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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:The Grace of Giving
Text:2 Corinthians 8:1-15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
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.


 
“The Grace of Giving”
2 Corinthians 8:1-15
 
Have you worshiped in a church where no collection is received? That practice has become popular in many contemporary churches. When no collection is received, the pastor usually makes an announcement that the church is not interested in receiving money – especially from visitors – and that the church is only interested in proclaiming the gospel. Then the pastor will add that there is a collection box, usually toward the back of the church. As you leave, if you are so inclined, you are welcome to leave something in that collection box.
 
It might seem like a good idea. After all, many people who don’t attend church believe that all churches are just interested in their parishioners’ pocketbooks. You have probably heard comments about how churches are always looking for more money. And, unfortunately, that is the case in some, perhaps even in many, churches.
 
But when a church takes the collection of tithes and offerings out of the worship service and makes it an option, then the church is taking away a vital part of worship. Our giving of tithes and offerings reflects God’s grace to us. Perhaps you noticed that in the opening 9 verses of this chapter, which addresses giving, the word “grace” is used four times over. Our giving is a direct result of God’s grace. And, by His grace, through our giving we are enabled to show something of the gratitude that we have for our salvation.
 
We see God’s grace at work already in verse 1, where Paul writes: “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.” The verses that follow describe how the Macedonian churches – those were the churches in Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea, as well as some other churches – set an example in giving. But their example in giving was a direct result of God’s grace to them.
 
Verse 2 describes the situation that those churches faced: “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” The two words which describe the Macedonian churches most accurately are the words “persecution” and “poverty.”
 
We know about the church at Thessalonica and the church at Philippi through the New Testament letters written to them. Those letters also reflect the persecution and the poverty that faced the believers in those Macedonian towns. For instance, 1 Thessalonians 1:6 describes how the Thessalonians in spite of severe suffering …welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” Yet, even though they faced severe suffering and trial, they continued, by God’s grace, to give generously to the needs of others.
 
In that way they were opposite from the way we might be tempted to think at times. When trials come our way, even though we don’t face the severe persecution that the Macedonian churches faced, we may be tempted to think, “With all the troubles and trial I’m facing now, I better withhold my giving. I don’t know what the future holds so I would be best off to take this portion that I usually give to the Lord and keep it in a safe place, seeing that my life is uncertain with all these trials and troubles.”
 
But that wasn’t the case with the Macedonian churches. Instead they gave generously even though they faced great trial. And they gave generously even though they were poor. In fact, verse 2 portrays them not only as poor, but as living in extreme poverty.     
            
Just as we have cities and towns that are prosperous in our land today, we also have areas of the nation that are struggling economically. We see that when we drive through areas of our inner cities, and we also see it quite often in the country as we come across little towns that once were prosperous but now are filled with empty houses and are hurting economically.
 
The Macedonian churches were in towns that were struggling economically. Here again, many in that situation might be tempted to think, “I should withhold my giving to the church because I’m struggling financially and living in an area with very little economic opportunity.”  That would be a natural human response, but it wasn’t the response of the Macedonian churches. And the reason why goes back to God’s grace. True biblical giving reflects God’s grace in our lives. True biblical giving is not something that flows from our generosity, but rather is a measure of God’s grace at work within us.
 
However, in verses 3 to 5 we see that they gave, not only financially, but of themselves in service to the Lord and His kingdom. For instance, in verse 5 the apostle writes: “They exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.”
 
When we think of giving, we usually think in terms of money. But there is something more valuable than money that we can give to the church – that we can give to the kingdom of God – and beyond, to the world in which we live. That is the gift of time.
    
Often we are tempted to give money instead of time. In fact, an offering can become an excuse not to give of ourselves, but just to give of our finances. Perhaps we hear of a need in our church or another church nearby, and we receive an offering for it, which is good and necessary, but often the offering is the extent of our involvement.
 
