Gracious Giving

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Gracious Giving - 2 Corinthians 8v1-15

It is reported that one of the Founding Fathers of America, Benjamin Franklin, when talking of the brand new constitution, in 1789 said, "Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes."

In the west we have an obsession with tax. As Christians we should pay the tax which is due, but we still be don't like it. We begrudge it. Why so we not like it so much? Probably because it is enforced giving. We are being forced to give what we consider belongs to us. The thing is; we don't have a choice, and so we begrudge it. Well this morning we see an example of the antidote; the opposite of such giving. We see gracious giving.

Please do turn with me in those blue Bibles to p817 and find Chapter 8 of 2 Corinthians

Paul is appealing to the Christians in Corinth to complete their financial gift they had promised to the suffering and poor Christians in Jerusalem and Titus was the chap who was making the collection. Paul begins by holding up, as an example, the Christians in Macedonia, who were just up the road from them in Northern Greece. In fact Paul gives them a couple of examples of giving but one motivation here in this passage and that is the subject of my first point this morning:

Why give? (which we'll deal with from verses 1-9)

Why give? And the answer is this; because of the Grace of Jesus, because of the Grace of Jesus. Now what do I mean by "Grace"? I'm not talking about the grace of a swan or a beautiful ballet. No. In the Bible Grace means undeserved kindness or undeserved love. It's vital that we know what Grace is because here Paul describes the giving as gracious. He says the acts of giving are acts of grace. They are acts of undeserved kindness; and this is to be our motivation from this morning. Not an enforced giving like our tax system but a giving out of grace. Look with at verse 1 and then 6 and 7.

"And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches."

and

"So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us-- see that you also excel in this grace of giving."

Paul says in v6 "Do what you said you were going to do to." and in v7 "You're really good at xyz or at least you think you are. You're really good in faith, speech and knowledge but I want you to be a complete Christian; I also want you to be good at giving." And so he uses the example of some people who are good at it, some people who are really good at it. Be like the Macedonians who gave out of grace, not out of a sense of obligation or a sense of duty. That is why Paul doesn't command them to give verse 8:

"I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others."

God wants us to give out of grace - undeserved love. God by his grace works in us so that we are gracious like him and that is my prayer for each of us this morning; that we would be gracious like him. And Paul uses the example of the other Christians who are really good at giving. It's not always wise to compare the godliness of people, certainly not in a competitive "I'm better than others" kind of way, but it would be ignorant, it would be putting our heads in the sand, if we never looked at other people's good Godly example.

It can put us to shame but as we read of their example just ask yourself, "What is it that has motivated them to be so gracious to others?" Let's have a look at the example in verses 1-5:

"And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.  For I testify that 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. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will."

These guys were good at giving - they were great at giving! What do you need to be good at giving? Do you need lots of money? Do you have to be rich to be really good at giving? No. These guys were in trouble themselves (verse 2). They were suffering a severe trial - probably persecution, and they were in extreme poverty. Extreme poverty. They gave what they could and actually they gave more "even beyond their ability." They gave self-sacrificially. They didn't go without luxuries in order to give - they went without necessities in order to give. Who of you here wouldn't go without a meal to feed your child or miss a meal to spend time with an elderly parent or loved one who needed comforting. I hope you'd go without for the sake of others. That's the kind of love they had for other Christian brothers and sisters whom, presumably, they'd never even met! And they didn't just give their money. They gave themselves (verse 5) they gave not only money but themselves - their whole self! They devoted themselves to the Lord. It means they wanted to know how they could give their time and effort and whatever other resources they might have. They wanted to help. (verse 4) They wanted to share, they wanted to serve and they considered it a privilege! And this entirely on their own. (End of verse 3) Nobody asked them to give! There was no request – there was no church giving review. (verse 4) They urgently pleaded. They didn't beg in order to get. They begged in order to give! They did it off their own back, by their own initiative.

