Summary: A look at the blessings of generosity and receiving God’s grace.
2 Corinthians 8:1-9 – How to Get Rich
This sermon may seem a bit out of sequence – a few weeks ago we looked at chapter 9, which was centered on giving money. And back then I told you that I realized that the #1 reason why folks say they don’t come to church is because the pastor talks about money too often.
But this text, and to be fair, even chapter 9, is not really just about money. Oh, this text is about being rich, but as someone once said, you can get rich and then someday you might have lots of money.
So rest easy - you don’t have to hide your wallet this morning. In this instruction to the Corinthians, Paul tells us how you can get rich. And the great thing is this: Unlike mere financial wealth, as you become rich towards God, so do the rest of us.
Grace generates grace
Grace Generates Lordship
Grace Generates Riches
First point: Grace generates grace
Paul begins this section by mentioning that the Macedonian churches had received God’s grace. When you think of someone who has received grace, what do you think of? Someone who has been blessed in some way, right?
Someone who has financial resources, great gifts and abilities, whose life is working out very well. That’s what I think of. But consider the kind of grace that God had given the Macedonian churches.
They were impoverished and they were being persecuted. Does that sound like grace to you? It doesn’t to me. I thought it was interesting in my study of this text that the phrase that describes their poverty literally means, “their poverty down to the death of it.” That is not just being uncomfortable, that is being poor and destitute. Poverty and persecution would be right at the top of my list of things that I would want to avoid in my life. How about you?
Yet God has, in His providence, given the Macedonian churches just that. Severe trials and extreme poverty. Paul calls this “grace”! And what is the net result of that grace, according to Paul? Overflowing joy and rich generosity!
I wouldn’t think that there is a person here today who would not like to be joyful and generous. But the path that we think we need to follow to become joyful and generous is one of security and prosperity, not one of suffering. It’s logical – if God gives me a lot, I will share a lot. At least that’s the way I rationalize it. “Right now I can’t give a lot because I don’t have a lot. I’m waiting for God to bless me.”
I was at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Thursday. My daughter, Alison, was one of two students from her university that were invited to participate in a student leadership forum, so she was there and we got to spend the whole day together.
The prayer breakfast was an incredible event. There were probably 3000 people there and over 150 countries represented. Not all of the participants were Christians, but the majority certainly were. At lunch, Alison and I sat next to two men from Bangladesh. Their joy in Christ was so evident and they were delightful men. One of them was named Dennis, and he immediately invited us over to stay with in his home and to experience the Third World. His offer was absolutely sincere and I have no doubt that he is waiting for my call!
Our waiter was obviously not an American, and after my new friend exchanged some words with him in a language I’d never heard before, he reappeared with a plate of fresh fruit that nobody, not even the dignitaries, had been served. Dennis winked and said, “He is from my country,” and proceeded to pass the plate around the table. Nobody other than me realized what was happening and nobody appreciated the fact that this fruit was a gift to Dennis, not to our table. Everyone took several pieces and Dennis never got a single piece of fruit. But he was clearly delighted to share with the rest of us, even if he never got any of it at all. This man exuded generosity and the joy of Christ.
Then, while at the breakfast, someone told me a story about a pastor in China who begged Christians in America to stop praying that their church would not face persecution. He felt that the reason why the Believers in China are joyful and the church is thriving is precisely because they are being persecuted!
You and I might well ask, what do Christians in China and Bangladesh have to be joyful about? Why would they be generous? Well, for the same reason that the Macedonian churches were joyful and generous. They had received God’s grace. Their severe trials and extreme poverty overflowed in joy and generosity. They were truly rich!