I have always been amazed at how this time of year seems to affect so many people. Some call it the ‘Christmas Spirit’ while others label it as the ‘Season for Giving.’ Whatever it is, a spirit of generosity and good will seems to come upon believers and non-believers alike during this time of the year.
The Bible teaches us that Christians should always have a giving spirit. We read in 2 Corinthians 9:7 “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” The Bible says that God loves a ‘cheerful giver.’ What is a cheerful giving?
Cheerful giving is more about ATTITUDE than AMOUNT. The scripture passage we just read tells us that God is not pleased with giving that is done ‘grudgingly’ (with sorrow or regret), or giving that is done ‘of necessity’ (the giver feels forced to give). God doesn’t love that kind of giving nor do we. Who wants to get a gift from someone who doesn’t want to give it? We often say that it’s the heart that counts and how true that is. If someone’s heart is not in the giving, than that gift doesn’t really mean a whole lot.
The word ‘cheerful’ is an interesting word. It’s the Greek word ‘hilaros’ from which we get the English word – hilarious. The word hilarious today means something that is outrageously funny, but originally it meant something a little different. This particular word is used only once in the Bible and therefore it’s a little hard to determine Paul’s full meaning but it seems that it has much to do with our choice to give. A similar word is used twice in the New Testament, once when Peter said, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” (Mt 16:22) and another time when the writer of the book of Hebrews is quoting the Lord in saying, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Heb 8:12) Therefore we might determine that the intent of hilarious giving refers to a choice to give because we care.
With that introduction we come to Paul’s instruction on giving found in 2 Corinthians 8-9. There is a lot here and so I will preach at least two messages on this subject. I have entitled these messages – “The Grace to Give” and for good reason.
I. The Example of the Macedonian Churches
2 Corinthians 8:1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; 4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5 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.
‘to wit’ is a King James way of saying – to understand or to recognize. ‘We want you to recognize and understand what God’s grace has done in the lives of these believers.’
Macedonia was a region east of Corinth and the believers there were not particularly wealthy. As a matter of fact, Paul speaks of their ‘deep poverty’ and ‘great trial of affliction.’ They were not as affluent as the believers who lived in Corinth, which was a thriving seaport on the Mediterranean Sea. They were poor, common, ordinary people; yet they possessed an enormous amount of God’s grace.
As I have studied this I have discovered that the Macedonian churches included such fellowships as:
- The Bereans – whom scripture calls ‘noble’ and who were known for diligently searching the scriptures for biblical truth.
- The Thessalonians – whose conversion experience produced such a dramatic change that the testimony about them quickly spread across that region.
- The Philippians – who at one time were the only ones who helped Paul and who often filled the apostle with great joy.
Though these churches were not rich in earthly wealth, they were some of the greatest of the New Testament period and their greatness is very evident in their attitude towards giving.
1. They were remarkably generous in their giving. “the riches of their liberality”
2. They were remarkably gracious in their giving. ‘The gift’ spoke of in vs. 4 is the Greek word that is normally translated as grace. The grace of God bestowed upon the Macedonian churches caused them to be gracious.
What is grace? Many define grace as ‘unmerited favor.’ That’s true but I would like for us to go a little bit deeper.
We all know that we are saved by God’s grace –
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
We do not earn salvation. The opportunity to be forgiven of all our sins is due to the fact that God was willing, of His own free will and nothing on our part, to show His favor towards us. And He did this by sending His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come and die as a sacrifice on the cross for our sins. But God’s grace doesn’t end at salvation. In the next verse Paul states –
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Salvation is not the end of God’s grace for us; it’s only the beginning. Grace might be defined as God’s influence upon our lives that:
1. Brings us to Christ
2. Builds us in in Christ
Paul wrote – “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Cor 15:10)
It is God’s grace or unmerited influence upon our lives that transforms us from sinners into saints. And Paul tells us that it was the grace of God that was working in the lives of these poor Macedonian churches – 2 Corinthians 8:1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia.
God’s grace had enabled them to give:
II. The Challenge to the Corinthian Church
2 Corinthians 8:1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;
2 Corinthians 8:5 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. 6 Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. 7 Therefore, as ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. The grace of giving!
Did you notice that Paul described this kind of giving as ‘grace.’ His encouragement is that the kind of grace that was seen in the Macedonian churches should been seen in the Corinthian church as well and if I might add, in all churches.
The call to give was not new to the Corinthians. They had already declared that they desired to be gracious givers.
2 Corinthians 9:1 For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: 2 For I know the forwardness (readiness) of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.
A year prior to this Paul had spoken to them about the need to give and they had responded with a zeal or passion that ‘provoked very many.’ As a matter of fact, the reason the churches of Macedonia were so willing to give generously was because they had been inspired by the passion of the Corinthians. But now, Paul is saying, it’s time to act.
2 Corinthians 9:3 Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready: 4 Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.
They had said what they would do, now it was time for them to act. It was time for them to let the grace of God work in their lives. It was time for them to become ‘hilarious givers.’