In other words, it is easy to reason that since we have given financially to a cause, we have done our duty and there’s nothing more for us to do, outside of praying for the cause that we supported financially. When we support a mission or benevolent cause in a distant part of the world, that may be true. Perhaps we can only give financially and pray for that cause, without personal involvement.
 
But so often we can give something much more valuable than money. We can give our time in service within God’s kingdom. That’s what the Macedonian churches did. They not only gave financially but they gave wholeheartedly of their lives to the Lord and to others.
 
Part of the reason why they did is that they had an excellent example to follow in the Apostle Paul. In 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 the apostle wrote, Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God – but our lives as well.”
 
And a few verses later, in 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12, he writes: “For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”
 
When you think of giving to the church, what comes to your mind first? Perhaps it is your budget envelope and your checkbook. But the most valuable thing that you can give to the church, to the community, and those around you, is your time.  Sharing your time – sharing your life with others – is the most valuable giving that you and I can do.
 
That is, after all, what Jesus has done for us. In verse 9 the apostle gives us the ultimate example of giving of one’s life. He writes: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”
 
Jesus is the ultimate example of one who gave His time – indeed His entire life – in compassionate, loving service to others. He is also the ultimate example of one who is rich. Consider the exclamation of Psalm 50 that the cattle on a thousand hills belong to the Lord. It is another way of saying that the Lord owns everything. We have nothing of value that we have not received from the Lord. All the riches of the world belong not to people, but to the Lord. We are merely stewards of the riches that He has given to us.
 
As the fullness of time came upon the world of the first century – as the Roman empire built a system of safe roads and calmed the seas, quelling the attacks of pirates, and as a courier service was put into place so that news could travel quickly – as this “fullness of time” came upon the earth, the eternal Christ left the glory of heaven to live a life of poverty.
 
He “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3) came to this earth in human flesh, born at the fullness of time, born of a woman, born under law; and He lived in poverty. There was no room in the Inn. He was born in a common smelly stable. During His life He had nothing. He had no house to live in. He had no material possessions to rely on. As He said in Luke 9:58, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay His head.”
 
And why did the Lord give of Himself in that way? Verse 9 gives the answer: “for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” Jesus gave us His time, He gave His entire life, being crucified on the cross so that you and I, through His poverty might become rich. And the riches we have through Christ are far greater than riches of silver or gold, of mutual funds, stocks and bonds or real estate. The riches that we have through Christ are the riches of eternal life, the blessing of the forgiveness of sins, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God within us, the love of the Father showered upon us, even as we experience the spiritual richness of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
 
And by way of application, the sincerity of our love for Him who became poor so that we might become truly rich, is demonstrated through giving, not only of finances but of our time and service. The churches in Macedonia showed the sincerity of their love for Christ through their sacrificial giving. And as we have seen, it wasn’t just the monetary giving, but the giving of their lives sacrificially in service to the Lord, and in service to others, which demonstrated where they were spiritually.
                
In verse 8 the apostle challenged the Corinthian church, and challenges us today, by writing, “I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.” How do we compare to those believers in Macedonia so long ago? Do we give willingly of our time and our talents? Do we give to the Lord’s kingdom when we face trials? When our checkbook is low do we hoard our finances, or do we trust the Lord to provide for us as we give generously to His kingdom?
 
One of the reasons why the Bible speaks so much about money, is because the way we handle the money God gives us has a direct relationship to Him who became poor so that we might become spiritually rich in every way for all eternity.
 
A second application is that when we give willingly, our giving is accepted according to what we have, not according to what we don’t have. As verse 12 says, “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.”
 
In the next chapter the Holy Spirit continues to teach us the importance of having a willing spirit, both in giving financially – for God loves a cheerful giver – and a willing spirit in giving of our time to help others.
               
But for this week, in this passage, we see that if we do not have a lot to give, and yet we give willingly, then our giving is totally acceptable to the Lord. The Lord doesn’t look at the size of our tithes and offerings as much as he looks at the willingness that we have to give – to give of our time and our talents, our love, our care, compassion and encouragement. And also our willingness to give financially according to what we have, and not according to what we don’t have.
 
