Audio Library

Graced to Give – 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 (Part 3)

Second Presbyterian Church
George Robertson
November 5, 2017

 

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 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 by his poverty might become rich. And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

 

My father has been a very important person in my life. He and my mother have both sacrificed many times to provide for me. The other day, I was putting up some books in my office that are very special to me. It’s a set of commentaries on the whole Bible by John Calvin. They are relatively cheap now, but they were very expensive when they first came out. At that time in my life, I had just been exposed to reformed theology and was interested in studying all I could about the doctrines of grace, so Calvin’s commentaries were especially valuable to me. However, they cost $400 at the bookstore, an amount of money I didn’t have at the time and would’ve had to spend months and months saving up for.

 

One day I went into the bookstore, and too my horror, the books were gone. However, when I came home, they were on my shelf. In the garage, there was an empty space where my father’s riding lawn mower used to be. My father loves to cut grass, and he had saved up for this riding lawn mower and taken excellent care of it. He sold it to buy me those books.

 

It’s a picture of sacrificial giving. My father wasn’t obligated by some sense of guilt. He didn’t calculate that he was somehow “behind” in the amount of love he had shown me lately. He knew that I wanted the books and he did what was necessary to get them for me, because he loves me. Sacrificial giving is something compelled by love and something that costs you.

 

Realignment

First, sacrificial giving requires a realignment. For one, it will require a realignment of the expenditure of our resources. A truly Christian community will have individuals of all socio-economic levels asking, “Where can I streamline in terms of financial consumption, use of time, and outlay of energy in order to help any of my brothers and sisters who are in any kind of need.”  With the mind of Christ and joyful hearts, we must ask if by consuming less in terms of entertainment, house, car, vacation, or clothing, we could gain greater financial freedom in order to be more generous. That was the Spirit of giving from the Macedonians. They didn’t calculate some percentage in their mind. They saw that there was a need, and they gave to meet it.

 

The giving of American Christians on the whole, even of evangelical Christians, cannot be construed as sacrificial.  Consider the statistical facts.

 

While Evangelicals give more than mainline denominations, their percentage of decrease in generosity has been greater than in mainline churches.  In 1968, evangelicals gave 6.15% of their after-tax income.  By 1998, they were giving 4%.  That is a thirty-year decrease of 35%.  Mainline giving over the same period only decreased by 10%.  For Protestants as a whole, the thirty-year decline was 19%.

 

Even the most conservative of evangelical denominations have weakened in their generosity.  Southern Baptists and ten other denominations saw their giving as a percentage of income fall to levels lower than in the Great Depression of 1933.

 

The weakest givers are those who make between $40-100,000 per year.  The most generous are those who make below and above those figures.  The most generous ages of givers are 35-44 and 55-64.  Fifty-percent of all donors are between 35-44.

 

I’ve mentioned before how much I admire millennials and their eagerness to serve. There are a couple things I often hear from millennials, however, in regards to giving. One is “if God wants us to give joyfully, then should I only give when I feel like it?” Of course, we know that faithfulness is another characteristic of giving in response to grace. We give even when we don’t feel like it, even when it doesn’t make sense, because we know that God tells to give because he loves us.

 

The other mentality we must combat is the tendency to be discouraged at our inability to give what we would consider “large gifts.” Many millennials or others who find themselves in a financial struggle can be discouraged that their gifts are “too small” and will have no impact.

 

Consider with me these statistics about our church. There are about 1,800 active givers at 2PC. If each of those 1,800 active givers were to increase their giving by just 1% (roughly $20/mo.), it would equal an extra $450,000 towards ministries that meet real needs and take the gospel forward in this city. Who are we to measure the impact our gifts can have in the hands of the savior who took the five loaves and two fishes and fed thousands? 

 

Reciprocity

Giving in response to grace also results in reciprocity. That is, when we give, it comes back to us. This is not to propose some type of health and wealth gospel or suggest that we obligate God to bless us when we give generously. Consider Paul’s reasoning here: “For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.” Reciprocity means that when we give sacrificially, those in our number have no need, because each of us gives to ensure their needs are met.

 

In my past ministries, I’ve always tried to train our deacons to find a yes to each need that is brought before our church, but we want to make it a long-term yes rather than a band-aid. In this way, rather than dangling the gospel in front of people as a bribe, we can demonstrate the gospel by meeting a need, telling that person why we do so, and inviting them to join our congregation so that they will be generously supplied for as part of a loving family of believers.

 

Sacrificial giving is an invitation to the joy of reciprocity, that is, giving to the Lord and finding him blessing us over and over again.