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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Giving Without Reluctance or Compulsion
Text:2 Corinthians 8:16-9:15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Calling
 
Preached:2018
Added:2020-04-07
Updated:2020-04-07
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
Giving Without Reluctance or Compulsion”
2 Corinthians 8:16-9:15
 
Are you surprised that this morning’s sermon is on giving? Isn’t that what we looked at last week in the sermon entitled “The Grace of Giving”? Is the pastor concerned about the giving of the congregation? Is he looking for a raise? What’s going on?
 
I can understand why those thoughts would go through your minds. But when we go through a book of the Bible, as we have been doing here in 2 Corinthians, we need to look at each passage. Both chapter 8 and chapter 9 deal with giving. We can’t say, “Since we have seen what the apostle said about giving in Chapter 8, let’s skip chapter 9 and go on with our study of the rest of the letter.” 
 
But it would be reasonable to ask why the apostle Paul would use two separate chapters just to address giving. We only understand why when we see the historical background of what was going on. The historical background is rooted in the events of Pentecost. You remember that on the Day of Pentecost over 3000 people joined the church in one day. They became followers of Jesus there in Jerusalem where the apostle Peter proclaimed the gospel on the Day of Pentecost.
 
Many of those believers were scattered into other provinces because of persecution, but many other believers were still in Jerusalem. Those believers were also persecuted. The Jewish leaders – the scribes and the Pharisees – verbally, and at times physically, attacked the believers. And they encouraged the Roman government to persecute those who believed in Jesus Christ. Consequently, it was unpopular to believe in Jesus in the first century in Jerusalem, just as it is increasingly unpopular to believe in Jesus Christ today, in the United States and in the other nations of the world.
 
Christians in Jerusalem had difficulty finding employment. Who would want a Christian working for them? After all, the word on the street was that they were cannibals because they ate the flesh of their leader, Jesus, and drank His blood. Those who already had businesses saw their business decline and others lost their business altogether. The financial repercussions coming from the loss of the business, or even the boycott of the business, was catastrophic.
 
In some ways, the Christians in Jerusalem who owned businesses faced the same type of discrimination that many Christians today face. We have heard, all too often, about Christian bakers who are sued and have lost their business because they refused to bake a cake for a gay and lesbian wedding. The hostility they face, along with many other Christian owned businesses, is similar to the hostility Christians in Jerusalem faced back in the first century.
 
Because the situation was so severe, the apostle Paul arranged for financial giving in order to alleviate the poverty that Christians in Jerusalem faced. In the previous chapter Paul described how the Macedonians, who lived in the northern part of Greece, gave willingly and generously even though they were impoverished and persecuted. Seeing how much the Macedonians gave, and how willingly they gave, Paul had challenged the Corinthians to do the same.
 
The Corinthian church was in Achaia, which was in the southern part of Greece and was a more prosperous area. The Corinthians had also heard about the need in Jerusalem for financial help. They had heard about that from Titus who was a faithful fellow worker with the apostle Paul. And that is where we pick it up in verse 16 and 17 of chapter 8, where the apostle writes, “I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative.”
 
It appears that Titus may have been the first one to tell the Corinthians about the need in Jerusalem. The Corinthian church put together a sizable collection, but they had not yet completed what they had begun. The false teachers in Corinth, of whom there were many, made it appear as though the apostle Paul was trying to collect money for himself. That is one of the reasons why the apostle Paul worked as a tent maker and did not receive payment from the church, even though he acknowledged that the worker is worth his wage and that those who bring spiritual blessings have every right to receive material compensation for their work. (1 Corinthians 9:7-12).
 
Financial Accountability
 
But now, as the remainder of the collection was being received, and those preparations were being made to send a large collection to Jerusalem, the apostle stressed several areas of importance, beginning with financial accountability. In verse 20 and 21 he writes: We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.”
 
In recent years we have heard of many instances where church leaders have misappropriated the giving of God’s people. Unfortunately, there are shepherds who want to fleece the flock. There are ministers who are greedy for their parishioners’ money. We are always saddened when we hear of a minister who we thought was faithful, but was instead living a lavish lifestyle with the tithes and offerings that should have been used to advance the gospel and help people who are really in need.
 
But that news, while it is grievous to us, is news that gives those in the world ammunition to use against the church. Every time a well known church leader misappropriates the finances of the church entrusted to his care, the world ridicules Christianity and paints Christian leaders in vivid colors of selfish greed.
 