Consider the widow and her offering of two small copper coins. Luke describes how “Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and He saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins.  And He said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on’” (Luke 21:1-4).
 
In a former church, a widow who had faithfully attended withdrew from the church; she no longer came to church. She explained the reason this way. She said, “I can’t pay the budgeted amount, so I don’t believe that I should attend anymore.”
 
I’m thankful that she returned to church with a clear conscience. She did so in response to the teaching of Jesus’ concerning the widow’s offering. And she found comfort and assurance from 2 Corinthians 8:12 which puts it so clearly, “If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has not according to what he (she) does not have.”
 
My wife, Karen, and I have always been tithers. And although not all Christians would agree with me, I believe that tithing is the most appropriate way of giving for the New Testament church, just as it was in the Old Testament era.
 
One of many reasons why tithing is such an effective way to give, is that it meets the criteria of verse 12. Tithing meets the criteria that the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. And it meets the criteria of verses 13 and 14 which talk about equality (“fairness” – ESV). When people in a church tithe, each one is giving the same proportion of what God has given to them back to the Lord. And as such, it is a totally equitable way of giving.
 
Those whom the Lord blesses abundantly with financial riches can give far more than the church budget, even though they are giving a minimum of 10%. And those who are on limited incomes, as many are, don’t need to feel bad about being unable to meet the church budget, because they are giving the same percentage as others.
 
However, giving a tithe is never the end of our giving; it is only the beginning. I always appreciated the statement of the late Rev. Billy Graham, that we haven’t given God an offering until we first have given the tithe.
 
When we give an offering above the tithe, we give sacrificially, and that, too, is a necessary expression of gratitude for what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. Do you remember when David wanted to buy the threshing floor from Araunah in order to build an alter to the Lord?  Araunah offered the plot of ground to David for free, but David replied, in 2 Samuel 24:24, “No, I insist on paying for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
 
There is a necessary element of sacrifice in our giving, because our giving reflects God’s grace to us in giving us His Son, who, “though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”
___
 
Have you worshiped in a church where there is no offering? Have you heard the pastor there explain that the church doesn’t want your money, that the church is only interested in giving the gospel, and if you feel inclined you are welcome to place a tithe or offering in the collection box as you leave the church building?
 
I understand what they are trying to do. But by neglecting the offering, they are removing an opportunity for the congregation, in their corporate worship of God, to express their gratitude to Him through the grace of giving. 
 
Giving is a vital part of worship, because giving is a tangible way for us to show our sincerity and love for our Lord Jesus Christ, who though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, so that through His poverty we might become rich – with spiritual riches far beyond our ability to grasp, revealed to us in this life and fully experienced in the life to come! Amen.
 
 
                                            - bulletin outline -
 
 
But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness
and in your love for us —see that you also excel in this grace of giving. – 2 Corinthians 8:7
 
                                       “The Grace of Giving”
                                          2 Corinthians 8:1-15
 
I.  By God’s grace the Macedonian churches (Philippi, Thessalonica,
    Berea) had set an example in giving (1):
      1) They gave generously even though they faced great trial (2a)
 
 
      2) They gave joyously even though they were poor (2b)
 
 
      3) They gave, not only financially, but of themselves in service to the the Lord (3-5)
 
 
II. The ultimate example of giving is found in Jesus Christ, "that though He was rich, yet for
    your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich" (9)
 
 
III. Applications:
      1) The sincerity of our love is demonstrated through giving (8), not
           only of finances, but of our time and service (4-5)
 
 
      2) When we give willingly, our giving is accepted according to what
           we have, not according to what we don’t have (10-12)
 
 
      3) Since giving is an act of God’s grace to us (1, 6, 7) it supplies the
          needs of God’s people with equality (13-15)
 
 

 

 




* 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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