Summary: Giving from our finances and material possessions is an important spiritual discipline. It breaks money’s hold upon us, enables us to experience the abundant life, and glorifies God.
2 Corinthians 9:6-15 “Steps Toward Generosity”
Today, Palm Sunday, two roads merge. One road is the path of Christian discipleship and Spiritual discipline—the path that we have been walking along this Lenten season. The second is the walk toward Calvary, which was really begun in Bethlehem that first Christmas morn, and is now drawing to its conclusion.
During Holy Week, we observe Jesus willfully giving himself up for others. Paul writes to the Philippians about Jesus and pens the words, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness> And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8).
In response to the actions of Jesus and the love of God that those actions communicated, we commit ourselves to Christian discipleship. Discipleship is the giving of ourselves in service to God, but using the blessings, gifts and talents that we have received to meet the needs of others.
This emptying of ourselves, and giving ourselves is probably no more clearly seen than in our financial offerings. In our culture, money and our possessions define us. We are not just a son or daughter, brother or sister, aunt or uncle. We are more than the skinny person with blue eyes and blond hair. We are also, the person who lives in a particular house, draws a certain make and model of car, and goes to specific places on vacation. When we offer up our money, we offer up ourselves.
When Paul writes to the Corinthians concerning the spiritual discipline of giving, he firs tells them that their giving should be intentional. Each person, he writes, should give what he or she has decided in his or her heart. Giving is more than whatever loose changes or small denomination bills we have in our wallet or purse.
Certainly, Jesus’ offering was intentional. The gospel writers take great pains to point out that Jesus’ life was not taken from him. Jesus was not trapped by the cleverness of the Pharisees, or the victim of happenstance. Jesus intentionally set his course toward Jerusalem. Knowing what lay ahead, he entered the gates of the town and received the cheers of the people. In submission and obedience to the Father’s will, Jesus stood before Pilate, was flogged and allowed himself to be crucified.
Following Jesus’ example, we determine what we will give. We go beyond giving unthinkingly and comfortably. We break through the wall of giving until it hurts—realizing that such a notion reflects a selfish view of our possessions. Intentionally we give until it feels good.
At the death of a mother/father and grandmother/grandfather, a family received a large inheritance. They were saddened however because they would have preferred that money being spent o vacations and trips together, and they would have liked to have been able to say, “Thank you,” for the items the money purchased.
We take joy in giving and seeing the effects of our gifts:
¨ Lives have been touch and the ministry of Desert Streams has been deepened,
¨ Children in Iraq have been given shoes, Katrina survivors have received care, children have had gifts under the Christmas tree to open, and hungry have been feed,
¨ Children have been taught the Word of God, friendships have been established and nurtured, and the sick have been visited and cared for.
GIVING FROM BLESSINGS
Paul was asked the Corinthians to give to their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem who were experiencing a draught. But this wasn’t the main reason he wanted the people to give. He wanted them to give because God had richly blessed them. Paul writes, “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.”
Tithing in the scriptures is always linked to what God has done. The people of the Old Testament were commanded to give 10 % of their first fruits—whatever they grew, raised, or accumulated—as a thank offering to God. Tithing is a response to what God has already done.
Tithing is also a step of faith. It is a demonstration of the belief that God will continue to provide for us as lovingly and abundantly as God has provided for us in the past.
GOD IS GLORIFIED
We worship in order to glorify God by our songs and prayers. We serve with our gifts and talents so that God is glorified by our actions. We give joyfully and generously so that God is honored and glorified by our offering. Paul assures us that God will be glorified.