2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 32
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|We’re talking about the grace of giving. I didn’t write this: Paul brought it up and the timing seems to be so appropriate this time of year. This message is part 3 of that and we’re going to talk today about the “Soundness of Grace Giving.”|
The Soundness of Grace Giving (2 Cor 8:13-24)
Would you turn with me to 2 Corinthians 8. We’ll finish the chapter today as we continue to push through, slowing walk through the book of 2 Corinthians. We’re talking about the grace of giving. I didn’t write this: Paul brought it up and the timing seems to be so appropriate this time of year. This message is part 3 of that and we’re going to talk today about the “Soundness of Grace Giving.” Is it really solid, is it really sound? We’re going to finish the chapter, verses 13 all the way down through 24.
Let me get you into it by just a little bit of review. I always do this because I want to make sure we’re in the flow, the current that we’ve already seen. The apostle Paul has a brand new renewed confidence in the Corinthian church. It’s amazing when you’re working with somebody and you see them move to a different level in their Christian walk. First John talks about the different levels of maturity. There are the little babies that can’t walk or talk and they need a lot of help. And then you’ve got your children that need to be discipled and then you have your young men that have overcome and then you have your mature ones. And it’s beautiful to watch people move from one to another as they grow in the grace of the Lord Jesus. And this is what has happened to the church of Corinth. It’s really affected Paul because they’ve repented and responded in faith to the letter that he had written to them.
And Paul wants them now to be proven in this area of giving. He understands that this is a part of it. That when Jesus lives in us, giving is going to be a part of that. To encourage them in their giving he cites the impoverished Macedonian church. Now he was using the Macedonians, not as a standard, you’ll see that, because he said I don’t want you to give to their standard, you wouldn’t understand it to start with. But I’ve got another standard to start you with. But he uses them to test the wealthy Corinthian believers.
You see, the Macedonians gave far beyond what he’s even going to ask of the Corinthians and the Macedonians had far less that what the Corinthians ever thought about having. He wants to test the genuineness of their love. I don’t know if we even stayed long enough on it the last time, but verse 8 of chapter 8, I want to make sure we get this verse. He says, “I am not speaking this as a command,” remember he wants their giving to be spontaneous, “but as proving through the earnestness of others.” The word “proving” there is dokimazo. It means to “put something to the test,” but it is a test that always proves something to be genuine. There’s another Greek word that when you put something to the test to disprove it, but this word, when it’s used, is always to prove something, to make it, to prove it genuine.
And Paul says, “but as proving through the earnestness of others.” Now that little phrase, “the earnestness of others” talks about the diligence, the attitude, the urgency and the diligence of the Macedonian church when they heard of the poor Christians, the saints in Jerusalem, and they heard of their need which is all about this context, the offering they’re going to be taking, they responded. And he said, “I wanted to use the earnestness of others.” He says, “but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.”
The word sincerity there is the word that also means “the legitimacy” of something. He wanted people to see that Jesus is really being Jesus in their life and he wanted them to see the legitimacy of the love that that comes out of them: “but proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.” You know that there are four words for love in the Greek language. Only three are used in Scripture. It’s funny, we take the one that God never chooses to use and we use it all the time as if that’s what love is. It’s the word eros. We get the word “erotic” from, sensual love, that’s what the world is, that’s all you see today. It’s never used in God’s Word.
The two most common words used for the love, there’s a third one that’s a derivative of it, but there are two main words and the main word that is used is agape. That’s the word he uses here. That is the word that is the fruit of God’s Spirit. That’s something a man cannot produce in his own power; that’s something God has to produce in that believer. It flows out of the believer’s life when he’s living under the Lordship of Christ. It means the divine commitment to do whatever is beneficial to meet the needs of others no matter what it costs me. So giving of our money to the needs of others always reflects the love of Christ manifested in us as believers.
And so you can flip the coin over. If a believer doesn’t give then it’s apparent he doesn’t love. If he doesn’t love, then it’s apparent he’s not walking under the Lordship of Christ because there’s no fruit evident which will be that love. A believer who doesn’t give also shows he knows nothing about the enabling grace of God. He has received the grace of God in vain. Remember the warning that came in 6:1? Paul says, “I’m urging you, you’re missing the point, don’t you receive the grace of God in vain.” Jesus is the grace of God and when we let Jesus live His life in and through us He will produce the fruit of His love out of which will come the giving of our time, whatever, and our money. It’s just a consequence of Jesus being Jesus in us.
