Summary: You can’t outgive God. He’s way ahead of everyone but he’s wanting us to share in his likeness and experience the fullness of grace. Part of that comes through being a giver like him.
Chapters 8-9 center on the subject of the grace of giving.
A story was circulated some time ago about Arnold Palmer’s visit with a certain king. This king was impressed with Arnold Palmers golf record and as they talked the king wanted to give Mr. Palmer a gift. He tried to refuse at first, but the king insisted and asked what gift Mr. Palmer might enjoy. Finally, Mr. Palmer suggested that he might give him a golf club. The king seemed happy with that answer. Two days later Arnold Palmer received in the mail from the king the deed to a 200 acre golf club. Now that’s an elaborate gift.
But when I think about the most elaborate and extravagant gift I’ve ever heard of, one thing stands out far above all the rest. It, to, is the gift of a king. And it is a gift for every one of us. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…
You see God is the first and best giver of all. His grace to us is to make us like himself in every way. Not the least of which is this grace of giving that proves our love.
As we look at our text today, we see that these Corinthian Christians have made a promise about a gift to help the needy saints in Jerusalem who are suffering from a famine and Paul has taken them seriously. In fact, he told the Macedonians about it and they wanted to join in too. It looks like Paul shared this Corinthian promise with them but seeing their poverty had told the Macedonians that they did not need to participate in this relief effort, considering their condition. Paul has boasted about the Corinthian church to them and they are stirred up to get in on the action. They have already done it. Now, though, there is a problem. The Corinthians have not carried out their promise. So Paul begins this section of the letter with this…
I. Challenging Comparison of Commitment
1Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: 2that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. 3For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, 4imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.
Just look at these Macedonians! God has bestowed his grace on them in the form of generous hearts that give liberally in spite of deep poverty! And look at who was begging whom here! It wasn’t Paul begging them to contribute, but they were begging him to receive their gift so that they could have fellowship in this ministry to the saints.
Why? What motivated their generosity? It is called the grace of God bestowed on them. How so? This was no show of competition with Corinth. This was a demonstration of what happens when people give themselves to God. They’ve been under the trial of affliction, but they have an abundance of joy. They’ve been struggling with deep poverty, but they give liberally, beyond their ability, and of their own accord!
Why? Love doesn’t always operate reasonably. Remember, for God so loved… what did he give? Love has its on priority system, which is measured in terms of grace.
Let me illustrate this further. I need a volunteer: one of our youth, say, between 2nd and 6th grade. Would one of you raise your hand? (Pick one and have him/her come to up front).
Now, mom and dad, I imagine at some point _________ here has asked for something and you told them you can’t afford it, am I right? Have your mom and dad ever said that to you? When we look at things in one perspective we measure our money according to a certain kind of priority and this is based on wisdom. But you know something; I’ve noticed that when someone we love gets really sick or is in an accident we use a different standard don’t we. I mean we do whatever it takes to help, don’t we. We will mortgage our home or cash in our retirement, or borrow our way into as much debt as we possibly can to save the life of the one we love if that’s what it takes. How much is this person worth? That’s how love operates. It measures value in terms of grace that gives beyond reason. Listen, when God considers how much you are worth to him, you can’t believe what a high price he puts on your head!