Experience Grace Giving Part 2

One time a pastor preached to his congregation, “If we are going to serve God, we need to get down on our knees and crawl!” The church responded, “Yes, we will crawl, Pastor! We will crawl!” Then the pastor shouted, “Once we learn to crawl, it’s time to get up on our feet and walk!” The church cried out, “Yes, we will walk, Pastor! We will walk!” Then he yelled, “Once we learn to walk, it’s time to run!” They yelled back, “Yes, we will run, Pastor! We will run!” Then he looked at them straight in the eyes and said, “If we want to run, we have to reach deep down in our pockets and give our tithes and offerings!” There was a long pause, an awkward silence. Then they mumbled, “We will crawl, Pastor. We will crawl.”[1]

Seriously, we are going through a series on giving because we want each one to enjoy giving and not just to endure it. This morning, we will look into part 2 of “Experience Grace Giving.” Open your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 8:1-9.
[2] Again, to our dear visitors and friends, though you are most welcome to listen, this is really family talk. I am talking to our members and regular attenders.

Verse one says, “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.” The words “we want you to know” means “we draw your attention to.”[3] Paul focuses our attention on the encouraging example of grace giving among the Macedonian believers.

First, to give is to give GENEROUSLY. For them, grace giving is generous giving. Circle the word “grace” in verse one. Grace is undeserved favor, goodness and kindness. In the Contemporary English Version[4] we read that “the churches in Macedonia have shown others how kind God is... they were glad to give generously.” When you give generously, you show that you experienced God’s kindness in your life.

For these believers, giving is a blessing, not a burden. It is interesting that the word “grace” appeared eighteen times in the sixteen chapters of 2 Corinthians. More than half or ten times we find the word “grace” in chapters eight and nine, where Paul wrote about giving. “So we urged Titus... to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part... see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”[5] In short, grace marked their giving.

Verse two reads, “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” History tells us that Macedonia used to be rich. But they went through their “most severe trial”. The Roman Empire seized all their gold and silver mines. Because of that, as someone has described Macedonia, “the country was like a lacerated and disjointed animal.”[6] The words “extreme poverty” means they hit rock bottom, “pushing them to the very limit.”[7] But, it brought out the best in them. “The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor.”[8] They did not complain. But they were content. “The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts.”[9] Note the equation: “poverty + joy = generosity.” Thus, being generous does not depend on the capacity of your pocket. In fact, “Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.”[10] So for them giving is a privilege, not a problem. “Paul, perhaps thinking they too were suitable candidates for aid, hesitated to approach them about the need in Jerusalem.”[11] Paul did not require them to give. But still they volunteered to give. They even begged Paul again and again so they could give. That’s why it is sad that some people even debate on whether to give their tithes or not. I feel some do so not on biblical grounds. It’s not that they want to give what is right but that they don’t want to give at all. Yes, “No NT text mentions the tithe as a responsibility of the church”.[12] Yet, “One wonders if God would require less than the OT tithe from NT people.”[13] As I have said last week, tithing is the training wheels of giving. As you mature, you learn to give more than the tithe. To give generously means you are neither limited nor burdened by tithing.

Second, to give is to INVEST in eternity. That’s the reason why the Macedonians considered giving a “privilege”.[14] Verse five says, “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.” Giving generously is not a burden but an act of worship to God. The Message goes like this: “This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives.” We are simply thanking the Lord for showering us with His goodness and faithfulness. And when you give generously, you make others experience God’s goodness also. 2 Corinthians 9:12-13 says, “What you are doing is much more than a service that supplies God’s people with what they need. It is something that will make many others thank God. The way in which you have proved yourselves by this service will bring honor and praise to God.”[15] In a sense, we can’t worship both God and money. But we can worship God with money.

Someone wrote, “What you keep, you lose. What you give, you gain.” Look at what our Lord Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”[16] Note that we can store up treasure for ourselves. Here’s what Paul told Timothy to tell his congregation: “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”[17] Again, note the words “for themselves.” You are not really losing when you are giving. You are actually investing!

There was a Christian who died. Peter met him at the pearly gates then gave him a tour of heaven. He saw a lot of big, beautiful mansions. He got so excited to see which of those mansions Peter would give him. To his dismay, Peter gave him a nipa[18] hut instead. Peter apologized to the man. “I’m very sorry. We tried to make the most of the money you sent us. But that’s all we could afford.”

When we hear that the exchange rate for dollar is rising or appreciating, we scramble to convert our pesos to dollars. Business people call it a wise investment. When we give, we are really converting our earthly treasure to heavenly treasure. I like how The Message goes: “If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.” Jim Elliot[19] wrote, “He is no fool who give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Third, to give is to VALIDATE your commitment. Paul wrote to the Corinthians to follow up on their support to the relief operations for the poor and needy in the Jerusalem church. They already begun collection. But they did not continue. Depending on the calendar Paul used, Bible scholars calculated that they have failed to give for at least nine months up to twenty-one months.[20] That’s why verse six says, “So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part.” Why did they stop? If you read 2 Corinthians, Paul addressed the problem of false apostles. Possibly these false apostles abused the Corinthian believers. They probably stole the church funds. So, the church experienced what I call “giver’s fatigue.” But, despite that, Paul urged them to finish what they begun.

Now, whatever reasons you may have for not giving, that’s not an excuse for failing to enjoy giving. We should give even if others could not and would not. We should give not because we have to or we ought to but because we want to. Verse eight says, “I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.” The way we give validates or proves how much you love God. For our use of money shows what we think of God. “A lot of people are willing to give God the credit, but not too many are willing to give Him the cash.”[21]

There was a very stingy member of a church. One day their church building needed funds for the repair of the ceiling. The finance committee sent a representative to this miser. But he got angry. “Do you know that my mother goes through dialysis every week? Do you know that I have a brother who could not send his kids to school? Do you know that I have a cousin who will be kicked out of her condo unit due to her failure to pay her rent?” The church representative apologized. “I’m sorry we didn’t know.” Then the man answered, “Kung sila nga hindi ko binibigyan, kayo pa?”[22]

The story does not end there. During the worship service, the pastor prayed with the congregation for the funds to repair the ceiling. While he was praying, a piece of the ceiling fell on the stingy person’s head with a loud noise. The man felt God was calling his attention. So he cried out, “Lord, I pledge P10,000!” The pastor then prayed, “Lord, hit him again!” I pray the Lord does not need to hit us on the head to give.

Giving is actually an indicator of your spiritual growth. That’s why verse seven encourages us: “But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” One translation goes like this: “You do everything better than anyone else. You have stronger faith. You speak better and know more. You are eager to give, and you love us better. Now you must give more generously than anyone else.”[23]

At times, we don’t actually have a money problem, only a faithfulness problem.[24] We are just like the person in a cartoon who refused to have his wallet baptized as well. One of the best ways of measuring a person’s character is through the way he handles money. Next week, our very own Dr. Andrew Liuson will speak on “Debt-free Lifestyle,” a two-part series on how to get out of debt and stay out of debt. Please invite your friends and relatives to attend.

Lastly, to give is to EMULATE or imitate the Lord Jesus. Verse nine says, “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.” We give because God first gave. The Message goes like this: “You are familiar with the generosity of our Master, Jesus Christ. Rich as he was, he gave it all away for us—in one stroke he became poor and we became rich.” Christ did not withhold His best for us. In fact, He gave everything, even His life, for us. So, why should we keep our best from Him?

So we are to G-I-V-E.

G-ive generously

I-nvest in eternity

V-alidate your commitment

E-mulate the Lord Jesus.

After I preached the first part of “Experience Grace Giving” last week, someone asked me if our offering went up. Well, thankfully, it went up. I just pray it is not just a knee-jerk reaction. I hope we are not like the people in this cartoon. [Show cartoon of people leaving the church wearing boxer shorts only with one of them exclaiming, “Wow! That was the best sermon tithing that I’ve ever been to.”][25] I think the real measure that you really accepted the word of God is when you live a life of generosity. We claim we already gave our lives to God. But, if we can’t even give Him our money, we can’t really give our lives to Him. “If we belong to Christ, it’s logical that everything we have truly belongs to Him.”[26] Thus I challenge you to commit yourself to generous giving. “Honor GOD with everything you own; give him the first and the best.”[27]

Now, to our dear friends who visited us this morning, I am not asking you to give your money. Giving is a family matter. It’s only for our members and regular attenders of our church. What I am asking you today is to believe in Him. He gave everything for you. Put your trust in the Lord Jesus as your Savior. Then, you will receive His gift of eternal life.

Let us pray...

[1]Adapted from the illustration database of SermonCentral.com.
[2]All Bible verses are from the New International Version, unless otherwise noted.
[3]Cleon L. Rogers, Jr. and Cleon L. Rogers III, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, 408.
[4]CEV.
[5]2 Corinthians 8:6, 7 (emphasis added).
[6]Rogers, 408.
[7]THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language.
[8]The Message.
[9]Ibid.
[10]2 Corinthians 8:3b-4.
[11]David K. Lowery, 2 Corinthians (Bible Knowledge Commentary), 573.
[12]William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 717.
[13]Ibid.
[14]2 Corinthians 8:4.
[15]CEV.
[16]Matthew 6:19-20.
[17]1 Timothy 6:18-19.
[18]A local grass used for roofing in the rural areas.
[19]Philip James Elliot (October 8, 1927 – January 8, 1956) was an evangelical Christian missionary to Ecuador who, along with four others, was killed while attempting to evangelize the Huaorani people during what may be referred to as Operation Auca.
[20]Rogers, 408-409.
[21]Brian Kluth, Preaching and Writing Guide to Money and Generosity, 6 (Available from www.maximumgenerosity.com).
[22]In English: “I don’t give to them. Why should I give to you?”
[23]CEV
[24]Kluth, 6.
[25]Cartoon available from http://www.reverendfun.com/?date=19990528.
[26]Kluth, 3.
[27]Proverbs 3:9, The Message.

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