In verses 8-12 Paul shows some of these consequences. Three principles of spontaneous giving. Now he understands that the Corinthians have a problem of thinking that this gift is greater than this gift. And that was a big deal then and it is in the 21st century today. He understood that. And so he begins by revealing that giving is as equal to all that grace offers. It’s equal to everything else that grace does in a person’s life. It’s part of the grace package. You can’t remove giving from Jesus being Jesus in an individual’s life.
In verse 7 he says, “But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also.” The literal there is “this work of grace.” Make sure that this is being seen in your life.
Paul also illustrates how giving is an example of God’s love working in us. It’s what we’ve just been talking about in verse 9. He says “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” You see, that totally unselfish attitude of God toward man, when He stooped down and was willing to rid Himself of His divine glory, when He came to pay a debt He did not owe for people that owed a debt they could not pay. Now that same attitude of love, that unselfish attitude, is resident within the life of a believer in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
You see what He had and who He was made no difference. It didn’t stop Him from doing what He did for people who did not deserve it in any way. So when we are letting Jesus be Jesus in us, then it’s going to be that unselfish attitude that is going to be reflected in the way that we do everything that we do, but particularly in our giving. Now Paul also taught us that giving is our effectual response to God’s provision in our life. He’s going to tell them, “Listen, at least be grateful for what you have and understand that God gave it to you. And let that be the standard, let that be the place that you start.’
He says in verse 10, “I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage,” it’s a sanctified opinion by the way, “for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it.” “Listen, this was in your heart a year ago; you signed a card.” I don’t know what they did but somehow Paul knew that it was their desire. He says in verse 11, “But now finish doing it also; that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he does not have.” And that’s going to get us into our message even today.
Paul doesn’t command the Corinthian believers again, because he wants to see Jesus in them. He’s seen it in their repentance, he’s seen it in their heart change toward him, and he says, “Come on, grow up, let me see the giving. Let that also be a reflection of the Jesus that lives within you.” Well, he wants them to fulfill what they had desired to do at one point. He says, “Go on and finish it out and let it be a testimony to Christ in you.’
Well, today we’re going to continue to look at this marvelous subject of grace giving and folks, we haven’t even gotten started. I’m kind of wanting to hurry because chapter 9, it’ll light your fire. He just keeps right on going for 2 chapters. And we want to look though at the soundness of grace giving. Does grace giving make any sense? Does grace giving hold up in this world of suspicion and doubt of the 21st century? Does it make any sense at all? Is it solid teaching? Well, let’s just look at it.
The provision in grace giving is sound
There are three things that I want you to see about the soundness of grace giving. First of all, the provision in grace giving is sound. You see, we need to see that grace giving is the way to ensure our own needs will be met. I want to make sure you see what I’m saying here. If you want to ensure that all of your needs, not your wants, but that your needs are going to be met in the future, not even right now perhaps knowing what they are, grace giving assures that. It’s a promise of God and I’ll show it to you in His Word.
Look at verse 13, “For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality—at this present time your abundance being a supply for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want, that there may be equality.” Now if you read those two verses very quickly you’ll say, “Now what did he say?” Let’s back up and find out. First of all it appears, and I don’t know if he’s doing this or not, but it appears he’s trying to soften what the Macedonians have done.
You see, when somebody really gets caught up in the Lordship of Christ and God speaking to their life, they may do some things that other people look at and can’t figure out. And they had given beyond their ability and it almost looks like he’s trying to soften that a little bit to make sure they understand. He says, “For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction.” You see the skeptics could have looked at the Macedonian church and they could have said, “Hey, that makes no sense at all. Now the Macedonians are poorer than ever and the believers over in Jerusalem are on easy street. That doesn’t make any sense to me at all.”
If that’s what Paul is trying to clear up, he does it very quickly. Now Paul has just told them earlier in verse 12 “For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” So he’s cleared that up anyway, but he continues. Then he says, “For this is not for the ease of others.” Understand that what you’re doing is not for the ease of others. Now that word is anesis. It’s the word which means to be freed from something. If you’ll study it through the New Testament it’s quite interesting that they translated it “ease” here. Their giving was not so that the poor in Jerusalem would be freed from their responsibility to give when they were able.
In other words, it’s not just one group of people becoming poor, giving to another one who already is poor. That’s not it; it’s reciprocal. What had happened when that kind of thing happened, they would give to the needs of others. What he’s trying to say is when you give to their need, there’s going to be a time when they’ll be back on their feet. And when they get back on their feet, then they may turn right around and they’re responsible to give to others, maybe even to the Corinthians. Paul says it’s not for them to be freed of their responsibility and then he adds to that, “and it’s not for your affliction.” Make sure you understand the whole picture.
