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The Reward of Generosity

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The Reward of Generosity

2Corinthians 9:6-15     December 28, 2003


Scripture Reading: Responsive Reading #636 Hymnal



The Magi have set the tone of our Christmas celebrations for centuries by the gifts they had planned ahead to give to Christ.

(What they received in return from God for their gifts of possessions, devotion and sacrifice was a personal relationship with God who communicated to them in a dream to give them protection and direction.)

Giving to the Lord’s work has been a part of true religion ever since Cain killed Abel over the whole thing.

Noah offered sacrifice to God as did Abraham and all true believers after him.

Lev. 27:30 commands in OT terms the presentation of a tithe to the Lord on all things.

“"‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD.” (Leviticus 27:30 NIVUS)

We continue this morning in the NT on the apostle Paul’s teaching to the Corinthian church in 2Cor. 9:6-15 on the subject of generosity – still a part of true religion.

This is the third, and the last, in the series on giving in 2Cor. 8-9 where we also learned about the call to generosity and the ethics of generosity.

We found there were some things we needed to understand about our call to be generous towards the Lord’s work, and we learned about what safeguards we might look for when we do give to the Lord’s work.

Now, this morning, we will learn about the rewards in store for us because of our obedience in giving to the Lord’s work.

The first message was about our ability and responsibility to give. The second was about accountability on the part of those through whom we give. But this one is the best news of all – that God rewards his servants who give.

Giving is not easy for most people. For them it came hard and they don’t give it up easily. It is easy to make excuses when it doesn’t seem that your giving will benefit you directly.

It’s like ---

Giving Now

Generosity; Giving; Money; Money, tithing; Stewardship; Stewardship of Money; Stinginess

2 Corinthians 8:1-15

A preacher paid a visit to a farmer and asked, "If you had two hundred dollars, would you give one hundred dollars to the Lord?

"Sure would," said the farmer.

"If you had two cows, would you give one cow to the Lord?"

"Yeah, I would."

"If you had two pigs, would you give one of them to the Lord?"

The farmer replied, "That's not fair. You know I have two pigs."

There is no other time for giving but now. It will never be easy.

à        Citation: Kent Hughes, Preaching Today #205

ILLUS: Personal testimony on giving ---

My wife and her family taught me about giving. In fact, being married is a big lesson on giving all by itself.

Marriage: Great Way to Die

Dying to self; Giving; Marriage; Self-Centeredness; Self-Denial; Self-Sacrifice; Selfishness

Acts 20:35; Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 2:20

In Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir, author D. J. Waldie observes that the biggest drawback to living alone is having nobody to forgive. It is not that you don't get certain things—companionship, intimacy, somebody to share the chores—it is that you can't give to them. You are deprived of a great opportunity: to learn to love your neighbor (or wife) as yourself. This was a radical notion in Christ's time; it is radical now. It will always be radical because it is the hardest way, the most illogical way, the 'unfairest' way—and the only way that can grant us the peace that passes all understanding.

In a way I can see only dimly, marriage is causing me to be freer with my time, my money, my affections. It is changing my heart, one molecule at a time, from stone to flesh. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, it is giving me the opportunity to die to myself. And that, as Saint Francis said, is the only way to waken to eternal life.

à        Citation: Heather King, Context (February 15, 1999); references D. J. Waldie, Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir (Norton, 1996)

Indeed, learning how to give is one of life’s greatest rewards – and these rewards come from the Lord himself.

Big Question:

What rewards might we expect in concert with God’s call to generosity toward his work?

We will be rewarded in time with probably more than we ever gave.

We will be rewarded with a greater capacity to give when we give with a greater capacity of heart.

We will be rewarded with the grace of multiplied righteousness that results in multiplied thanksgiving to God.

We will be rewarded with the increase of praise to God through the gospel as we increase its witness by our giving.

We will be rewarded by the goodwill of others in prayer for us because of our goodwill in giving.

We will be rewarded with the fullness of God’s gift of Christ when we give as he gave.

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (v. 6)

Agricultural theme/harvest


          B.      Implication

We will be rewarded in time with probably more than we ever gave.

          C.      Illustration

This illustration is proof that our reward for giving is not always financial.

Who Gives Most?

