The Graces of Giving

The Voice of Hope
The Voice of Hope
The Graces of Giving
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The Graces of Giving

II Corinthians 9:1-15

Our Scripture portion today addresses an important subject for every follower of Jesus. It is the subject of Christian stewardship. When Jesus was on earth, He had a lot to say about money and possessions. But statistics reveal that not many churches provide regular or systematic teaching on the subject of stewardship.

Why this lack of teaching? It may be because pastors don’t want to be seen as self-serving. Or it may be because unchurched people have used the worn-out excuse for not attending, “they’re always asking for money.” Or maybe, the members show by their lifestyle choices that their wants come first and if there’s anything left over, they’ll give that to God. And so, many pastors shy away from teaching stewardship. That leaves it up to para-church ministries to fill in the gap on this vital subject.

Ministries that provide biblical, financial counseling give us some interesting glimpses into the finances of Christians. Statistically, 20 percent of church members do 80 percent of the giving. Of those 20 percent, only about 2 or 3 percent actually give a tithe or 10 percent of their income. It seems obvious that there’s a need today for teaching on this subject.

Let us turn to II Corinthians 9:1-15 for our Scripture reading. Here is God’s Word to us.

Here we discover three GRACES of giving that should be every Christian’s experience.

One of the interesting things about this text is, the graces are laid out in verses six and seven, then they’re expanded in the remaining verses. Our title is, “The Graces of Giving.”

The First Grace is,

Give Generously

Paul begins this section of teaching with a very simple analogy, the law of sowing and reaping.  In Paul’s day, the seed was scattered by hand, today’s farmers use modern equipment to plant the seeds in the field, but the principle is still the same. The harvest is in direct proportion to the number of seeds planted.

The word translated sparingly in our English Bibles carries the meaning of stingy. If you are stingy when you plant your seed, you will have a poor harvest. But if you sow generously, you will have a bountiful harvest. If you know anything about planting, you know that if the plants are too far apart, the weeds take advantage of that. They’ll grow and choke out the good plants, reducing the harvest. If plants are closer together, as they grow, they’ll shade out the weeds.

Verses eight to eleven of our text expand on this idea of sowing generously. One of the first questions you may ask is how do I know if I’m giving generously? That is a fair question. A basic starting point is a tithe or 10 percent of my income.

Some of you may protest, “that’s the law and we’re no longer under the law.” Let me remind you of something. In Genesis chapter fourteen, Abraham paid tithes long before the law was given! And think about this; under the law, the tithe was an obligation, it was required. Shouldn’t we, under grace, be able to do above what the law required? Jesus Himself taught that principle in the Sermon on the Mount. Grace was given so we could live by a higher standard than simply what the law required!

We could focus our entire message on the principle of the tithe. But for the sake of time, let’s agree that the minimum tithe is ten percent. So, “how do I know if I’m giving generously?” If the tithe is ten percent, giving generously must go beyond that minimum.

I want you to notice verse eight. God is our example of giving. “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…” Can you see the generosity of God toward you? Notice the words, all, and abound. Did God give ten percent, fifteen percent, or 20 percent? God is ABLE to make ALL grace abound. The key word is able. But whether He does or not depends on us. Too often, we don’t give Him the chance to demonstrate His super-abounding grace! One reason we fail to give generously is that we do not understand the generosity of God toward us.

Some people have the mistaken idea that the tithe is God’s, and the rest is mine! But I believe the tithe is to remind us that all we have belongs to God. Paul reminds us in First Corinthians 4:7 that we don’t have anything, except what we’ve received from God. I know that’s a difficult concept for those of us who live in the western world. We take pride in our self-sufficiency, and our ability to take care of ourselves, thank you. I worked hard for it, it’s mine, and no one is going to take it from me!

The Israelites were commanded to tithe in order that, “that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.” That’s Deuteronomy 14:23. The fear of the Lord is something every Christian needs to understand. When we don’t recognize His lordship, then we put our own interests and ideas ahead of His. This leads to a focus on the material, and like the Israelites of old, we fall into idolatry. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” A willingness to give generously demonstrates that you and I understand – everything we have belongs to God.

God is no cheat! He rewards those who serve Him with a pure heart. Jesus Himself gave us the principle in Mark 4:24. The measure we use to give to others, that same measure will be used to give to us. If we want God to bless us, then we need to be generous with others.

There is no law or rule to guide generosity. Rules are for those who want to do the bare minimum. Generosity requires an understanding that God is able to meet my basic needs if I obey Him.  Verse ten of our text refers to that. Generosity requires a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. He will guide each Christian to do what He wants.

Let me close our discussion of this first grace of giving by reading the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19-21. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  My level of generosity, your level of generosity shows where our hearts really are.

Let us strive to develop this grace of giving generously.

The Second Grace is,

Give Purposefully

“Everyone should give as he purposes in his heart.” As believers, our hearts, and our decision-making capabilities, are guided by the Holy Spirit. Purpose shows intention, it demonstrates discipline. Giving haphazardly can lead us to the point where we say, “if we give OK if we don’t give, that’s OK too.” Purpose shows we’ve given careful thought to our giving. And well we should since it is required of us stewards that we be found faithful.

