Generous Givers


2nd Corinthians 8:1-15

A Call to Generous Giving

1Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. 2They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.

3For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. 4They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. 5They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.

6So we have urged Titus, who encouraged your giving in the first place, to return to you and encourage you to finish this ministry of giving. 7Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.

8I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches.

9You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.

10Here is my advice: It would be good for you to finish what you started a year ago. Last year you were the first who wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it. 11Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. 12Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. 13Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. 14Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. 15As the Scriptures say,

“Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over,

and those who gathered only a little had enough.”

 

 

Intro

If Paul had a mentor, the mentor would have told him not to talk about giving when he is trying to re-establish his authority.

“When they doubt your intention, you are going tell them to give?! Not a bright idea Paul.”

When his leadership is contested he tests it by making the most controversial demand, money.

Indeed, one of the gossips about Paul was whether he is honest with the handling of the money. Some doubted him so much that they were suspicious of him actually not taking money when he worked. His volunteer ministry was interrogated! They said he did not take money because he wanted to fleece Corinth when they are unsuspecting. When you doubt someone, you twist everything to fit your doubt.

So the wise thing for Paul would be to not mention the love offering collection he has been taking for Jerusalem church who was still reeling from a famine. But he does. Why?

Is it because Jerusalem church is in such dire need that he cannot wait for a good time to talk about giving? All of Judea has been suffering from the great famine of 45AD: people were eating weeds, children were dying, infants were given water because mothers breasts were dry. The need of others never lines up with our personal schedule and bank account.

If we are waiting to give when we have enough to give, then we will never give. If we waiting to serve when we have the time to serve, we will never serve. So the need sometimes must dictate the giving and not the resource or mood or schedule of the giver.

Paul says in our reading, 2 Cor 8:2 that the Macedonian church

2They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.

We are called to give in our poverty, serve in our business.

But the greatness of the need is not the main reason why Paul speaks of giving.

Is it because Paul takes a cut from that giving? That is one of the gossip but this is not true. Has never been proven. Paul has already learned to be satisfied in much and in little. He knows how to have everything when he has nothing.

Then why?

Because generous giving is an essential spiritual practice.

The Corinthian church could not be a true Christian without the life of generous giving. We cannot be Christians without practicing generous giving.

In another letter sent to Galatians, we learn that the Church appointed Peter to be an apostle to the Jews, and Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles. But both were mandated to always care for the poor. Wherever the gospel goes there is a life of generous giving, where the poor are lifted. There is no separation from the gospel life and the generous life.

So Paul always had all churches practice generous giving. A Church that doesn’t give generously is no Church at all. A community that does not give is a community that doesn’t preach Christ. A Christian that does not give is no Christian at all.

John Wesley preached frequently:

“When a man becomes a Christian, he becomes industrious, trustworthy and prosperous. Now, if that man when he gets all he can and saves all he can does not give all he can, I have more hope for Judas Iscariot than for that man!”

A true Christian is a generous giver.

Today we are going to let God speak through Paul the connection between generosity and gospel, then how to practice generosity.

Why should we be generous givers?

We are to be generous givers because God is a generous giver.

We are generous because God is generous. We don’t simply mean that our generosity reflects God’s generosity. Although this is true. The Church is the body of Christ so the body of Christ must reflect the heart of Christ. The heart of Christ is generous. But this is not the starting point. Our first reason for generosity is not evangelism.

The reason we are to be generous is because God has been generous to me. I am not talking about mere doctrine or principle. I am talking about your concrete life and my concrete life. God’s generosity to my life compels me to be generous.

God had generously created this world to nurture life and eventually at the right time to give life to you, unique and inimitable. Not only is this world functional, it is beautiful. This world gives pleasure and God gave you five senses to experience those pleasure. God not only gave you life and a body to be aware of the pleasure but also consciousness to be aware that you can experience pleasure.

And when I was blind to the pleasures of this world because of my sin, when I was in despair because of the way I hurt the ones I love, when I hated myself because I felt worthless, God did not leave you in a world of pain and suffering. God generously forgave your sins by sending His One and Only Son. God gave His Son! That is the extent of God’s generosity. Incomprehensible. Limitless.

As Paul says in another place: “If God did not spare his own Son, why would he not give you everything else?”

