Important Things (2) “Being A Generous Giver”
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
A story about a young man who went to a Buddhist temple just before Chinese New Year went viral on the Internet. Not having much cash on him he decided to drop his iPhone into the donation box. This upset the monks who took the iPhone out of the box & gave it back to the young man saying they only accept money. The young man said later, “I was told that if you go to the temple you can get prosperity & good fortune for the coming year. I didn’t have a lot of money on me, so I decided to donate my new iPhone, worth 6,000 yuan.” (i.e. about NZ$1,400). Like most people who make offerings in temples, this young man was hoping the New Year would bring him prosperity & good fortune.
Is this why Christians give to God? Do we give to God hoping He will make us prosperous or hoping that by giving we can buy our salvation? The answer is a firm, no! This is not the reason we give to God. This brings us then to our first point:
1. Why Do We Give?
As Christians, we do not give money (or time or talents) in order to try & persuade God to bless us, or in order to earn salvation. We can never pay for our salvation – it is a gift, a priceless gift. Salvation is a gift of God’s grace, brought to us through Jesus. It is not something we can earn or pay for. So Christian giving has nothing to do with paying for God’s blessing.
Why then do Christians give to God? Let us see what we can learn from what Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 & 9. What is the context or background of this passage? The context is a famine in Judea. Believers – in places like Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea & also Corinth – were raising money to help fellow believers who were suffering in the famine. Writing to the church in Corinth, Paul mentions the generous giving of the believers in Macedonia.
In 2 Corinthians 8:3 & 4 he says, “…they gave as much as they were able, & even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.” These young believers were amazing. They were poor themselves & under a lot of pressure, yet they gave generously. Paul adds an interesting comment. He says, “…they gave themselves first of all to the Lord.” (v.5) As we think about why we give to God’s work, we need to remember that we must first of all give ourselves. The greatest gift we can give, & the gift the Lord really wants, is the gift of ourselves. More than anything, God wants us to give Him our love, to give Him the devotion of our hearts.
Paul urges the believers in Corinth to follow the example of the believers in Macedonia. He says in v.7, “…just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness & in your love for us – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” Paul did not order the believers in Corinth to give, but he encouraged them to show the sincerity of their faith & their love by being generous. Giving is to be something that comes from the heart.
When a young man is in love with a young lady, he will drop everything in order to spend time with her or help her, to carry her bags, to pick her up or drop her home. Doing things for her is never a bother. In buying nice things for her, no expense is spared. How do I know these things? I know from personal experience!
When you love someone, you gladly give them your time & attention. Giving to the one you love is no sacrifice. Yes, love is what motivates generous giving. Why do we give to God? We give because we love God & we want to express our gratitude to Him for all His love & grace so freely given to us.
2. How Should We Give?
Paul talks about this in the next chapter, from v.6, “Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, & whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Paul says we should give generously, willingly & cheerfully.
He uses an illustration about sowing & reaping. If there is no sowing there will be no reaping. If I do not plant seedlings in the early spring, the manse garden will have no flowers in the summer. The more I plant, the more flowers will bloom.
There are some great examples of generous giving in the Bible. King David for example gave generously towards the cost of building of the temple. This moved others to give as well – including officials & army commanders. We read in 1 Chronicles 29:9, “The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely & wholeheartedly to the Lord.” The people also gave generously – of their treasure, their skills & their talents.
In his prayer of thanksgiving David says in v.14, “…who am I, & who are my people that we should be able to give so generously as this? Everything comes from you, & we have given you only what comes from your hand.” In v.16 he adds, “O Lord our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a Temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand & all of it belongs to you.”
Thanking God for the generous gifts of the people, David prayed, “…it comes from your hand & all of it belongs to you.” Every blessing comes from Him & all we have actually belongs to Him.
Your house (if you have one), your car, your business, your job, your talents, your money – they all are a gift from God. He has entrusted these things to you, for you to use for Him. We are to be wise & faithful stewards of what the Lord has given to us. We should ask Him to give us wisdom in managing His portfolio. After all, He is the boss. He is the owner. Knowing this helps us put our worries & concerns upon the Lord, rather than trying to carry them on our own. Knowing this also helps us to be more generous when God moves us to give. When He moves us to give, we can afford to be generous. We can give sacrificially, for as Mother Teresa once said, “If you give what you do not need, it isn’t giving.”
When we give we must also give willingly. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion.” God never wants us to give out of a sense of obligation or duty.
In the Old Testament God required His people to give tithes & offerings. The tithe is a tenth, or 10%. Offerings were extra, special gifts, given in addition to the tithe. The principle of giving the tithe goes right back to the time of Abraham. Later under Moses when God brought His people out of Egypt, He also taught them the principle of giving the tithe. For example in Leviticus 27:30 we read, “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.” Through their tithes & offerings, God’s people were able to support the work of the priests & the Levites who served in the tabernacle & later in the temple.
Giving a tithe, or 1/10, of our income to God is a helpful guideline for our giving. However, the amount or the percentage we give is actually not as important as how we give. We must give out of a pure heart, with a sincere motive.
