Speaker: Dn Lee Pak Choon
Sermon Title: The Christian & Giving
Scripture Text: 2 Corinthians 8:1-12
Big idea : Giving is a work of God’s grace in us
Principles of Christian Giving
1. The heart attitude is more important than the size of your gift
2. We can all give to the Lord’s work whether we are rich or poor
3. It is a privilege to give to the Lord
4. Our giving must flow from love and not from coercion
5. We give according to our means (out of what we have)
1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.
8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 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 by his poverty might become rich. 10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.
First of all, I want to thank you all for giving me this opportunity to share God’s word with you today. I have entitled today’s message : “ The Christian and Giving”.
Let me start by saying that this is a rather difficult messge to preach. I have done some research and I found out that this subject of giving is not one of the more popular sermon topics in most churches. Definitely not in the top 10. My feel is that most preachers don’t like to deal with this subject too much and I also find that the congregations somehow also don’t talk about this subject too much either.
I think there are various reasons why Christians avoid talking about giving especially from the pulpit. The first one is what the Cantonese would say “talk money hurt relationships.. no simple “ or translated “ Money talk hurts relationship. It is no simple matter “.
In today’s context, giving is related to material or money and when it comes to money, it is always a sensitive topic. That is why some preachers shy away from the subject because in some way, talking too much about it seem contrary to the warnings of Sciptures. The bible tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil and that we cannot serve God and mammon, and so because we know it is wrong to worship money, we try not to talk about it lest we send a wrong message.
The other reason is when we talk about giving and money, we may give the impression that we don’t trust God enough that He can provide for our needs. God says that He takes care of the sparrows which are of little worth , but what did He say of us.. well God says that we are much more valuable than many sparrows and therefore, He can certainly take care of us. Harping on giving is antithetical to God’s ability and willingness to provide for us. So, we don’t want to give the wrong impression that we lack trust in God our Jehovah Jireh.
The worst fear , and I suspect, for most preachers sidestepping this subject, is that they don’t want to be misunderstood as being mercenaries , begging for money.
This is unfortunate because of the many scandals brought about by celebrity televangelists and mega church pastors who asked for donations from their followers to fund their lavish lifestyle or some dubious projects that are totally un-related to the Church.
Have you heard of Jesse Duplantis, Louisania minister and televanglist who asked his followers to donate money to him to buy a $54M Falcon 7X private jet because God told him that he needed one so that he can spread the gospel around the world ? Unbelievable right ? Well, it is true. Closer home, you have probably heard about the shenanigans of a church Pastor who moved funds from his Church to invest in his wife ‘s singing career in Hollywood. All these are real concerns that preachers do not want to be implicated in and the best way to do it is not to talk about the subject.
So, this is a tricky matter and I am aware that I may be heading to a place where angels fear to tread.
But this subject on giving as mentioned in this passage is worthy of our consideration and study because firstly it is God ‘s Word and is impressed upon the Apostle Paul to write to the Corinthian Christians specifically on the matter. Secondly, we thank God that He has given us clear principles in Paul’s writing to guide us in the matter of Christian’s giving.
Let me first touch on the background for us to get a good understanding of the subject. The background to Paul’s writing in chapter 8 of his 2nd letter to the Corinthians is that around the 52 to 54 AD, there was a great drought that resulted in a severe famine in Palestine. Many of the Christians in Jerusalem suffered greatly because they did not have enough to eat. When word of their plight reached the apostle Paul, he was determined to enlist the help of all the Gentile churches in the region to support the relief of the Jewish saints. He thought it would be a good opportunity for the Gentile Christians to express the oneness of the body of Christ, so wherever he went, he told them about the need in Jerusalem.
When he mentioned it to the Macedonian churches ( ie, the churches of Philippi and Thessalonica and Berea), the response was surprisingly overwhelming. Paul was moved by the Macedonians ‘ tremendous response and he shared it with the Corinthian Christians to encourage them to show their readiness to give to the needs of the Jerusalem saints.
