|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|The Grace of Giving – Part 5|
I’ve always loved new beginnings, particularly when I was in school. I was in school long enough to really appreciate that every new semester you had brand new notebooks, nothing had been written in them. Wasn’t it fun to start fresh? Brand new pens, brand new pencils, and no zeros, no class cuts, and even the teachers at the first of every semester were always nice. It changed as time went on. But new beginnings automatically denote change and a fresh start. That’s what I love about them. With that in mind, what a time, now this is God’s timing, what a time for us as a church to be in 2 Corinthians 9, starting a fresh new year. I can’t think of a better time for us and especially those of you that have never experienced the journey of just participating in grace giving, of what that offers, the adventure that it offers.
Well, the apostle Paul was concerned about the church of Corinth, to step up to the plate and to be a testimony to the other churches that they themselves had influenced. Only a year before Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, the Corinthians had expressed such excitement. Now these were wealthy people and the poor people around saw these wealthy people get excited about giving to the poor people over in Jerusalem and it was so wonderful. Even the Macedonian believers got excited about the Corinthians being excited and they gave beyond their ability. The Macedonians, it was amazing what God did with them.
You see, the intent of the Corinthian church to give had not only affected the Macedonians, they had affected the believers in Achaia. And in fact, the offering in Achaia was already ready for Paul to come by with his group and take it up. Now it was time for the Corinthian church, for this wealthy church at Corinth, to follow through with what they said they were going to do. The last time we studied this in verses 1-5 we looked at how effective grace giving is.
Grace giving, remember now, is the result of Christ living His life in and through us and it has a powerful effect on the testimony of others. It’s contagious. Paul said in verses 1-2 of chapter 9, “For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints; for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them.” So after inspiring all of the churches to give because of their own personal willingness to give, for whatever reason, the Corinthians had become negligent. They had not done anything about what they said they were going to do and they haven’t followed through with their pledge to give.
Now Paul knows something. He knows how this would confuse the other churches if they didn’t follow through. It was because of them that the other churches gave. So he felt like the believers needed some prompting. He believed they were willing. He says, “I know the readiness in your mind.” He believed they were willing. They just needed some prompting, like most of us do. And so in verses 3-4 he sends three men, one of them Titus, to go over and make sure that this offering is going to be ready when Paul and his entourage come to pick it up.
Now Paul had a suspicion and I think he’s right that there would be those from Macedonia that would be with him when they came to pick up that offering and he didn’t want the Corinthian believers to be ashamed. Can you imagine? Here are the Macedonians and they gave beyond their ability. And they said, “Wow, when we get over to Corinth it’s going to be incredible what they’ve given.” And Paul didn’t want the Corinthians to be ashamed when they came to take that offering.
I think there’s a principle here that emerges that we must all remember. And that is that it mars and confuses the testimony of any believer when he refuses to give, no matter what his excuse is. It’s a cloudy, fuzzy testimony that appears from that. Do you mean you don’t trust God? I though you said you trusted God. I thought you said that’s how you became a believer.
Well, finally Paul showed us that the real heart of grace giving is clear. It cannot be faked. If a person truly is participating in that which God is doing in his life, it can’t be faked. The true heart, verse 5 tells us, cannot have any covetousness in it at all. There can be no greed in the giving of one who loves Jesus and is giving in obedience to Him. It says in verse 5, “So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, that the same might be ready as a bountiful gift, and not affected by covetousness.”
And so today we’re going to just push on a little further and we’re going to talk about the attributes of grace giving. Now and attribute is an inherent characteristic of something. You don’t add it to it to make it happen. It’s just part of it; it’s inherent within grace giving. What are the inherent characteristics of grace giving? How do you know that you’re participating in that which God has orchestrated in your life? And as we look at these inherent characteristics of grace giving, these attributes, we will discover, and if you’ve never begun the journey, the adventure of grace giving, it will show you where to start in your life. Paul will tell you exactly where to start in your life. It will sort of emerge right as we’re talking about these attributes. So let’s look at them.