Jesus points this out in Mark 12:41-44. He was watching people giving their offerings in the Temple. “Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42But a poor widow came & put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few pence. 43 Calling His disciples to Him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’” Jesus says the poor widow, in God’s eyes, gave far more than all the others put together. The amount she gave, those two tiny copper coins, in monetary terms was nowhere near the amount others put in, but their value in God’s eyes was much greater. Why? Because she gave sacrificially, in fact, she gave all she had. I am sure too that she trusted the Lord to provide all her needs.
I read about a single mother called Nancy. She had hardly enough for feeding herself & her three little children. However Nancy became a Christian & she decided to begin giving to God out of the little she had. She believed she could trust God to provide for her little family. Soon after this she got a job with a cookbook company. They paid her to go grocery shopping & to prepare meals so they could take photographs for their cookbooks. When they had taken the photos, Nancy was allowed to keep the food. This is a true story & shows how even if we are poor, we can still give out of whatever we do have – & God will show us His wonderful goodness in providing for our needs.
A student earned $100 for a holiday job. He gladly put his tithe of $10 in the offering the next Sunday. Not long after this he got a job that paid him $1000 every two weeks. He was so happy! However, when he thought about giving the tithe of $100, he really struggled. “Wow,” he thought to himself, “that is a lot of money. Just think of all I could buy for $100!” Of course, he should have remembered that even after giving $100 he still had $900 that God had graciously given him. When we give, we must not give reluctantly. We must give cheerfully, for as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9 at the end of v.7, “…God loves a cheerful giver.”
We have thought about why we give & how we should give, now finally:
3. What Results From Our Giving?
One result of generous giving is the fact the giver themselves is blessed. As recorded in Acts 20:35, Jesus Himself pointed this out when He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” When we give to others –friendship, time, loving support, or whatever – we are blessed. I like what Augustine said, “Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; where your treasure is, there is your heart; where your heart is, there is your happiness.” There is much blessing & joy in giving to others.
Paul says 2 Corinthians 9:8, “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” Notice how many times the word “all” is mentioned – “…in all things at all times, having all that you need.” Notice too, the words “abundantly” & “abound”. When we are generous – & it may not just be in giving money, it could be giving time or talents or service or kind words & actions – God promises to bless us abundantly. He does not promise to give us everything we want (for our own selfish pleasure), but He does promise to give us everything we need to do every good work.
In Luke 6:38 Jesus says, “Give, & it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together & running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” If we treat others generously, graciously, & compassionately, these same things will come back to us in full measure.
We are never the loser when we give to God. As Martin Luther, the Reformer, said, “I have tried to keep things in my hands & lost them all, but what I have given into God’s hands I still possess.”
There are many, many examples of this principle. Here is just one. James L. Kraft (1874-1953), founder & president of Kraft Foods Inc, gave approximately 25% of his enormous income to Christian ministries. He once said, “The only investment I ever made which has paid consistently increasing dividends is the money I have given to the Lord.” In other words, whatever he gave to the Lord, the Lord multiplied back to him.
Here then is another result of generous giving. Not only is the giver blessed, but of course the Lord’s work is blessed & other people are blessed. There is a harvest of righteousness. As Paul says in v.10, “Now He who supplies seed to the sower & bread for food will also supply & increase your store of seed & will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.” Just like a tiny seed grows & produces a harvest, so God takes what we give & turns it into a harvest of righteousness.
People are blessed & God’s Kingdom grows as we give. Paul says in v12, “This service that you perform [i.e. their giving] is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”
Two years ago, when I visited Pastor Timothy Rinopisa & his family in Zimbabwe, they expressed deep appreciation for MBCC’s support. The same is true of the orphans we support & of the missionaries & mission agencies we support. We are blessed in giving & those we support are blessed & give thanks to God.
The gifts we give, our tithes & offerings, are part of our worship. Through our gifts the church is able to cover its running expenses. It is able to employ full-time & part-time staff. And it is able to build God’s Kingdom by supporting various ministries & mission agencies. By the way, we as a church also tithe our income. This tithe goes straight into the Mission Fund. Another point to make is that all MBCC staff members get a fixed salary, so the more we as members give to the Lord through the church, the more the church can sow into God’s Kingdom in NZ & overseas. A church that gives to mission is a church that God will bless.
Right at the end of the Old Testament, in the book of Malachi we read, “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven & pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’” During Malachi’s day, the people were not giving their tithes, so God’s work was suffering. God’s people may have thought that they could not afford to give, but God makes this incredible promise, “‘Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven & pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’”
There is no question God will bless us when we give, however, we must remember that the blessings He promises are not always material. He blesses us in many other ways. And His blessings may not all be experienced here on earth. For sure, however, by giving to God here on earth, we are laying up treasure in heaven.
At the end of these two chapters all about giving, Paul says, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (v.15) As we give, then, let us do so remembering the wonderful gift God has given us – the gift of the Lord Jesus our Saviour through whom we are given the gift of salvation.
We give, not to earn salvation or in order to get God to bless us, but rather, we give as an expression of our gratitude to the Lord for the salvation He has given us as a free gift through the Lord Jesus – that “indescribable gift”. Freely we have received, freely let us give.