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The Grace of Giving
2 Corinthians 8:1-24
Our Lord lifts Christian liberality out of the mire of coercive necessity, into the realm of grace. As introductory to this sermon on giving, we will show this Divine conception, and discuss "giving" in its relation to grace.
1. In 2 Corinthians 8:1 giving is spoken of as the grace of God bestowed on the Churches of Macedonia. We all know what God's grace toward us was. It was unmerited favor, freely bestowed.
Among certain saints, there had been great need. There was no human obligation on the brethren in Macedonia to supply that need. They could easily have pleaded their own poverty, and want. However, to the contrary they opened their hearts and took upon them the fellowship of ministering to the saints. God called this, a bestowal of the grace of God.
2. In 2 Corinthians 8:7 "giving" is reckoned among such graces as faith and utterance, and knowledge, and diligence, and love. The saints in Corinth abounded in the graces just mentioned. Therefore the Lord urges them to abound in "this grace" also, even in the grace of giving. According to this Scripture giving stands side by side with faith and with love. God does not isolate the grace of giving to the scrap pile. He sets it on a pedestal, and glorifies it.
3. In 2 Corinthians 8:9 the grace of "giving" is compared to the giving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus, "Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich." Thus, when giving reaches the realm of grace, it joins with Christ in becoming poor that others may be made rich.
4. In 2 Corinthians 8:19 the grace of giving is connected with the glory of the Lord. Here is the statement: "This grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord." The highest ambition of every believer should be to give the Lord glory. Giving, in the way it was done by the Churches at Macedonia, did this very thing.
In the close of the ninth chapter there is another statement on this line. In 2 Corinthians 9:12 , "giving" brings forth many thanksgivings unto God. In 2 Corinthians 9:13 , "giving" is a ministration which glorifies God. When we seek to glorify God by preaching, soul-winning, missionary endeavor, let us remember that we may also glorify Him in our gifts.
5. In chapter 9, 2 Corinthians 9:8 , "giving" is a grace in which God is able to make us abound. When He sees us giving unto His glory and to the needs of our fellow Christians, He will give unto us. This is the promise of another Scripture, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom." Truly "the liberal soul shall be made fat."
6. In chapter 9, 2 Corinthians 9:14 , "giving" is spoken of as the exceeding grace of God. The saints longed after those who gave, "for the exceeding grace of God" which was in them. Thus, giving is not only a grace, but an exceeding grace. Not only grace, but grace magnified, grace enlarged, excessive grace.
From this moment let us no more think of Christian giving as a bore. This was the conception over which Malachi grieved. To those to whom he wrote he said: "Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of Hosts; and ye brought that which was torn and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord."
When giving enters the realm of grace, it enters the realm of cheerful, hilarious beneficence. We do not give because we are under necessity, we do not give grudgingly, but gladly and cheerfully.
I. WHEN GIVING BECOMES PRAISEWORTHY (2 Corinthians 8:1 )
Paul in the Holy Spirit wrote to the Corinthians, saying, "Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the Churches of Macedonia." The expression "We do you to wit" means, "we bring to your remembrance"; that is, "we would not have you ignorant, concerning the Churches of Macedonia."
In other words, the Churches of Macedonia were worthy of praise, and of recognition because of their giving.
We suggest to you the following reasons for this Divine commendation:
1. They gave in a great trial of affliction.
2. They gave in the abundance of joy.
3. They gave through their deep poverty.
4. They gave with riches of liberality.
5. They gave as they were able, that is according to their power.
6. They gave beyond their power.
7. In giving they were willing of themselves.
8. They gave with much entreaty that their gift might be received.
9. They gave because they wanted fellowship in ministering to the saints.
Let us study these nine statements. Let us lay our own giving, our method of giving, our conception of giving, along side of these statements.
Do we give as they gave? Does our spirit line up with theirs? Too many give because they are intreated to give. They do not intreat others to receive their gifts. Too many give according to their stinginess, not according to their power; they give according to the pressure brought to bear upon them, not according to the willingness of their own hearts.
They may be rich in possessions, but they are scant in their liberality. Would that a new vision of giving might grip the people.
II. THE BACKGROUND OF PRAISEWORTHY GIVING (2 Corinthians 8:5 )
Here is something that is most revealing. Our key verse says: "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."