That type of ridicule, which is ultimately aimed at Christ, is exactly what the apostle wanted to avoid. That is what he means when he writes in verse 21, “We are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.”
 
In order to do what is right, in the sight of God and in the sight of the community, he also teaches in this passage that a plurality of trusted people are to oversee financial transactions. The apostle didn’t instruct the Corinthian church to send the money just with Titus, even though the apostle Paul had full confidence in Titus. Nevertheless, he made sure that Titus was accompanied by brothers in Christ who were known for their faithfulness and their honesty. In verse 18 and 19 he wrote: “And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering…” And in verse 22 and 23 the apostle reinforces the fact that there would be a plurality of trusted people who would carry the financial blessing to the believers in Jerusalem.
 
That principle is a crucial principle in the church, as well as in the business world. If you receive a check from our church, you will notice that it is not just signed by our treasurer. Even though we have full confidence in her and are blessed by her faithful and trustworthy service, we always have a second signature on the check.
 
The same goes for the counting of tithes and offerings. On occasion, there is only one deacon in a service, but instead of having that deacon do all counting, elders accompany him into the deacons’ room. That is done not just to make the counting go quicker; and it’s not done because we don’t trust our deacons. It is done for the same reason that this large gift in the first century was under the oversight of a plurality of trusted people.
 
And then a third truth of many truths that we see in this passage, is that a pledge or promise to give financially needs to be followed through. From the opening verses of chapter 9, especially verses 3 to 5, we see that although the Corinthian church had promised to help the believers in Jerusalem, just as the Macedonian churches had done, some within the church were becoming reluctant.
 
In chapter 9:3-5 we read: “But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.”
 
It appears that some of the Corinthians who had promised to give toward the need in Jerusalem were beginning to regret that they had committed themselves to that giving. They knew that the Macedonians, who were not nearly as wealthy as the Corinthians, had already given generously and willingly. Consequently, because they did not want to lose face or look bad, they knew they had to give, but their heart wasn’t really in it. The commitment had been made with their mouth, but the commitment had not come from their heart.
 
The apostle realized that such giving is not acceptable to the Lord. As noted in the previous chapter, “If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have” (8:12).  And that is why the apostle desired to see that the Corinthians gave, not grudgingly, but willingly. That is why he writes in verse 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.”
 
And that is the background to some of the best known verses in the Bible. Verse 6 is well known, not only by Christians but even by those with little knowledge of the Bible: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” That well known verse leads to our first application, that God blesses generous, cheerful giving.
 
 God Blesses Generous, Cheerful Giving
 
We have been conditioned to be skeptical of teaching that promises that the more we give the more we will receive. The prosperity gospel has done so much damage, not only in leading people astray, but also in building skepticism within true Christians.
         
Many of you have probably heard ministers on television who promise that if people give to their ministry, even by going into debt by giving on their credit cards, that God will open the floodgates of heaven and bless them with an abundance of material riches and wealth. Those prosperity preachers have not only led others astray, they have also instilled skepticism into the hearts of true believers, and furthered hardened the hearts of unbelievers.
 
Yet there is a proper biblical understanding, drawn from the concept of a farmer sowing seed, which assures us that the more we give, the more we will receive from the Lord. If a farmer does not sow much seed, he cannot expect to reap much of a crop. In the same way, spiritually speaking, “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”
 
We should not be surprised by that teaching. It is exactly what Jesus taught in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
 
The teaching of this passage is taught throughout Scripture and can be summarized in the familiar saying, “You cannot out give the Lord.” When you sow generously you will also reap generously. And the reason why the Lord allows a generous person to reap even more is so that they can continue to be generous and helpful within the kingdom of God.  As Proverbs 11:24-25 points out: “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
 
Did you notice the promise that is made in verse 10 and 11?  “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”  Those verses teach that our giving has a twofold effect on others. First, our giving supplies the needs of God’s people, and secondly, generous giving from the heart brings an outpouring of praise to God.     
 
Can you imagine what a blessing this collection was for the needy Christians in Jerusalem? In Romans 15:26 the Apostle notes this gift. He writes: For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.” And there is no doubt that when those collections came to Jerusalem the needy Christians there were very thankful and offered prayers of praise to God for graciously providing for them through the collection from other churches. And the same reaction of praise and thanksgiving from other believers happens today in response to your giving.
 
We receive a lot of mail for the church. Since the mail comes to the parsonage, I sort through it to see whether it needs to be recycled or kept, and if kept, who should receive it. Sometimes the letters don’t specify who the recipient should be. Should it be directed to the clerk of council, the deacons, the bulletin secretary, or some other committee or person in the church?
 