The one consistent theme that we can see from Paul ‘s writing on this subject of giving is that giving is a work of God’s grace in the believer. This is the basis for genuine Christian giving.
If God has not done a work of grace in our lives, we will find it very awkward to give. And I would even go so far as to say one should refrain from giving, because if you do give, you would be giving under neccessity or for some self-motivated reasons. But if you have experienced His grace in your life and you know Him personally as your Lord and Savior, you will give to Him with much joy and freedom because you are giving out of the abundance of His grace in your heart.
In 2 Corinthians 8 : 1, Paul says of the Macedonians, “ We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, “
Because of God’s grace in the Macedonians’ lives, they are filled with overflowing gratitude to God and love for His people. So, when they heard of the hardship with the Jersusalem Christians, their hearts were moved to give to their needs.
Now, the Macedonians are not well off. In fact , they themselves are facing severe persecution and hardship. They have all the right reasons to say to Paul, “Sorry Brother Paul, we want to help, but we really can’t because we ourselves are so poor. ” But no, they begged Paul for the privilege to help and they gave generously and cheerfully in spite of their affliction and poverty.
The amazing thing is that they even gave beyond their means. They never look upon it as a duty, but they count it as a privilege to partake of in this ministry of helping the saints and they gave out of the abundance in their hearts for the grace that God has given them.
Paul says, “they gave themselves first to the Lord.” That is a tremendous key to a giving heart. God’s grace enables them to appreciate that everything that they possess belongs to God. So, when they give themselves first to the Lord, they are in fact giving back to the Lord the blessings that have been bestowed upon them by God’s grace. That ‘s what true giving is all about. It is a response to God’s work of grace in the believer.
Illustration of Grace Giving
As the treasurer in Hermon, I have the privilege to having witnessed some wonderful examples of what I would call “grace giving”, among our members when they gave to the Church Development. When we made the appeal for fund raising for the Church development project, many members came forth to give generously to Hermon Church in terms of gifts and loans. Truly, they demonstrated the right spirit of giving by responding enthusiastically and generously to the appeal for funds.
A friend of Hermon gave a large loan to the Church with a generous repayment period. To be honest, I was surprised by his response. Here is a good illustration of what Paul means when it comes to giving to the Lord’s work – there is no division between member or non member. We are all one in the body of Christ; just like the case of the Gentile Christians in Macedonia giving to the needs of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.
Perhaps , the most touching response I received was from a member who I knew was going through a difficult time and yet she gave a big loan to the Church Development fund. I thought she should keep the money in view of her situation, but she told us that she heeded to God’s call to support our Church development. Like the Macedonian Christians, she gave to the Lord in spite of her affliction. Truly she taught me what it means to give out of grace.
Principles of Giving
There are five key principles that we can learn about giving from the study of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.
The first principle is that the heart attitude is more important than the size of the gift. The Macedonians gave what they can and even beyond their ability. What they gave might not be a significant amount, but Paul commended them not for the size of the gift , but for their heart attitude of giving because they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to the need. They responded to God’s grace in their lives with heartfelt gratitude by giving back what they could to the Lord.
Indeed, God doesn’t want grudgingly given money or guilt money. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9 : 7 that each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion , for God loves a cheerful giver. The Greek word for “cheerful” is “hilaros” . Literally, it means hilarious giving or boisterous giving ; that is, it is full of high spirit and happiness doing it.
So, I am with Paul in his teaching – don’t be bound by conscience to give out of neccessity or give as a cover for some personal sins, but give boisterously out of love for God. With that attitude , God takes delight in you. In fact , God, himself is the ultimate cheerful giver. He delights to give to us. I like what one bible commentator says about why God loves a cheerful giver. I quote “It is not difficult to see why God delights in the cheerful giver. He himself is such a giver and desires to see this characteristic restored among those who were created in his image.” ( unquote ) If you are giving cheerfully to the Lord’s work, you are reflecting the character of God in and through you.