How do we develop this grace of giving purposefully? Notice verse twelve. Paul says the “administration of this gift” supplies the need of the saints. The word administration is diakonia. We get our English word, deacon, from this. The service of this gift supplies a specific need. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this or not, but the more information people have about a specific need, the more likely they are to give generously. And that’s the way it should be. We can’t give purposefully if we don’t know what the needs are. Experience shows that a structured plan for giving provides the best results. That’s not to say that spontaneous giving is never suitable, but we must be careful about appeals designed primarily to move our emotions.

Suppose your congregation takes a mission offering for one or more ministries inside or outside the local church. Each time that offering is posted in the bulletin, there are many who contribute; hopefully, many who give their tithe. Now suppose that the week before that offering is received, you have a bulletin insert or some kind of digital announcement explaining some specific needs relating to that ministry. If that is done, I can guarantee you the giving will increase according to the knowledge of specific needs.

People like to give to specific needs. Why? One reason is the results are tangible. They can see the difference their gifts have made. It helps them to connect with the recipient. And it also gives them specific items for which they can praise the Lord! Paul says your purposeful giving motivates many thanksgivings to God! I find it a great joy to know that God has used me to meet a specific need in someone else’s life.

Another aspect of Paul’s command to give purposefully simply acknowledges we have many choices. If you’re like me, your mailbox brings you many appeals for gifts. How do we decide which organizations or ministries to support? What is the purpose of your giving, and what do you want it to accomplish? I believe the Bible outlines some specific purposes for giving.

God established the tithe in the Old Testament for three basic purposes. Those purposes have  continuing significance and application for us. First, the tithe was to support the priests and the Levites. The New Testament clearly teaches us that those who “preach the gospel should live of the gospel,” First Corinthians 9:15. That is, they should be supported by the local church to perform the work of the church.  This can include the pastor, staff, missionaries, and evangelists.

Second, the tithe was gathered to feed the widows and orphans of the Hebrew society.  Paul makes it clear in Galatians 6:10 that we are to do good, especially to those who are part of the household of faith; to care for our own people first. Finally, the tithe was given to feed the non-Jewish poor living in the Hebrew community. The first half of Galatians 6:10 says we are to do good to all mankind. That would be those in the local community, but outside the church.

The biblical principle is–our tithe belongs to our local church. Giving to other ministries should be offerings above that. I also believe we should be extremely careful about donating to secular groups or causes. I have learned the hard way about this. At one time I donated to the National Wildlife Federation and purchased some of their products. That was until I discovered that they supported China’s one-child, forced abortion policy. Many environmental groups, whether focused on animals, wilderness, or whatever, see humans as the problem so they support population control. We need to be careful and do our homework well.

The second grace of giving is, to give purposefully. Be systematic, be disciplined, and be careful.

The Final Grace is,

Give Cheerfully

Paul says in verse seven, each one is to give, not out of distress or sorrowfulness, not by compulsion. Instead, he says, “give cheerfully.” The Greek word for cheerfully is, hilarous! If you go to your dictionary and look up our English word, hilarious, you’ll discover it comes from this Greek word. So, we are to give hilariously!

I realize the word hilarious may bring images of silliness or foolishness. But the Greek word does not convey those ideas. It means to be agreeable toward someone. It means boisterous merriment. It is exuberant, forceful, and contagious like laughter is contagious. When you’re around people who are laughing, if that laughter is appropriate, it’s contagious. That is the way our attitude toward giving should be.

In verses thirteen and fourteen Paul speaks of the effects of cheerful giving. First, God is glorified because this kind of giving can only come from a heart that has been redeemed! Liberality is a characteristic of God. We humans are by nature selfish, and miserly. So giving cheerfully is a mark of transformation at the core of who we are.

According to verse fourteen, cheerful giving motivates prayer and develops relationships. Look at what Paul said. The recipients of your gift pray for you and “long after you.” Those words express an intense desire. Those who receive the gift want you to understand how much they appreciate, not just the gift, but you yourself! When my wife gives me a gift, I appreciate it. But I appreciate her much more than the gift. The gift itself is simply a tangible expression of something intangible; her love for me!

Paul closes this text by saying, “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.” I believe Paul is referring to the graces of giving as “God’s unspeakable gift.” I quote Adam Clarke. “I conclude, therefore, that it is the work of Christ in the soul, and not Christ himself, that the apostle terms the super-abounding or exceeding great grace, and the unspeakable gift; and Dr. Whitby’s paraphrase may be safely admitted as giving the true sense of the passage. “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift: i.e. this admirable charity (proceeding from the work of Christ in the soul) by which God is so much glorified, the Gospel receives such credit, others are so much benefitted, and you will be by God so plentifully rewarded.”  Amen!

Yes, learning the graces of giving will bring unspeakable joy into your life. Let’s ask the Lord to teach us these graces of giving; to give generously, purposefully, and cheerfully. As we obey the Holy Spirit’s direction for our giving we will be laying up treasure in Heaven.