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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:The financial giving of believers
Text:2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Tithing
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-12-22
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 8

Hymn 11:9 (after the law)

Psalm 24:1-3

Psalm 112:1,2,4,5

Hymn 53

Scripture reading: 1 Chronicles 29:1-20

Text: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,

How do you feel about money?  You know, many people have a love-hate relationship with it.  They love money when they have plenty, but hate it when there’s not enough.  But either way, money tends to become something ultimate in their lives, something at the centre.  What do we call it when something other than God becomes ultimate and central?  It’s idolatry.  And it’s so easy to let money and wealth become idols for us. 

Scripture teaches us that money in itself isn’t evil.  It’s what we do with it.  Scripture doesn’t say, “Money is the root of all evils.”  No, instead it says in 1 Timothy 6:10 that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.”  When we’re focussed on money and make it ultimate in our lives, it’s taking the place of God.   

We might be tempted to think money has nothing to do with God and nothing to do with being a Christian.  However, the Bible is clear that money is a spiritual matter.  How we view our money and what we do with it are spiritual matters.  Turning to Scripture, we discover the most basic principle of all when it comes to our finances:  our money really doesn’t belong to us, but to God.  That’s why we read from 1 Chronicles 29.  As the temple was being built and as the gifts were being received, David praised God.  And he acknowledged how everything belongs to him, including wealth.  And then he said in verse 14, “For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.”  That text gives us the foundational principle when we think about our money.  It all belongs to God.

A second foundational principle is the concept of stewardship.  It all belongs to God, but he entrusts some of it to us.  He gives it to us so we can use it in various ways, to care of our own needs, to care of the needs of others, and most of all, first and foremost, to take care of the needs of the church.  He gives it to us, but as we take care of the needs of the church, we’re also returning it back to him.  That’s what happened in 1 Chronicles 29 as well.  All that wealth came from God, but the people gave some of it back to him for the ministry at the temple.

These two foundational principles form the background to our text for this morning.  Our text goes on to provide more teaching from God’s Word with regards to our money.  The particular focus here in 2 Corinthians 9 is on giving.  The historical background tells us that the church in Jerusalem had been hit hard by poverty.  We know from Acts that there were significant numbers of widows in that church.  Acts 11 also tells us of a famine that could have had lasting consequences especially for Jerusalem and for the church there.  Whatever the cause was, the church there in Jerusalem was hurting and Paul and the other apostles saw it.  They also saw how the other churches had been more richly blessed and so they went to them and asked them to take collections for the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem.  Of course, this was to relieve their poverty, but no doubt also to allow the ministry of the Word and Sacraments to continue there.

The church at Corinth was one of the churches requested to help out.  According to verse 5 of chapter 9, they had promised a generous gift.  Our text sees the apostle Paul encouraging them to carry through with their commitment.

It was no easier in Paul’s day to speak about these things than it is in ours.  Paul could have commanded the Corinthians to give and done so in an authoritarian sort of way:  “Thus says the Lord, Corinthians, make sure you give generously!”  But instead he exhorted them with the meekness and gentleness of Christ.  Instead of coming down hard on them with strict rules and harsh commands, he writes about giving and how and why believers give.  He points out what’s really happening when believers give and what results from giving.  So that forms the outline of my sermon this morning as we learn about the financial giving of believers.  We’ll consider:

  1. Why we give
  2. How we give
  3. What’s really happening when we give
  4. What results from our giving   

One of the key things to realize here right off the top is that Paul’s encouragement has nothing to do with earning merit from God in any way.  This isn’t about working your way to salvation.  The gospel says that salvation is through the work of Christ Jesus alone, only through his law-keeping, only through his perfect sacrifice and death for us.  That’s the indescribable gift Paul gives thanks for in verse 15.  That’s what Paul was speaking about earlier in chapter 8, 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.”  Of course, that’s not speaking about money, but about spiritual wealth, about heavenly treasure from God.  Through Christ’s work, we’re rich beyond anything that the world can understand, far beyond even what we can understand.  That’s the gospel, the good news.  The Christian gospel is not do more, try harder, give more to the church, but about what Christ has done for us to make us his own.  It’s about what Christ has done for us so that we’re dearly loved and accepted children of our Father in heaven.  It’s all about grace, not about works.  As Luther said, that’s the message we need to have constantly banged into our heads.  So if someone is living unrepentantly in sin, making regular voluntary contributions to the church isn’t going to save them from God’s wrath against sin – not at all.  Only Christ can and does save.  You can only be saved by resting and trusting in him alone.  If anyone should think that money can change their status from lost to saved, they’ve put that money in the place of Christ and they’re still lost.  Loved ones, we all need to understand that well.            