Christ is generous to you! Christ’s emptied himself and left the glory of heaven so he can take up the heavy cross and can be nailed to the cross just so you would not receive the judgment of your actions. And all the inheritance that is Christ through his obedience, Christ gave you. Christ gave you his right to be called a child of God, his righteousness, his right to stand before God, and his power. Everything that Christ has, Christ has given to you.  Christ is generous!

2nd Corinthians 8:9

9You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.

Because of God’s generosity, we too are generous to others.

Because of Christ’s generosity, we too are generous to others.

It is as natural a response as taking our jacket off when the sun is generously warm. The Christian is generous because the Christian has received generously.

In Les Miserables the novel, Jean Valjean, imprisoned for stealing bread as a kid, is finally released as a young man. But he is angry for his youth has been taken from him. He seeks a job, but everyone turns him down because of his criminal past. Finally, hungry and broken Valjean knowcks on a church’s door. Bishop Myriel takes him in, asks that he be well fed and given a bed with clean linens.

This generosity makes him uncomfortable. Makes him uncomfortable with his anger. It is easier to believe everyone is selfish and unkind.

That night, when everyone is asleep he goes down the kitchen, bags all the silverware he saw when dining and runs away.

The next day he is captured. The police knows well the owner of the silverware. They bring him to Bishop Myriel and asks, “this ex-convict tells me that he did not steal it but that you gave it!”

And the Bishop answered, “Well, yes! And my friend, you forgot the most important one.” He runs to the kitchen to fetch a silver candlestick.

That candlestick is the beginning of Valjean’s redemption. He becomes rich but he uses it to adopt a poor orphan. He uses his strength to rescue a young man. In one sense Les Miserables is a story of Valjean learning to give everything because he experienced generosity.

When he nears death, alone and broken because he has given it all, and the criminal record still haunts him, he is happy as his face is lit by that silver candlestick.

He is generous because he has received generosity.

Practicing generosity Deepens God’s Grace in my life

Well, if it is a natural response, why does it have to be practiced? Why is it a discipline?

Because what is most natural is what needs to be nurtured.

We tend to think that if it is natural, it doesn’t need nurturing. We think they are opposites. So we ask “nature or nurture?” And of course, it is both always. We nurture what nature gives. We plant tomato seeds in the garden. It grows of its own. Tomato seeds naturally become tomatoes. At the same time, it grows because we nurture it, make sure it gets enough water, that the soil is good, and pruning when a leaf gets sick. What is natural must be nurtured.

What is nurtured becomes natural. So we say when we do something well that it is like, “second nature.”

Because generosity is natural, we must practice it until it becomes “second nature.”

When we first experience the love of Christ, we are immediately loving others. It is this love of others that makes everything glow. But the glow fades because we begin to doubt that we have been loved so generously. Most of our experience in the world is not generosity. It is calculative. And so we begin to revert to our old ways. We stop loving others and that very act creates doubt about God’s generous love. The fading of the beauty of the world comes not because the beauty fades but because our eyes grow dim.

So we must practice opening our eyes and heart to the generosity of God that is always shining on us. And the way we strengthen our eyes is to practice generosity. When we are generous to others, the muscles of the eyes of our faith are strengthened.

Jesus tells a parable of a king who forgives his servant of a million dollars. And this servant than goes to a peasant who owes him a dollar and threatens to report him to the debt collector unless he delivers the dollar immediately. That king gave generosity to the servant. But the servant doesn’t have the space to fully receive it because he is so set on getting what he believes is his. When the king hears of the miserliness of his servant, the king summons the servant and locks him in prison. But the prison is simply the externalization of his heart. He has imprisoned himself from the generosity of the king because he chose not to be generous to others.

This is why Paul does not skip on teaching generosity. Because it has everything to do with living in God’s grace. The one who experiences God’s grace practices generosity. The one who practices generosity lives in God’s grace.

This week I met a neighbor from my apartment two years ago. He had moved out. We talked about our children and how they are demanding we get them a dog and his plan to finally get them one this weekend. And I shared my plan which is, delay it as much as possible. Then I asked him, “What do you do for yourself, outside of the kids?”

“I help people out, fix their cars, their roofs. Like this one neighbor. He got cancer and is going through treatment. My wife cooks food for him and I go help with the backyard.”