In other words, God doesn’t want the Corinthians to give everything they have and then not be able to pay their bills while the poor people in Jerusalem are on easy street and they just continue to drink the well dry. That’s not what he’s talking about. And then he balances it by saying, “but by way of equality.” “For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality.” The word for “equality” there is isotes, which means that which is equitable, that which is fair to all concerned. Now Paul had spent quite a bit of time teaching the Corinthian church of how the body functioned. He did that in the first epistle that we have in 1 Corinthians 12:13-14. It all fits together, showing them how we all interact with one another. How we need each other.
And what he’s doing here is trying to bring that back to their attention. There will be times when we won’t have it and we’re the ones in need, and at that time God will lead others in the body to help meet our need. But here’s the point: what goes around comes around. He says, “Come on, Corinthians, get with it. You’re not just supposed to help the Macedonians and continue to help and continue to help as if their never to do anything. No, you help them to get on their feet and then they in turn will help others get back on their feet. That’s the way the body works together.”
He says in verse 14, “at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need.” That was the situation they were in. But then he says, “so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need,” and there may be equality. You see, at that time the Corinthian church was a very wealthy church and they had it. The poor Christians in Jerusalem didn’t have it and as I was studying on it this week I discovered it was almost a decade before they ever had it. But what he’s saying is there may come a time that the whole thing is reversed; you may be the one in need and then they who have now been helped to get back on their feet will turn right around and help you.
“At this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality.” But the principle is this: if you’re willing to let Jesus be Jesus in your life, if you’re willing to give of yourself to His Lordship and you’re willing to give to others as He directs, you can write it down. He assures you in His Word that He will meet your needs when they come up.
Giving is never one-sided when you’re dealing with believers. It will come back around. There will be seasons in our lives when we’ll have abundance. Paul talked about that in Philippians. He said, “I’ve learned how to abound and I’ve learned how to be a base.” We’re going to go through all of those different times in our life, but we need to learn that as we are faithful to say yes to Him and give, we can be assured that our needs will be met.
This is almost identical to what Jesus tried to tell us in Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over,” says Jesus. What kind of measure are you talking about? “For whatever measure you deal out to others,” the way you are willing to trust God and do what He tells you when you do have it to give, it will be measured to you in return. Now I don’t know how much clearer God’s Word could be.
Paul gives a beautiful example of this to the Philippian church; remember the church of Philippi in Macedonia? They’d been giving and giving for a long time and he says in Philippians 4, the reason he even writes this epistle is to thank them for their generosity in the gift they sent with Epaphroditus. And he says in verse 14, “Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. And you yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” “I see for the profit which increases to your account.”
The reason I want to see people get into giving is not because of the budget or anything else. I want to see people understand the grace of God. Folks, it’s the most marvelous cycle you can get into; it’s God’s economy and when you start learning to trust Him—in fact, giving is one of the greatest ways in which you can reflect your trust in God and as you do that he says it puts it to your account.
He says in verse 18 of that passage, “But I have received everything in full, and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.” And then here’s what he says, “You have been willing to give to me and I didn’t even ask for it.” And verse 19, “And my God,” and this is the Word of God, folks, “will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” It’s the most awesome thing in the world when a believer learns that when he hears from God and God says, “Hey, you have some of My money over here and I want you to take it and give it to that person over here.” But what about a rainy day? God says, “Did you listen to what I said?” And so you give it and God says “You just watch. When your need comes up I’ll have somebody doing the same thing back to you.”
Do you know why some people can’t believe that? It’s because they put their trust in their credit card or they put their trust in the Social Security or they put their trust in the government or something. They’re not putting their trust in God. God says like in Malachi, “Hey, guys, test Me. Come on, test Me. Go on and give and see if you can out give Me. You cannot do it.”
I remember years ago when we first began to learn this, and I’m hardheaded, so I understand that it’s going to take awhile for some people to get into this, it took me forever. If God ever had a thick head, you’re looking at it. And we had a bill of $188.55 I have never forgotten. It was staring at us and we had to pay it the following week and I said to my wife, “Are we supposed to start giving?” Because God had put on our heart to give. And listen, when I give my stories, don’t you base your faith on my stories. You base your faith on God’s Word. I’m just telling you how God worked in our life. And as we prayed, God said, “You give it, trust Me. I’m just trying to get you to trust Me. Walk with Me.” And so we wrote out our tithe check and we didn’t have the money to pay that bill.
