Summary: Paul doesn't just say, "Tithe and you're good." Rather, he encourages the Corinthians to "excel in the grace of giving." What does that mean exactly? And what does grace have to do with giving?
IN GIVING, WHERE IS THE "ENOUGH" LINE? Many Christians would say, “Tithe and you’re good.”
- There is a natural tendency in almost all of us to want to know where the line is. It might be so we don’t cross it. It might be so we can cross it. But we want to know where the line is.
- When you’re dating, where’s the line? What’s appropriate and what’s too far?
- When you’re disciplining your kids, where’s the line? What’s appropriate and what’s too far?
- And, to go with our subject for this morning, when it comes to giving, where’s the line? How much should I give – whether in a dollar amount or a percentage of my income – that’s enough? Where’s the line?
- For many Christians, the answer would be to tithe. Tithe and you’re good. And, let’s be brutally honest, most churches would see a substantial increase in income if all their members tithed, so it’s easy to think of that as a golden standard.
- But what Paul shares here points us to another standard. What does he point us toward?
THE "GRACE OF GIVING": Grace is getting something you don’t deserve (while mercy is not getting something you do deserve).
- 2 Corinthians 8:6 (“act of grace on your part”), 7 (“grace of giving”), 9 (“grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”).
- It’s striking to me that the word “grace” appears three times in this passage on being generous. It’s not a word that we normally associate with financial things. So why is it in there?
- Let’s start by unpacking the definitions I just shared of grace and mercy.
- Grace is getting something you don’t deserve. For instance, as a Christian, through the grace of God, I get to go to heaven when I die. I don’t deserve that – I’m getting something I don’t deserve. That’s grace.
- Mercy is a complementary idea. Mercy is not getting something you do deserve. To stick with the idea I just shared, as a Christian, through the mercy of God, I am not going to hell when I die. I do deserve that - I am not getting something I do deserve. That’s mercy.
- So what does grace have to do with this financial stuff?
- Going back to the earlier part of the chapter, the Macedonians had given generously and sacrificially to the needs of other Christians. Paul praises them for that. Now as he shifts his attention to spurring the Corinthians toward those same brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Verse 6 says this is an “act of grace.”
- Verse 7 encourages them to “excel in the grace of giving.”
- Verse 9 reminds them of the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- The repeated “grace” references are a reminder that the Corinthians are not giving because the recipients deserve it. They have not merited this response. Rather, it’s an act of grace. They are getting something they don’t deserve. Let me repeat that because it brings together what we’re talking about: they are getting something they don’t deserve.
THREE STANDARDS OF FINANCIAL GIVING:
1. “The least I can get away with.”
- You drop a dollar or maybe even a five when the offering plate is passed, but only because it looks bad to let the plate pass without putting anything in. We don’t want to be embarrassed, but we certainly don’t want to give more than we have to.
2. “What’s expected of me.”
- This might be said by your “duty” Christians, your “obligation” Christians, your “faithful” Christians. This is not to be degraded because obviously this is a big step ahead of #1, even though it’s not our final stop.
- For some established Christians, this passage is a challenge because we have been giving our tithe (or whatever) but not anything that makes us uncomfortable. This teaching calls us beyond that.
- This passage is a challenge to be more generous than we are initially comfortable with.
3. “Excelling at the grace of giving.”
- 2 Corinthians 8:7b (“see that you also excel in this grace of giving”), 8a (“I am not commanding you”).
- “So what’s the percentage?” If it’s not a tithe, give me the number that I give to be alright.
- That misunderstands what Paul is getting at. This is not a legalistic command, but an invitation to excel at giving.
- The Pharisees were always looking to nail down the exact standard. That fed legalism. It also allowed you to fulfill the standard and then forget about it. You didn’t continue to be drawn to greater levels of faithfulness or obedience. You were done with it at that point.
- While most churches have a good number of people under #1 and #2, there aren’t many under #3.