Recently I had one of those letters. I opened the letter to see whom it should be directed to and read this note:
 
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
 
We would like to thank you for your support for Eternal Life Mission. The work…has been greatly blessed of the Lord this past year, and we look to Him for the year ahead as well. We are thankful for your laboring with us for the sake of the gospel... The donation amount ... is noted.
 
That is one letter out of more than one hundred letters that the deacons receive each year. Just as the Christians in Rome offered prayers of thanksgiving to God for the collection from Corinth and Macedonia, so also today many mission and benevolent causes around the world offer praise to God for your generous giving. Every month in our council meeting, as the deacons present a report on their work, they include a notation about the many letters of thanksgiving to God from those who have received a portion of your tithes and offerings.
 
And you are an exceptionally generous congregation. Each year when we receive the report for the previous year's giving, I'm amazed at the amount of money that a small church like ours receives in our collections. And I'm so thankful that such a large portion of our giving goes to the work of missions and benevolence here at home and around the world.
 
And that is one reason out of many why I believe that you have a bright future as a church. It is exactly as we read in verse 10 to 11: “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”
 
Those verses clearly teach that when we are generous, the Lord will continue to supply our needs; and He will increase our store of seed and enlarge our harvest of righteousness. We will be enriched in every way so that we can be generous on every occasion and through our generosity, not only help others advance the kingdom of God and meet the needs of the poor, but we will also, in turn, be replenished so that we can replenish others.
 
It is exactly as Proverbs 11:25 teachers: “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” It is as verse 6 says: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” It is exactly as Jesus said: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).
 
But the motive for giving, is never so that we receive more material blessings. That is one of the many errors of the prosperity preachers’ message. Their motive for giving is centered on personal prosperity. If you give to their ministry you will prosper and can spend your money on that new car that you want, or a bigger house, or a large bank account. But the proper biblical motive for giving is not that we become more prosperous, but that out of gratitude God is glorified for His gift to us as we receive a harvest of spiritual blessings (v. 10).
 
His gift to us is the gift of His only begotten Son. The passage concludes by saying, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” If ever the phrase, “You can’t out give the Lord” rings true, it is when we look at the cross and the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. The apostle addressed that same topic in chapter 8:9: 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.”
 
The riches which that verse describes are spiritual riches. We who have nothing to offer the Lord except our sin are instead blessed with the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life with the Lord in the glory of heaven.
 
If you know something of the redeeming grace of God – if you know what it is to have your sins forgiven and in their place have the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ – you will want to give out of gratitude, not just financially but with your life,  your time and energy in service to the Lord. And you will want to give, not grudgingly or under compulsion, but willingly and joyfully, reflecting gratitude for God’s gift of salvation to all who have saving faith in Jesus Christ.
 
Isaac Watts summarized the proper response of those who by God’s grace believe in Jesus and know the value of God’s indescribable gift. In his familiar hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, he concluded:
 
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
   That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my soul, my life, my all.
 
The Macedonians had come to the same conclusion as they gave so willingly, even though they lived in poverty and were persecuted severely. And the Corinthians, who were substantially wealthier, also came to that conclusion.
 
May you and I, as individuals and as a congregation, continue to be generous in supporting mission and benevolent causes. For as we do, God will be glorified, His Kingdom will be built up, people will be strengthened in their faith, the needy will find relief, and God will replenish what we have given so that we can continue to give generously, out of gratitude for God's indescribable gift – the gift of his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ! Amen.
 
 
                                                   - bulletin outline -
 
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. - 2 Corinthians 9:7
 
                         “Giving Without Reluctance or Compulsion”
                                           2 Corinthians 8:16-9:15
 
I.  In this passage, describing how the Corinthians were transferring a large financial gift
    to impoverished believers in Jerusalem, we are taught:
     1) Financial accountability is crucial (8:20-21)
 
 
 
     2) A plurality of trusted people are to oversee financial transactions (8:18-19, 22-23)
 
 
 
      3) A pledge to give financially needs to be followed through (9:1-5)
 
 
 
 
II. Applications:
      1) God abundantly blesses generous, cheerful giving (9:6-11)
 
 
 
      2) Our giving supplies the needs of God’s people (9:12) and brings an
           outpouring of praise to God (9:12b-14)
 
 
 
      3) Cheerful, generous giving is motivated by God’s gift of His Son to us (9:15)
 
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Ted Gray

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