“That is what you do for your own free time?”

“It gives me peace!”

His acts of generosity roots him more deeply in the generosity of God and that generosity gives him peace.

How do we practice generosity?

When Giving, Remember it is a privilege

2 Corinthians 8:4

4They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem

If we can give it is a privilege. If our hearts don’t believe in this, then it is all the more important that we give generously and say out loud, “It is a privilege for me to give generously.”

It is like love. You perform the acts of love until your emotions wizen up to the truth that indeed you do love.

So when we give, we must say these words. For if we think it is not a privilege but a burden than not only will we not give generously but even when we give we will do it reluctantly and rob ourselves of joy and the whole point of giving. This is why Paul says God loves the “cheerful giver.” The cheerful giver is one who knows that it is her absolute privilege to give!

At the root of a miserly giver is the lie that the giver has absolutely ownership of what is in his hands. When we think it is absolutely ours, then we don’t want to give any of it. When we do, we think the one who gives owes us.

Remember it is a privilege.

Simone de Beauvoir

“This is what I consider true generosity: You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.”

Today is my wife’s birthday. She turned 31, plus a decade. We let one family know, Kate. She said let’s have dinner. And she treated us to a king like feast. What generosity. And then she did the most generous thing of all. Took our three children to her home for a sleepover. She made that amazing sacrifice because to her, it is nothing. Well, now that she had spent time with my three kids, her mind might have changed. But she is one who when giving, she knows it is a privilege.

Give regularly

Practice demands regularity. You cannot practice something occasionally. To practice something is to do it regularly. Paul says in another letter, collect weekly. Paul doesn’t wait until he arrives to collect. It is not so more can be collected but because it is a discipline.

Tithing is an important practice. And as a church, we are moving towards using more of our offering towards the community. So our worship and children director has moved to voluntary position. So we are asking for more to volunteer.

Pastor Adam Rodriguez has already told the session that for this next year he is ready to go one year as a full volunteer because he wishes for the church funds to be used for the community.

We are supporting 2 missionaries. Bridges to the Nation, Dale Nimmo. And Andy Bang in Jordan.

All our expenses are not met yet. We are being supported by PCUSA. But we think it is important that the church too must be generous.

So giving to a church that seeks to be generous is important. It is us practicing generosity together.

But I wish you to practice regular generosity. You probably do. But one thing I think every Christian should do is sponsor a child through Compassion International. They are an international group that simply allows all church to practice what Paul does here in 2nd Corinthians. We have, so we give to the churches in need.

It is my privilege that our family can give. We give to the church. We sponsor Erick from Columbia. We give to LINK. This is our commitment whether our monthly balance is black or red.

If it is red then we know that we can do something to cut our expenses.

Yes it means we cannot save for a larger family vacation but it helps to feed a child and give him hope.

In church, there should be no one in need.

If the Church is the foretaste of the Kingdom of God. Then there cannot be a child who dies of starvation, there cannot be a man who dies because he has no roof over his head. If the Church is the foretaste of the Kingdom of God, then everyone’s needs should be met.

And this was what we saw in the early Church. And this was the reason why it grew so fast. Not because they had a sword or money, but because it was generous!

People in Greece gives to people in Jerusalem. Who has heard of that!

And that is what New Life is because that is what the church is.

And I want to recognize two people who do that.

-call Bert

-call Molly

 

 

 

 

Reading

2nd Corinthians 8:1-15

A Call to Generous Giving

1Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. 2They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.

3For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. 4They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. 5They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.

6So we have urged Titus, who encouraged your giving in the first place, to return to you and encourage you to finish this ministry of giving. 7Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.

8I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches.

9You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.

10Here is my advice: It would be good for you to finish what you started a year ago. Last year you were the first who wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it. 11Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. 12Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. 13Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. 14Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. 15As the Scriptures say,

“Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over,

and those who gathered only a little had enough.”

 

Paul says in our reading, 2 Cor 8:2 that the Macedonian church

2They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.

 

John Wesley preached frequently:

“When a man becomes a Christian, he becomes industrious, trustworthy and prosperous. Now, if that man when he gets all he can and saves all he can does not give all he can, I have more hope for Judas Iscariot than for that man!”

 

2nd Corinthians 8:9

9You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.

 

2 Corinthians 8:4

4They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem