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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
June 25, 2006
Principles of Godly Giving, Pt. I
2 Corinthians 8 & 9
This morning we are going to continue in our study of what the Bible says about finances. Since it has been a month since we addressed this topic let me begin with a very quick reminder of some of the major points I have made in previous sermons. The first reminder is that I know that people get nervous when preachers start talking about money because there are too many that want to get their hands in your pocket. You can relax here because I am not interested in your wallet. I do not know what anyone here gives to the church and I do not want to know. The only ones that should know what you give are you, the Lord, and our treasurer if and only if you want a tax receipt otherwise he does not need to know either. My interest is not your money but your heart. My interest in talking with you about money and possessions is because those things reveal your heart. As I have mentioned before, “nothing you will deal will be more insignificant than money, but nothing will reveal your heart more than money. ” God knows this and that is why the Scriptures address finances so much. John MacArthur found the following statistics in studying this subject.
“16 out of38 of Christ’s parables deal with money; more is said in the New Testament about money than heaven and hell combined; five times more is said about money than prayer; and while there are 500 plus verses on both prayer and faith, there are over 2,000 verses dealing with money and possessions. “
The first thing we learned in this series is that God does not need your money. He already owns everything. He is autonomous and self-sufficient and therefore does not need anything including you. The fact that He desires a relationship with you is simply the extension of His character of love and grace for your benefit. In addition, we also learned that all that you think you own actually belongs to God. You are a steward of what God has entrusted to you while you are here on this earth. You will not be taking any of it with you when you die. Since you are a steward, then you are responsible for what you have and will give an account of your usage of it when you stand before God.
We have also already learned that God wants us to be pre-occupied with Him and not material things, so He has promised that as we seek Him and His righteousness first, He will provide what we need to live (Matt. 6:33). The practical ramification of this is that a Christian should live out the truth of Isaiah 26:3, “The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace. Because he trusts in Thee.” The Christian has no reason to be anxious or worry. Peace is present because God is trustworthy to keep all of his promises.
The Christian is also to respond to the things of this world differently than those without Christ. The world is caught up in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life so worldly people are striving for goals reflective of those things – materialism, hedonism, fame and power. For the Christian success is defined in terms of loving God with all our heart, soul and mind; becoming a reflection of Christ and being a faithful servant to God and other people. The change of goals and subsequent change of life occurs over time as the Christian matures and increases in their knowledge of God and trust in Him for daily life.
For example, the Christian must still battle the temptations of the world including the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life (pleasure, possessions and power), but they decrease in their attraction as the Christian matures because they recognized to be vain things that are no longer the pursuit of life. As the Christian grows in their understanding of God there is greater acceptance of the role as a steward of what God has granted to him instead of continuing to strive to be king over his own little empire. The Christian will increasingly see his financial decisions in terms of the spiritual ramifications and not just the temporal ones only. Because the Christian is becoming like Christ his interest increasingly focus on God’s kingdom and how to further its interests, and that brings up the subject of giving which is my subject for this morning? What has God said about giving toward His work? What principles should guide us? This is a message specifically for Christians, but if you are not a Christian, there are also some principles here that could keep you from being taken advantage of by those who are after your money, so you need to pay attention too.
Principles of Giving
Turn to 2 Corinthians 8 and lets see what the Apostle Paul tells these believers about this issue.
Who is to Give
The Apostle Paul has been collecting money for a relief fund for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. Remember that Christians in Jerusalem were severely persecuted. This has had an economic impact on them in addition to their physical suffering. Paul’s opening comments concern the generosity of those in Macedonia.
8:1 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. 3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability [they gave] of their own accord, 4 begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, 5 and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.
Notice here that they had given out of their deep poverty. The first principle of giving is that it is for all people, not just those who are wealthy. Being poor is never an excuse for not giving to the Lord’s work. Here we find that not only did each give beyond their ability (vs. 3) but they begged Paul for the privilege of doing so. Giving is a matter of the heart, not financial resources.