Contentment; Generosity; Giving; Greed; Money; Poor; Riches; Stinginess; Wealth

Luke 6:20; Luke 21:1-4; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Poorer Americans give a greater percentage of their income to charity. In 1998, those who:

earned under $10,000 gave 5.2 percent,

earned $10,000 to $19,999 gave 3.3 percent,

earned $75,000 to $99,999 gave only 1.6 percent.

à        Citation: "The New Philanthropy," Time (July 24, 2000); submitted by Jerry De Luca, Montreal West, Canada

Our reward may be in the form of blessings, those intangible benefits that are priceless.

Blessing Boomerang

Blessings; Giving; Ministry; Money; Prayer; Prayer, answers to; Service

Luke 6:27-38; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

I grew up in a rough Boston housing project called Columbia Point in a family of nine children. Although I'd been a hardworking student, paying for college seemed impossible. But my mother's favorite expression was "Pray, and the Lord will make a way somehow." I viewed that as good advice for other people. But when I decided to go to college and seminary because I believed the Lord had a call on my life, I had no other choice!

I packed for college and even went to orientation, but still didn't have any money. I'd have to pack up my belongings and make the hundred-mile trip back home. But an heir to a corporate fortune heard about my plight and paid for my college and seminary education. After I graduated, I went to my benefactor's office to thank him for all he had done for me and asked him what I could do to pay him back.

Imagine my saying to a multimillionaire, "What can I do to repay you?" The man responded, "Help somebody." I've spent the last 20 years in the ministry with that goal in mind. I've pastored in the drug-ridden, crime-infested inner city as well as well-manicured suburbs. And I've learned that the blessing of God is like a boomerang. As I've tried to help somebody, the Lord has blessed me.

à        Citation: Vernal E. Simms, senior pastor of Morris Brown A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia, From One Brother to Another, edited byWilliam J. Key and Robert Johnson-Smith II (Judson, 1996)

As we discover and realize our blessings from God we want to “repay” him – but of course we never can really do such a thing since what he has done for us is off the charts on anything we could really “repay”. And, of course, he is already rich.

But we can pass those blessings on only to discover that these are repayment more than enough – both for God and for ourselves.

          D.      Application

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (vv. 7-9)

          B.      Implication

We will be rewarded with a greater capacity to give when we give with a greater capacity of heart.

          C.      Illustration

Have you ever seen anyone give with a heart like this?

Is it like giving to the Lord sometimes? We give it but we want to control it?

Wrong Way to Give

Control; Generosity; Giving

Matthew 6:1-4; 2 Corinthians 9:7

Jazz great Count Basie learned a hard lesson about giving and receiving when living in Kansas City near the trumpeter known as "Lips" Page.

The two musicians were about the same size, but Basie did not have his wardrobe with him. The Count remembers, "So one night we were supposed to go out somewhere and I said I couldn't go because I didn't have anything to match up, and he said, 'That's okay. Why don't you borrow one of my suits?'

"I figured that would be great. Because he had three really sharp, truly great outfits. But I didn't know what I was getting myself into." Apparently his friend Page had not learned the principle of being openhanded with his giving.

"I couldn't get rid of him. Everywhere I went he was right there with me saying, 'Don't lean on that.' Or he'd say, 'Hey man, that chair is kinda dirty.' Or 'Basie, watch it sitting down.' He couldn't think of anything else all night but that suit of his I was wearing. That was one of the most uncomfortable evenings I've ever had in my life. I never was so glad to get back home and take off a suit."

à        Citation: Bonne Steffen, Wheaton, Illinois; source: Patrick Kavanaugh, Devotions from the World of Music (Chariot Victor, 2000)

No, our giving is to be more like this example. And we see that God rewards our hearts.

Givers Receive

Generosity; Giving; Money; Promises; Sowing and Reaping; Stewardship; Tithing

Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:6-11

I've been going to professional baseball games and trying to get a souvenir baseball as far back as I can remember. A foul ball, a home run ball, or even a batting practice ball—anything would do.

I was taking in batting practice for the St. Louis Cardinals, and as I watched Mark McGwire and his teammates, I got to know a five-year-old boy who was also trying to get a ball. His name was James. He tried hard to pronounce the players' names as he politely asked for a ball: "Mr. Timwin (Timlin), can I have a ball, please?"

Before I knew it, my mission became getting a ball for James. For about 20 minutes, I told him the names of the players who had a ball near the fence we stood behind, and the players turned and smiled as James tried to say their names. Still no ball. Finally I told James he could have my ball if I caught one (I had been unsuccessful in catching a ball for almost 28 years, so that felt like a safe promise).

