Summary: This sermon describes the ways in which Christians are to give, and the motivation behind Christians’ giving.
(Note to the reader: In preparing this sermon, I based my work in part on a chapter in Charles Swindoll’s book "Improving Your Serve" (Word Publishing 1981) called "The Servant As A Giver". )
Today, I want to talk about the subject of giving, as a characteristic that Christians need to have.
Giving is a broad topic, so I want us to focus particularly on 2 Corinthians 8 (turn there)
-In the passage, Paul is describing the generosity of the Macedonian church. I want to observe the way they gave as a model for how we should give.
1-2 (Read aloud) – Though it might not be the first thing that jumps off the page, first I want us to notice that They Gave Anonymously
-Paul doesn’t note any particular households or locations within Macedonia that gave the most. No one got any extra credit from anybody. This was one church giving to another church.
ILLUS: In one of his books, Charles Stanley quoted a poem by Ruth Calkin called “I wonder”
You know, Lord, how I serve you
With great emotional fervor
In the limelight.
You know how eagerly I speak for You
At a women’s club.
You know how I effervesce when I promote
A fellowship group.
You know my genuine enthusiasm
At a Bible study
But how would I react, I wonder
If You pointed to a basin of water
And asked me to wash the calloused feet
Of a bent and wrinkled old woman
Day after day
Month after month
In a room where nobody saw
And nobody knew
Phil. 2:3-4 says, “Do NOTHING out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself.”
-Did you notice Paul used the word NOTHING. Nothing means Nothing. Zilch, Nada, Zero. As a Christian, do NOTHING out of selfish ambition.
-People who are not acting out of selfish ambition care about good being done, not about themselves getting the credit for doing it.
2-3a (Read aloud)
This is a fascinating passage when we stop to consider who was doing the giving.
-These weren’t wealthy Christians with plenty to spare.
-These were people working hard labor and minimum wage jobs to get by. They barely had what they needed, and certainly nothing extra.
-It was realistically one group in poverty giving to another group in poverty.
-The givers needed it as badly as the receivers, but even so, they gave Generously
As Christians, our giving is to be done anonymously, but the fact that people don’t know who’s giving what doesn’t mean we aren’t expected to give with generosity.
Mark 12:41-45 is maybe the most familiar passage to us about giving.
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.”
-The message of this passage is pretty unmistakable.
-I wish I could read it and say “The problem with the rich is that they were putting in too much…Jesus preferred the penny over the bags of gold. As long as I throw in my $5, I’ve done even more than I have to.”
-This is not one of my favorite stories. The reason is that it’s so easy to understand, and the message is inescapable: I need to stop being so selfish. I need to stop being so generous towards myself and start being more generous towards God and other people.
-Christians are to give generously
3-7 (Read aloud)
The Macedonians gave anonymously and generously, but they also gave voluntarily.
-I know it says it, but I have the hardest time imagining people in poverty begging to give to others. People with plenty have a hard enough time motivating themselves to give, much less people with nothing to give.
-It is important for our well being that we make an effort to give to others without being coaxed or begged to do so.
ILLUS: I have a friend in Nashville who had two very different sets of grandparents. On his father’s side, his grandfather had worked in factories, and had spent all his life saving money vigorously. They seldom traveled, though they bought a nice farm and a large house in another state. They stayed cold in the winters and hot in the summers, trying to save money on energy bills. They were kind to their children and grandchildren when they made the trip to visit the grandparents, but gave them very little, and gave little to anyone else. They had numerous enemies, and few friends. One would get the impression that they were poor, when in fact, they were millionaires.