First of all, the first attribute that I want to show you here is the attribute of unhindered trust in God. Now grace giving, as you’ll see, is not something man does; it’s something that God originates in man. But there has to be that unhindered trust in God. Look at verse 6, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.”
Now the apostle Paul is referring to a proverb but we don’t know what verse he’s pulling it from in the Old Testament, he doesn’t tell us. It’s a proverb though. Proverbs 11:24 could be one of them when it says, “There is one who scatters,” and it means abundantly and freely and generously, “yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, but it results only in want.” Whatever Scripture Paul had in mind, notice the first three words, “he who sows.” The verb “sowing” there is in the present tense. He who keeps on sowing. So he’s talking about a lifestyle. He’s talking about a predictable characteristic of somebody; not a one time thing but what is his lifestyle like.
Sowing, in our context, you have to remember, is the act of giving money. In another one of the gospels, sowing is taking the Word of God and planting it in people’s hearts. In Galatians it’s making choices whether to choose the flesh or to choose the spirit. “Be not deceived, God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap.” But in this sowing it’s the giving of one’s money, that’s the context. The seed that is sown is the money that is given. And Paul compares a believer giving his money to a farmer sowing seed.
You have to look carefully at this. An implicit principle begins to service in this verse. You know the difference between implicit and explicit. If something is clear as a bell, that is explicit. But if something is there but is a little hidden and you have to look at it for awhile, that is implicit. And there is an implicit principle if you meditate on this that begins to surface. The principle is that sowing seed involves unhindered trust in God. Now let me explain.
When a farmer goes out to sow seed he has to totally release the seed to the soil; let go of it. It’s interesting to me; I’ve got my keys here in my pocket. We give this way. Do you know why we give this way? Because we can take it back when we choose not to do it. “I’m going to give.” But I can take it back. But when you sow seed, it’s not this way, it’s this way. It’s gone. It’s got to be released, totally released. And that’s got to be the first thought in your mind: when you give it, you release it. You don’t follow its trail to make sure it does it. You release it. Once the seed has fallen to the ground it’s out of the farmer’s hands. The farmer has nothing he can do with it from that point on. It will now be hidden beneath the soil where it will decay in order to germinate to bring forth life. So what happens next involves many risks that the farmer cannot control once he’s released the seed.
If he’s a worrier he has a lot to be worried about. There’s the weather factor, there’s the disease factor, there’s the insect factor, all of which can destroy that seed. But a farmer knows that once the seed is released it’s in God’s hands regardless of the risk. He now trusts God. He can do nothing else but trust God to bring the rain and all the other things necessary to bring it up to do with the seed what the farmer could not do in a million years if he even tried. He has sown abundantly. Why? Because he trusts the fact that once that seed is sown, that the Maker will take care of it and do with it only what only he can do. In spite of all the risks, all of the doubts, all of the dangers, he releases the seed.
If you think about it just for a second, that is the basic truth in every aspect of the Christian life. It all begins when we come to salvation. We don’t just receive Him, we give ourselves to Him. We release ourselves to Him. We cannot save ourselves and so we completely embrace that which only He can do and we release our life to Him and daily we live that way. In every situation, “Oh, Lord, I can’t, You never said I could, You can, You always said You would.” And just doing what only He tells us. Totally trusting Him. We release ourselves into His hands to do with only what He can do.
Remember the Macedonians in chapter 8; this is a principle you’ve got to understand. In chapter 8 it says “they first gave themselves to the Lord.” We preached on it and talked about it and hopefully it hasn’t left your mind. That’s the first step. Once we have released ourselves fully to Christ, if you’re living that way every day, whether you’re sick or whatever is going on in your life, you’re just trusting Him. If you have released yourself to Him and you have a total trust in Him, you will never have any trouble releasing your money because you know in Whose hands it has been placed.