The second principle that we can gather from the Macedonian Christians is we can all give to the Lord’s work whether we are rich or poor.
A preacher once came to a farmer and asked him “ If you have 2000 dollars, would you give 1000 to the Lord,” The farmer replied, “ Yes, I would”. The preacher was impressed and he asked further, “ If you have 2 cows, would you give one to the Lord. ?” The farmer nodded his head and said,” Sure! Of course, I would. “. The preacher was very delighted to hear it, and continued, “ What about If you have 2 pigs, would you give one of them to the Lord?” This time, the farmer shook his head and said, “Ah, now that’s not fair, I have two pigs.” Is that the way we rationalize with the Lord at times?
Some of us may think that because we earn little, we can’t give to the Lord’s work. We say to ourselves, “I am not earning much. I have bills to pay every month. There are others who are much better off than me. They can certainly afford to give to the Lord’s work, but not me. Not now. Wait til I earn more. “ That line of reasoning sounds perfectly rational.
But the Macedonians show us otherwise. Paul tells us that even when they are in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. They have every reason not to give for they are desperately poor. Yet they gave willingly and sacrificially to the needs of the Jerusalem Christians.
The truth is giving is for everyone including those who are not well off.
Do you remember the poor widow who gave her 2 small copper coins to the temple treasury in Mark 12:42 ? Jesus commended her that she gave more than all the rest combined. Why so ? Because she gave out of all she have. The rich gave out of their abundance, but she, out of her poverty gave sacrificially.
The Macedonians in their example, shows us that in spite of their poverty , they still gave to the Lord’s work out of the abundance of God ‘s grace upon them.
The third principle of giving is that it is a privilege to give. The Macedonians count it a privilege to give to God. In fact, they pleaded with Paul for the privilege to give so that they can support the needy saints in Jerusalem. The Macedonians see giving as an act of devotion to God and they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to the need.
In Christian giving, the real issue is not about giving money. It is giving ourselves to the Lord. If we really give ourselves to the Lord and see giving as a privilege to give back to God, then the right kind of material giving will naturally follow.
Right giving also has an un-intended blessing on the giver. We give not because it is good for God as God doesn’t need our money, but we give because it is good for us.
Giving enriches us spiritually. We discover the pure joy of giving as it is an act of worship to the Lord. We in turn become more generous , more gracious and more Christ-like. 2 Corinthians 8 : 2 says of the Macedonians, “ In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. “They are spiritually blessed by their giving to the Lord’s work.
Indeed, Paul gives us this assurance in 2 Corinthians 9:11 that spiritual blessings will come with giving . He says “ You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.“ In short, Giving begets blessings which in turn begets more giving which results in thanksgiving to God.
The Corinthian Christians ‘ givings
The second group of givers that Paul mentioned in Chapter 8 were the Corinthians Christians. The Corinthians Christians were not poor, but for some reasons, they had become slow to give to the needs of the Jerusalem saints even though they had earlier indicated their intention to do so. So, Paul urged the Corinthian Christians to complete this act of grace on their part. Nonetheless, Paul did not use pressure tactics to persuade the Corinthians to give. Instead he coaxed them to excel in giving as much as they excelled in faith, in knowledge, in speech, in earnestness and love.
This brings us to the fourth principle of giving and that is our giving must flow from love and not from coercion. Paul says in verse 8 of 2 Corinthians that he is not commanding the Corinthians to give , but he wanted them to prove that their love for the saints is sincere by following the example of the Macedonians. Notice how carefully Paul avoids using pressure tactic. He does not lay a guilt trip on them. He does not say ,” Now let’s see if you can outdo the Macedonians. We are going to set up a KPI to track everyone’s giving. The Green Bar shows what the Macedonians give and the Orange Bar shows what you guys give. As you can see, the Green Bar is above the Orange Bar. Well, by the time Titus meets you in Corinth, you had better try to do at least as well as they did. “ No, there was nothing of this sort. There is no pressure.