I wouldn't be telling this story if you didn't know what happened five minutes later. I caught a ball, and yes, I gave it to James.

I wonder how often God waits to give us something until we are willing to give it away?

à        Citation: Mike Herman, Illinois

          D.      Application

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (vv. 10-11)

          B.      Implication

We will be rewarded with the grace of multiplied righteousness that results in multiplied thanksgiving to God.

          C.      Illustration

Can you imagine this scene of multiplied giving – and thanksgiving ---

Multiplication of Kindness

Compassion; Giving; Kindness; Love

John 13:34-35; Romans 5:5,8; 1 John 4:19

The owner of a drive-through coffee business in southwest Portland, Oregon, was surprised one morning to have one of her customers not only pay for her own mocha but also for the mocha of the person in the car behind her. It put a smile on the owner's face to tell the next customer her drink had already been paid for. The second customer was so pleased that someone else had purchased her coffee that she bought coffee for the next customer. This string of kindnesses—one stranger paying for the mocha of the next customer—continued for two hours and 27 customers.

à        Citation: Glen Zander, Portland, Oregon

Does this sound like something you might do?

How about something a little more radical?

WWJD for a Prostitute?

Caring; Christian Life; Christlikeness; Compassion; Conversion; Despair; Imitation of Christ; Ministry; Sympathy

Matthew 9:9-13; John 4:7-26; John 8:1-11

Author and speaker Barbara Johnson writes:

I had just finished speaking at one of the last Women of Faith (WOF) conferences in 1998, challenging the audience to really think "What Would Jesus Do?" in their everyday situations. One way I apply the WWJD principle in my life is by distributing buttons inscribed SOMEONE JESUS LOVES HAS AIDS. A moment after leaving the auditorium, that button would speak volumes.

Running to grab a bite to eat before heading to my book table, the WOF director, Christie Barnes, headed me off. Her eyes were big, and she was talking fast. A prostitute, hiding from her pimp, was upstairs threatening suicide. She insisted on talking to me!

For a moment, I thought Why me? but quickly gathered five women to come with me to the locker room where the prostitute had been taken. A suicide unit, emergency personnel, and police were on their way. Christie filled me in as we walked, concluding with the fact that the prostitute had full-blown AIDS. How will the other women react? I thought. I'm sure they've never been near a prostitute, let alone one with AIDS!

She was about 35 years old, dirty, and smelly from sleeping in a dumpster. Her pimp was trying to kill her because she wanted to stop turning tricks. The jagged scar on her face and the bullet hole in her leg were evidence.

The first thing I did was give her the button. As she held it tightly, we talked about how Jesus could give her a new heart and life. Within minutes, she was praying to accept Christ as Savior.

Now began the real WWJD action. One woman scrambled to get soap, shampoo, and towels; another ran upstairs to grab a WOF t-shirt and sweatshirt from the booth. As everyone disappeared. I sat the prostitute on a stool in the shower to start cleaning her up. An inspiration hit me—Maybe while I was scrubbing I could baptize her, too! —but then I saw a fresh gaping wound down her chest.

"We need to get you a doctor," I said.

"No," she insisted. "I just need to get out of town."

By the time we were done (with my head half soaked and frizzing from the shower's spray), enough money had been scraped together for a bus ticket out of town.

My helpers gathered around us and we prayed. Their genuine love for this woman from the street brought tears to my eyes. The prostitute was in a win-win situation. If the pimp caught her and killed her, she would be safe in the arms of Jesus. If she made it to her family in Chicago, God was giving her a brand-new start. Either way she was a winner!

Someone called a taxi.

"Wait!" she said. "The button!"

Pulling her filthy shirt out of the trash, she removed the button. Proudly, she pinned it on her clean sweatshirt.

We ran outside to catch the cab. Before she rolled up the window, I gave her one last hug. "If you get to heaven before you get to Chicago, you can polish the pearly gates for me."

à        Citation: Barbara Johnson, Christian Reader (March/April 1999)

You can bet that Barbara Johnson multiplied her righteousness, the righteousness of Christ, to the tune of multiplied thanksgiving to God for a changed life.