As Paul said, it’s just like a farmer who totally trusts God and who goes out freely releasing the seed to the soil and despite all the dangers, trusting that God now will take it and do with it what only He can do. Giving is never a money matter. Never. Giving is a heart matter. It’s a trust matter. If you’re ever going to begin the adventure of grace giving, you’ve got to learn first of all to trust God with your life, with everything. With your family, with everything, lock, stock, and barrel; nothing left out.
The great missionary James Elliot, many of you know his story, put it very succinctly, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Of course you know the story of James Elliot. He was the one who gave his life in an effort to evangelist the Auca Indians of Ecuador. It was in the releasing of his life. He knew the dangers when he went down there. He knew what could happen. But he said, “Lord, I only want what you want and if it’s going to cost me my life, I’m going to release my life to You. It’s freely given, it’s freely released. It’s a seed that I’m willing to sow and if it falls in the ground and dies, then thank You. You will bring forth life from this.” He was willing to release it all and trust God to do what only God could do and bring about the eternal results.
The attitude of trusting God with our whole heart must be first understood. You’ve got to see this. It was because of his willingness to give his life that the Auca Indians came to know Christ. It’s the same way with us. And if we’re not living that way, forget about giving your money. It doesn’t start with giving your money. It doesn’t involve giving your money. It involves giving of yourself, totally trusting God. Giving is sowing; it’s sowing. And the seed is that which God said to give. It’s the beginning of what this is all about. Whatever God says to give, we give it. That’s the beginning; that’s where we start. For the seed to be sown it must be freely released in the midst of all the questions and all the doubts and all the dangers that are involved; right in the midst of it. It’s got to be totally released. And the powerful motive behind it is totally trusting that God will do with it what only God can do.
So by saying “he who sows,” Paul points to a real implicit principle that sowing involves trusting. Sowing is giving; sowing is surrendering, yielding, releasing, and it involves trusting. Unhindered trust in God is an attribute of grace giving. It’s reflected in it.
But then secondly, that’s going to be seen in unparalleled generosity. Incredible. Once a person has given his life he has no trouble being generous in giving his money. The action of grace giving which trusts God is always seen in the generosity of one’s gift. Verse 6, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.”
Now those first words there, when he says, “Now this I say,” basically what Paul is saying is, “Time out, remember this, you don’t want to forget this, here’s the principle that governs the whole thing.” It’s the heart behind the giving. It’s so critical to show that the gift is given out of faith. You see, if you really are trusting God it’s going to reflect in that giving. Not just in the act of giving but in how you give. A believer can easily tell whether or not he’s trusting God by how, first of all, and then secondly by how much he gives when God tells him to give.
Paul is showing a contrast in the way believers give. He begins by saying, “he who sows sparingly.” Now remember the word “sow” is present tense: he who continues to sow sparingly. The word sparingly is the word pheidomenos. It’s the word that means “to give or to sow with doubtful restraint.” Now this continuous action of sowing sparingly reflects a fleshly, selfish attitude in an individual’s life. The one who continues to sow sparingly gives only a token. He gives with regret; he gives with distrust. He gives with a fleshly attitude of selfishness that he wants to hold on to something. The one who continues to sow sparingly he says.
Now, no faith is involved in this at all. Paul wants them to know if his lifestyle is continually sowing sparingly then in the future, future tense, at some time in the future he will reap sparingly. We will see in the next message that it is referring to the judgment seat of Christ. The way we give right now is a reflection of the way we live, and one day we’re going to stand before God and those true works of righteousness are going to be judged. And in the meantime, spiritually, his life is going to be devoid of all the joy and fullness that he could have had in Christ. Why? Because he’s stingy, greedy, he’s only thinking about himself. A stingy, selfish believer is a critical, miserable, judgmental person who is not willing to trust God. He just doesn’t trust God.
