Sunday Sermon: ‘The Grace to Give’ pt 2

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We often say that it’s the thought that counts when it comes to giving. For me personally I can think of no greater example of that truth than the gifts my children gave to me when they were very small. I remember one year when our children’s club ministry in Ohio did what we often do here in Awana. That year, instead of offering the kids things that they could buy for themselves  with their club points, we offered them things that they could purchase as presents for their family. I will never forget how proud one of our daughters was as Tammy and I opened our special gifts. She had earned the points herself and she had picked out the gifts just for us. Even years later, I get kind of teary eyed as I look at that gift.

You can’t put a price tag on a gift of love. With that in mind we read these words on Christian giving –

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.

God loves the person who gives whatever they have, as long as it comes from their heart. He loves a cheerful giver. In 2 Corinthians 8 we read –

2 Corinthians 8:12 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.

A great example of this is a group of poor churches that were located in a region known as Macedonia.

I. Gracious Giving of the Macedonians

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.

There was a need in the Jewish church at Jerusalem. Many were having a hard time making a living and to help them, Paul appealed to the Gentile churches. Many believe that the reason Paul went to these churches was not only to help meet the need, but also to help bridge the gap between the Jewish and Gentile Christians. I have an old commentary on 2 Corinthians that says this – “Such a gift from Gentile churches would prove, to any who were skeptical among the Jewish Christians, the reality and  genuineness of the faith and the conversion of the Gentiles. Nothing would more clearly demonstrate such oneness of life than would this expression of sympathy and of love, given by converts from various nations to the members of the church in Jerusalem.” (Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, Charles E. Erdman, 1929)

He went on to write – “Liberality, according to the apostle, is a grace. Generosity is an endowment. It is a gift from God.” Notice that Paul begins by speaking of ‘the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia.’ Though how they gave may amaze many, it was in reality their response to the grace of God working in them. Someone else has said that – “Grace is a gift from God that enables an individual to fulfill God’s will for their life.” That’s a great statement. We see from these verses that God’s grace enabled them to give –

1. Generously

2. Sacrificially

3. Willingly

There is nothing that a church can’t do when they have the power of God working through them.

II. Encouragement for the Corinthians to Do the Same

With the example of the Macedonians before them, Paul encourages the Corinthians to do the same.

2 Corinthians 8:7 “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.”

Notice that Paul calls their giving a ‘grace.’ The word grace here means ‘good will, loving kindness and favor.’ It’s the same word that is used for ‘the gift’ in vs. 4. “Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”

A. The Desire for Cheerful Giving

Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians to give did not come as a shock to them. Some time prior to this, Paul had encouraged them to give and they had responded in a very positive way.

1 Corinthians 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. 3 And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. 4 And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me. 5 Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia.

Paul had encouraged them to develop the regular habit of systematic giving. Apparently they responded in such a way that it caused Paul to speak of them to the Macedonians.

2 Corinthians 9:1 For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous (Unnecessary) for me to write to you: 2 For I know the forwardness (Zeal / 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.

B. A Dilemma About Cheerful Giving

But for some reason they had not done what they said they would do. Something had caused them to become resistant to giving. And as we continue to read Paul’s letter we see –

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. 5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness. 6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 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.

Paul had bragged to the Macedonians about the Corinthians’ generosity and now Titus was coming to Corinth to receive the collection and with him might possibly be a delegation of believers from Macedonia. But the Corinthians were not prepared and that poses at least two problems:

1. Their physical unpreparedness would cause them be embarrassed

2. Their spiritual unpreparedness would cause them to be resentful

Paul uses several terms to help describe the possible situation.

2 Corinthians 9:5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.

The first term is ‘covetousness.’ The word covetousness refers to greediness and a desire to have more. Perhaps you will remember that a warning concerning the sin of covetousness is the Tenth Commandment. Paul wrote to Timothy that the ‘love of money was the root of all evil.’ (1 Tim 6:10) Greed can grip a man’s heart and therefore Paul feared that if they were not properly prepared to give, they might fall victim to the sin of covetousness and therefore be resentful of such an offering.

Last week I shared with you that if the Lord leads you to give, you should make your gift to the Lord the first check you write. I know from personal experience that sometimes, once that money gets into your hands and you have some time to think about it, it is very easy to become covetousness and stingy. The devil will give you a million reasons why you can’t give and if he can convince you to become greedy, he will rob you of God’s blessings.