Without pressure, Paul exhorts them to consider what true giving is — a manifestation of a heart that has been touched by the grace of God which shows itself in an outflow of love for the saints.That, of course, leads us into the highest example of all, the supreme example of giving, in the giving of Jesus, Verse 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 by his poverty might become rich.”
It states the case so clearly – “ For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Once again grace is at the heart of giving.
God ‘s motivation for giving was love; he gave himself in the person of Jesus and God gave in response to our need. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 verse 3, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. “
The point is our giving must flow from love and not from coercion.
It is sad to hear of some pastors who tell their members that they should give until their hearts break or until tears stream down from their eyes or of some churches’ unorthodox method of fund raising by listing the names of members who did not give and reminding them that they have not given to the Lord. Paul says this ought not to be. Doing so will kill the joy and meaning of giving.
I hope I am right to say that in Hermon, we do not use such dubious methods to solicit funds to meet our needs. If we have a need such as the Church Development Project or the General Fund deficit, we tell the members our need and appeal to them to give and then we let the Holy Spirit speak to them to give.
Recently, we did a communciation on our Church giving and an appeal was made to members to give more to the General Fund than the Development Fund because the General Fund is not meeting our operating expenses. I am pleased to report that members have responded very positively to our appeal out of the conviction of their hearts.
In fact , this has always been the case when we share our needs openly to our members. I can testify that members have always responded generously, cheerfully and appropriately to our appeal for funds to meet needs whether it is for Church Development, Missions Support or other Charity Organization.
The fifth and final principle in giving, according to Paul is we give out of what we have according to our means. Paul says in verse 11, “So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.”
The question on most people ‘s mind is “ How much am I supposed to give “ Paul’s principles throughout this letters and other letters remind us that there is no one answer to that question for every believer.
Many go back to the Old Testament’s law of the tithe, the giving of ten percent unto the Lord. Now, this is a good principle for giving and perhaps we should use it as a broad benchmark, yet if you search the New Testament, you will not find anywhere that specifically commands tithing.
That is not to say that we do not need to give a proportion of our income to the Lord. In fact , in 1 Corinthians 16 : 1 -2 , Paul says , “Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. ” Paul basically instructs Christians to plan their giving, do it regularly (on the first day of every week) and give proportionally ( set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income ).
I know we all have struggles in our hearts when it comes to giving. It is okay to have these struggles as they help to filter our motives in giving. The final amount that we decide to give must be something that we are happy to offer up to the Lord. It can be 10 percent for those who wish to follow the Old Testament’s law of the tithe or any percentage that you have made up your mind to give freely to the LORD as your response to His grace upon you. Whatever the amount, God is more interested in your heart attitude.
If our question is, “How little can I give and still be pleasing to God?” , then our heart isn’t in the right place at all. The early Christians have the cheerful and generous attitude towards giving that basically say, “We’re not under the tithe – we can give more!”.
Jesus says in Luke 12 : 48 “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
If I may borrow the words of Uncle Ben to Peter Parker in Spider Man and paraphrase what Jesus’ says, it is simply this, “ With great power comes great responsibility.”
If we are blessed with much wealth, talents, knowledge, time and the like, it is expected that we use these well to glorify God and benefit others.
For all these reasons, Paul did not legislate a fixed amount to give, but he encouraged us all to give out of what we have according to our means.
In closing, let us recap the 5 key principles that we learnt about giving
Undergirding these 5 principles is the foundational truth that giving is ultimately a work of God ‘s grace in us. We can never outgive God for He has given us His greatest , costliest and sacrificial gift – His one and only Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins and even give us eternal life. So, when we give to the Lord, let us do it out of the abundance of His grace that was poured out into our hearts. Let us embrace 5 principles in giving and give cheerfully, responsibly, generously, sacrificially and according to our means.
Here are some questions that I trust that you will take the time to reflect and pray. I hope you will take home the message of what it means to give cheerfully to the Lord.