The grace of giving
Based on 2 Corinthians 8:1-15
A man said:
“If I had some extra money, I’d give it to God, but I have just enough to support myself and my family.”
“If I had some extra time, I’d give it to God, but every minute is taken up with my job, my family, my clubs, and what have you—every single minute.”
“If I had a talent I’d give it to God, but I have no lovely voice; I have no special skill; I’ve never been able to lead a group; I can’t think cleverly or quickly, the way I would like to.”
God was touched, so out of grace and love He gave that man money, time, and a glorious talent… and then He waited, and waited, and waited. Then after a while, He shrugged His shoulders, and He took all those things right back from the man, the money, the time and the glorious talent. After a while, the man sighed and said, “If I only had some of that money back, I’d give it to God. If I only had some of that time, I’d give it to God. If I could only rediscover that glorious talent, I’d give it to God.” 1
This is how many people think about giving to God. They first give excuses, and, then dismiss Him, yet… God is still gracious and generous.
It can be difficult to talk about money, but there are over 2000 references to money in scripture, and… the Bible urges us to give our money to God.
As we heard in our reading, Paul urges the church of Corinth to give because the church of Macedonia gave. But giving is a challenge. However, there are benefits to that challenge, because giving is itself an act of grace, and this is highlighted in our passage from 2 Corinthians. In fact, the word grace (“charis”) occurs five times in 2 Corinthians 8:1–9.
It is a wonderful thing when Christians enter into the grace of giving. Paul shows us a number of benefits when our giving is motivated by grace. 2
One benefit is Joy in times of testing.
Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. (2 Corinthians 8:2, NIV)
The example of the churches in Macedonia should encourage you. Even though they were going through a hard time they still wanted to give. In fact, they begged to give! So even if you are going through difficult times, God will still be faithful to you. He will still provide for you. That’s the abundance that God gives you in times of testing.
It’s also possible to have wealth through poverty. Studies show poorer people generally seem to have a greater ability to identify with those in need, have a greater longing for the coming of the kingdom of God, and, as a result, tend to release their finances more easily.
For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. (2 Corinthians 8:3–5, NIV)
Paul also talks about how the Macedonians gave themselves first to the Lord (v.5). This is highlighting our need to have an attitude of sacrifice and joy in our giving. You see Paul is laying down the principle that people who give generously out of love for the Lord and His church grow and mature in their faith because they don’t count the cost.
Paul goes on to say that giving tests our love for Jesus, as we prove our love by the way we give. This brings us to a major implication: There is no way to grow to spiritual maturity without committing your finances to the Lord. It’s possible for Jesus to have our money and not have our hearts, but he cannot have our hearts without our money… because money is so entwined with our soul.
Some say that the average person spends 50 percent of their time thinking about money. How accurate that is I don’t know, BUT I do believe that our handling of money defines our affections, the things we truly treasure, and how tightly we are bound to the world.
There are many “reasons” why we can’t give. “It’s too hard.” “I have so many obligations.” But God’s Word says to excel in this act of grace now.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9, NIV)
The GRACE of GIVING was first revealed in the life of Jesus. Jesus was rich. He was God’s Son. He resided in Heaven. When He came to Earth, He didn’t decide to be born in a rich palace. Instead, He chose to be born into a poor family. He was born in a borrowed cradle, preached from a borrowed boat, rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, ate His Last Supper in a borrowed room, and was buried in a borrowed grave. He who made everything laid it all down and entered into total poverty that weI might be rich. The truth is this: through His poverty we have eternal wealth!
So Jesus has made everyone rich but… He himself was in total poverty for His entire adult life. That should say something about our desire for money. We shouldn’t worry about it, and we shouldn’t seek it above anything else.
This leads me to the next benefit of the grace of giving. Giving in Grace increases my willingness to do God’s will.
And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. (2 Corinthians 8:10, NIV)
There is a great difference between promise and performance. The Corinthians had boasted to Titus a year before that they would share in the special collection (2 Cor. 8:6), but… they did not keep their promise.
In 2 Corinthians 8:10–12 Paul emphasises the willingness to give. You see, grace giving must come from a willing heart; it cannot be coerced or forced.
Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. (2 Corinthians 8:11, NIV)
Note that Paul only gives one command in these verses about giving: that it should be proportionate. You see I am to give sacrificially, and that is likely to be a different amount to someone else. The Bible doesn’t say that we should give equally. However, we are commanded, though, to give equal sacrifice.
At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.” (2 Corinthians 8:14–15, NIV)
This isn’t Robin Hood… for God doesn’t steal from the rich and give to the poor. That is socialism. God doesn’t give everyone the same amount. No, what God gives us is miraculous blessings. When I am in need, God readily uses someone else to provide for my need. Likewise, when someone else is in need, God uses me to help them.
The bottom line is this; it doesn’t matter how much you make. What matters is with how much grace you give.
In the name of the Father…
1 Lois Cheney, God is No Fool, by Lois Cheney, 1969, Abindgon Press, Galaxie Software, 10,000 Sermon Illustrations (Biblical Studies Press, 2002).
2 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 655.
Sunday 3rd March 2019