Summary: I attended a conference sponsored by the Generous Giving organization and our Baptist General Conference. This is the second message I delivered after that conference, this one based on 2 Corinthians 9. I borrowed the significantly from Jim Cunningham’s
Trinity Baptist Church April 1, 2007
(the introduction and part of first segment was borrowed from Jim Cunningham’s message: "Not in Polite Company")
In our culture, there are some things we just don’t discuss with others -- at least not in “polite company“. For instance -- picture yourself with a group of people you don’t know very well. What are some of the “safe” topics of conversation? What comes to your mind? The weather, your kids, classes you’re taking, cars, sports, cooking, decorating, lawn care.
But there are other topics you know you won’t raise. What kinds of things would those be? Most of you would have money on that mental list, unless you‘re more brazen than most!
For example: you get introduced to a perfect stranger and even though you might peg him somewhat in terms of wealth or lack thereof, it’s not very likely you’re going to ask, “so how much do you make?” Or, “I’ve been wondering, what you paid that ring your wife’s wearing!“
When you think about it, for us Christians, money is not a subject we ought to be so shy to discuss. Did you know there are about 2,350 references in the Bible that address money and material possessions -- more than almost any other subject. Sometimes we hear people give that old excuse for not wanting to have anything to do with churches -- they’ll say, “well, all they do is talk about is money.” But, even though that’s by far not the case, when you
think about -- 2,350 references -- about money and stuff, then, we really ought to stop avoiding the topic!!
Jesus certainly wasn’t afraid to raise the subject, even with strangers. He addressed
money and possessions -- our attitude toward them -- more than any other theme; far more than heaven, hell, loving your neighbor, and most others. Some of His best recognized statements are ones about money that even unbelievers know: there’s Matthew 6:21 -- Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Acts 20:35 -- it is more blessed to give than to receive.
The apostle Paul wasn’t embarrassed by the topic either. And, since he had a history with
the churches around Corinth, he wasn’t timid about encouraging them in the sort of generosity Christ demonstrates toward us. If you have a Bible turn to 2 Corinthians 9.
Last week, in the first five verses of chapter 8, I mentioned the situation of the famine in Jerusalem and Judea. The Jewish world and therefore Jewish Christians were suffering deep need. So, these two chapters revolve around the Corinthians having made a promise -- an enthusiastic, generous promise to help their Jewish brothers and sisters.
Now Paul plans to send a delegation to make arrangements to receive their gift. He says, he’s spoken in other churches and he’s mentioned the Corinthians’ generosity and great willingness to give. So now, so to speak, it’s time that these believers make good on their promise.
We’re talking about generosity these two weeks. We looked last week at the totally unexpected giving of those extremely poor people in Macedonia. Their illustration teaches that when God touches us and we grasp His grace in Christ, then God gets hold of us and whatever we have. The foundation for generosity is always God’s bounty toward us.
So, these two chapters don’t revolve around money as much as getting a new heart and attitude. Paul’s never teaches giving from duty, but from devotion.
Someone said, “the more you stare at Jesus, the more of a giver you will be -- and the more generous you are, the more you become like Him.” Paul obviously believed that; in the chapter 8 because after he described the generous Macedonia, that‘s when he described Jesus with the words I gave you in communion from chapter 8:9: you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.
What Paul is communicating in chapter 9, to the Corinthians, and to you and me, is we can
get in on Christ-like generosity. We can understand it, we can grow in it, we can be like Christ in this area. Generosity isn’t first about money. It’s a character issue, it’s a transformation of my mind and heart; it’s grasping how wonderful God was and is to us; it’s triggered by grace and so: [definition on screen] "Generosity is being a conduit through which God increasingly pours His resources to meet needs."
And we need to get this as well: if you’re generous, you understand that what goes through your hands isn’t lost, it’s invested and it enriches the whole Kingdom.
Today I want to make 3 observations from chapter 9 which address the whole experience of generosity.