Summary: A sermon in a series on 2 Corinthians, on principles of giving.
Not in Polite Company! – 2 Corinthians 9
There are some things you just don’t talk about in our culture. At least not in polite company. Picture yourself at a party or in a gathering of folks who you don’t know well. What kinds of things do folks chat about? You can talk about the weather, you can talk about your kids, you can talk about cars or sports or cooking or decorating or lawn care. But there are some things you don’t talk about in polite company. You can make your own list, but I suspect that everyone’s list would include money.
Just for fun, I went on the internet while I was preparing this sermon and looked up the phrase, “Things you don’t talk about in polite company.” I was not thinking that there would be any reference to that inquiry, at least not in the exact phrasing that I entered it. To my surprise, there was an immediate reference. And the reference was to money!
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church that we have come to know as 2 Corinthians, he was not afraid to discuss money. And he was not afraid to discuss how and how much the Believers in Corinth should contribute to the Lord’s work. Jesus wasn’t afraid to broach this subject, either. Did you know that Jesus talked more about the proper approach to money and posessions than any other subject – even more than heaven, hell or loving our neighbor. And some of Jesus’ most memorable statements are about money. Even non-Believers can quote “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt. 6:21), or “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
And there are at least 2,350 passages in the Bible dealing with money and material possessions. That’s more than on any other subject.
I can’t think of any excuse for not attending church that is more popular than the phrase, “All they talk about is money.” But if the Bible talks about money 2,350 times, maybe it’s not a topic we should avoid. In fact, I think the reason why we DON’T talk about money in polite company is because there are few subjects that expose our hearts more quickly than our view of money. Perhaps it’s not so much the frequency of the sermons on money that folks struggle with, but rather the fact that the topic cuts so close to who we really are.
So let’s launch in this morning, partially because chapter 9 is the next chapter in this series, and partially because it is a subject that we really need to address. This won’t be a total treatment of the topic – that could and should take several weeks. But at least as far as Paul addresses the issue, we’re going to try to gain some understanding and some principles from the text today.
The context is that the Corinthian church had made an enthusiastic promise of a gift to help the church in Jerusalem. And now we find Paul planning to send a delegation to Corinth to make arrangements to receive this gift. He has apparently been boasting to the churches in Macedonia about the Corinthians’ generosity and willingness to give. And now, if you will, it’s time to make good on their pledge.
The first principle I’d like us to consider is found in verses 2-5. Let me read these again.
"2For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. 3But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. 5So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given."
The principle I’d like us to see is this: Models Matter!
Paul had been telling the churches in Macedonia about the Corinthians’ generosity. And what was the net result? Look at verse 2: “Your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action”.
There are few things in the Christian life more powerful than good models of behavior. Paul says in 1 Cor 9, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” And in Philippians 3 he says, “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.”