support a ministry that teaches and preaches the Word of God. I resent the high-pressure promotion and money-raising schemes which are being used in Christian work. I do not think they are scriptural by any means. You know the saying, you get what you pay for. Christians pay for what they get.
These two chapters give us the most extended and complete section on Christian giving that we have in the Scriptures. Actually, all we need to know is here. There are no rules, but there are certain clear-cut principles for giving.
The word that is important in this section is the word grace. In this chapter the word grace occurs seven times, and it occurs three times in chapter 9 -- ten times in these two chapters. The subject is the grace of giving.
Example of Christian Giving (8:1-6)
Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia [2Cor. 8:1].
I want to spend a little time here on that word grace. We find it here in the first verse. We find it again in the fourth verse: "Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints." The word gift in our translation is actually "grace." Another way of translation would be, "Praying us with much entreaty that we would give effect to the grace and fellowship of the service to the saints." The word appears again in the sixth verse: "Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also."
He is calling giving a grace. It is a grace of God. It is a disposition created by the Spirit of God. He is writing to the Corinthians and is telling them that the Macedonians had that kind of grace, and he is hoping that the Corinthians will have that same grace.
We usually define grace as the unmerited favor of God. Yet it does not adequately describe this word. It may cause you to miss the rich flavor of it. I studied Koine, the Greek of the Scriptures, and I found that the Greek word charis means an outward grace like beauty or loveliness or charm or kindness or goodwill or gratitude or delight or pleasure. Paul uses it again and again. Now notice carefully this definition: The grace of God is the passion of God to share all His goodness with others. Grace means that God wants to bestow upon you good things, goodnesses. And He wants to bring you into the likeness of His Son.
This is the grace of which Paul writes in Ephesians: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). We were lost sinners; we had nothing to offer God for our salvation; so He saved us by grace. He had a passion for wanting to save us. He loved us, but He could not arbitrarily forgive us because He is a holy God. He had to provide a way, and that way was that He sent His Son to die for us. We are told that "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son" (see John 3:16). God is in the business of giving, not receiving.
I think sometimes we give the impression that God is poor and that He needs our gifts. He doesn't. God is not poor. He says, "For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof" (Ps. 50:10-12). God doesn't get hungry. Even if He did, He would not tell us! God is not in need of anything.
The early church considered giving to be a grace. It was a passion, an overwhelming desire to share the things of God with others.
Paul is writing specifically of a local situation, and we need to recognize that. The Jerusalem church had been the first to give out the gospel -- the gospel had begun there. Jesus had told the disciples they should be witnesses unto Him beginning in Jerusalem. The apostles loved Jerusalem, and they locked their arms around their beloved city until persecution drove them from it, scattered them abroad, sent them down the highways into Judea and Samaria and finally to the uttermost parts of the earth. The church in Jerusalem was weakened because of persecution. In fact, there was famine going on, and the church was poverty-stricken.
Now as Paul went about on his third missionary journey, he collected an offering for the church in Jerusalem. This was revolutionary. Here the satellite churches are sending an offering to help the mother church. Today it is just the opposite. The home church sends out missionaries and supports them out in the foreign field. But in Paul's day the foreign field was supporting the home church.
Paul was not yet able to come to Corinth; so in this letter he sends instructions to them about how to give. Because he intends to come to Corinth, he tells them that he doesn't want any kind of promotion for giving -- he doesn't want to be taking up a collection while he is there. He doesn't want to spend time talking about money after he gets there. This collection was to be done beforehand and then, when he arrived, he could spend his time teaching them the Word of God.
What a contrast that is to the usual method today. The usual invitation that I receive is to come over and hold a meeting and while I am there a love offering will be taken for me. And the better the meeting the better the offering. It is performance based. And we do it the same way w/ our speakers, and there is nothing wrong w/ that, but it all just goes to prove how these people considered giving a grace and a privilege. They weren't really giving to the person but to the person's God and to the furtherance of the gospel thru them.
Now I have given to you the color of the local situation and the background of the instructions in this epistle. The facts of the local situation have now passed into history, but the principles which Paul lays down abide. I believe they are as sharp and fresh today as they were when Paul first gave them.