He’s unwilling to release what God has in trusted to him. Well, that statement is pretty clear. I don’t think we need to go any further with that. I believe we understand that. But the opposite is also true. Paul goes on to say in verse 6, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.” Now that word, yes, it has the idea of generosity, but it’s much more than that. It’s in the present tense again: “He who sows and continues to sow bountifully,” he who keeps on sowing bountifully.
That word “bountifully,” if you’ll look at it in the Greek, is an exceptional word in that language. It’s the plural word for blessings, eulogia. It’s the plural word for blessings. It can be translated “praise.” In fact, the literal Greek reads it this way: “He who sows upon blessings will also upon blessings.” The word “bountifully” implies the blessed heart of the benevolent giver. The fact that it’s in the plural implies the abundance of blessings, which also implies the abundance of giving. The generosity of giving. Because of the abundance of God’s blessings in this believer’s life he gives generously. He is so overwhelmed every day by what God is doing in his life, when it comes to giving he gives just as if it was God giving because it’s God in him doing that through him.
This blessed believer whose lifestyle is one of generous giving will reap a harvest of blessing that is proportionate with number 1, the spirit of how he gave, and number 2, the generosity of the gifts that he’s given. He’s going to reap that back. Not necessarily in the material wealth of this world. That’s not what he’s trying to say. He is trying to say that he’s going to be so overwhelmingly, spiritually blessed because of his willingness to give in a generous way. One who walks with God, trusting Him with his life, releasing himself to whatever it is the will of God is in his life, will never be stingy in his giving. That’s an impossibility; that’s an oxymoron if you ever see that happen.
Instead, he will give out of the overflow of thanksgiving and blessing in his heart and he will be eternally, not just here, but eternally rewarded for it. So before giving is ever to begin we’ve got to understand what the inherent characteristics of this are. We must be made sure first of all that we totally trust God with our lives. When we trust Him with our lives, this will be reflected not only in the spirit of how we give, but in the generosity of our gifts.
So unhindered trust is involved. When you release it, you release it. And you say, “God, You told me to do it and I’m going to trust You. I’m not going to worry about it. I know the dangers. I know the doubts. I know the risk, but God, I’m just going to do what You tell me to do.” Unhindered trust which will be seen in unparalleled generosity. And the context that is narrow here is in the giving of our money, but it will be seen in other ways, too. It’ll be seen in giving of your love or your time, or yourself; unparalleled generosity.
Thirdly, you’ll see unyielding resolve. It’s a part, it’s an inherent characteristic, of what we’re talking about. God is a God of purpose. When He works in our lives He has a plan to accomplish His work. In verse 7 he says, “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart.” Now, Paul refers to each one which makes this intensely personal and I love this. “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart.” That implies that God has led him since he has surrendered to Him. So God is leading him in this but it’s a decision he has to come to.
Now back in 1 Corinthians Paul had given these believers a starting plan, where to start. As I told you, it starts emerging here. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.” On that first day, he said giving was to be weekly. The first day of the week would be Sunday which would have been the day of resurrection. They were to put aside and to save in order to have an offering that would be ready to give.
Now each believer had to come up with his own plan depending on what he had. Paul had made that very clear earlier. Now Paul seems to refer back to that and he says in 9:7, “each one do just as he has purposed in his heart,” thinking that they had heard what he said and that they were going to do what they said they would do. The word “purpose” there is the word proaireomai, which means to have resolved to do something.”
Now this is where giving starts; it starts with making up our minds that it is important that we sit down and decide how we’re going to go about giving. This will involve certainly what we make and what we have; that’s part of the process, and making the choice to set aside to give. It’s so basic it’s funny. The church does not set this amount. And it’s left up to the individual believer: between him and his God.
