Summary: A generous spirit acts graciously in love for others in response to their need and the example of Jesus.
Title: A Generous Spirit
Text: II Corinthians 8:7-15
Thesis: A generous spirit acts graciously in love for others in response to the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Research reported that the latest Great Recession began in December 2007 and continued through June 2009. This week I read some interesting statistics about charitable giving during that 19 month period and following through 2012.
Statistically, residents of Las Vegas, a city hit particularly hard by the recession, increased their giving, when measured as a percentage of adjusted gross income, by 14.9% from 2006 through 2012. It was the highest in the nation and twice the increase in Jacksonville, Florida which claimed the #2 spot for having given the most. Obviously a generous spirit can thrive in the most unlikely places.
Residents of Utah were the most generous giving $65.60 of every $1,000 to charity. The residents of New Hampshire laid claim to being the least generous people in our country giving $17.40 for every $1,000 they earned. Incidentally, New Hampshire is ranked #6 nationally for highest household income. Once again, a generous spirit does not seem to be related to how much money people have.
Our text today is not so much about how much we have but how much of a generous spirit we have.
I. A generous spirit is an admirable spiritual quality, II Corinthians 8:7 (Tension: Excelling vs. Lagging)
Since you excel in so many ways… I want you to excel also in the gracious act of giving.” 8:7
Most of us grew up with an A through F Grading System. Some institutions offer Pass/Fail or Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory Grading Systems. Pass would mean an A, B, or C. Fail would be a D or F.
In our text Paul simply says he wishes the Christians at Corinth would excel in the gracious act of giving. So it seems he felt their performance in gracious giving as not excelling and perhaps even failing.
This week I saw a sign advertising Pete’s Pretty Good Ice Cream.” Pete needs to excel at making ice cream… pretty good ice cream is something short of the best ice cream on the planet. If you are having brain surgery you want a surgeon who excels at brain surgery. When we watch the Broncos we want to see a team that, to the man, is determined to excel. Paul is saying that he wants the Christians at Corinth to put a stop their “duffer” mentality and start excelling in having a spirit of generosity.
This is about his desire that while they were doing quite well in some aspects of the practice of their faith… they weren’t excelling in gracious giving.
A. Excelling (Tension: Excelling vs. Lagging)
So early on Paull sets the spiritual bar a little higher and urges them to do better. One of the ways he does this is by challenging them.
II. A generous spirit is a challenge, II Corinthians 8:8-10
A. Comparing ourselves to others (Tension: Others vs. Ourselves)
I am testing how generous your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches. 8:8
The comparison spoken of here is in reference to the churches in Macedonia. “I want you to know what God, in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are very poor. But they are filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.” 8:1-2
Paul is underscoring three things:
1. The Macedonian Christians were very poor
The word used for “very poor” is the Greek word “bathus.” Bathus means very deep and could refer a ship sunken in the depths of the ocean. Bathus is the root for the word “bathysphere” which is a deep-sea research vessel or diving apparatus that is lowered on a cable to explore the bottom of the ocean.
It was Paul’s way of saying the Christians in Macedonia lived in the depths of poverty. We might say, “They were dirt poor.”
2. The Macedonian Christians were joyful and generous
When it says they were filled with abundant joy it means their joy was overflowing and they then expressed that joy as overflowing generosity.
I always feel this tension when missionaries from a Third World Country like Congo show video clips of Christians all colorfully dressed, singing and dancing with joy in an outdoor worship service. In this case the Macedonian Christians were singing and dancing for joy as they received their meager collection for those who were even more destitute than they.
3. The Macedonian Christians were not the beggars begging for someone to help them. They
begged Paul to let them help.
The Christians in Jerusalem were in dire straits and in desperate need of financial assistance. There was no safety net in place. There was no WIX program. There was no subsidized housing. There was no social security or disability or Medicare of Medicaid. There were no food banks. What there was were Christians living elsewhere who had some resources they were willing to share with those in need. The church in Corinth, to which this letter was written, is one example. The churches of Macedonia are other examples of people who were willing to share.