1. Praiseworthy giving of our goods must be preceded by the giving of our own lives unto God. If a pastor wants large giving among his people, he must have a people who have yielded themselves unto God. Consecration of the life, precedes consecration of the possessions of the life. If we ourselves are not on the altar as a willing sacrifice unto God, we will not be willing to sacrifice the things which belong to ourselves.
An unyielded life is a self-centered life. A yielded life is a God-centered life.
2. Before we give our goods to our brethren we must give ourselves to our brethren. The Holy Spirit says of the Macedonians not only that they gave their own selves to the Lord, but they gave their own selves "unto us" by the will of God.
When we have bestowed our time, our talents, our love, ourselves as a gift unto the needs of our brethren, we will not hesitate to bestow upon them our goods. Thus, in whatever realm, whether we are giving to the Lord, or giving to our brethren we must first give ourselves.
3. There is a basic principle in giving which is suggested here. The money which we give to others, is no more than ourselves transferred through our toil and service into coin. My money is myself. I am my money. Where do we get our money? We get it as the reward of our labor. What is our labor? It is work of our brain and our brawn. What is our brain and brawn? It is ourselves.
If, therefore, we withhold ourselves from God and the brethren, we will naturally withhold our coin from them. If we give ourselves, we will give of the fruitage of ourselves. Those who yield their lives to God in full consecration, will never need committees to wait upon them and to beg them for their gifts.
III. THE DEMONSTRATIVE PROOF OF LOVE (2 Corinthians 8:8 )
Our verse says: "I speak * * to prove the sincerity of your love." We speak of grace as a proof of the sincerity of the greatest of all graces, which is love.
1. No Christian service apart from love is excessive. Love never counts the cost. Love never weighs the sacrifice.
When Christian giving is carried on under the law of the tithe it may never go a step beyond the law. A man foreign to love may, under the sense of obligation and Christian duty, deposit his tithe in God's storehouse. Love, however, will give a tithe, and will give additional offerings, not of necessity, and not of legality.
He who deposits his offering in the plate under the Law will not, necessarily, manifest any particular delight in his giving. He will give, but he. may give grudgingly. He will give but give, so as by force. He will give, but will give nothing beyond what duty demands.
On the contrary, the gifts of love are exuberant, overflowing, superabounding. Love is rich in liberality. Under law, one may give according to their power; under love, they will give beyond their power. Legality will travel the first mile, the commanded mile; love will travel twain.
The gifts under law, legality, are what we may call force-pump giving. The gifts under love are artesian well giving; gifts which flow freely and superabundantly, gifts without constraint.
2. True giving is a proof of love's sincerity. If the woman tells the man she loves him, but at the same time she is unwilling to give to him her life, and her all, there is no proof of the sincerity of her words. Gifts to our loved ones, our wife, or our husband, our children, or our dearest friends are always the expression of our love.
The florists frequently place in their windows a card which says: "Say it with flowers": and, flowers do say it. So, also, may we say it unto God with flowers. We show our love by our sacrifices; by the exuberance of our gifts.
IV. A PRIMAL NECESSITY OF ACCEPTABLE GIVING (2 Corinthians 8:12 )
Our verse says: "For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted."
This Scripture is much in line with the one we have just considered. Love always gives with a willing mind. If there is no expressed willingness, there is no love.
1. Would a man accept a gift of compulsion. Suppose we gave our gifts at Christmas time, grudgingly? Suppose we set up a cry, as we gave the dearest woman in the world her Christmas gift? Suppose we said: "Here it is, I knew you would expect it, and I suppose I ought to do it, but I certainly couldn't afford it." There would be no joy in her heart as she received it. She would feel like saying, "Keep your old thing, I don't want it."
Be it much, or be it little, it is the willing mind that makes a gift acceptable. It isn't what we get. but the heart that lies behind it, that counts. Even so doth our God look beyond everything that we give at the heart which prompts the giving.
2. God accepts a willing gift according to that we have and not according to that we have not. A gift, be it ever so small, is reckoned as great in the eyes of God as a gift ever so large, according to that which we have, or we have not. The truth is that the poor widow who did not have much, but gave all her living, gave, in the eyes of the Master, far more than they who gave large gifts out of a larger abundance.
Let not the poor, therefore, become discouraged because of their scanty giving. They should remember that God reckons giving by a willing mind. He counts the value of our gift, not by what we give but what we have left.
V. EQUALIZED GIVING (2 Corinthians 8:13-14 )
As we see it it is utterly wrong for a few wealthy people to endow the church and make it unnecessary for the majority of members to give. God distinctly says that He does not want some men eased and others burdened. Every man is to give according to that he hath, and not according to that he hath not.
