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Grace Giving

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Reader: Tod Edlund
Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:1-9
So here we go…we are officially entering into the season of giving. Not that we don’t have opportunities to give throughout the year but there is something about... coming out of the celebration of Thanksgiving that launches our culture full bore into what many would call the season of giving.
And to have gifts to give our culture has given the day after Thanksgiving the label “Black Friday” because it is the biggest shopping day of the year and so it can put a retail business in the “black” as far as their profits go. But more recently we have added more to our gift acquisition week. Following the “Black Friday” sales in the big box stores we have “Small Business Saturday” followed by “Cyber Monday” and then the not for profits threw there hat in the ring with the label “Giving Tuesday” !!
And even though we may all have various levels of appreciations for the energy, excitement and traffic that surrounds these principle...there is something good, right and fitting about a... season of grace... following right after a season of Thanksgiving.
You may wonder if I misspoke there, saying a “season of grace” instead of a season of giving which I used earlier, but that was intentional. If there is only one thing that you get out of your being here this morning I hope that you get this. That whenever you hear the word “Grace” you should think about it in terms of a gift.
Grace is one of the key way that the Bible talks about giving gifts. Theologically, you will often find the word defined as something like “unmerited favor” but stop and think about that definition for a moment. Isn’t that exactly what a true gift is? A true gift is when someone gives something to another that they didn’t earn, merit or deserve in any way.
If they earned it by their behavior towards you…then it isn’t really a gift. It is a payment that you owe them
If they earned it by means of their position over you…then it isn’t a gift. It is a kickback or bribe to keep you in good standing
If they earned it by means of just being related to you…then it isn’t a true gift either. It is a tradition or mandatory social obligation that you are operating under
Take a moment here this morning and evaluate your gift giving. Take an honest look. What compels it? What drives it? Why do you do it? How have you given your gifts in the past and what are your plans for this upcoming season of giving? Are there some ways in which these descriptions apply?
And don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that all of these things are out necessarily out of bounds for us, I am just saying that if those way of “giving gifts” are our only framework for understanding what giving is, then the Biblical idea of giving as “grace” won’t fit into our definition of what giving really is.
And if that is the case then not only will we miss out on the greatest joys in giving, we will misunderstand a wonderful characteristic of our God. How He has both given us the gift of Grace and wants to work through us to give it to others.
So if you haven’t already, please open up your Bibles to 2 Corinthians chapter 8, it’s on page 967 in the Bibles in the chairs. I’ll pray and we will get after a deeper of knowledge of God’s grace together.
Let’s pray.
Before we can really understand the text what Tod read for us this morning, we need to remind ourselves of one of the objectives that the Apostle Paul had in his missionary journeys. Paul is known as one of the first traveling evangelist in that he traveled the known world and shared the message of the Gospel with anyone and everyone who would listen.
As the message of the Gospel changed lives, Paul appointed Elders and planted Churches in these various cities and regions. After circling back through Jerusalem on one of his missionary journeys Paul saw how the Church there was being persecuted for their faith in Jesus. So as he traveled on to revisit cities, and even venture into new cities he would share with the Churches how their brothers and sisters in Christ were suffering in Jerusalem - the birthplace of their faith. He would also offer them an opportunity to send a financial gift to help bring them relief.
In the case of the Church here in Corinth, Paul had already shared about the need in Jerusalem and they immediately were excited about helping out. In his first letter, Paul gave them careful instructions on how to be ready to give and here in his second letter he is following through with a reminder and encouragement so that their gifts will be ready when he comes. (It’s not like they can just write a check or give online)
And I know that we don’t really like to talk openly about money, but the Bible does. And if you ever wondered where the Bible teaches about how Christians should handle their giving then 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 are a great place to start. We can see from these chapters that this was an important topic for the Church to address from the very beginning.
But we are not looking just at the realm of finances this morning, we are looking at that as an example of the principle of what happens when someone experiences the grace of God.
So our first theme for this week is...

