Summary: How to experience the grace of giving to the Lord.
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.”
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. 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.” 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 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.” 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.” The words “extreme poverty” means they hit rock bottom, “pushing them to the very limit.” But, it brought out the best in them. “The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor.” They did not complain. But they were content. “The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts.” 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.” 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.” 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”. Yet, “One wonders if God would require less than the OT tithe from NT people.” 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”. 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.” In a sense, we can’t worship both God and money. But we can worship God with money.