          D.      Application

IV.    Cycle Four


          A.      Narrative (vv. 12-13)

          B.      Implication

We will be rewarded with the increase of praise to God through the gospel as we increase its witness by our giving.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

V.      Cycle Five

          A.      Narrative (v. 14)

          B.      Implication

We will be rewarded by the goodwill of others in prayer for us because of our goodwill in giving.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

VI.    Cycle Six

          A.      Narrative (v. 15)

          B.      Implication

We will be rewarded with the fullness of God’s gift of Christ when we give as he gave.

          C.      Illustration

Brother's Sacrificial Love

Brotherhood; Brotherly Love; Children; Devotion; Family; Giving; Hunger, physical; Kindness; Love; Mercy; Sacrifice; Unselfishness

Matthew 20:24-28; John 15:9-17; 1 John 3:16-18

Jack Kelley, foreign affairs editor for USA Today and nominated for a Pulitzer prize, tells this story:

We were in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, in East Africa, during a famine. It was so bad we walked into one village and everybody was dead. There is a stench of death that gets into your hair, gets onto your skin, gets onto your clothes, and you can't wash it off.

We saw this little boy. You could tell he had worms and was malnourished; his stomach was protruding. When a child is extremely malnourished, the hair turns a reddish color, and the skin becomes crinkled as though he's one hundred years old.

Our photographer had a grapefruit, which he gave to the boy. The boy was so weak he didn't have the strength to hold the grapefruit, so we cut it in half and gave it to him. He picked it up, looked at us as if to say thanks, and began to walk back towards his village.

We walked behind him in a way that he couldn't see us. When he entered the village, there on the ground was a little boy who I thought was dead. His eyes were completely glazed over. It turned out that this was his younger brother. The older brother kneeled down next to his younger brother, bit off a piece of the grapefruit, and chewed it. Then he opened up his younger brother's mouth, put the grapefruit in, and worked his brother's jaw up and down. We learned that the older brother had been doing that for the younger brother for two weeks.

A couple days later the older brother died of malnutrition, and the younger brother lived. I remember driving home that night thinking, “I wonder if this is what Jesus meant when he said, ‘There is no greater love than to lay down our life for somebody else.’"

à        Citation: Jack Kelley, USA Today reporter, from message "The Stories Behind the Headlines," given at Evangelical Press Association convention in May 2000

Unexpected Rules for Life's Race

Humility; Judgment, final; Kingdom of God; Rewards; Selfishness; Unselfishness; Values

Matthew 5:1-12; Matthew 23:12; Philippians 2:1-11

I once read a story about a bicycle race in India. The object of the race was to go the shortest distance possible within a specified time. At the start of the race, everyone cued up at the line, and when the gun sounded all the bicycles, as best they could, stayed put. Racers were disqualified if they tipped over or one of their feet touched the ground. And so they would inch forward just enough to keep the bike balanced. When the time was up and another gun sounded, the person who had gone the farthest was the loser and the person closest to the starting line was the winner.

Imagine getting into that race and not understanding how the race works. When the race starts, you pedal as hard and fast as you possibly can. You're out of breath. You're sweating. You're delighted because the other racers are back there at the starting line. You're going to break the record. You think, This is fantastic. Don't let up. Push harder and faster and longer and stronger.

At last you hear the gun that ends the race, and you are delighted because you are unquestionably the winner. Except you are unquestionably the loser because you misunderstood how the race is run.

Jesus gives us the rules to the eternal race of life. The finish line is painted on the other side of our deaths, right in front of the throne of God himself. There you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. The winning strategy for this life and for all eternity is caring about others and not about ourselves. It is letting others go first and not pushing to the front. It is giving without the expectation of getting in return. It is to be humble, like Jesus.

à        Citation: Leith Anderson, author and pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota; from sermon "The Height of Humility" (September 12, 1999)

          D.      Application


Big Answer:

What rewards might we expect in concert with God’s call to generosity toward his work?

We will be rewarded in time with probably more than we ever gave.

We will be rewarded with a greater capacity to give when we give with a greater capacity of heart.

We will be rewarded with the grace of multiplied righteousness that results in multiplied thanksgiving to God.

We will be rewarded with the increase of praise to God through the gospel as we increase its witness by our giving.

We will be rewarded by the goodwill of others in prayer for us because of our goodwill in giving.

We will be rewarded with the fullness of God’s gift of Christ when we give as he gave.

Timeless Truth:

“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 NIVUS)

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