Next, Paul tells them what arrangements he has made so that the Corinthian believers could also take part in this collection. 6 Consequently we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well. 7 But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, [see] that you abound in this gracious work also.
Reasons for Giving
Paul will say more about Titus in verse 16f, but first he tells them about the reason this offering is being taken in vs. 8. I am not speaking [this] as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. 10 And I give [my] opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do [this,] but also to desire [to do it.] II But now finish doing it also; that just as [there was] the readiness to desire it, so [there may be] also the completion of it by your ability. 12 For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what [a man] has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For [this] is not for the ease of others [and] for your affliction, but by way of equality 14 at this present time your abundance [being a supply] for their want, that their abundance also may become [a supply] for your want, that there may be equality; 15 as it is written, “He who [gathered] much did not have too much, and he who [gathered] little had no lack. “
Note carefully that Paul is not commanding them to give (vs. 8), but he does give them several reasons to do so. First, it follows the example of Jesus who gave so much to them (vs. 9). Second, it fulfills the scriptural principle of equality among the brethren (vs. 15). The need in Jerusalem was real. No one was getting rich off this collection. As the Corinthians gave to help those in Jerusalem they set a precedence for others to help them if they would have need in the future (vs. 13,14). Paul reminded them that they had already had this on their hearts and now was the time to complete the project (vs 10-12). He will mention this again in Ch. 9.
In this section we find another principle of giving. We give for real needs and not to make other people rich. Obviously many of the TV evangelists have not paid attention to this as they have pleaded for money so they could carry out their many supposed ministries including feathering their own nest. Before you give you should know what your money will be used for, and if you can’t, then don’t give!
The Mediators of a Gift
In verse 16-24 Paul commends Titus to them. I am not going to read the whole passage in the interest of time, but there is also a principle here mentioned in verses 20-22, “taking precaution that no one should discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; 21 for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. 22 And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent, because of [his] great confidence in you.” Those who would be handling this gift had been tested and found trustworthy. The people to whom we entrust what we give also need to have been proven trustworthy. Caution must be exercised when giving because there are many organizations and agencies that exaggerate or even make false claims about what they are doing. Find out as well how much of what is given will be taken away by administrative costs. If the agency has not proven itself to be reputable and actually doing the work they claim, then do not give to them.
As Chapter 9 begins Paul again speaks about their previous desire and commitment to send a gift to the saints in Jerusalem. 9:1 For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints; 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, [namely,] that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I have sent the brethren, that our boasting about you may not be made empty in this case, that, as I was saying, you may be prepared; 4 lest if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to speak of you) should be put to shame by this confidence. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, that the same might be ready as a bountiful gift, and not affected by covetousness.
Note in verse 5 that Paul’s desire is that they give their previously promised “bountiful gift.” The actual meaning of that word is “blessing.” Paul wanted them to be a blessing and he did not want that to be affected by any form of covetousness either on their part or what they might perceive in those they were giving too. This is the set up for the key principles of giving Paul states in verses 6 & 7.
The Principle of Sowing and Reaping
Vs. 6, “Now this [I say,] he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.”
The agricultural analogy used to describe the principle is simple. Everyone that has ever had even just a backyard garden understands this principle. The first factor in determining the size of your harvest is the amount of seed you plant. If you want to harvest a lot of corn you have to plant a lot of corn seed. If you want to harvest a lot of beans you have to plant a lot of beans. If want to harvest a lot of broccoli (and there are a few people who want that) you have to plant a lot of broccoli. About the only thing I can think of that you don’t have to plant a lot of to get a lot back is Zucchini! (As one person quipped, you can tell who does not have friends by who has to buy zucchini in the supermarket).
Tragically this verse and its principle have often been ripped out of its context and perverted. This has been particularly true by the so called “faith” movement and the health, wealth and prosperity people many of whom you can hear on TBN. They use it as a means to entice greedy people to send them their money as “seed faith” with the idea that in giving to them you will in turn become blessed by God and get rich because of it. When you hear someone talking about how much material blessing you will receive from God by giving to their work, then close your ears and get away from it immediately because you are listening to either to a fool, someone who is Biblically ignorant or a charlatan huckster and none of those will benefit you. If the principle they advocate was really true, then they would be sending money to you so that they could reap an even bigger harvest for themselves.
Certainly Paul’s inference here is that the Corinthians should sow material seed, that is give money for the relief of the poor in Jerusalem. And certainly Paul is saying that they will reap a harvest because of it. However, that harvest is not material. Paul describes what they will reap in verses 8-14 and it is not material. In addition, such an idea would be in direct contrast to the clear teaching of scriptures about lusting after the things of this world as I pointed out several weeks ago. You do not violate one principle of Scripture in order to fulfill another. God does try to motivate us to do right in one area by doing wrong in another. That would be in violation of His very character. He does not entice us to give to Him by promising to satisfy our greed and lust for wealth. Yet, this passage is used often by false teachers to motivate people to give by enticing them with covetousness. They call people to give to their ministry with the promise that the Lord will in turn bless their socks off with material wealth. What rubbish!
God has already promised to meet our needs as we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). Why? Because He wants us to be pre-occupied with Him and not the things necessary for life. The quest of the Christian life is righteousness, not riches. James 4:1-4 warns about materialism and having the wrong motives when asking God for something. It is not good to ask God for something when your motive is selfishness and greed.
The Attitude of Godly Giving
Now before I go to verse 8 and begin to give the detail about the rewards of giving, we need to look at verse 7. “Let each one [do] just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
This next principle of giving is that God wants people to give freely and happily from their hearts. This New Testament principle supersedes the Old Testament Law of tithing and compulsory sacrifices. I will explain that it detail in a future sermon in this series, but for now please understand that this is related to the New Covenant. We are no longer bound by outward law but the inward guidance of the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer so that we obey God from our hearts. Giving, as does everything else in the Christian’s life, takes place as you cooperate with the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The Christian is to be lead by the Spirit of God, not compelled by His law. Why? Because God wants us to give freely from our hearts and not because we are forced to do so. As verse 7 states it, our giving is not to be done grudgingly or of necessity.
The tithe in the Old Testament was a compulsory tax, and I am sure we all feel the same way about being taxed. We pay it, but we are not happy about it. We pay it, but it is grudgingly. God wants us to give freely because we want too. He wants us to be happy as we give. In fact the word “cheerful” here is the word ilaroV / hilaros from which we get our word, “hilarious.” It is being so happy you are just about boisterous.
The Christian is to give as he purposes in his own heart. There is no set amount or percentage. There are some good role models to follow ranging from 10% (Abraham – Genesis 14) to everything (the widow – Mark 12:42-44), but you give what you want. The most important thing we find in the New Testament is not how much you give, but that you give for the right reason and with the correct attitude.
In practical terms that is why we use the Faith Box rather than pass a plate. We do not want anyone to feel compelled to give because other people might be watching when the plate goes by. You decide what you want to give and then put it in the Faith Box with a joyful heart.
Let me make this even more pointed and practical. If you can’t write out your check or take money out of your wallet with gratitude to God, and then joyfully put your gift in the Faith Box in support of the work God is doing through this local body of believers, then don’t put it in there at all because to do so would violate what God says about giving. God does not need your money, and if He does not need it, then neither do we. We trust God will meet the needs of this church through those who love Him. You go home and work on your heart, and when your heart is right, then come and give.
The Rewards of Godly Giving
What are the rewards of giving? What will you reap when you sow to the Lord’s work? Verses 8 – 14 tells of four blessings.
*First, God will enable you to give even more.
*Second, thanksgiving will be made to God
*Third, God will be glorified because of you.
*Fourth, people will pray for you.
Verse 8, And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; 9 as it is written, “He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, His righteousness abides forever. ” 10 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness;” The material harvest you reap is for the express purpose of being able to do more good deeds (vs. 8) and increase the harvest of your righteousness. That is quite different from what the prosperity preachers proclaim. Again, God’s desire for us is righteousness and any riches He gives to us are for the purpose of doing more righteous deeds.
