St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Generous Giving: An Automatic Reflex For Christians

Sermon on 2 Corinthians 8:1-9

Text: And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you — see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 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 through his poverty might become rich.

When God created our bodies, he gave us certain reflexes to keep our body safe. One of these reflexes you have seen when you went to the doctor. The doctor had you cross your legs and used a rubber hammer to tap you on the knee. Your leg automatically jumped in a slight kicking motion. Our reflexes are very beneficial for us. For example, if we were to touch something hot, our reflexes would automatically pull our hand away. We do not have to sit and think about moving it and waste valuable time, while our skin tissue is being destroyed. These reflexes, which God has given us, are a natural part of our lives. So also, when faith was created in us, spiritual reflexes were given to us, as well. These reflexes are our way of saying “Thank you” to God. This morning, on the basis of our text, we want to look at one of these reflexes. GENEROUS GIVING: AN AUTOMATIC REFLEX FOR CHRISTIANS. 1. Because So Much Has Been Done For Us and 2. Because So Much Has Been Given To Us.

In our text, Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to continue to contribute to an offering that was being collected to help their fellow Christians in Jerusalem. Persecution had begun in Jerusalem and the believers there were in need. So, Paul, on his Third Missionary Journey, had been encouraging the congregations to collect a gift to send to the Jerusalem Christians. Paul sent this request with Titus in the sixteenth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians. Titus had gone to Corinth because of the internal problems that the congregation was facing. After Titus had dealt with them, he returned to Paul and reported what had happened. In response, Paul wrote this second epistle. In the eighth and ninth chapters, Paul reminded the Corinthians to continue with their offering. Even though they have had their own problems, they were still encouraged to give.

By focusing their attention on two things, Paul encouraged them to give. First of all, they were to look at what had been done for them. First of all, we look at verse nine, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” It is interesting that Paul chose these words. He had been encouraging them to give for those in poverty in Jerusalem. They were to help by giving of their wealth. Now Paul speaks of Jesus becoming poor so that they might become rich. Paul is pointing to the fact that Jesus was and is the almighty Son of God, seated in heaven in all of his glory. Yet, he willingly gave up the full use of his heavenly power and glory and became a human being. He became a man so that he might live the perfect life that God demands of us in our place. Then, he sacrificed that life on the cross so that all the sins that we have ever committed would be forgiven. They are completely gone. Because of this, those who believe in Jesus as their Savior, have heaven to look forward to. So, Paul says, ‘Jesus became poor, so that you might become rich.’ What caused him to do this? Paul points this out when he says, “for your sakes.” He did it for you. He loved you so much that he was willing to do all this for you.

Paul, also, points out other blessings that have been given to them: “since you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you.” The Holy Spirit created faith in their hearts, a faith that reached out and accepted the gift of forgiveness won. They had been given the ability to express this faith to others. They had received knowledge, and not just a head knowledge about whom Jesus was. They had come to experience Jesus’ love in their lives. They have experienced the complete earnestness to go out and do things in thankful response for all that they had been given. They had shown their faith, when they took care of Paul and the others. All of these things were given as “graces,”gifts that were not deserved, but were given out of love. These were given to the Corinthians.

Then Paul tells them, “see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” Paul shows the Corinthians that this opportunity to give to those in need in Jerusalem was a gift from God. God was giving the Corinthians an opportunity to express their love from him in this collection. To help encourage them, Paul shows them the example of the Macedonian churches, that is, the churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. When Paul presented this request to them, we are told, “they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.” When these congregations heard about this need, they literally begged Paul to allow them to give. Paul encourages the Corinthians to do the same. Note that this is an encouragement, for Paul writes, “I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.” This testing isn’t a type of pass or fail test. Rather, it is an examining with the hope of finding something genuine, as gold might be tested. Paul showed them that giving to this collection would be a way of expressing their love for God. In light of all that God had done for them, it would be an automatic reflex for them to give generously.

How have our reflexes been? Certainly, we would do well to test our reflexes. God has given us the same blessings that he gave the Corinthians. Our sins were also paid for on the cross. We, too, have been given the faith that makes us one of God’s children. All of these things, and many more, have been showered down upon us like rain. Now, how do we react to all of these blessings that have been given to us? Surely, we will want to show our thankfulness for all that has been given to us. We want to do things that are pleasing to God. God provides us with many opportunities to exercise our Christian reflexes.

One of these is by giving to help carry on his work here on earth. This is a God-pleasing use for the goods that have been entrusted to us. Jesus showed this, when he praised the widow concerning her offering in Mark 12. Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.” Jesus praised this woman’s offering, not because of its size, but because of the attitude in which it was given. The others were able to give more, but they were doing so for looks. The widow showed her total dedication to God by her offering.

From time to time, we would do well to examine our own giving. Am I giving from a heart filled with thankfulness, or am I giving so that the church will be financially stable? Is my giving done with care and thought, or is it given because it is merely a habit? I can’t answer those questions for you, any more than you can answer them for me. However, it is a good thing to examine our offerings to the Lord.

In the Old Testament, the Lord required the Jews to give 1/10 of everything that had to the temple for an offering. We have been freed from that law. There is no set measure as to what we are to give. We are free to give whatever our joyful hearts want to give. However, there are certain things to keep in mind as we give. First of all, in Matthew 6:33, we are told to seek the kingdom of God first. God’s business is to be our top priority. All of the other things of this world will end at the grave, but God’s kingdom goes on for eternity. We are not to become entangled with the things of this world, which can so easily distract us. We are also told in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If we consider that things of this world to be the most important, we will put our energies there. However, if we put God’s kingdom first, then that will dictate the way that our lives are lived.

There are those who are afraid that they will give too much to the Lord and not have enough to live on. First of all, we are to be good stewards of what we have, and that includes taking care of our families and other obligations. However, listen to what God says in Malachi 3:10, “Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’” Here God promises to bless those who give to him. Jesus says in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” Please, do not misunderstand these passages, as if they were saying, if you give money to God, he will give you more money. That is a false teaching that is popular today. People such a Joel Osteen and Beverly LaHaye promote this. If you listen to them, they will tell you that, if you give God a certain amount of money, he will multiply that amount in your life. ‘If you give $1,000, God will give you $10,000.’ God never promises that you will be blessed financially, if you give to him. He does promise to bless us when we give, but not necessarily in a greater financial blessing. May we give in such a way that honors and glorifies God and not in the hopes of getting something from him.

Our giving is a natural reflex of our Christianity. We have been given so much by our heavenly Father. Our sins have been forgiven. We have been given faith and become part of God’s family. This is in addition to all of the physical blessings that we have been given. Our giving is one way that we can show our thankfulness. At times, we have failed to give in a God-pleasing manner. Yet, we know that this sin has also been forgiven. May God help us to show our Christian reflexes as we give to him. May we give with a spirit that says, “Thank you for all that you have done for me.” May each of us remember, as Paul told the Corinthians later in this letter, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) God help us to be such cheerful givers. Amen.