1. Generous Giving is a product of Grace 2 Corinthians 8:1-5

Here in 2 Corinthians chapter 8, Paul highlights the unique story of the Church in Macedonia to inspire the Corinthians, and by extension us, towards what should really drive our patterns of giving. He says...
2 Corinthians 8:1–7 (ESV)
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.
So we talked about “affliction” some last week and how it should be an expected reality for anyone who is following Christ on this side of heaven. But we press on because we know that while we are here in this tent, we are here to accomplish a mission, but we are comforted as we think forward to the day when we will spend eternity with God in the incorruptible home that He has designed for us. So we all expect some level of affliction to be a part of the Christian life... but Paul describes the affliction of these people in ways that we will probably never know.
Paul shares their story as an example because they were dealing with a “severe test of affliction” and they lived in “extreme poverty” and yet they responded to the gift of God’s grace with such joy that they were inspired to give generously...
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.
I don’t know about you, but at times I have joked about being “por”. What I am really saying in that moment is that I can’t do something or I don’t have something that I know could make things nicer or easier for me but I just can’t afford that right now.
But the word “poverty” is a different matter. I would never claim to have experienced poverty, much less anything that could be described as “extreme poverty”. In fact, the Greek word Paul uses for poverty, πτωχεία (pu-toe-hee-a) is to beg or be a beggar.
That makes Paul’s statement here even more profound…that these “beggars” are begging him for something very unexpected. Instead of begging to receive from others, they were begging for the opportunity to be able to give to others.
There is something unnatural about this kind of giving. We typically think that giving is something that is reserved for the wealthy, the rich, that haves and not the “have nots”…but these guys were pleading with Paul to be given the privilege to participate in financially helping these Jewish brothers and sisters that they had never met who lived in a far away land.
How could they desire such a thing? Because something had deeply changed in their perspective in this life. They may have been the “have-nots” when it came to earthly possessions, but they were the “haves” when it came to to joy and grace of Christ Jesus. And pleasing him with whatever they had was all that mattered.
And so Paul uses the example of the Christians in Macedonia to encourage the Corinthian Church to take up the same attitude:
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.
Grace giving is not just for those who have a lot of money, it for those who have a lot of Joy in Jesus. Our giving is something that we should evaluate, nurture and grow in along with the other disciplines of the faith.
The Macedonian Churches were a great example of what the grace of Generous giving looks like, but there is always a better example when it comes to how we life out our faith. Our second theme this week is

2. Generous Giving is modeled by Jesus. 2 Corinthians 8:8-9

Jesus is always our example in every area of how to live the Christian life.
2 Corinthians 8:8–9 (ESV)
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.
Here on earth Jesus experienced life in a poor blue collar family, but before his mission to come down to earth, He was “rich” in ways our tiny minds could never comprehend. As one part of the Trinity, Jesus created everything that we have here on this third rock from the Sun. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. - John 1:3 (ESV)
Even our concepts of wealth or riches in terms of gold, silver or any other earthly valuable would mean little to the one who made all those things by just speaking them into existence. In our experience, wealth is ultimately just about having the authority, resources and power to do whatever you want to do and on that scale Jesus’ wealth is literally out of this world.
Yet He looked down at our spiritual poverty—that we were sinful, wretched, selfish, and totally separated from the Father and deserving of His wrath and so he left his place in the glory of heaven to share in the flesh and blood of mankind so that we could share in the glory of heaven with Him.
As we sang earlier…”This is Amazing Grace”. There is no better description because we could never even fathom the depths of that kind of gift.
Still, if you are a follower of Jesus, we are called to follow Him in His example of generous giving just as much as the other graces that we have recieved from Him. How can we follow Him in this, well like most of the ways of Jesus...

3. Generous giving is a heart issue 2 Corinthians 8:10-12

Starting here in verse 10, the Apostle Paul returns to the specific plans for this Corinthian Churches commitment to give toward this cause. He says...
2 Corinthians 8:10–12 (ESV)
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.
Paul is basically saying, “Guys, you know that you showed great enthusiasm toward this initiative when I was there a year ago, so now it is time to put your money where your mouth is.” Because the Corinthian Church was not just “ok” with the idea, agreeing reluctantly to help if they must…Paul says later in Chapter 9
2 Corinthians 9:1–2 (ESV)
1 Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia (Corinth is capital) has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them.
What a crazy twist Paul has going here. Over this past year he has used the “zeal” of the Corinthians desire to give to inspire the Macedonians, and now here in this letter he is using the faithfulness of the Macedonians to remind the Corinthians to follow through with their enthusiastic promise.
But we have heard throughout this letter that Paul was being very careful to not make this giving some sort of obligation. He says these things “not as a command” and he “gives his judgement in these matters” but he isn’t commanding them do anything…because then it wouldn’t be the grace that God designed it to be.
He says further down in chapter 9
2 Corinthians 9:5–7 (ESV)
5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction. 6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
This is the principle that Paul is teaching them, but he isn’t imposing a command on them because this is a heart issue. Verse 7...
7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
If you have ever heard that expression..God loves a cheerful giver…this is the context that it is found in. The Greek word there is ἱλαρός (hilaros) which is where we get our word “hilarious” from. It should be something that we enjoy from deep in our hearts, like the joy of the Macedonians, not something that we are reluctant or obligated to do.
Paul wanted them to prepare their hearts to be ready to participate in this act of grace, to participate in generous giving because...

