Summary: In fellowship together we have a responsibility to be good stewards of our resources so that we can support each other. Jesus helps us fulfil this responsibility by enabling us to have the grace to be generous givers.

You can listen to the full message here:-

http://www.nec.org.au/listen-to-a-sermon-series/in-fellowship-together/

Message

2 Corinthians 8:1-15

Being Stewards

Let’s start by reaffirming the close connection between being in fellowship together and being good stewards of our resources when we are in fellowship.

In the very early days of the early church

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

Acts 2:44-45

The fellowship together had an impact on the way people used their resources. There was a willingness, driven by being in united community, to financially support kingdom work.

1 Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. 3 Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.

1 Corinthians 16:1-3

The church in Jerusalem was in need, the Gentiles churches were using their resources to makes sure there was support. Being in fellowship, and being stewards while in fellowship, is a responsibility we have.

So what methodology do we use to fulfil that responsibility?

Well … we turn to Scripture. As we do so we are going to allow our hearts … and our hands … and our wallets, and purses and direct debits … to be directed by Christ.

We do that by turning to 2 Corinthians 8:1-15.

What we see here is that Paul ties together a relationship with Jesus – knowing the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 8:9) – and the impact that has on the way we use our resources.

Paul does this by firstly dispelling a common myth. That myth being that when you have more money you will become more generous. It’s not true.

Have a look at the table on the screen

(it is a snapshot of the World Giving Index located here:-

https://www.cafonline.org/about-us/publications/2018-publications/caf-world-giving-index-2018)

In terms of wealth:-

Indonesia is the 98th richest country

Kenya is ranked at 152.

Myanmar is 132.

So there is a myth which needs to be broken.

Breaking the Myth.

You need to have a lot of money to be a generous giver.

And I really love the way Paul goes about breaking the myth. He goes to the Corinthians, and takes them by the shoulder, and points them north towards Macedonia. And then he says, “Let me tell you what is happening up there”.

Look at what is happen in other places where people are in fellowship.

Those churches in Macedonian included Philippi, Thessalonica. These churches were extremely poor.

The Macedonian countryside had been decimated by civil wars. Now that the Romans were in control the government took over the gold and silver mines in Macedonia. They also taxed the copper and iron smelting industry. For the general population life was difficult.

But believers had even greater struggles. From the letter which Paul wrote to the Philippians and the Thessalonians we know that these churches were going through severe testing and they had to face a great deal of oppression.

We have heard of the saying, “hitting rock bottom” … well that is a good description of what has happened to the Macedonia believers.

Yet they act in a way which is totally contrary to their circumstances.

Paul has been travelling around the Gentile churches to raise finances for the believers in Jerusalem because that area of the land had been hit by a severe drought and believers in Jerusalem were starving.

When Paul came to the Macedonia churches he didn’t even ask them to make a contribution.

They were already so poor and had so little.

Paul couldn’t ask them to make any more sacrifices.

But Paul had underestimate them.

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 Lord’s people. (2 Corinthians 8:3-4)

They had heard about the offering. Without even being asked they wanted to give.

Urgently pleading … to give.

If I was to put up a blank sheet and with two columns

1) Reasons why I am urgently pleading to give.

2) Reasons why I cannot give.

Which column would fill up first? Would we even fill the first column?

We all understand the pressure. We live in an age when financial burdens on the family can be huge.

It is not cheap to have a house … even if you were to rent.

It is not cheap to feed a family … especially when they are growing teenagers.

We do face unexpected bills when cars break down and appliances need repair.

And you haven’t even started on some extra activities … sport, music or whatever. That isn’t cheap either.

Add to that your special diet or eating plan needs … I can guarantee your food bill increases.

I haven’t even touched on the idea of saving for the future.

That is the reality of life.

It’s not that we don’t want to give. In fact I think we would all love to be able to give a heap of money to the church, or Christian organisations, or relief work or whatever. Deep down, we all have the desire. We are in fellowship together and, in fellowship, we know we have a calling to provide for the kingdom ministry of NEC.

“And when I earn more money I will give more money”.

That is how the desire can work its way out in us.

But I can tell you from experience that there will always be reasons not to give as much as we had set aside in our hearts to give.

If we take that approach

Our formula for giving can end up looking goes something like this:-

Financial Stability

+ Having Needs Met

+ Feeling Comfortable

= Reasonably Enthusiastic Giving.

Am I right? Some of us would not use exactly this formula, but I think it is a maths equation that many of us can relate to.

Now let’s look at the equation that Macedonians use.

Great Affliction

+ Deep Poverty

+ Grace

= Joyful and Liberal Giving.

“Let me tell you what is happening up there among the poor and oppressed believers in Macedonia”. What we see are enthusiastic givers begging for the privilege of being involved in kingdom work. You do not need to have a lot of money to be a generous giver – you just need to have the right perspective.

So how do you get there?

How do you get the right perspective?

Paul answers that question for us in verse 9.

9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

2 Corinthians 8:9

In a very real way these verses are the key to our whole text. Paul is saying here that our perspective on giving is directly related to our perspective about Christ.

To understand what is happening we need to realize that Paul is not talking about Jesus’ literal poor life on earth.

Yes Jesus was born into a very poor family … the baby King lying in a food trough for animals.

Yes it is true that in His ministry Jesus often slept outside with no comforts.

Yes it is true that, at the end of His life, all He had was a small pile of clothes.

This is all true. But we today do not become rich because of that aspect of his poverty.

To see what “poverty” Paul is talking about we turn to Philippians 2:6-8.

6 (Jesus) who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:6-8

The poverty of Jesus which has real meaning and importance to us is the poverty which came because He was willing to take on the form of a man and die on the cross … accepting its shame and suffering.

The riches Christ give cannot be defined in terms of monetary gain or financial value.

The riches Christ gives are relational riches … things that you can’t buy, or earn, or work for.

Paul talks about those riches in Romans 5:6-8.

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8

Even as the enemy you are the object of Christ’s great affections! He was willing to give up heaven and perfection.

He was willing to be humiliated, abused and despised.

He was willing to be bruised and beaten.

He was willing to be crucified.

He was willing to be separated from His own Father and totally rejected by Him.

He was willing to die.

And He did that to give you the riches of life – to bring you into fellowship with Himself.

What does all this have to do with our giving? Actually it has heaps to do with our giving.

Our perspective on giving is directly related to our perspective about Christ … because our perspective on Christ always gets to the heart of the matter.

We live in a culture where everyone is defined by their possessions and financial standing.

We live in a time when everyone says, “You deserve what you have earned”.

We live in a time which says that excess money should be used to “reward” ourselves through spending our surplus on luxury.

We are valued often by what we have, not who we are.

We live in a time when it is all about … me.

But when we are in fellowship – it is not about me.

It is about the people who I am connected with because the poverty of the Lord Jesus has brought us together in unity.

In fellowship together we have a call to the community … and that takes finances.

In fellowship together we have committed to paying a full-time preacher/teacher/pastor … and that takes finances.

In fellowship together we need to have some sort of building as a base of operation … and that takes finances.

So does support mission work.

So does building upkeep.

So does paying the insurance.

Not because it is about me …

Or about you …

But because it is about what Christ has done and will continue to do in and through each one of us as we build the kingdom together.

Together …

So, as we think about what how you will allocate your resources in fellowship – your act of stewardship – let’s finish with these words from Paul.

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Together in fellowship – abounding in every good work.

Prayer