Summary: Giving that transforms is encouraged by the example of others, initiated by the example of Christ and our love for him, necessary because of human need, and promotes good will.
One tells the story of a man reared in the hills of West Virginia. He had never seen a large city, modern inventions, or neon lights. He marries a girl just like himself, and they spend all their time in the back woods. In time they have a son and name him Junior. When Junior reaches his teen years, his father begins to worry about his future. He’s afraid his son might get a job in the city and not be prepared to face the real world because of his backwoods upbringing. He and his wife decide to start saving so they can take Junior to the city and introduce him to the other side of life. After three years, the big day arrives. Planning to spend a few nights in a fancy hotel and take in all the sights, they toss their belongings into the old pickup. As they approach the city, Papa gets a little nervous and instructs Mama to stay in the truck while he and Junior look around, then they will come get her. As they pull up to the motel, a doorman meets them. Papa and Junior walk toward the lobby in disbelief. When they step on the door mats, the doors automatically open. Inside they see statues and chandeliers. To the left a waterfall. In the front is a mall with shoppers going in and out of stores. Down below is an ice-skating rink. As they take in the sights, they notice a clicking sound. Looking around, they see a little room with opening doors. People walk up, push a button, and the doors open. People come out and others go in. Papa and Junior can’t believe their eyes. Then an old wrinkled up lady walks up and pushes the button. The doors open, she walks in alone, and the doors close. Not twenty seconds later the door opens and out walks a gorgeous blonde in her twenties. Papa’s eyes light up. He nudges Junior and says: "Hey, Junior, go git Mama."
Though the story is somewhat humorous, it illustrates how greedy we often are. We want something for nothing and instantly. In sharp contrast to this mindset is what God's Word says: we are to give not gather, and our concern should be on others rather than ourselves.
As Paul pens this epistle to believers in Corinth, he writes to a church with a great deal of wealth and influence. Sometime prior to this, they committed to give to an offering Paul was collecting for the impoverished saints in Jerusalem. Yet for one reason or another, they put aside this project and turn their concerns elsewhere. Paul now encourages them to follow through with their previous decision.
These verses relate some very important reasons why Christians should give. Giving is an intragal part of living transformed lives and experiencing transformed churches. When we recognize all we have comes from God, belongs to God and is to be used for God, it transforms our way of thinking and this in turn transforms our actions.
Interestingly, Paul doesn’t use the word money. This reminds us giving involves more than paper and coins. While money is required to execute God's work, transformational giving involves much more than an act of throwing money in an offering plate. Stewardship involves our money, time, talents and anything else furthering God’s kingdom.
I. IS ENCOURAGED BY OTHER’S EXAMPLE (1-7)
As Paul motivates them to give, he cites the example of the Macedonians. Romans ruled this region in upper Greece and believers suffered great persecution. Christians faced idolatry, philosophy, and many other temptations. No doubt their suffering affected them economically. In spite of their situation, they begged and pleaded to participate in Paul’s offering. He didn’t have to ask them to give; they did it voluntarily.
Having given their lives to God, they realized all their possessions belonged to God anyway. God allowed them to use their belongings, but they realized they had nothing apart from him. Because of this, they wanted to give to others. They also gave beyond their means. They gave more than they could afford. Surely they must have believed God would bless their endeavor.
We find a similar example in the Old Testament where God instructs Moses to tell Israelites to raise a contribution. The purpose was to build a sanctuary. These people, like the Macedonians, suffered persecution and were probably not wealthy, but all those with a willing heart gave. The people were excited. They gave freely of what they brought out of Egypt. They gave of their material possessions, their time, their talents, and their skills. So generous was their giving Moses had to ask them to stop.
In contrast to the Macedonians and Israelites, the Corinthians were not overly concerned about giving. Their previously expressed desire to give to the impoverished saints in Jerusalem was derailed by a loss of enthusiasm.