Now my personal opinion is this. Now understand when I say my personal opinion, that’s my personal opinion. It’s my two cents worth and you just take it or leave it. If you don’t agree, that’s fine. I’m just going to tell you. My personal opinion is that the best starting place for any person who is not participating in ongoing, continuous sowing and grace giving is to start with the adventure of giving the tithe. I really believe that. There are so many people who say no, that’s legalistic. Now, excuse me. Hebrews tells us that Abraham had been out in battle and was bringing the spoils back when he met Melchizedek and paid a tenth to him. Now who is Melchizedek and what are you talking about? Let me read it to you.
Hebrews 7:1-3, “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he abides a priest perpetually.” Now, who do you think that was? That’s the Lord Jesus. Earlier on, a pre-incarnate revelation of Him in the Old Testament.
You say that’s still Old Testament. Wait a minute; you’re thinking of the law. The Law did not come about for 430 years from that time. You see, the reflex of Abraham meeting the Lord Jesus way back, he immediately gave Him a tenth of everything that he had. A good way then is to set aside a tenth and give that to the church for the maintenance and the ministry that takes place there. To me this makes so much sense.
Do you realize that if you wanted to go back and really study what is legalistic, look at the first six tithes that God put upon Israel. They were not tithes, they were taxes. And if you want to get down to the percentages, it’s not 10%. That’s what Abraham gave to Melchizedek. But if you get up under the law it was like way in the high twenties or 30%. And you know why God told them to do this? He said, “I want you to take care of the priest and take care of the temple.” This is God’s plan to put upon them. If you’re going to enjoy the privileges of this then you’re going to have to help pay for it. You’re going to bear a responsibility in this.
You know, in my understanding, true giving is over and above all of that. That’s my understanding. That’s why my wife and I take our tithe out, we don’t even see it. It comes right out before I ever get anything from the church. And then our giving is way over and above that. And so a good place to start however is by giving the tithe. But give it to the church. I have so many people tell me, “But I’m going to give it to this mission group over here.” If it’s a mission group with integrity, they’ll send it back and they say, “Take care of your church first before you do this.”
Do we understand today of what it takes to run a church? We have so many quality people and God’s trying to raise up so many things with missions and all the different ministries. But if we don’t take care of the church budget, folks, we have missed the whole point of what we’re doing. And so when we set aside every week, I want to encourage you: think about the church. It’s the budget that takes care of running and maintaining the church. Just like those tithes took care of the priest in the temple back in the days of the Old Testament.
Do we understand today that if we would just get involved with what God is doing and trust Him, and if every one of us would set aside even a tenth of what we have to take care of the ministry and the missions of this church, that we would never be asking for money, there would never be a time that we could wrap our arms around this world, if people could understand this. If we just all tithed we’d never suffer a lack.
Well, that’s my two cents worth. Are you okay? Whatever you do; whatever you do, start with a resolve which Paul says should include a plan to set aside every week to give because it’s important, not to the church, it’s important to you. God doesn’t need our money. Oh, do we need to learn to give; it’s part of the Christian walk. It’s not a program, it’s life.
Well, unhindered trust in God starts it all. That’s when you give your life. Unparalleled generosity will be its reflection, and an unyielding resolve to do it. I love that Nike commercial, just do it. I like that. So many of us talk about it but we never follow through.
Well, fourthly, unmistakable cheerfulness. And I love this. Verse 7 again, “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.” Now our giving is strictly individual and it’s planned, not by the church but by the individual, but it is never to be done under any external pressure. If I ever get up here and start beating you over the head to give, you walk up here and take me by the arm and have me committed because I’ve completely lost my mind.
I’m not here to do that, and won’t do that until the day I die, as long as I’m your pastor. I’m not going to beat up anybody. I’m going to tell you what the Word of God says, I’m going to put you back into His hand and it’s between you and Him because I’m not going to stand before Him one day for you. I’m going to stand before Him for me. So that’s all I can do.
