Summary: Learning to love to give
2 Corinthians 8 - “The Grace of Giving” - 8/14/16
Let me give you a question this morning to get you thinking: What do the following all have in common? a kitchen timer, a post it note, and a string wrapped around a finger. The answer is probably obvious to most of you - they are all “reminders” - we use them to remember to do the things that we know we want to do. And we use them to notify us when it is time to do those things. Reminders can be very helpful for us.
The accountant who does my taxes sends out a little postcard two weeks before my taxes are due. It says “Don’t forget to send in your tax payment.” My dentist sends out a postcard as a reminder: It’s time to come in to have your teeth cleaned. We may not always like going through what we are reminded about - after all, who like getting their teeth cleaned - but reminders are good for us.
We are going to have a “reminder” sermon today. It probably won’t be any great new truth you haven’t heard before, but it is a truth that is a good reminder for us. But I’ll try to present it in a fresh way that helps you look at things a little differently. Turn with me this morning to 2 Corinthians 8. M, M, L, J, A, R, 1&2 C.
There are many things in scripture that we need to remember. We take communion every month as a way of remembering our great salvation and what Christ has done for us. Paul writes in Philippians 3:1 - It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. So taking time to remember is good for us, it is a safeguard for us. It’s just like guardrails on the highway or the little rumble strips in the road - when we go over them they remind us, get back into the center of the road!
So our reminder this morning is going to be about giving. Yes, the pastor is talking about MONEY! For some of you, that’s what you’ll come away with. But the truth is, this morning I don’t want to talk about money, but about God’s grace. When we focus on money, it shows we have the wrong perspective. Because when it came time to talk about money, Paul’s focus was on God and the grace He gives. So let’s see the reminders that Paul gives us in this chapter.
Read 1 Corinthians 8:1-7 - Pray
This is a great week to talk about giving, because we had a really good offering last week. So in no way is this message motivated to get you to “give more” - but rather it is a reminder for all of us about WHY we give. On a merely human level it makes no sense - why would anyone “give away” a large portion of what they have made for themselves. Our sinful, selfish nature wants to stubbornly hold on to everything we have. And often before we take the offering each week in the worship service we talk about how we give back as a way of honoring God and renewing our trust that He will continue to take care of us. But Paul presents another aspect to the idea of giving here in this chapter, and that is the issue of God’s grace.
To set some background to what Paul is dealing with, we look at the book of Acts. In Acts 11:27-30 we find this recorded for us: During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
So here in the epistles of Paul, we find various references to this offering. Paul tells the Christians in the newly started churches about the need back in Jerusalem, and they want to help. Down in verse 11, we see that the Christians in Corinth were the first ones to say, You can count on us! But now they needed to follow through and actually give the gift that they had promised. And here in chapter 8 & 9, Paul is encouraging them regarding their giving. That’s the background of these chapters. But let’s look how Paul starts out in verse 1:
And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. So Paul is writing to the Corinthians - they lived in the southern region of Greece called Achaia - and he is telling them about those in the northern region called Macedonia. And his focus is on God’s grace. So let’s stop there and ask the question - What is Grace? Because we often read through a passage of scripture and we read words without thinking about what those words mean. So what is Grace? A simple definition - write it down somewhere - is “unmerited favor” - or to put it in more common words “undeserved blessing.” It’s when God blesses us, not for anything we have done, but in spite of what we have done. Even though we don’t deserve it, God chooses to shower His blessings upon us. That’s grace.