How do you deal with charity fundraisers, 'chuggers'. We get quite a lot on our estate and normally an alert goes up on the Facebook group. Choose to pretend you're not in, prepare your speech about the other causes you give to, grudgingly hand over the least you can get away with, feel guilty. How do you deal with the Giving Review? Tempted to feel the same way? Would rather talk about something else? Feel guilty? Know it's a good cause, probably something we should think about? I know I have felt like that.
The good news is that God is not interested in giving motivated by guilt. God is not interested in giving that is anything less than joyful and free because that is the type of giving that blesses us and which causes people to praise God for his indescribable generosity to us.
- God Wants Cheerful Givers
- God Blesses Cheerful Giving
- God Is Praised When We Are Generous
1. God Wants Cheerful Givers
First, God wants cheerful givers. If you're not there already please turn up 2 Corinthians 9. If you were here last week you'll know that here the Apostle Paul is in the process of collecting a financial gift for Christians in Jerusalem who face persecution and desperate poverty. But Paul doesn't act like Bob Geldoff at Live Aid shouting at the TV screen, using any means to guilt, shock or bully the wealthy Corinthians into giving, far from it. Look at what Paul says in verse 5 right before our passage:
"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."
The very reason Paul is writing ahead to the Corinthians is so that they will give generously not grudgingly. Paul is at pains to make this point, verse 7 goes on to tell us:
"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
God loves a cheerful giver. God is not the tax man, he is not just out to claim what is rightfully his, though everything is, rightfully, his. God is not running short on funds, he's not struggling to balance the budget. There is something more important than paying the bills go on here, more important even than relieving the poverty of the church in Jerusalem. What's at stake here, is how the Corinthians and we really think about God.
Paul uses giving as a diagnostic tool to probe the hearts of the Corinthians, to test their understanding of the Gospel. Look at verse 13b, Paul says that the Corinthians' "submission", their gift, flows from their confession of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, believing the good news about Jesus is what makes us into cheerful givers. It's how we think about God that determines how we think about our giving. John Piper puts it like this:
The sparing heart has a relationship to God that feels him as a Taker rather than a Giver. If my life is being drained away by God because he is so incessantly and solely demanding, then I feel like grasping after the things of the world to meet my need. If every time I look up I see the pointing finger of God demanding, "Give me! Give me! Give me!" how can I look back down at the needs of the world and say "Take me: I will gladly spend and be spent for your good"?
O this person will give something! Because one of the draining demands that he hears when he looks to this ever-demanding, ever-taking God is: "Give something to the church!" So out comes the gift—the draining, life depleting, exhausting, sparing gift.
What about you? Do you think of God as someone who is demanding, taking things from you or as a giver? God doesn't want begrudging givers. He wants cheerful givers who in response to his generosity gladly spend their money, their time, their gifts and their lives.
So, God wants cheerful givers but what does that cheerful giving look like and what happens when we give not because we feel forced to but because we want to?
2. God Blesses Cheerful Giving
God pours down blessings on those who are truly generous. Look how Paul starts this section back in verse 6:
"The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully."
Now, notice that Paul doesn't talk about specific amounts. He isn't saying if you invest £1000 you will reap x100 more than if you invest £10. It's the attitude, not the amount that counts. 'Give as little as possible, reluctantly' equals 'small return'. 'Give as generously as we are able' equals 'God gives us more than we could imagine'. Verse 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..."
"He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way,"
When we are truly generous whether that be of our energy, our time or our money God jumps on that investment and multiplies it so that we can 'abound in every good work' and may be 'generous in every way'.
The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates has so much money that he has actually set up several foundations to spend his money for him on various humanitarian projects. So there are actually people who are paid to spend someone else's money – sounds like a great job doesn't it?
Well that's like the job that Paul is advertising here – an investor of God's resources. Everything we have is God's and so when he finds someone who is generous with what he has given then, who invests it wisely and joyfully then often he gives them more to spend, to invest. That might be financially, it might also be in terms of responsibility or influence or hospitality or encouragement or wisdom or a hundred thousand other things. Remember what we read earlier in Malachi 3.10:
"Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need."
God is no man's debtor, he is himself unimaginably generous and he is just waiting to open the windows of heaven and pour down all sorts of blessings on those who are generous towards him.
3. God Is Praised When We Are Generous
Thirdly, and finally, God is praised when we are generous. Let's pick things up again in verse 11:
"You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God."
Not only will the physical needs of the saints in Jerusalem be met but the Corinthians' generosity will cause God to be given thanks. What's really exciting when people give in a church is not just that the budget is met, that the staff can be paid, the church hall heated, the roof fixed, ministries supported. What's exciting is the generosity itself because radical generosity is not normal.
In our society as people get richer they give away less, they keep more for themselves and they chase after financial security, a better standard of living, more privacy, more time to themselves. Luxury we're told is space away from others, away from pressures, away from needs and struggle. Genuine, not forced, generosity is a sign that God is at work within us and so when people see it, they acknowledge and they praise God, verse 13:
"... they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!"
The root cause of all generosity is the all generous God. He is the one who inspires our giving, who is worth gladly spending our lives for. He is the one who resources our giving and who delights to blesses us abundantly when we joyfully invest his gifts in his plans. He is the one who for because of his inexpressible gift to us, Jesus Christ deserves all thanks and all praise.
So give, not because you have to but because you want to respond to God's grace. Give freely not sparingly because God loves to bless those who wholeheartedly in his kingdom. Give in a way that provokes the world around us and causes God to be praised.