4. Generous giving is for everyone. 2 Corinthians 8:13-15

2 Corinthians 8:13–15 (ESV)
13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.
Paul’s words here are driving at a fear that we all deal with deep inside when it comes to this idea of giving. We often don’t give because we don’t know if we may need that someday.
Some of us have lived through some really lean years and we wished we had put some more away to fall back on in those difficult times. And certainly God is not against us having a good plan in how we spend, save and invest the money that He has provided for us. Their is no problem in following through with a good financial plan, the problem is when our fears drive us to put our hope and security in that plan.
This kind of fear gets to the very core of our faith. Do we believe that it is God who provides for our needs or in the end is it really us? I mean, sure, He promises that He will provide…but can we trust Him with something so important to us?
If we jump back again to Chapter 9, we read in verse 8
2 Corinthians 9:8 (ESV)
8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times,
WOW, that sounds great. I will have “all sufficiency in all things at all times, “all” sounds like enough, lets do all, sure I can work with “all” … but the verse doesn’t end there. There is a qualifier to all those “alls”.
2 Corinthians 9:8 (ESV)
8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
In other words, if you are after the mission that God has given us, the good work that he has assigned to those who follow Him, then He will give you everything you need to accomplish that good work. But if you living your life in pursuit of other things, your on your own. God won’t provide you the resources to reject and run away from Him.
Back to chapter 8 then, verse 15 Paul says:
15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”
And because we have talked about this, repeatedly, you all know that whenever we read “As it is written...” in the New Testament we know that the writer is quoting from the Old Testament. In this case, Paul is talking about the way that God provided food for His people as they wandered through the Wilderness.
Every morning they woke up to this flaky wheat like substance that they could make bread out of. It had this supper cool supernatural feature to it, though, it only lasted one day. If you tried to gather more than you needed for one day, the next morning you would wake up to rotten manna in your basket. If that doens’t impress you, then let this one “bake your noodle” on the day before the Sabath you could pick up two days worth and the stuff somehow wouldn’t go bad for two days. (Lets get those “Science answers everything guys on that one”)
But the point was not just the miraculous display of God’s power, it was a daily reminder of how everyone of them was daily dependent on God and that God could work it out so they each had exactly what they needed to follow Him for one more day.
And God is willing to meet our needs like that too. Sometimes He does it in miraculous ways like the manna in the wilderness, but more often today he uses our Church family to step in and meet our needs. So that when each one of us generously give to the ministries of the Church, then we can take care of each other.
I feel a little like the Apostle Paul here, because I too can say that it seems “superfluous” for me to remind you of the opportunity that we all have to give to the ministry of this Church because you have been so faithful. Still, we don’t know what is next. We don’t know what needs are right around the corner for us so it is good to remind all of us to not forget the blessings of this act of Grace giving, and to remember that this is something that we all can play a part in because it is never the amount, but the heart behind it that matters.
Gospel Application
I opened this morning with a challenge to take a moment to evaluate how you give the gifts in your life, and I want to close with a story made famous by the great preacher Charles Spurgeon. It is called “The Carrot and The Horse” and it goes like this
“Once upon a time there was a king who ruled over everything in a land. One day there was a gardener who grew an enormous carrot. He took it to his king and said, “My lord, this is the greatest carrot I’ve ever grown or ever will grow; therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” The king was touched and discerned the man’s heart, so as he turned to go, the king said, “Wait! You are clearly a good steward of the earth. I want to give a plot of land to you freely as a gift, so you can garden it all.” The gardener was amazed and delighted and went home rejoicing.
But there was a nobleman at the king’s court who overheard all this, and he said to himself, “My! If that is what you get for a carrot, what if you gave the king something better?” The next day the nobleman came before the king, and he was leading a handsome black stallion. He bowed low and said, “My lord, I breed horses, and this is the greatest horse I’ve ever bred or ever will; therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” But the king discerned his heart and said, “Thank you,” and took the horse and simply dismissed him.
The nobleman was perplexed, so the king said, “Let me explain. That gardener was giving me the carrot, but you were giving yourself the horse.”
How often do you and I give our gifts with the heart of the nobleman, rather than giving them with the grace of the gardener. Which one do you think reflects better the Amazing Grace that we have recieved from our great King?
Generous giving is a product of grace; God works in our lives to make us generous.
It is modeled by Jesus, who was rich but became spiritually poor so we who were poor could become rich.
It is a heart issue, for God cares more about our follow-through and our motivation than the amount we give.
And it is for everyone, for it is the means by which God provides for His people.
Let’s pay into these things together.
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