III. Sensitivity to the Subject of Giving
Many people are very sensitive to the subject of giving. Part of that has to do with the fact that perhaps they have been in some setting where a pastor or some other spiritual leader abused the subject and it seemed that giving was all he ever talked about. I pray that’s not the perception you have of me. To my knowledge I have preached very little about giving and the most I ever say about it is to thank you for your giving.
God loves it when our giving comes from our heart. He loves it when our giving is an act of worship. Can giving actually be a part of our worship? Consider this Psalm –
Psalm 96:1 O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth. 2 Sing unto the LORD, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day. 3 Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people. 4 For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens. 6 Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. 7 Give unto the LORD, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength. 8 Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. 9 O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.
Such worshipful giving is seen very clearly on at least two occasions in the Old Testament.
1. Building of the Tabernacle
“Take ye from among you an offering unto the LORD: whosoever is of a willing heart , let him bring it, an offering of the LORD; gold, and silver, and brass… The gold, silver, brass and other precious things were of the gifts given to the children of Israel as they were leaving Egypt.
Later in that same chapter we read, “The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the LORD , every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the LORD had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses.” (Ex 35:5, 29)
Did you notice how the word ‘willing’ was always attached to this kind of giving? ‘whosoever is of a willing heart’, ”The children of Israel brought a willing offering’. ‘…every man and woman, whose heart made them willing’
Then in the next chapter of Exodus we read,
“Exodus 36:4 “And all the wise men, that wrought all the work of the sanctuary, came every man from his work which they made; 5 And they spake unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the LORD commanded to make. 6 And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing. 7 For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.”
The willing heart of the people prompted them to give more than was needed.
2. The Building of the Temple
1 Chronicles 29:6 Then the chief of the fathers and princes of the tribes of Israel, and the captains of thousands and of hundreds, with the rulers of the king’s work, offered willingly, 7 And gave for the service of the house of God of gold five thousand talents and ten thousand drams, and of silver ten thousand talents, and of brass eighteen thousand talents, and one hundred thousand talents of iron. 8 And they with whom precious stones were found gave them to the treasure of the house of the LORD, by the hand of Jehiel the Gershonite. 9 Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.”
Notice again that the Bible says that the people – “rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord.” That’s the kind of giving that pleases God and that’s the kind of giving that causes God’s people to rejoice. How can people give with such joy and generosity? Consider what David said when he prayed to God –
“O LORD our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy name cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own.” (1 Chron 29:16)
David and the people of Israel believed that they were only returning back to the Lord what already belonged to Him.
With that in mind, consider Paul’s challenge to the Corinthians –
2 Corinthians 8:8 I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness [earnestness / desire / interest ] of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. 9 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.”
Paul did not command them to give. You cannot command someone to give hilariously. Hilarious giving, or cheerful giving as it is spoken of in the Bible must come from the heart. Paul did not command them, but he did challenge them to consider – “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
IV. The Greatest Gift Ever Given
The greatest gift ever given was a gift of grace, given to us from the Father, wrapped in a package known as the Lord Jesus Christ. We celebrate that gift at a time called Christmas. Though many may not know or love the Lord, the underlying reason for the specialness of this season is the celebration of a gift that came as a babe born in Bethlehem.
When Paul was encouraging the Corinthians to give, he said to them – “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Again I ask the question – ‘What is grace?’
Many define grace as ‘God’s unmerited favor’ and indeed that is a great definition. Growing up I was taught that the letters in the word grace could stand for God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. As I was studying this portion scripture, I suddenly realized that was exactly what the Apostle Paul was saying –
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ –
a. that, though he was rich,
How rich was the Lord Jesus before He came to this earth? On the night before His crucifixion Jesus prayed, “O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (Jn 17:5) Paul wrote in Philippians 2:6 “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” Our minds are not capable of imagining the riches of Christ’s glory. Paul wrote to the Ephesians –
“raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph 1:20-23 NKJV)
b. yet for your sakes he became poor,
How poor did the glorious Lord become? Again, to quote Philippians 2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
c. that ye through his poverty
Through His taking upon Himself human flesh and dying in our place on the cross…
d. might be rich.
(1) Rich in the forgiveness of sin
(2) Rich in the Fatherhood of God
(3) Rich with a future in glory
Do you know the grace of our Lord? Have you experienced first hand what it means to be a recipient of this gracious gift? God wants to give you a gift that will enable you to be forgiven of all your sins. This gift will also make Him your heavenly Father. And it will guarantee you a future in His glory. This gift of God comes to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus said – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Jn 3:16) Jesus came to this earth to become a man so that one day He could die for man’s sins on the cross. It’s as simple as A-B-C to receive God’s gift:
A – Admit that you are a sinner in need of salvation. (Romans 3:23)
B – Believe that Jesus is God’s Son who died for your sins. (Rom 6:23; Acts 16:30-31)
C – Confess Him as your Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9-11)