Summary: Many are facing struggles in our current financial crisis. As individuals face economic uncertainty, so do our churches. How are christians to face these uncertain economic times. This sermon investigates Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians udring a si
GIVING AND OUR STRUGGLING ECONOMY
Obviously, the news about our economy is not very encouraging. It used to be funny to make light of it by saying, “My 401(k) is now a 201(k).” Unfortunately, it is not funny anymore because now it is a 101, and has even lost the “k”. It does not appear to be getting any better.
This uncertainty has been going on long enough that it is beginning to affect how people live. One major effect is that people are making smaller and even fewer contributions to non-profit organizations. That does include churches as well. As I network with other pastors, it is evident that this financial situation is beginning to hit churches hard.
But my question is why? Why should this affect Christians giving? Should we make decisions out of fear? Should we be worried about making our mortgage payments because we “overbought” our homes or have too large a lease payment on an SUV? How should we respond as believers in this crisis.
Turn with me this morning in your bibles to 2 Corinthians 8 and I want to show how Paul challenged the churches in Corinth to give during times of financial uncertainty. Before launching into the chapter, let me show you the key to this chapter. Read verse 9. Here Paul reminds them of the gospel that came from the sacrifice of Jesus. Paul reminds them that Jesus “became poor” for their sakes so that they could receive the riches ‘of an inheritance undefiled.” (See I Peter 1). This central truth to our lives provides the key to unlocking the biblical perspective that Paul teaches to us as believers.
Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-12. Here Paul teaches several biblical facts about giving.
1. Giving is about mission not mindset.
As Christians, we need to remember that we are on a mission – the mission of the Gospel. Paul chooses to discuss a financial gift from each church by describing their gift as a “grace from God.” See verses 1, 7. He also uses this same phrase in verse 9 to describe salvation through Jesus. He intentionally connects the dots for them to remind them that we are ambassadors of the gospel. Paul is not afraid to talk about money. He does it on many occasions. Here he chooses these specific words under the anointing of the Holy Spirit to explain that this is about furthering the gospel.
Next Paul uses the example of the believers in Macedonia. Remember that Paul planted churches in cities in Macedonia such as Philippi and Thessalonica. Apparently, the churches there were facing some difficult times. He refers to their “great trial of affliction” and their “deep poverty.” He sets the stage for describing their offering as coming during a very difficult time. This is important because it must be a difficult time in Corinth as well. From verse 10 we learn that they had promised a gift, but now were considering not following through on their gift. Clearly, Paul is addressing this situation in a way that will be very instructive to us during these times that we face.
Paul uses the financial gift from Macedonia as an example to the Corinthian church. But even more importantly he describes their heart in giving the gift. He says that they “committed themselves to God first.” They understood that the grace and salvation from Jesus means that you have committed Himself to Him completely. When you receive Jesus as your savior, then you are His. You give Him all of your life to receive His life in return. It is now not your life any longer. This means that you are committed totally to Him. This is reflected in every area of life.
This gives you a mission in life. We are on the mission of furthering the “grace of God” or the Gospel. Commitment to God means we are motivated by this mission. It is the defining motive of our lives. Because they were on mission committed to God, then the churches in Macedonia gave beyond their ability. This means they are on mission! In fact, Paul notes that he must have asked them to refrain because of their seriousness of their circumstances. But they begged him in verse 5 to take their gift. They gave out of the abundance of their joy in Jesus. (see verse 2).
We simply do not have this kind of faith in our modern day American church. We give according to the mindset we have at the moment. If we feel good or excited, then we give. If our mindset is poor, then we refrain or back off in our giving. Where is the Jesus in this thought process? Giving to the work of the gospel should be a mission that arises out of our total commitment to Jesus Christ.