Summary: What principles does the Lord give us for determining our offerings?
Text: 2 Corinthians 8:8-12 9/22/02
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
10 And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.
I wish I had worn these when I was growing up. They are ear-plugs. They are supposed to keep you from hearing noise. I suppose some days my parents thought I had 3 or 4 of these in each ear! They can protect your hearing when you work around tractors, table saws, grinders, huge motors.
They are not such a great idea when I need to hear something important. I’m concerned that the devil is trying to put a few ear-plugs into our hearts on this subject of managing the money our Savior has given us. People think we’re doing these four Sundays because “Synod needs the money” or “Amazing Grace needs the money.” It’s true that both our church family and our synod can use extra offerings. That will always be the case because there is always so much work to do to spread the gospel. But that’s not why we’re talking about managing the Lord’s money. Someone could question why we’re encouraging teenagers to think through their stewardship – after all they can’t vote! But managing God’s gifts has nothing to do with power or rights or voting.
This is about living our life for our Savior – showing him with our lives, including our wallet, how much we love him. Even if our church organization had billions of dollars, we’d still be talking about how do we fight our sinful nature that wants to use God’s blessings selfishly and how do we build up our new man, our faith, that wants to serve God with everything he gives us.
So if the devil is trying to put earplugs into your heart, take them out. There is no hidden agenda, this isn’t a fund raising speech. This is about what you and I can learn from Paul, inspired by God himself, about how to show our love, how to give with joy and thanks. The way Paul put it is
I want to test your sincerity
Paul tests us with money
“I want to test your sincerity” sounds confrontational. It sounds as if Paul wants to put us under a microscope to examine our giving so he can see where we fall short.
This puts us on the defensive because we know we’re not doing the best job in the world. Jesus is the love of our lives. He’s our Savior, our God, our brother – the one we depend on, pray to with confidence. But we are not totally dedicated to him – not if you look at how we live our lives. In the area of money management, what does my spending show about my priorities? That movies are more important to me than my Savior? That I honor cable TV with NFL Sunday sports package more than my Savior? That my cars means more to me than my forgiveness? And even when my offerings are first in my spending, do I give with joy and gratitude or a sense of obligation, duty? Sin stains everything I do, including my offerings to Jesus.
The Holy Spirit directed Paul to dedicate two chapters in this letter to the Corinthians to talk about their offering to the believers in Jerusalem. The saints in Jerusalem were suffering a famine, and they were poor to begin with. The churches in Turkey and northern Greece were sending an offering to them to help them out. The people in Corinth had been some of the first to promote this offering, but they got side tracked and the offering still wasn’t done. Paul was encouraging them to complete it.
He first told them about the Christians in northern Greece – a province called Macedonia. Those Christians were very, very poor – some of them had to beg for food. Despite their extreme poverty, they all begged Paul to let them be part of this special offering. Paul wrote 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. (8:2-4) Their love for Jesus and each other shined through their offerings.