Summary: Paul offers the Corinthian Church some principles to guide their giving based on the example of the Macedonians.
Consecration Sunday, the day we come to consecrate ourselves and our lives to God. That one day of the year when we have to endure the preacher’s sermon on the joys and benefits of giving. We sit and squirm while the preacher drones on about being a cheerful giver, all the while knowing we are more like the little girl whose mother wanted to give her a lesson in stewardship. The mother said to her little daughter, “Here is a dollar and a dime. When we get to church I want you to decide which one to give in the offering.” The mother could hardly wait until the service was over to ask the little girl which she had given. “Well,” the little girl said, “I was all ready with the dollar in my hand to give it, but just before the offering came by, the man in the pulpit said we should be cheerful givers, so I knew I would be much more cheerful if I gave the dime, so I did.”
What is it about stewardship Sunday that makes us wince? Is it because we talk about money? It shouldn’t be because one out of every six verses in the four gospels is devoted to money. Do we realize that of the twenty-nine parables Jesus told, sixteen of them related to money? What would happen if every sixth Sunday you came to church the pastor preached a sermon on money? It wouldn’t be very long before you would be calling the District Superintendent asking for something to be done. What if half the times the pastor told a story it had to do with money? The P. P. R. would be meeting for sure, and a plan would be laid for meeting with pastor to discuss her means for communicating the gospel. But that is exactly what Jesus did in the gospels. In fact, Jesus spoke more about money than he did heaven, or hell, or salvation, or repentance. Now that is a sobering thought. Perhaps Jesus knew what he was talking about when he said, “Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also” (Matthew 6:21).
Giving doesn’t have to be painful, and talking about money in church doesn’t have to be painful. We recognize its importance because Jesus recognized its importance, so I just want us to take a few moments of pain-free reflection to consider some biblical Guidelines for Giving that the Apostle Paul gave to the church at Corinth. We find these guidelines in 2 Corinthians 8: 1-15. Let me read the passage, and then come back and note three important principles that should guide our lives as we seek to glorify God in all that we do.
Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 here.
The Apostle Paul was writing to this church at Corinth as an encouragement for them to give to the offering that was being collected for the Christians at Jerusalem. I know you can hear the encouragement in Paul’s words. When Paul had last visited, there evidently had been great discussion about the possibility of a gift for the Jerusalem Christians, and I don’t know if Paul doubted the Corinthian commitment to the cause, or if he just wanted to ensure that he had not labored in vain in that field. Either way, Paul reminded the Corinthians that:
Guideline # 1—Giving should be guided by grace.
Paul sees our giving as a way we participate with God in his Kingdom. God gives us the means to give so that in our giving we might share his abundance with others. The most amazing thing to me is to think that the God who created the universe, who holds the stars in place, and commands the waters of the oceans, has chosen in his infinite wisdom, to use us in his redemptive plan for creation. It is for us as it was for Abraham. You remember what God told Abraham? “I am blessing you to be a blessing to others.”
Notice that Paul nowhere mentions tithing. In the interest of time, I am going to operate off the assumption that tithing is the biblical standard that we should seek to meet as we contemplate our giving. Tithing is explicit in the Old Testament, and it is implicit in the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament. To argue otherwise is to argue against the plain meaning of Scripture. The tithe literally means giving to God 10% of our income.
But preacher, you say, isn’t that getting into Old Testament legalism, and don’t we live under the law of grace? Yes, we do, and that is why we look to Paul, who has been called the apostle of grace, to find some help in putting it all together. That we live under grace is actually the foundation of this first guideline. It is grace that led the Macedonians to give beyond even what they could afford. That means beyond the tithe.