Tuesday, June 10, 2008
2 Corinthians 8:1 ENJOYING GIVING
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God granted to the churches of Macedonia:
2 during a severe testing by affliction, their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed into the wealth of their generosity.
3 I testify that, on their own, according to their ability and beyond their ability,
4 they begged us insistently for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints,
5 and not just as we had hoped. Instead, they gave themselves especially to the Lord, then to us by God’s will.
6 So we urged Titus that, just as he had begun, so he should also complete this grace to you.
7 Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—excel also in this grace.
8 I am not saying this as a command. Rather, by means of the diligence of others, I am testing the genuineness of your love.
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: although He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.
10 Now I am giving an opinion on this because it is profitable for you, who a year ago began not only to do something but also to desire it.
11 But now finish the task as well, that just as there was eagerness to desire it, so there may also be a completion from what you have.
* Illustrations and pieces are gathered from many, many unacknowledged sources*
Well as I looked at the passage for this week, I don’t know how many times I prayed, “O Lord do you have something ELSE for our folks today?” Couldn’t I preach on one of those wonderfully encouraging texts like Phil 4:13, I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Or Romans 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
Lord we need encouraging… and you know how little I like to talk about money!”
Folks, I don’t like talking about money, I don’t like thinking about money… if there is one thing that sickens me, it is the continual drive for money present in our society, present in our purchases, present in so much of life.
If I can do something on the cheap I will. And friends, if I could preach to you for free, I surely would.
But, like it or not, I am an expository preacher. That means, when I preach, I go through a book of the Bible. We have gone through many, many books of the Bible here. I’ve preached through the whole New Testament Matthew through to Revelation except for 2 Timothy, Titus and 2 Corinthians, which we are reading through now. So, I guess we should look at this passage.
But then I thought to myself, “How will I start this message off?” It’s not easy talking about money.
Some pastors seem to have no problem about it. I know of a few who preach a 10 minute sermon before each offering, and then a 50 minute one after. I guess you can be thankful for some mercies.
Some years ago in a church setting I was rather worried at the poverty and need a church member was in. This lovely Christian lady was facing terrible financial hardship, yet each week very faithfully she would contribute to the church offering. I shared with the deacons of that church my concern. I am not wise now, I was less then. I went and told her of the concern of the deacons. I told her as graciously and as supportively as I knew how that she was relieved of the responsibility of giving. As I talked with her, tears trickled down her cheeks. She said quietly, "I want to tell you that you are taking away the last thing that gives my life dignity and meaning."
That is the spirit I want to have! It is the same spirit the Macedonians had. They weren't wealthy people. They couldn't afford to give. Many of them were probably people who lived on the streets yet it did not stop them from giving what they did have.
1. CHRISTIANS ARE TO GIVE THEMSELVES TO THE LORD FIRST.
There are a lot of people who don't enjoy giving because they give for they wrong reasons.
(a) SOME GIVE OUT OF DUTY. Duty is a marvellous virtue but it can be awfully joyless. Some churches require their deacons to tithe. It is their DUTY to do so. Can you imagine a prospective deacon---in the interview process---asked if he or she would be willing to tithe if elected. And he says "Well if I have to. I guess I will." Do you think he is going to have fun doing so? Of course not! He'll grind his teeth every week as he writes the check. Tithing out of DUTY is no fun.
(b) OTHERS GIVE BECAUSE THEY'RE AFRAID NOT TO. They're afraid of what God would do to them if they didn't give! It's like the man who parked his car outside a K Mart. A young boy who was watching, came up and said, "I'll watch your car for a dollar." The man said, "Why, it's right here outside the market. What could happen to it?" The boy said, "Well, somebody might put SAND in your petrol tank." The man said, "I had the feeling I was looking at that SOMEBODY so I gave him the dollar knowing it was nothing more than protection money." Wouldn't you hate to think that God is like some petty racketeer who's going to mug you if you don't kick in? Would it be fun to give to God if you thought of Him in that way?
(c) ANOTHER FALSE OR IMPROPER MOTIVE FOR GIVING IS GREED.
Some preachers peddle the idea that if you give, God will make you financially rich. I heard one say, "If you want to be a millionaire, give God $100,000---He can figure out what that is a tithe of." That sort of stuff is like making God some sort of big heavenly poker machine that's been fixed. No---to get any pleasure out of giving we have to have the right motives! Which leads me to my last point.
To enjoy giving, we must put it in the context of our love for Christ and our commitment to Him. This must be our motivation. Did you notice what Paul said about the Macedonians in verse 5 of chapter 8? Look it up. He said, "First they gave of THEMSELVES." And you know, that's what God really wants! He's more interested in your HEART and your MIND and your WILL than He is in your bank account. You see, there's a sense in which until you have surrendered yourself to GOD without any reservation, every request to give creates a spiritual crisis.
I heard about a man who was going to bob a dog's tail and he didn't want to hurt the dog, so he just cut off an inch at a time. There are lots of Christians who live and give like that. Every time they're called on to give or do anything, it creates another crisis. Well to get rid of all that we must SURRENDER OURSELVES TO GOD! Out of our love for Jesus, we must turn our whole life and every part of it --- over to HIM ... and in the giving of ourselves, everything else, including giving our money to His church, becomes nothing but an implementing of what we've already done! Now, on the surface LOVE seems like such a weak motivation compared to LAW or DUTY or FEAR. But only the gifts given out of LOVE enrich the giver.
Hebrews 10:32-34. I want you to see how the overflow of joyin the treasures of heaven produced love in the early Christians in the midst of severe persecution.
Recall the former days when after you were enlightened you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on the prisoners and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
These Christians were motivated for prison ministry the same way the Macedonians (of 2 Cor. 8:1-8) were motivated to relieve the poor. Their joy in God overflowed in love for others. They looked at their own lives and said "The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life (Ps. 63:3)." They looked at all their possessions and said, "We have a possession in heaven that's better and that lasts longer than any of this." Then they looked at each other and said,
Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also; The body they may kill, God's truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.
Hudson Taylor's son records him as saying in later years, "I never made a sacrifice." And his son goes on to comment, "What he said was true, for the compensations were so real and lasting that he came to see that giving up is inevitably receiving when one is dealing heart to heart with God" (Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret, p. 30). And out of that heart of joy in God raised up a church of millions in China today.
1. Giving is not about Problems but Priorities (v.2).
What was the problem of these churches? "Deep poverty." If anyone had a reason not to give, it was them. They did not allow their poverty to keep them from their potential. We will always have problems and need. Our enemy will always supply us with a reason to be selfish. When our problems control our stewardship, we limit God’s ability to bless us. We are saying that His grace is not sufficient, that we no longer trust Him.
2. Giving is not about Wealth but Willingness (v.2).
Even in "deep poverty" they were "freely willing." Stewardship has nothing to do with how much you have but what you do with what you have. Remember the widow’s mite? Jesus said, "Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood she had" (Lk.21:3-4). Some people say, "If I had a million dollars I would give a lot to the church." First, where are you going to get a million? The lottery? Please! Second, if you don’t give what you have now you would not give then even if you had a million dollars. V.2 says it was "in… their deep poverty" that they "abounded in the riches of their liberality."
3. Giving is not about Obligation but Opportunity (v.4). Paul said they were "imploring us with much urgency." They were literally begging him to take their gift. Amazing… poor people begging to give.
Did you hear about a pastor friend who stood up and said, "I have good news and bad news. The good news is, we have more than enough money to build our new education building and remodel the sanctuary." Follow hearty applause he continued, "The bad news is, it's still in your pockets."
4. Giving is not about Legalism but Lordship (v.5).
In v.5, we learn that "they first gave themselves to the Lord and then to us." First, they gave all they had to Jesus and then giving to help those in need was no problem.
If you don’t get anything else, get this: when Jesus becomes Lord over your life, you will be a good steward. Stewardship is not so much a financial issue as a Lordship issue. When you are surrendered to Him, you will give. When you’ve settled the Lordship issue, you stop quibbling about the small stuff. Some ask, "Should I tithe on the gross or on the net?" Please!!! That’s like saying, "Pastor, how many times should I say ‘Amen’ during your sermon?" or "Darling how many times must I say, ‘I love you’ each day, I’m keeping count." The Macedonians teach us that we should give because Jesus is Lord, not because we feel as though we have to. Note v.9, "though He was rich, for your sakes he became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich."
1,565 references to GIVING or STEWARDSHIP.
2. CHRISTIANS ARE TO GIVE SACRIFICIALLY.
Paul writes in verse 3: FOR I TESTIFY THAT THEY GAVE AS MUCH AS THEY WERE ABLE TO GIVE. He doesn't stop there though, does he? He goes on to say, AND EVEN BEYOND THEIR ABILITY. The Macedonians didn't just give as they were able to give. They gave more than they were able to give.
Billy Graham sometimes tells a story of a strong man who worked in the circus. One of his favourite tricks was to take an orange and squeeze every drop out of it. Then he would tell the audience that if anyone could squeeze just one drop more from the orange, he would give them one thousand dollars. No one ever challenged him, that is until he came to Southern California. Here, a wizened weakling of a man, weighing just 98 pounds, said he would take the challenge. Everyone laughed. The weakling got up, grabbed the orange and squeezed out six more drops of juice. The strong man was amazed. He asked how the man did that. "Oh," he replied, "that's easy. I am the treasurer down at the other church. We do this all the time!"
Once there was a Baptist. He had a very pious look.
He'd been totally immersed, except his pocketbook.
He'd drop a nickel in the plate. And then with might and main
He'd sing, "WHEN WE ASUNDER PART IT GIVES ME INWARD PAIN."
There are three kinds of givers - the flint, the sponge and the honeycomb. To get anything out of a flint you must hammer it. And then you get only chips and sparks. To get water out of a sponge you must squeeze it, and the more you use pressure, the more you will get. But the honeycomb just overflows with its own sweetness. Which kind of giver are you?
Years ago, Dr. Karl Menninger of the Menninger Clinic was asked, "If someone felt a nervous breakdown coming on, what would you suggest that he do?" If you feel a nervous breakdown coming on, I would urge you to find somebody else with a problem - a serious one - and get involved with that individual, helping him solve his problem." In helping him to solve his problem, then in reality your own problem is going to disappear. You're no longer thinking internally. You're no longer letting things gnaw at your stomach. You're no longer getting disturbed about yourself because you're not thinking about yourself. You're thinking about others. I don't know what your objective in life might be, but there is something each one of us can do.
John Wesley knew grinding poverty as a child. His father was the Anglican priest in one of England’s lowest-paying parishes. He had nine children to support and was rarely out of debt. Once John saw his father being marched off to debtor’s prison. When John became a teacher at Oxford University he was paid more than enough to live on. He spent his money on playing cards, tobacco and brandy.
While at Oxford, an incident changed his perspective on money. He had just finished paying for some pictures for his room when one of the chambermaids came to his door. It was a cold winter day, and he noticed that she had nothing to protect her except a thin linen gown. He reached into his pocket to give her some money to buy a coat but found he had too little left. Immediately the thought struck him that the Lord was not pleased with the way he had spent his money. He asked himself, “Will thy Master say, ‘Well done, good and faithful steward’? Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money which might have screened this poor creature form the cold! O justice! O mercy! – Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?”
John Wesley pushed the sensible formula on finances: Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can."
1. Gain all you can. Money can be used for good. But do not thereby damage yourself, others, or the environment.
2. Save all you can. Two reasons were not to waste money, and not to increase desires.
3. Give all you can. Giving begins, but does not end, with the tithe.
In 1744 Wesley wrote, “When I die if I leave behind me ten pounds… you and all mankind can bear witness against me, that I have lived and died a thief and a robber.” When he died in 1791, the only money mentioned in his will was the miscellaneous coins to be found in his pockets and dresser drawers. Most of the 30,000 pounds he had earned in his lifetime he had given away.
1. First, they gave out of great affliction(v.2). They were in "a great trial of affliction." "Trial" refers to the testing of metal. The NEB translates, "The troubles they have been through have tried them hard."
2. Second, they gave out of deep poverty (v.2). The words "deep poverty" literally read "poverty down deep." Not just slight poverty, but extreme poverty. The Romans had ravaged Macedonia's economy. These were hard times
3. Third, they gave beyond their ability (v.3). They gave "according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability." This literally reads, "alongside their power." In other words, they gave all they could and then gave more!
4. Fourth, they gave freely and willingly (v.3). "They were freely willing." There were no high-pressure tactics. They gave of their own initiative, by the leading of the Spirit.
5. Fifth, they view giving as a privilege (v.4). Paul said they were "imploring us with much urgency" to receive their gift. They begged for the opportunity to give.
6. Sixth, they first gave themselves to God (v.5). They realized that God wanted them more than their money and that if He had them, He had their money.
Plenty of people are willing to give God credit, yet few are willing to give Him cash.
Three men had won the lottery and had split the money into 3 equal parts, but all of them wanted to give some of their money to the church. The first man said " I'm going to draw a circle on the ground & throw all my money up in the air, whatever lands in the circle I will keep & the rest I will give to the church."
The second man said " I will throw my money in the air, if it lands heads up, I will give it to the church & the rest I will keep for myself." The third man said " I will throw all of my money up in the air, the money
that stays up in the air, I will give to the church and the money that falls down to the ground, I will keep for myself."
There are two seas in Palestine. One is the fresh and fruitful Sea of Galilee. The other, the Dead Sea, bitter and barren. Why the difference? Galilee both takes and gives. The Dead Sea has no outlet.