Why does God want you to do these righteous deeds? Aside from the fact that Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we were created in Christ Jesus, i.e. saved, for good works, the practical reason is that it brings praise and glory to God. As you are faithful in giving, God enables you to give more.
Verse 11 & 12, “you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.”
The sacrificial giving of the Corinthians extended to the poor in Jerusalem through Paul prompted those in Jerusalem to give thanks to God. Having been on the receiving end of such gifts many times I can tell you from personal experience that thanksgiving goes up to God when he meets the needs of His saints through other believers. Having also been able to give at times as well, I know the thrill of seeing my obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit used to cause others to give thanks to God. It is a great feeling to be used in such a way. As you give, you cause others to give thanksgiving to God.
Verse 13, “Because of the proof given by this ministry they will glorify God for [your] obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all,”
The contribution by the Corinthians also brought glory to God because 1) it proved the reality of the Corinthian’s confession of Christianity, and 2) their sacrificial generosity was a great encouragement. This is exactly what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 to “let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” When people truly live for Christ, and giving is an evidence of that, others are stimulated to glorify God even more. They are also stimulated to pray, look a verse 14.
Verse 14, “while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.” Those who were to receive the gift would be encouraged to pray for those who gave it. What a wonderful harvest and what better rewards than simply getting back material blessings.
Paul then concludes in verse 15 with his own praise of God. 15 “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”
Every gift we give is only a small reflection of what God has already given to us in Jesus Christ. It is impossible to out-give God. All we can be at best is imitators of Him, and His desire is that we will be imitators of Him (Rom. 8:29).
What then are the principles of giving?
1) All people are to give regardless of personal economic condition
2) You give to meet real needs – not to feather someone’s nest.
3) The agent handling the distribution of the gift must have already proven themselves trustworthy.
4) You must sow bountifully in order to reap bountifully.
5) You are to give what you want freely (not grudgingly or of necessity) and cheerfully.
6) The harvest reaped is:
A) You will have an abundance for good deeds
B) You will produce thanksgiving to God
C) You will cause others to Glorify God
D) You will stimulate others to pray for you
Giving is simply a reflection of your heart. Do you love God or the things of this world? Are you seeking after the kingdom of God or you own kingdom? Have you learned to trust God for your future? Or are you still relying on your own abilities? Are you sensitive and obedient to the prompting of the Holy Spirit?
You will never handle anything less significant that money nor more revealing of your heart.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word “give” is used. 2) Talk with your parents about your attitude toward giving and what God would want you to give.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Why are people nervous when preachers talk about money? Does God need your money? Why or why not? What does it mean to be a “steward”? How are you handling the stewardship responsibilities God has entrusted to you? What is the difference between the definitions of success by worldly standards and Christian standards? Who is to give to the Lords work and why? What reasons for giving does Paul present to the Corinthians? What qualities should exist in the person who is entrusted with mediating what you give? What should you find out about organizations / agencies before you give to them? What is the principle of sowing and reaping (2 Cor. 9:6)? How has this principle been perverted by some preachers? Explain. What attitudes should a Christians have toward giving? Why are Christians not bound by compulsory tithing? How do you determine how much to give? What are some godly examples? What is the harvest of godly giving? If there is a material blessing, what is its purpose? How does your use of finances reflect your love for God – for the world? Are you seeking after the kingdom of God or you own kingdom? Do you trust God for your future? Are you sensitive and obedient to the prompting of the Holy. What do you think of this statement: “You will never handle anything less significant that money nor more revealing of your heart.”
Sermon Notes – June 25, 2006
Principles of Godly Giving, Part 1 – 2 Corinthians 8 & 9
Principles of Giving
Who is to Give? – (8:1-7)
Reasons for Giving (8:9-15)
The Mediator of the Gifts (8:16-24)
The Desire of the Corinthians (9:1-5)
The Principle of Sowing and Reaping (9:6)
The Attitude of Godly Giving (9:7)
The Rewards of Godly Giving (9:8-15)
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