In contrast Paul speaks of a ‘bounty’.  The Greek word for bounty is ‘eulogia’ from which we get the English word – eulogy. A eulogy is a good word spoken about something. It refers to something that is a blessing. Paul is teaching them that God wants their offering to be given as a blessing and not a burden. He wants them to bless so that they might be blessed.

Paul also speaks of giving that is done ‘sparingly’ and giving that is done ‘bountifully.’

2 Corinthians 9:6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

Every message I have ever heard using this verse refers to the amount given. To us the terms ‘sparingly’ and ‘bountifully’ refer to an amount. But actually these two adjectives are describing an attitude as much as an amount. The Greek word for ‘bountifully’ is the same word as ‘bounty’ (eulogia), only with a preposition attached to the front of it. What does that mean? A preposition most often refers to a place or position. (At, on, over, beneath, beside) The preposition here refers to something that is ‘on’ or ‘upon.’ Paul is stressing how important it is that we give for the right reason. Here’s the Covey translation of this passage – ‘He which gives from a stingy heart, not desiring to bestow blessings upon others, will reap a stingy blessing upon himself; and he which gives with the intent of bestowing a blessing upon others, will reap blessings upon himself.’

Therefore Paul wrote –

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.

I’ve been reading a lot of John MacArthur’s material on these two chapters and in it he stresses that the first blessing is the love of God. The Bible says – ‘God loves and bestows His blessings upon those who desire to bestow their blessings upon others.’

C. Development of Cheerful Giving

So we come now to the question –  ‘How do I become a cheerful giver?’

1. Pleasurable Giving

As we learned last week, the Greek word Paul uses here is the word ‘hilaros’ from which we get the English word hilarious. Hilarious to us means something that is outrageously funny, but originally it described a great joy that someone received from helping others. Cheerful giving is giving that is done with the intent of blessing others and because it comes from our heart, it gives us great joy. Perhaps the greatest blessing we receive from cheerful giving is that inner joy in our heart.

2. Purposeful Giving

2 Corinthians 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give …

God doesn’t automatically withhold from your paycheck the way the government does. God leaves the decision of giving up to each of us individually. But He also encourages us by saying –

2 Corinthians 9:6 … He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifullyshall reap also bountifully.

Therefore –

2 Corinthians 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give …

God keeps the books and He acts accordingly to what each man purposes in his own heart.

3. Productivity in Such Giving

So far we have talked only about the spiritual part of giving. Perhaps we need to stop and realize also that giving has a very practical purpose.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: 9 (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. 10 Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)

Paul is saying that the same God who enables the farmer’s crops to be productive is able to not only put food on your table, but to give you ‘all sufficiency in all things so that you may abound to every good work.’ And it is by your giving that God will meet the needs of others.

God uses the giving of His people to help meet the needs of others. God uses the giving of His people to help support missionaries around the world to spread the gospel. God uses the giving of His building to build buildings like the one we’re sitting in and others as needed. God uses the giving of His people to pay for the electricity and heat and lesson material and copy machines and all that is needed in order for this church to be here and to minister to people. It’s just not practical for us to expect to have all of this unless someone helps to pay for it.

4. Praise in Such Giving

2 Corinthians 9:11 Being enriched in everything to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. 12 For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; 13 Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; 14 And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.

By meeting needs through the Corinthians’ giving, God would bring praise to Himself. It’s kind of like a big cycle. It all starts with God’s grace begin poured out on us and it ends with us pouring our praise back on Him.

Conclusion

There’s a very short but special verse at the end of Paul’s teaching on this subject.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.

A better translation of the word ‘unspeakable’ would be ‘indescribable.’ Many have question what exactly was the indescribable gift that Paul was praising. Was it the fact that God was using His churches in such a practical way to bring praise to Himself? Was it the fact that He was using Gentile believers to help meet the needs of the Jewish brethren and thus helping to make the church one? Was it the grace of God that is able to empower us to serve God? Or was it that while the apostle was thinking about gracious giving, his mind went to the most gracious gift ever given?

My most favorite verse in these entire two chapters is found in chapter 8 –

2 Corinthians 8:9  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.

That verse puts it all into perspective for any serious-minded Christian. How can anyone question the call to give when they consider all they have been given. 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.” (John 3:16)

Have you received God’s indescribable gift?


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