That weekend, on a Friday and a Saturday, I had a couples retreat to do for a small church and I had a wedding. Now, what do you get for a wedding? You don’t do it for money. I never have. I’ve never asked people anything for a wedding. There have been times people have chosen to give and sometimes they haven’t. That’s between them and God. But on the couples retreat I was thinking, “You know they might give me something. At least pay for my gas.” And they took up and offering. I went, I spoke two times on Friday and two times on Saturday and I went over and did the wedding in that little country church. I came back, did two sessions that night and then had to get home for Sunday the next day.
And as I got ready to leave they had an offering they’d taken up. Pennies, nickels, dimes, dollars, all wadded up and in a little sack. And I took it and told them they shouldn’t have done that. I’ve got to have $188.55, and I just tried to be as humble as I could. You’ve heard about that book, Humility and How I Achieved It. And I got in my car and I didn’t drive very far. I just drove far enough that they couldn’t see me anymore. It was at night and when I couldn’t see their lights I figured they couldn’t see mine so I pulled off the side of the road, turned on the inside lights, put every bit of that money down in the floorboard on the passenger side and got down and counted every single penny and dime, but them in dollar stacks, and put the dollars down and it came out to $188.00. At first all I had was “God, you owe me 55 cents.” It’s amazing.
I told that last night and a guy walked up and gave me two quarters and a nickel. Said, “Now you’re even.” Man, I’m telling you what, you talk about exciting you. To understand that God is not just some concept that we come and talk to as if He doesn’t even exist. God lives in us and His Word is alive; His Word is true, and He just wants us to believe Him. Giving, folks, a lot of people use excuses for not giving. “I don’t believe those people at the church are real” and all this kind of stuff. Go to the root of it. You’ve got a stingy, greedy, unbelieving heart because when a person trusts God, then he does what God says to do and the result is giving. Giving is going to flow out of that; that’s the love of God being manifested in his heart.
He gives a precaution in grace giving
Secondly, he gives a precaution in grace giving. Now, we must understand something. In the times of abundance, in the times that we have, having is not for hoarding. It’s an interesting thing what people do when they have more. The old American thought, get all you can, can all you get, sit on the can, poison the rest, is not what Paul is teaching here. But that seems to be the mindset, even of churches.
It says in verse 15, “as it is written, ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.’” In other words, some people’s needs are smaller; some people’s needs are greater. Now what’s he talking about? Well, you have to go back to where he quotes from. He quotes out of the Old Testament. You have to go back to Exodus 16:18 and discover what he’s talking about.
He’s illustrating how God could be trusted to meet everyone’s needs no matter how big or how small they are. In the Exodus passage the children of Israel were in the wilderness and they could not find enough food for themselves and so they cried out to God and God provided food from heaven which was called manna. Somebody told me the Hebrew word for manna—I didn’t look it up so I’m telling you what they told me—means “what is it?” I love it. It’s kind of like I feel when I go into a certain restaurant.
God provided manna. Manna was very thin; it was white flakes and they would fall on the ground every morning. Now God told the Israelites to gather as much as they needed only for that day. Now some gathered more than others did because their needs were greater and some gathered little, but one didn’t have too much and one didn’t have too little. It was exactly what they needed. But there were those who were probably on the committee that just felt like God might go to sleep the next day and forget what He said so He left some on the ground at night. He said, “Don’t you leave any there.” In other words, “You take what I give you, but don’t leave any. Don’t store it up.”
But they decided they couldn’t trust God for that. “I’ve got to make sure I’ve got enough for that rainy day that might come.” Paul cites this lesson that since they didn’t trust God and they left it there, they stored it up, they tried to keep it for the next day, they were rewarded the next day with a smelly, maggot-ridden mess. That’s what they were rewarded with. But God said, “Don’t you dare, you trust Me every day. Don’t you get it and store it up and think that’s going to carry you through anything. You live trusting Me. You don’t have that other attitude.”
You see, when Moses says in Exodus 16:19, “And Moses said to them, ‘Let no man leave any of it until morning.’ But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them.” See, God wants us to trust Him every day for whatever it is we need, whether it be small or large, but not to store it up and hoard it when we have it. Because when He gives you an abundance just like He had the Corinthians, that abundance simply means there is somebody in need and I need to take that abundance and make sure I’m hearing from God so that I can meet that need.