1. Every man must give something, that is, if he has anything. If a brother has nothing, he should be cared for by the church. If he has something, he should give.
If a careful and concise data was furnished by the average church, we are sure that a large group of its fellowship will be found as non-supporters of the Word and work of God.
This simply means that the group of non-givers are not only disobedient to God but they are losing the blessing which real munificence brings from God. "There is that withholdeth * * but it tendeth to poverty."
2. Every man must give as he is able. God accepts our gifts according to that we have, and not according to that we have not. If we take the Old Testament tithe as our standard, that will not be a proportionate amount of giving. He, whose income is larger, will give more than he whose income is smaller; however, it must be recognized that a man with a large family and an income of $100.00 per month, will only have $90.00 left after his tithe is paid. At the same time, a man with a smaller family and with $500.00 a month income, will have $450.00 after his tithe is paid. This is not giving according to that a man hath.
As we view the New Testament standard of giving, we are sure that if the small income man gives a tithe; the large income man should give far more than a tithe. What God wants is expressed in 2 Corinthians 9:14 .
VI. PROPER ADMINISTRATION OF GIFTS (2 Corinthians 8:19-21 )
1. Providing for honest things. Churches, in their administration of gifts often place too much confidence in men. Not that men may not be trusted, but that church treasurers and those who handle church funds, should be safeguarded against any blame.
The Lord gives definite declarations on these things, and tells us that we should so handle gift funds, "Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us."
As we have seen "giving," in the general run of churches, the membership as a whole knows little or nothing of how much money is given, and of how it is spent. This is utterly wrong. The people who give their money should give it intelligently, knowing to what they are giving. They should also be intelligently informed as to how their money is used.
2. The realm of honest things, includes honesty in the sight of the Lord, and in the sight of men. God is watching over our beneficences, and He wants everything done in a way that is right in His sight. Men also are looking on, and we should strive to have their approval and commendation as to our methods of handling God's money.
In the matter of Paul's financial dealings, first of all, there was Titus, who was his partner and fellow helper. In addition there were certain brethren who were messengers of the Churches, and of the glory of Christ. Paul gave assurance that these men were trustworthy, and could be depended upon. Then Paul added: "Shew ye to them, and before the Churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf."
VII. HOW GOD MAKES UP TO HIS CHILDREN (2 Corinthians 9:6-11 )
1. In 2 Corinthians 9:6 is a warning, and also a promise. The Lord says: "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." This verse, in connection with 2 Corinthians 9:10 , shows how the Lord is able to multiply our seed sown.
In the Book of Malachi the curse upon those who withhold their offerings is clearly stated. God says, "Ye have robbed Me. * * In tithes and offerings." Then He adds, "Ye are cursed with a curse."
On the other hand a plea and a promise is given. God says through Malachi, "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse"; and then He promises that He will open the windows of Heaven and pour them out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive.
The Lord continues to say: "I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground."
2. In 2 Corinthians 9:8 is a description of the all-sufficient God. 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."
Some one has suggested that God will never allow one of His children to outdo Him in giving. A Scripture says: "Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and running over." "The liberal soul shall be made fat."
We are not urging you to give, so you may get. We are merely telling you that God is not unfaithful to reward your gifts of love.
3. In the last verse of the chapter is this expression: "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift," We may bring all of our gifts, the gifts of our lifetime, and lay them down before God and men. Then, by their side, we may place God's one unspeakable gift to us. How our gifts would then dwindle, in comparison with His unspeakable gift.
1. God has given us eternal life,
2. God has given us the Word of life.
3. God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit.
4. God has given us all things that appertain to Godliness, both the things present and the things to come.
With all of these things before us, we have but one word further to say, the unspeakable gift of God is this: "He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
When we think of how God has given to us, let us rejoice in the privilege of giving unto Him.
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant." A poor man was once obliged to seek financial aid of a wealthy Christian woman. After hearing of the need, the lady made out a check for the amount and, as she handed it to the man, told him that he need not return the money. Then she made a strong remark: "This is more than God ever gave me," she said. The man looked at her in surprise and said: "Mrs. D , I am surprised to hear you say that. You have abundance, and God has given you all you have." She smiled and replied: "I speak the truth, for God has not given me but lent unto me what I have, that I may in His Name, bestow it upon those who are in need." King's Business.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28