So we need to be clear that this isn’t about the roots of our salvation.  However, it is about fruit.  It’s about how our being united to Christ inevitably bears fruit in our lives.  Christ emptied himself in self-sacrificial love.  Those who are his can be expected to reflect that to ever increasing degrees.  Not selfish, but selfless.  The Christian giving commended by Paul here in 2 Corinthians 9 flows out of all that.

Keeping that in mind then, we come to verse 6 and this proverb.  “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”  That kind of language comes from the Old Testament.  Reaping what you sow is a theme you find in a number of places.  For instance, Hosea famously warned against sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind.  On the flip side, the prophet also spoke of sowing righteousness and reaping mercy – you can find that in chapter 10, verse 12 of Hosea.  And Paul himself probably has in mind what we read in Proverbs 22:8, “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity.”  You reap what you sow.  Reaping and sowing are agricultural terms and since none of us are farmers, we shouldn’t take it for granted that we all know that this means.  Let me briefly explain it.  Sowing is what you do when you scatter the seed on the ground.  Reaping is what you do when harvest time comes and you gather in the grain.  A person who just spreads a little seed is only going to get a little harvest.  Whoever spreads tons of seed is going to get a big harvest.

The proverb has to do with money.  Those who are generous will be blessed.  Not necessarily in kind.  Not necessarily with a return of more money, although that might happen.  But what’s really in focus here are the spiritual blessings flowing from generosity and the Holy Spirit has more to say about that in the verses ahead.     

But look with me now at verse 7.  “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  Now that really gets to the gist of how a believer gives.  It’s from the heart.  A Christian has been so richly blessed.  A believer has been so greatly redeemed.  We’ve been so deeply loved.  Our hearts are moved by the blessings, by the redemption and love we’ve received through Christ.  Our hearts contemplate that and leap and sing at it.  Our hearts see overwhelming grace and are humbled and subdued by it, enthralled by it.  When we think about God’s grace, we may struggle to find words to describe his generosity – Paul was right, it is indescribable!  When we think on how Christ made himself poor for us, wow.  Brother, doesn’t it melt your heart?  Sister, doesn’t it grip you?  God’s mercy has lifted us up from the depths and placed us on the heights.  Now when the request comes for generosity, what do you decide in your heart to give?  Nobody should force you, no human being should compel you.  Instead, you should be compelled by the gospel of grace, filled with love for your God, joy at being his child.  How is the wonder in your heart going to determine the generosity of your giving? 

Paul again quotes Proverbs 22:8, “for God loves a cheerful giver.”  He doesn’t quote the Hebrew, but the Greek translation which for some reason added those words.  “God loves a cheerful giver” needs to be explained because it could easily be misunderstood.  It doesn’t mean that God loves you when and only if you are a cheerful giver.  It doesn’t mean that God loves you because you are a cheerful giver, as if your cheerful giving has earned his love.  The cheerful giver gives cheerfully and gladly because he knows the grace of God given to him in Christ.  The cheerful giver gives because she’s compelled by her love for God and her earnest desire to thank him with everything.  God sees this and is delighted by it.  It pleases him and he blesses it.  God loves the cheerful giver because this is the person bought by Christ, united to him.  This union bears the fruit God loves to see.         

That brings us to what’s really happening when believers give.  This is it:  God is at work.  The generous believer sees the grace of God abounding to him or her.  God provides everything that’s needed all the time.  I wish you could all read Greek and then I’d ask you look with me at verse 8 in the original and you’d see how Paul uses the same word five times there, and three times he puts them right side by side.  It’s basically the Greek equivalent of our English word “all.”  He piles up those words to make a point:  God’s grace has gotten you here, and he’s not finished with his grace.  He’s going to give you all, all, all.  All grace, everything, at all times, all sufficiency.  That will lead to even more good works, all good works.  You’ve heard of vicious circles?  Well, this is a gracious circle.  A circle that starts with grace, finds someone amazed with grace, that person abundantly shows generosity, it results in more grace, being amazed with grace, and on and on it goes.

The person who lives in this gracious circle is described at length in Psalm 112.  And Paul isolates verse 9 as the summary:  He scatters gifts abroad to the poor and his righteousness endures forever.  The righteous are those who are right with God through faith in Christ.  The righteous go on to live righteously – their faith bears fruit in a righteous life.  Generosity is part of that and that’s not just a part time thing, not just when the need may arise, but a regular consistent pattern time and time again until forever. 

Verses 11 and 12 underline again what happens as believers give.  God is the one who supplies seed for the sower to sow.  He’s the one who gives bread for food.  You can count on him to also supply the store of seed and to augment or enlarge the harvest that will come as that seed is sown.  God isn’t cheap or tight-fisted with his gifts.  He’s been generous to us, and as we respond with generosity, we discover that he is even more generous with us.  He makes us rich in every way so we can keep on being generous, so we can stay in this gracious circle, right where we belong.    