That’s the way the body begins to operate, dependent upon one another. God will see to it that you’ll never be in need if you’re willing to give and do what He says. So our motive for giving is to trust God and do what He says, knowing that He’s God, knowing He’s Lord and also knowing He’ll take care of us whatever need we have. And the measure for giving is God’s material blessings that He’s provided us with. And when we’re in abundance we don’t store it up for that rainy day.
Paul doesn’t lay down any mathematical formula, because grace giving is not systematic. It’s not an investment program. It’s not always equal for everybody. Grace giving is never satisfied with just the minimum and I believe the minimum is the tithe. And I’ve had people get all over me, “You preach grace. How can you talk about the tithe? That’s the Law.” And I beg your pardon; Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek four hundred years before the Law ever came into existence. It has nothing to do with the Law. It’s a reflex of a person’s heart. That’s where giving starts. That’s the minimum. But grace giving is never just satisfied with the minimum as the Macedonian church would tell us.
But Paul said it was a good place to start. Start with what you have. God’s given you an abundance; use out of that abundance to take care of His people. Paul is emphasizing that we can trust God to be the One who balances the books of our giving. Let me ask you a question. How many of you have discovered that, first of all, it’s God’s money, not yours, so when you store it up, if God wants it He’ll get it one way or the other? Have you discovered that? There’s a lot of wisdom in this service and we’re willing to admit it. It’s God’s money and if He needs it, He’ll get it.
You say “I’m saving it for a rainy day.” It’s going to rain quicker than you thought. Just wait. And what he’s trying to do is free these Corinthians from trying to hoard what is not even theirs to hoard; it’s God’s money and do with it what God says. You see, when people’s hearts get right with God, they will give. You don’t have to preach on it. But thank God we can so that people can better understand it and God puts it in His Word.
The protection in grace giving
The third thing he says is: the provision of grace giving: you can count on it. You give as He tells you to give and you’ll always have your needs met. The precaution in grace giving: don’t you ever, as a church or as an individual, hoard what God has given to you. You have to always be willing to turn it loose, keep it in circulation. Then thirdly, the protection in grace giving.
Now when a gift is given and it’s given to an individual by an individual, that’s not what he’s talking about here. But in the case of the Corinthians and the other churches that participated in this offering for the poor saints over in Jerusalem, there was quite a bit of money that came in and somebody was going to have to make sure that it was taken and dispersed properly; the accountability factor. Now Paul, in the remainder of chapter 8, begins to define the character of those who are to be trusted once the money has been given with making sure it’s done God’s way.
Now these folks mentioned in these verses were the ones in charge, like I said, that went along with Paul. God called people to go along with him, to assist him in making sure this offering did what it was intended to do. Now, you will note as we go through this the very deep spiritual character of these individuals. They might represent today in our churches a finance committee of a church. It might represent the finance committee of a mission’s organization. Anybody who has been given the responsibility to come alongside God’s called people to assist them in the burden God has placed upon their heart.
The people Paul mentions in these verses worked alongside Paul as almost a servant in a sense of helping to get the job done. Let’s look at the characteristics. We take this from different individuals and I’m going to make a list of them. First of all, we note that they were believers who had a God-given burden to serve with, not over, God’s leaders. Look at 8:16. “But thanks be to God, who puts the same earnestness on your behalf in the heart of Titus;” God quickened his heart, “For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest, he has gone to you of his own accord.”
Now, Titus was a man who had been deeply burdened by God to serve alongside Paul in a lot of things, but particularly this thing. Paul had given the appeal. The appeal came from God’s man who was quickened with God’s heart to give the appeal to God’s people, and he wanted to come alongside him. The word “put,” when it says, “God who puts the same earnestness on your behalf into the heart of Titus” is the word didomi. Now it means to “bestow, to give to somebody who would not have it otherwise.” In other words, they wouldn’t have this burden if God hadn’t given it to them. To handle God’s money you must have people who in their walk with Christ and in their surrender to Him absolutely, have heard the burden that He’s placed upon their heart and is called alongside the leaders that are appointed to serve.
Paul says that Titus “not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest, he has gone to you of his own accord.” And that word means, it’s the word authairetos, and it means “to do something spontaneously with no coercion whatsoever.” Paul didn’t say, “I was on the nominating committee and I put this old boy.” He said God put him there. God broke his heart. God said, “You go alongside Paul and you assist him in this that I’ve put on his heart. Nobody twisted his arm.
