The Greatest Give- They Gave Themselves 2
The Greatest Gift: They Gave Themselves 2
2 Corinthians 8:1-9
God made the sun - it gives.
God made the moon - it gives.
God made the stars - they give.
God made the air - it gives.
God made the clouds - they give.
God made the earth - it gives.
God made the sea - it gives.
God made the trees - they give.
God made the flowers - they give.
God made the fowls - they give.
God made the beasts - they give.
God made the plants - they give.
God made the people - they?
We are in the midst of a series on “Church Offerings.”
In the first message, we dealt with “The Problem with Prosperity Preaching.” We pointed out that
· Peasants primarily populate the pages of the New Testament. While,
· Many of the main characters of the Old Testament are rich, by the hand of God.
· God wants to bless His people with prosperity, but how we handle that prosperity is up to us.
· God is not ultimately concerned with our financial status, but with the condition of our hearts.
· God doesn’t mind us having riches, but He does mind riches having us.
In the second message, we covered 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. Paul’s words point to the Corinthians as excellent examples of givers! In our consideration of his words, we covered four principles that they exemplified:
I. Principle Number One: They Gave Graciously (vv. 1-2).
II. Principle Number Two: They Gave Sacrificially (vs. 3).
III. Principle Number Three: They Gave Voluntarily (vs. 3).
IV. Principle Number Four: They Gave Eagerly (vs. 4).
(We move now to the next principle that is illustrated in giving of the Corinthians. To bring out that principle, would you please notice with me 2 Corinthians 8:1-9? I’ll read it aloud for us.
We see before us:)
V. Principle Number Five: They Gave Wholeheartedly (vv. 5-6).
This is the most important and first principle of giving. The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart! The Macedonians first gave themselves, lock, stock, and barrel, to the Lord. In the Bible, in the Old Testament in particular, the heart is the most important part of the person! There are 2,856 occurrences of the word “heart” in the Old Testament, where the word and concept are central!
In addition, there is a particular construction, i.e. the whole heart, that captures the concept of giving all of one’s self to God! David uses the term repeatedly in Psalm 119. Let me give you just one of those instances.
Psalms 119:2 (KJV), “2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.”
Paul talks about this same thing, using a different metaphor, in
Romans 12:1-2 (NASB), “1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
In these two verses, Paul moves from the opposite direction and uses the body, which houses the heart, as representative of the entire person! He urged the Romans, by means of God’s tender mercies to present their bodies as living and holy sacrifices, i.e. to present themselves as sacrificial offerings upon the altar of burnt offering! However, they were not to be killed and flayed into pieces; they were to be placed on the altar alive!
First, if you are placed on the altar of burnt offering as a whole burnt offering, also called a holocaust offering, you would be completely consumed by the flames. This represents everything that you are!
Secondly, as a living sacrifice, it would take all that you are to remain over the burning flames of the sacrificial fire! So, your sacrifice of yourself would be intentional and willing!
Do you know how many of us crawl down off of that altar as soon as we feel the flames of sacrifice?
Be that as it may, we are to give whatever we give to the Lord wholeheartedly!
Now, Paul may have been surprised by the way that they gave! We know that nothing seems to get carnal as quickly as raising money. Those who raise offerings sometime resort to all kinds of tricks to get people to give; and those who give sometimes respond with less than pure motives! The attitudes and actions of believers around money demonstrate who is in control of their lives! Paul probably expected them to respond out of obedience, since He was their father in the Gospel; but they went far beyond that. They gave themselves to the Lord!
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, in his essay, “Gifts,” But our tokens of compliment and love are for the most part barbarous. Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore
· the poet brings his poem;
· the shepherd his lamb;
· the farmer his corn;
· the miner a gem;
· the sailor, coral and shells;
· the painter his picture;
· the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing.”
The idea is we must give ourselves to one that we love.
George Atley, a young Englishman with the heart of a hero, was engaged in the Central African Mission. As he was attacked by a party of natives, He had with him a Winchester repeating rifle with ten loaded chambers. The party was completely at his mercy. Calmly and quickly he summed up the situation. He concluded that if he killed them, it would do the mission more harm than if he allowed them to take his life. So, as a lamb to the slaughter he was led; and when his body was found in the stream, his rifle was also found with its ten chambers still loaded.
Giving is a very spiritual act. It demands that you first give the ultimate gift: yourself!
They were able to give liberally once they had given themselves to the Lord. Perhaps this is our problem: we have not given ourselves to the Lord? So, before you can give liberally, sacrificially, voluntarily and eagerly, you must give spiritually: because when we give with this attitude, it is a result of the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. God keeps saying to me the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. We have not given our hearts to Jesus Christ. Lord I give you my heart!