And what results from all this generosity?  What results from our living and moving and being in this circle of grace that Paul describes?  We find the first result at the end of verse 11:  your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  The hearts of others will give thanks to the gracious God.  The lips of others will express gratitude to the original Giver.  Paul had in mind first of all the Christians in Jerusalem.  When they received the money from the Corinthians, they would’ve thanked God for their generosity.  Their needs would’ve been supplied, as verse 12 says, but there’d also be an overflow of expressions of gratitude to God.  Isn’t that also the case here in our congregation?  Each year our budget is met.  What a wonderful blessing!  The generosity found in our congregation leads us to thank God.  Gratitude to God, then, is one desired result of our giving.  And we should desire to see more of that gratitude, not less.   

The second result is there in verse 13.  This obedient service and generosity of the Corinthians which grows out of the gospel will result in praise for God.  When we’re open-hearted with our money, God gets glory and honour from others.  Isn’t that what we were designed and created to do?  We weren’t put on this earth for our own comfort and pleasure, but for God’s glory.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism has that great first question and answer:  What is the chief end of man?  The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.  That’s exactly right.  And generosity fits right in there.  Our willingness to give and to give cheerfully is going to result in God’s worth being magnified, people’s vision of God’s glory being clarified, God being increasingly treasured and valued and desired.  All of that is what Christians are to be about.

The last result is in verse 14.  “…while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.”  Generosity not only impacts the relationship between God and people, but also relationships between people and people.  Between the helper and the helped.  Now again, Paul said that in light of the needs of the believers in Jerusalem.  When the Corinthians would help them, the bond between the churches would grow stronger and tighter.  The Jerusalem Christians would pray for the Corinthian Christians and vice-versa, and even though they were so far away from one another, there would be love gluing them together.

Now perhaps you might hear that and think that’s quite a different situation to us.  But actually, there is a closer connection to the Corinthian situation than you might think at first glance.  As a church, we’ve made commitments.  We’ve made promises to help with all sorts of things in the federation.  We’re not a little island unto ourselves here.  As part of a federation, a bond of churches, we’ve agreed to support missionaries.  As part of a federation, we’ve committed to supporting the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary so that men will continue to be trained for the gospel ministry.  Those are just two examples.  There are more such commitments.  Will the bond of love between ourselves and the other churches in our federation grow if we’re tight-fisted and unwilling to meet our commitments?  No.  Instead, there’ll likely be resentment and bitterness.  We can apply verse 14 to our situation in this way:  God’s grace towards us leads to be big-hearted when it comes to our money.  Doing this, we can meet all the commitments we’ve made.  The hearts of our brothers and sisters elsewhere in our federation of churches will go out to us in warmth and love.  The bond of fellowship will only grow stronger and when that happens, hey, we’re back to enlarging the glory and praise given to God.

Loved ones, there’s a lot more that could be said on this topic.  Perhaps you have all sorts of questions that I haven’t answered and I’m not going to answer them here today.  What I have given you from the Word of God is a clear direction:  generosity that flows from your embrace of the gospel.  A miserly, tight-fisted Christian is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.  But having said that, I realize that there are pressures many of us face.  For instance, sometimes it’s not easy to balance our support for the church and its ministry with our commitment to Christian education for our children.  If that’s the case with you, brothers and sisters, please talk to the deacons.  They can help you.  They can help in two ways.  The deacons can help with advice and good counsel.  They’re men whom you can trust and who will help you with the Word of God to find your way through these challenges.  They can also help you with financial assistance.  Our loving Father gives us the ministry of mercy as a gracious gift.  There’s no shame in going to the deacons to ask for their help.  And any help they give is strictly confidential.  The deacons are also there to answer the sorts of questions I haven’t touched on this morning.  They’re men who know the Bible and what it says about financial matters.  They can wisely answer your questions and give you the help you need, better than I can.  Let me urge you to make use of this God-given resource.

Money is a tough topic.  But the Bible addresses the tough topics.  We have sufficient guidance in God’s Word on this issue.  2 Corinthians 9 is just one such place.  The Word of God has to challenge us, most of all to challenge us on the state of our heart.  The heart is where it all begins.  Paul said it in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.”  And it was our Lord Jesus who said that where our treasure is, there our hearts will also be.  Loved ones, where is your treasure?  Where is your heart?  AMEN. 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Everything we have belongs to you.  You are the gracious giver of all things.  Every pay cheque we receive comes from your hand.  Most of all, we acknowledge the gracious gift of your Son, the indescribable gift!  Thank you for his law-keeping, his sacrifice, his generosity – all for us, poor sinners who have nothing in ourselves.  Father, your abounding grace engages our hearts and grips us.  We’re so thankful to you and we love you.  We’re a people who want to be more thankful and more loving.  Please work that in us with your Spirit.  Please do more heart-surgery on us, make us as open-hearted as we can be, generous and full of mercy.  We pray so that you will be thanked.  So that you will be praised.  So that your people can grow in love and fellowship with one another.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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