In the first verse Paul cited the Macedonian believers as examples in Christian giving -- this referred to the church at Philippi. In verse 2 he lists their motives and methods of giving.
How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality [2Cor. 8:2].
Notice that the Macedonians gave out of their "deep poverty." They didn't have riches. They didn't give of their surplus or of their abundance; they gave out of their poverty. I'm afraid we don't know much about that kind of giving today.
For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints [2Cor. 8:3-4].
Again, you could translate this: "Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the grace" -- that gift they had taken up was a grace, and it was fellowship, which means it was a sharing of the things of Christ.
Now notice what the believers in Macedonia had done -- this is unusual.
And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God [2Cor. 8:5].
Paul says this was not something that he had expected. First of all, they had given themselves to the Lord. That is basic. Secondly, they had given themselves, apparently to some local work of Christ and they were sold out to it. They gave themselves to Paul, which means they helped him to get out the gospel his way. You see, they were sold out to God.
Back in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians he wrote about the Resurrection and heaven (see ch. 15), and they were about to say, "Brother Paul, tell us more about heaven." Then Paul shook them right down to their shoestrings by saying, "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye" (1Cor. 16:1). He wanted to talk to them about something very practical. And he tells them here in his second letter that they are not to give grudgingly. The Macedonian believers gave out of "the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty." What a picture! God loves a cheerful giver, and we see it in shoe leather here -- it was a fellowship. They shared what they had.
They owed the home church in Jerusalem for all their spiritual blessings. They had received the gospel from them. Now they were returning material gifts to the home church which was in such a sad situation. Paul writes in Galatians 6:6: "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things." That literally means, "Pay the preacher." It means, my friend, that you ought to support the work from which you derive a spiritual blessing. Don't be like some who come here but send their tithe money to someone on TV or some other organization they believe in. If you want to support them, fine, but do it above what you are commanded to bring to your 'storehouse' out of which you are fed. Don't muzzle the ox!
You remember that the Lord Jesus stood aside and watched the people give in the temple -- I think He still does that. The rich came in and gave large gifts, but the poor little widow came and put in her two mites. The Lord said she had cast in more than they all (see Mark 12:41-44). She gave of her poverty and she gave all that she had. If you measured the value of those little coppers against the riches of that temple, they didn't amount to anything. But the Lord Jesus gives God's evaluation: "And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had" (Luke 21:3-4).
It has been said, "When it comes to giving, some people stop at nothing." That is where a great many stop.
The story is told of a Scottish church that was attempting to raise money for a new building. One member of the church was a rich Scot who was known to be worth fifty thousand pounds. He was a typical Scot and was pretty stingy, like most of us are. A deacon came to see him and asked, "Brother, how much are you going to give for the new church?" The Scot replied, "Oh, I guess I'll be able to put in the widow's mite." The deacon called out in the next meeting, "Brethren, we have all the money we need. This brother is going to give fifty thousand pounds." The man was amazed. "I didn't say I would give fifty thousand pounds; I said I would give the widow's mite." The deacon replied, "Well, she gave her all, and I thought that is what you meant to give!" It is interesting that God notes what you give but also what you keep for yourself.
In another church they were taking up an offering for a building program. The man calling on one of the members said to him, "How much are you going to give, brother?" "Well," he said, "I guess I could give ten dollars and not feel it." The man replied, "Then why don't you make it twenty dollars and feel it?" You see, the blessing only comes when you feel it, my friend. This is the meaning of "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
The Macedonian believers gave themselves to God. And, my friend, if God doesn't have you, He doesn't want anything from you. If God doesn't have the hand, He doesn't want the gift that is in the hand. If He doesn't have the heart, He doesn't want the wallet chained to it.
Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also [2Cor. 8:6].
Paul says that the grace which motivated the Macedonians should be the same grace that would motivate the Corinthians. The real test of any person lies in what he gives. Someone has said there are three books that are essential for a worship service: the first book is the God's book, the second is the hymn book, and the third is the pocketbook. Giving is a part of our worship to God. If we do not have the grace of giving, we should pray to God and ask Him to give us a generous, sharing spirit.
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