The second characteristic we have comes from a man that we don’t even know who he is. They had a burden for the total message of the gospel message. You see, this is so important. Verse 18, “And we have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches.” So they knew who he was; all the churches knew who he was. When it says, “whose fame in the things of the gospel,” you have to understand something, and I want to make sure we correct a thinking. Many people think to have a thing for the word gospel, it means “to reach the lost.” No, no, that’s just part of it. The gospel is the whole message, the “good news” of Jesus Christ, although a burden for lost souls is very definitely implied here.
It certainly denotes a sensitivity to the heart of God, but the things of the gospel include the message of Christ living in and through us. That’s what Paul said to the Romans. “I can’t wait to get to you, the believers there, to preach to you the gospel.” So it’s not just for the lost; it’s also for the saved. So this individual wants to see the message of “Jesus, be Jesus in me and through me;” he wants to see that message get out as much as he does the salvation message of Christ coming to live in a person’s heart. This is an individual who is totally on board with the message of the church. There’s a sensitivity to Christ in every area, in every level of his life.
Thirdly, they had a desire to see God, not man, glorified in the giving of His people. Now that involves trusting Him when it’s not there. Verse 19, “and not only this, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work, which is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself.” The one purpose: God is only glorified when we give it all to Him and we allow Him then to be who He wants to be in us, “and to show our readiness.”
This individual shared Paul’s heart, didn’t he? He wanted only Christ to be glorified in whatever giving it is, but in this specific gift, to the poor saints in Jerusalem. His purpose was just to honor Christ and because of this he had the confidence of the whole church. This old boy has no personal agenda whatsoever. He just wants to see Christ glorified and honored and therefore they said he needs to go with Paul. They have the same heart; they can walk together. You never want somebody handling money that’s been given who isn’t in sync with the purpose of seeing only Christ glorified and honored in the matters of money.
Fourthly, they had a reputation for honesty. Now everybody saw this about them. Verse 20 says, “taking precaution that no one should discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent, because of his great confidence in you.” Now, these people around Paul were tested and proven people. Believers who would do nothing to discredit the ministry.
And then, fifthly, they had a cooperative spirit with Paul. You see, Paul didn’t work for them and they didn’t work for Paul, but they worked together with a common purpose: to carry out the burden that God had put on Paul’s part. What churches do so often—and we’re seeing this all over the country and it’s well meaning; I can understand why they do it—they get successful business people who have done well in the world system of making money to take care of God’s money in the church. And sometimes that’s a wonderful thing if that’s a believer who walks with God.
But the problem sometimes comes when you get somebody who does not have the kindred heart of the ones who are leading who have the burden. He does not have a kindred vision. He doesn’t share the vision of the leadership that God’s appointed. He has no kindred walk with the God-called pastors that God has sent. This is many, many times. I was just in a pastor’s conference this past week. I heard from pastors, and one of the biggest things they were running into was the power struggle over money in their churches. They were made to feel like they were peons that worked for the committee instead of a team effort, understanding God’s vision and able to walk in it.
And if you’ll just look at these verses it tells us everything that we need to know. Thank God for the people we have here, I tell you. But, you see, what happens so often in churches: they make the mistake of not trusting God. They make the mistake of putting people who don’t walk with God in positions that cause the whole thing to begin to crumble.
They’re partners with God: partners with Paul, and partners with God. He says, “As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow-worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.” And then he tells them all, “Therefore openly before the churches show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you;” by your giving, in other words. You can trust these people; now you show them my reason for boasting in you.
So is the message of grace giving found in Scripture in the 21st century? Absolutely; first of all, the provision in grace giving. You can’t out give Him and if you give as God directs, you can count on the fact that your needs will be met. God will take care of your needs. The precaution in grace giving is don’t ever hoard in the good times what God has given you. Keep it in circulation; don’t make the mistake that the children of Israel did in the wilderness. And the third thing is the protection in grace giving. God has beautiful people that He puts alongside as a team to work with the people that He’s put the burden upon so they can share the vision, share the burden, and God will be glorified in what takes place with what’s been given.
I don’t have an agenda in this. I didn’t write this: I’m just trying to tell you what it says. But you know what my heart is? That more and more and more people get involved in it. When everybody all of a sudden feels it for themselves, sees the burden, sees the vision and they begin to work together, that’s what it’s all about. And then we can come together and rejoice until Jesus comes back at what He does in missions and what He does in every area that God has put on our heart and burdened us for. That’s what it’s all about.