Now. What motivated them? What was it that made them voluntarily give so much? What made them do such a thing? What stirred in their hearts for them to do such a thing? What was flowing out of their hearts - what was upwelling into rich generosity? (verse 2) What was in their hearts that made them do such a thing?
What had changed their hearts from being the self centred, self concerned, self protecting, not trusting in God's provision rotten kind of hearts that so many of us have, me included, that even though they're so poor they just want to give? What was it? They had joy. They had joy. (verse 2) They were overflowing with it. Why? (verse 1) Because God had given them grace. They were in extreme poverty and yet they knew something that gave them such joy that it overflowed; that it overflowed even out of their poverty. What did they know that would make them do such a thing? They knew something and Paul reminded the Corinthians that they knew it and God reminds us today that you and I know it if you're a Christian. What is it? v9

"For you KNOW the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,"

Grace. That undeserved kindness. That undeserved love. Our Lord Jesus Christ has done something gracious. Do you know it? Do you know how kind God has been to you in Jesus Christ?

You see God made this world, and he made us to look after this world under his authority and yet each one of us has lived life, not God's way, not our creators way but, our own way doing what we want, ignoring God or even worse telling him where to go, and not loving our fellow human beings. We're selfish. We're rotten to the core. And so we're going to get judged and we'll be found guilty and we'll take the punishment in hell. That's Justice. That's what we deserve. And yet if we're Christians that's not what we get. We don't go to hell. We go to heaven. That's grace. That's undeserved kindness. Undeserved love. How does that happen? Well Jesus Christ lived the perfect human life. And he died as a sacrifice in our place. He died on a cross taking the punishment for us - the punishment that you and I deserve.

Jesus Christ the Lord of all who put the stars and planets in place came down from heaven fully God and left his throne in heaven to be born on a stable floor as a man. The king of all, the owner of the universe and everything in it was born into poverty. And he grew up to die the death of a criminal. He was despised and rejected. He suffered the shame on a Roman cross as everyone who passed by on the road in and out of the city could see. He did that for you and me. He did that so we could have his riches. He rose from the grave, has conquered death and he will give us eternal life with him in heaven, and we are treated as royal sons of the king of heaven and earth. We will be given glory with him in heaven on judgement day. Through him subjecting himself to such poverty we have become so rich. Verse 9: 9 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.

What grace. Do you know such grace? The Corinthians did and the Macedonians certainly did. If we do then why wouldn't we give up our money? Why wouldn't we give up our whole self? Why wouldn't we give up our time and do something we don't want to do in order to serve others?

"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."


Well that's why we give, so How do we give? - my final point, briefly:

How to Give - verses 10-15

Firstly - According to Your Intentions.

Good intentions need to become reality. We need to plan to give and then do it. You've heard the phrase, "It's the thought that counts." Well that's true if the end result doesn't really matter, such as a 5yr old's homemade Christmas card. But here people's lives are at stake. The end result does matter and good intentions are 100% useless, 100% useless, unless they're accompanied by action according to those good intentions. Verse 6

"So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part."

The Corinthians had said they would give. In fact they were the first to give. They had started brilliantly and Paul wants them to finish the job. Verses 10 and 11: 10 And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.

"Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it,…"

For Good intentions need to bear fruit. And for Good intentions to be fulfilled we need to set aside time to think, and pray and plan and then put them into action.

Secondly -  According to God. See the beginning of verse 12:

"For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable…"

Who is this gift to be accepted by? Not the receivers of the gift. They accept what they're given and they don't know if the Corinthians gave it willingly or not. Only God knows that. He knows our hearts. He can read our minds and it's him whom the giving is ultimately in front of. He can see it. We'll talk more of the willingness in a couple of weeks. And what makes the gift acceptable or not ? What is the gift acceptable according to? Your means.

Thirdly -  According to Means read verses 11 and 12 with me:

"Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.  For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have."

i.e. proportionate. The Macedonians gave even beyond their means, but Paul advises the Corinthians and us not to give according to what we don't have but what we do have. It should be proportionate. The more we have the more we should give. We should use what we need and give away the extra.

Finally -  According to Needs Let's read Verses 13 to15:

"Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality,  as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.""

According to needs. Their needs and our needs. Find out and be honest. Find out what you need and be honest with yourselves and find out what need other Christians are in and give to them. God gives some of us more so we can give to those in need so there can be equality; so that no brother or sister should be in need. Paul uses the quote from the Old Testament when God's people were without food in the desert and God provided just the right amount of food for them. The point here is that everyone had enough. No-one had more than they needed and no-one had less than they needed. They all had an omer each. That's about 2 litres. They were provided for according to need. Do we care that our fellow brothers and sisters are in need: perhaps those in Syria, in Iraq, in Sudan, in …well let's find out and let's give. By the grace of God I hope we do

"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."

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