The word “grudgingly” is the word lupes, which means “sorrow.” Don’t ever, ever give and be sorry you gave. Don’t you do it. God evidently didn’t tell you to do it. You did it out of emotion or something else. Paul adds, “or under compulsion.” The word “compulsion” is the word anagke, which refers to one who gives because he feels guilty or because he feels forced to. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. If that’s where you are right now, don’t do it. You get in front of God and give yourself to Him first and then let Him direct you at that point.
Well, he shows the contrast of those who give with a cheerful heart and those who give with sorrow and grudgingly. He says in verse 7, “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.” Now the first thing we do is put the emphasis on cheerful. The word “cheerful” is the word hilaros, which is not a frivolous word. I know we get the word “hilarity” from it, but the word doesn’t denote that. It denotes somebody that has a cheerful mind. And because of his cheerful mind and his cheerful heart, that’s the way he goes about everything he does. So when he gives, that’s the way he goes about giving.
I’ve met some stoic people in my life. You ought to see what I see when I’m standing up here. I know, you’ve got to look at me, but I’ve got to look at you. And I’m telling you, some of you look like you’d be the best poker players that ever lived. It’s like “is he happy, is he sad? Is he mad, is he glad?” I don’t know. One man told me one day, “My wife told me to smile. I thought I was.” That’s bad.
Well, I want to tell you, the person that walks with God has a cheerful mind and a cheerful heart. I don’t care what personality he has. And he gives just like he lives. A cheerful giver. He’ll give generously no matter the situation, trusting that God will use his gift for the money. But that’s not the emphasis of the verse. The emphasis of the verse is not the cheerful giver; you missed it. God loves a cheerful giver. Did you see it? It’s in the present tense. God is loving; He’s loving. It’s active and it’s agapao, and agapao means He is so committed to that cheerful believer that He’s doing everything necessary for the spiritual benefit of his life.
Now, how do you want to live? I tell you what, folks, that blesses my socks off. You know, whether I give or whether I don’t give is a matter of my heart. But, buddy, when I get in touch with giving myself to God and doing what He tells me to do, trusting Him totally, then when I give my money I give it the same way: a cheerful heart. But I know something, I know something. That God is loving me in the process and He’s doing everything necessary to keep this process going. Everything that is needed in my life He provides; we saw that in chapter 8. Everything that I need to give to somebody else, I already have and God just continues. I shoveled into His bin but He’s got a bigger shovel and He just keeps shoveling back into mine and it’s a beautiful divine cycle that you get into. And one day when we stand before God, do we understand that giving will be some of those righteous works that Christ has done through us that we will be rewarded for in that day. That comes up in our next passage.
It’s incredible folks. Giving is not a need that a church has to pay its budget. Giving is a matter of a person’s heart towards God. And if we’re living then we’re going to be giving, because He is the greatest giver of all. I’ve tried my best to think of an illustration to end this. Unhindered trust in God, unparalleled generosity, unyielding resolve, unmistakable cheerfulness. How could I end that with an illustration? But nothing would come to my mind except a passage of Scripture. I love what Jesus said. Don’t you love to hear Him talk in the Gospels? Don’t you love it?
Well, did He ever say anything about money? Huh? He said more about money and treasure than He did hell. Now that ought to get our attention real quick. And He says in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” You know what? I have never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul. Verse 20, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.” That’s that eternal quality of what we do: it’s going to last forever. Verse 21, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Do you know there’s a nerve that runs from right here to right here? Now on you it may be over here; I don’t know on which side you carry your billfold. But that’s the way it works and if that nerve hasn’t been severed by the love of Christ to where you understand that I don’t own anything, never have owned anything. He’s loaned me a lot to take care of and when He tells me He wants some of His money over here, I do exactly what He says. That’s the whole point. It’s not my money. And when we come to that understanding, the adventure begins. And, folks, I want to tell you, I want to see you in the cycle of God’s giving plan because it’s incredible. You’ve got to see the whole picture of what this is all about.
And remember, when you do it God’s way it lasts eternally. You’ll see that in our next passage as we study together.