Proof of Love
2 Corinthians 8:7-9:5
Give God what's right, not what's left! This applies not only to our finances, but to giving God the place of priority in our time, our talents, and in all things. He deserves better than leftovers...rather, the firstfruits!
And He has a great purpose for it--"Giving is not God's way to raise money, it's His way to raise Christians."
Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also [2Cor. 8:7].
Paul is commending them. They abound in faith; they were able to witness; they had knowledge and diligence; and they had love for Paul and for the other apostles. Now he asks them to abound in this grace also. What does he refer to? He means the grace of giving.
I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love [2Cor. 8:8].
Paul is saying here that giving is not to be viewed as a ritual. Christ came in the NT w/ a better way, and that is love, not just duty. Add to your duty, love. Add to your tithes, offerings that you can give not by commandment by out of the grace of your heart.
You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving.
Paul gives two reasons by which he is asking them to give. The first is "by occasion of the forwardness of others" -- which would be the example which the Macedonians had given. The second reason is to "prove the sincerity of your love." It is still true today that the pocketbook is really the test of a man's love. It is the most sensitive area of a Christian.
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich [2Cor. 8:9].
If you are looking for a standard for giving, here it is: the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He was rich but He became poor. He came down here and took a place of poverty. Imagine leaving heaven and coming down to this earth to be born in Bethlehem, to live in Nazareth, to die on a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem, and to be put into the darkness of a tomb! He was rich but He became poor for you and me.
And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago [2Cor. 8:10].
This indicates that the Corinthians had made a pledge or a promise and had begun to give for this collection a year earlier. This raises the issue of making a pledge to give a certain amount of money. Some people say they don't think a Christian should make a pledge. I think we need to recognize that we sign pledges for everything else, and I think that people ought to be willing to make a pledge to God's work. We promise to pay our rent; we sign notes when we buy an automobile. I say that we can sign on the dotted line for God's work, too.
Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have [2Cor. 8:11].
Paul is saying they should carry through with their pledge. They should put their money where their mouth is. However, remember that this is not a commandment. We are not commanded to make a pledge. However, this verse does tell us that if we do make a pledge, then we are to carry it through and perform it. If you pledged to missions, there are missionaries counting on you!
For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not [2Cor. 8:12].
Here is something very important to note. Each should give according to "that a man hath," and he is to do it with a willing mind. No one is to give according to what he does not have.
For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened [2Cor. 8:13].
Paul is saying that a burden should not be placed on anyone. We have no obligation above our tithe if we don't have it. Ironically, tithers, if they are also obedient to God in being good stewards of the other 90% of their income, invariably have plenty to give over and above their tithe.
But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality [2Cor. 8:14].
As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack [2Cor. 8:15].
Paul gives the example of the gathering of the manna in the wilderness. Each was to gather enough for one day. Some man might go out with several baskets and say, "Let's just fill them up. I'll gather bushel baskets of manna while I can." He would go out and greedily gather up much more than he needed. What would happen? After he had eaten what he needed for that day, he would find that all the rest had spoiled by the next morning. It was God's plan that each one should have just enough and no more.
In much the same way, if you lay up your treasures on earth, buying things or just building a bank account, it will all come to naught, that’s why we need to send it on ahead to heaven and put our treasures there by investing in things of eternal value like church, missions, etc.
“You can’t take it with you but you can send it on ahead!”
Billy Sunday: "If we could take it with us, it would melt where some of us are going!"
We will learn in chapter 9, verse 6, that "...He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." I think that God will begin to deal with you as you have been dealing with Him. I think that God keeps books. He cannot ‘outgive’ us as He is famous for if He doesn’t keep track. And it’s not for IRS purposes or anything other than to know how much He can reward us!
He does not command this because He wants our giving to be a grace, a passion, a desire to share. It should be a joyful experience. That may sound crazy to you, but that is exactly what Paul is saying here.
We could call this message, "Proof of Love", because that's what our giving is. It is one of many proofs that we love God. You can talk about loving God, but He is looking to see proof, in the way we live, in our priorities of life, in our habits, both good and bad ones. If you are going to continue to throw Him in the back seat, and give Him the leftovers of your life, don't say you love Him...turn your life around and act like it. If you are going to continue to drink alcohol just tell the truth about it and admit that you don't really love God...you love the idea of Him, and you love to 'claim' Him and you feel good about yourself when you talk the talk...but make no mistake about it-God will know you are serious when you show Him proof of your love.
Getting things right in your life is a great proof of love, and then comes a test: Is it deep enough in your heart to reach your wallet? Are you here for what you can give or what you can get?
Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us [2Cor. 8:20].
Paul is saying, "We are going to be honest in the use of the money we collect from you and in the way we handle it." This was back when a man's word was his bond, not like today when we lie constantly, make and break promises at the drop of a hat.
Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men [2Cor. 8:21].
This is one of the more sensitive areas in the Lord's work. Many Christian organizations and churches major in heavy promotion to encourage giving to a certain work. No effort -- or at best, little effort -- is made to tell how the money is used. There should be the presentation of tangible evidence that the money is used to give out the Word of God and that there are results that can be documented -- not just isolated cases. There should be confidence in the organization to which we give, that it is honest and is operated on the highest level of integrity. We should not support an organization about which we have doubts. We must remember that this is a big, bad world and that there are religious racketeers in it. We need to beware.
Even Paul, this great apostle, says, "Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men." It should be obvious that the money is being used for the purpose for which it is given.
And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you. Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellow-helper concerning you: or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ [2Cor. 8:22-23].
They can trust Titus. He will make a good report. They can trust Paul who will also report to them. The money will not be delivered by just one person. Redundancy is important. That's why we have multiple check signers and loads of accountability built into everything we do here financially. This is God's money and we are to be good stewards of it, not wasteful and irresponsible.
Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf [2Cor. 8:24].
Paul is asking for proof of their love. You see, if you really mean business, there will be more than verbiage. Giving will be a tangible expression of your love.
I'm afraid there are many Christians who are like the young fellow who wrote to his girl: "I would cross the widest ocean for you. I'd swim the deepest river for you. I would scale the highest mountain for you. I'd crawl across the burning sands of the desert for you." Then he concluded with a P.S.: " I'll be over to see you if it doesn't rain Wednesday night." Many of us like to talk about how we love Jesus, but we are not willing to sacrifice much for Him. Paul is urging the Corinthians to show the proof of their love.
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