Summary: What happens when you give of your time, talents, and money? Many ministries teach that you will receive a material blessing for material giving. I think they completely miss the mark. Paul, in this chapter, sets out a wonderful pattern of the true result
Last time we talked about the motivation behind giving, and the process for how to give: it comes from the word “generosity” which means simplicity, sincerity, and singleness. We give who we are, and what we have, back to the Lord who owns it all, for Him to take our simple gifts given from a sincere heart and have a singleness of purpose for the gift—to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Today we talk about the results of giving. What happens when you give? Now, many ministries today would tell you to give so you will get. While that is true—the “what” you will get may surprise you and I think is more in line with the character of God and less the character of this age.
Paul is in the midst of encouraging the Corinthians to follow through with their commitment to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem—a process they had begun months prior but had fallen to the wayside. And he is using a rival region of Greece—Macedonia—to spur on the Corinthians.
1 – 2
Paul is saying “I shouldn’t even have to remind you of what you promised, should I?” And then he turns this neat trick. In chapter 8 he used the Macedonian giving as a way to spur on a rivalry with Achaia churches: “You’re not going to let the Macedonians beat you on this, are you?” Now he layers it even deeper in that he uses what he knows of the original excitement of the Corinthians to spur on the Macedonians!
3 – 5
I love this! “Now, Corinthians, what if someone from Macedonia comes along and finds you really didn’t give what you said—you, they, and I would be embarrassed!” So Paul is sending his trusted brothers to get the gift together so that doesn’t happen. Note how he calls the gift “generous”. He is still trying to compliment the Corinthians while using a negative motivation (avoid embarrassment) to kick them into action.
He doesn’t want them to come and have to collect on what was promised because it would seem as if they were forcing the Corinthians to give. This is the wrong motivation to give and Paul will get into that in a little bit.
Sometimes I think we find ourselves giving just enough to assuage our guilt or feeling of obligation to God. And I’m again not just speaking of money but of your time and of your talents as well. But there is a wonderful promise that Paul makes here, echoing another promise made by God through Jesus:
Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." NKJV
So what does that return on our investment look like? More on that in verse 8 and following. But note that God is a giver, and so that character of the Lord should also flow through us.
No one should force you to give, and you should not give because of a feeling of guilt or a feeling that another’s need is so great. Give because God has motivated you to love. Paul uses the word “cheerful” to describe how giving should occur. It’s the Greek word hilaros’ which comes to us as “hilarious.” The root has to do with the feeling of having calamity far away. That great feeling that everything is going okay is the feeling in our hearts when we know we are giving with the right motivation. When I look at this I think of a feeling of security. You may not have much money, but because you are secure in the Lord providing what you need, you feel good about giving—again through the motivation of the Spirit, not guilt or even the need of the other.
8 – 9
Here’s where some ministries begin to move away from the character of God to the character of this age. Give because God has motivated you and because you are secure in the Lord. Part of that security is that you know God is able to provide for you. Some suggest this means if you give, God will pour material blessing out on you. So giving becomes an investment strategy to earn money. Nothing could be further from the truth. Notice two things here: 1) God supplies your “need”, not your “want”. 2) The purpose for this supply is so you can “excel in every good work” not so that you can get rich materially.
The quote is from Psalm 112:9 . This Psalm describes a person who exudes the character of the Lord. Verse 9 says “He distributes to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” In other words: being generous is something those who receive your generosity will never forget.