However, the Macedonians didn’t just give themselves to the Lord; they gave themselves to Paul and his companions, who were the leaders of the Church of Macedonia. These Macedonian Saints were much different than modern Saints. Modern Saints talk about obeying God, but have trouble obeying God’s people! Yet, these Saints gave themselves to the Lord and to the leaders of the Church at Corinth.
There can be no true followership in discipleship and no true spiritual obedience to the authorities of God, until we let Jesus be Lord of our lives.
Are you willing to give yourselves to me and those who are in leadership with me?
(But, there’s more!)
The Macedonian Saints gave themselves to the Lord, Paul, and the church leaders, in direct keeping with the will of God! They were looking for God’s will in their giving. The NLT translates this verse:
2 Corinthians 8:5 (NLT), “5 Best of all, they went beyond our highest hopes, for their first action was to dedicate themselves to the Lord and to us for whatever directions God might give them” (bold type added).
The Macedonian Saints were looking for whatever directions that God might give them! They were not ultimately concerned about the request or the amount, but the will of God!
Would you follow their example and ask God for whatever directions He might you concerning your giving?
(Paul now moves from the example of the Macedonians to the exhortation of the Corinthians.)
First, he let’s them know that he is urging Titus, who first encouraged them to give in this offering, to return and help them complete their share in the offering they were collecting!
Then he moves into a powerful exhortation! Therefore, on the basis of the example of the Macedonians and the encouragement of Titus, Paul exhorts them to abound in the gracious work of giving! He wants them to abound or excel in giving. Giving is, according to Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon, “a token or proof” of the grace or favor of God! If God has shown you grace or favor, the proof of it is in the gracious way that you give to others! This is powerful!
You might think, “What’s so powerful about a preacher urging a church to abound in this gracious work?” The power of the exhortation is in the contrast that Paul draws with other graces! He doesn’t just urge them to abound in the grace of giving, but he urges them to abound in this grace in the same way as they abounded in the following areas:
Just as you abound in every important thing, abound in the gracious work of giving.
Just as you abound in faith or faithfulness, abound in the gracious work of giving.
3. Utterance (gifted speaking).
Just as you abound in utterance, abound also in the gracious work of giving.
4. Knowledge (spiritual).
Just as you abound in spiritual or biblical knowledge, abound also in the gracious work of giving.
5. Diligence (earnestness or sincerity).
earnestness “the word denotes ‘extraordinary commitment to civic and religious responsibilities which were frequently intertwined, and also or concern for personal moral excellence or optimum devotion to the interests of others’ (Danker 2000:939).
Hence the best translation is ‘commitment.’ And in v. 8, Paul ascribes such extraordinary commitment to the Corinthians. Commitment is fundamental to group solidarity and is at the core of willingness to repay debts of gratitude behind generalized reciprocity.” The Corinthians Saints owed some sort of obligation to the original Judean Saints! Hence, the collection of funds for them. You owe me some obligation! How do you repay that obligation?
Just as you abound in diligence, abound also in the gracious work of giving.
6. Love (agape).
Just as you abound in agape love of the Saints, abound also in the gracious work of giving.
Paul exhorts them to excel in the gracious work of giving, just as they abound in the most spiritual attitudes and activities of their lives!
It is apparent that giving is vitally important in the scheme of spirituality. This is stewardship of the heart and spirit, which will result in stewardship of the soul!
Now, Paul gives them another reason to excel in the gracious work of giving. It was not because he was commanding them or that other churches were eager to participate in the offering, but because this was a way for them to prove that their love was real! The NLT captures this meaning nicely:
2 Corinthians 8:8 (NLT), “8 I am not saying you must do it, even though the other churches are eager to do it. This is one way to prove your love is real.”
Because contributors in antiquity were often forced to support public works (occasionally this forced support could bankrupt someone less well-to-do than the tax roll had indicated), speakers and writers calling for funds had to be particularly careful to stress the voluntary nature of the contributions. Later Jewish teachers even charged charity collectors who pressured the poor for contributions with “oppressing the poor.”)—Bible Background Commentary
I try to be just as careful, for similar reasons!
However, the point is there is really only one way to prove real love: that is by giving!
· For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
· Jesus so loved the Father and the world, that He gave His life.
· The Spirit so loved the Father that He gave up His special communion in heaven to dwell inside of us!
And if we love one another, we ought to lay down our lives for the Saints! A collection is a test of one’s love for Christ, not the only test, but a real one.—Word Pictures in the New Testament
(Paul ends this exhortation with the supreme example.)
Christ’s example is still outstanding! Although He was rich in heaven, He gave it all up and became poor on earth that we might be rich in Him! We should give our time, talents, and treasure to the cause of Christ, i.e. the preaching of the Gospel of Christ for the advancing of the reign of God! God is not opposed to us being rich, but He has blessed us so that we might be a blessing!
(Now is the Day of Salvation. Come to Jesus, now!)
Call to Discipleship
 Bruce J. Malina & John J. Pilch, Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2006, p. 173.