Text: 2 Corinthians 8:1-9
1 Now, brothers, we make known to you the grace of God that has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty abounded in a wealth of their liberality. 3 I testify that they gave according to their ability and beyond their ability of their own accord, 4 begging us with much appealing for the favor and the sharing in this service to the saints. 5 And not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and to us by the will of God. 6 So we urged Titus that, just as he had begun beforehand, so now he should complete in you also this grace of giving. 7 But just as you abound in everything in faith and in speech and in knowledge and in all zeal and in your love for us, so abound also in this grace of giving. 8 I am not saying this as a command, but for the purpose of proving through the zeal of others the sincerity of your love also. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet he became poor for your sake, that you through his poverty might become rich.
How sweet is the sound in the sinner’s ear of God’s love for him. We are sinners who deserve punishment in hell. But John 3:16 tells us: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that all who believe in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Since God says he loves the world, we know he loves us because we are part of the world. Because he loves us, he gave his Son Jesus, as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10 states: “In this is love, not that indeed we loved God, but that indeed he loved us and sent his Son to be the reconciling sacrifice for our sins.” Because God gave his Son Jesus as the reconciling sacrifice for our sins, our sins are fully forgiven and we have life everlasting. This is indeed a sweet sound in our ears.
The sweet sound of God’s love for us lifts up our heart to love him. We show our love for him by obeying his commandments and abounding in what he teaches us in 2 Corinthians 8:1-9. He teaches us: Christian Giving Is The Proof Of Our Love. A Fruit Of Faith. A Gracious Work. A Willing Act. A Generous Gift.
The generous giving of the Christians in Macedonia was an example for all Christians. Therefore, Paul wrote in verse 8 to the Christians in Corinth: “I am not saying this as a command, but for the purpose of proving through the zeal of others the sincerity of your love also.” Paul gave the Corinthians the opportunity to prove their love through Christian giving, as the churches in Macedonia had done.
Christians can also prove their love through giving as Jesus proved his love by giving himself for us all. As the Lord, Jesus possessed everything in the heavens and the earth. Yet he gave it all up to become one of us to suffer and die for our sins, that we may have life with him. For this reason Paul wrote in verse 9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet he became poor for your sake, that you through his poverty might become rich.”
Jesus’ self-sacrificial love inspires Christians to love by giving of what they have. Christian giving is a fruit of faith, as the Macedonian Christians exemplified. Paul wrote in verses 1 & 5: “Now, brothers, we make known to you the grace of God that has been given in the churches of Macedonia, . . . they gave themselves first to the Lord and to us by the will of God.” Paul wanted the Corinthian Christians to know about the grace that God had given to the Macedonian churches. By faith those Macedonian Christians gave themselves first to the Lord and then to their fellow Christians in keeping with God's will.
Jesus love for us creates faith in our heart in his gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. That faith works in love to give generously in return. We give ourselves to the Lord, and all that we are and have.
Let us do some soul searching. Is our giving a conscious act of our faith in Jesus? Has his love for us, by which we are saved, been inspiring a love in us to give in return? Has our Christian giving been a proof of our love for him and for our fellow Christians?
Christian giving is a gracious work of love. At the time Paul wrote about the giving of the Christians in Macedonia, he was carrying out a mission of mercy of collecting an offering to help the poverty stricken Christians in Jerusalem. Paul had brought their needs to the Christians in Macedonia, Corinth, and in Galatia. All these Christians were asked to give an offering to help their poor Jewish Christian brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. Their Christian giving was truly a gracious work of love. For this reason Paul stated in verses 6 & 7: “So we urged Titus that, just as he had begun beforehand, so now he should complete in you also this grace of giving. But just as you abound in everything in faith and in speech and in knowledge and in all zeal and in your love for us, so abound also in this grace of giving.” Titus had previously started working on this offering with the Corinthians to bring their offering to completion as an act of grace. As they abounded in everything faith, speech, knowledge, zeal, and in love for Paul and his co-workers, so they should also abound in this grace of giving.
Christian giving is a gracious work we are to abound in. God’s undeserved love in Christ Jesus motivates us to love in return. Our love then moves us to do this good work of giving for the benefit of others.
We readily think of charitable acts as works of love. But do we think of the offerings we give to the Lord during our worship services as a gracious work of love to provide for the needs of our fellow Christians? Perhaps not. We may wrongly think of them as a donation to support an institution and its buildings.
In a truly Christian congregation that is faithful to our Lord and his Word, consider what the offerings of the members provide -- not just for themselves but for many others. The preaching and teaching of Gods saving Word for the benefit of many; a place out of the elements where many can come to hear and learn that Word; the administration of the sacraments so many can come to be baptized and receive Holy Communion for the forgiveness of their sins and eternal life -- all are provided by the members offerings. The needed materials for the children to come to school to gain a Christian foundation for their adult life; the Sunday School lessons which lead the children to Jesus -- are provided by the members offerings. The comfort of Gods Word for the sick and dying; the funeral services to comfort the families with the knowledge that their Christian loved ones will rise again in the resurrection to eternal life; the opportunity for young brides and grooms to begin their married life under God in Christ with his blessings; the counseling for fellow Christians who are going through difficult times in their lives and marriages -- are provided by the members offerings. Mission work for the salvation of others; Christian education at the high school, college, and seminary levels -- are provided by the members offerings. The list goes on and on.
These are gracious works for the good of others. So dont think of your offerings to the Lord in the sense of merely paying bills for the maintenance of an institution and building. Rather think of them in the sense of doing good for a great many others.
Christian giving is a willing act of love. The Christians in Macedonia were an example of this. Paul stated in verses 3 & 4: “I testify that they gave according to their ability and beyond their ability of their own accord, begging us with much appealing for the favor and the sharing in this service to the saints.” The Macedonian Christsians had entirely on their own pleaded for the privilege of sharing in the offering that was a service to the Jewish believers and saints in Jerusalem. They gave willingly of their own free will. They were not coerced, nor did they give grudgingly.
Has your Christian giving been a willing act of love? You have not been giving because you have thought you are compelled to do so, have you? Have you put something into the offering plate with the idea that you must give something, so there it is? Have you thought that you have no other choice than to give it?
Offerings that are given grudgingly are displeasing to the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 9:7 Paul said: “Let each one give just as he has decided beforehand in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Each person should give what he has decided in his own heart to give. He should not give it reluctantly, nor under compulsion as one being forced to give it. The reason for this? God loves a cheerful giver. God loves those who give cheerfully, not reluctantly or grudgingly. Have you been giving cheerfully?
Christian giving offers generous gifts. Jesus gave the greatest example of this when he offered up himself to save us sinners. The Christians in Macedonia also left us an example of giving generous gifts. Paul testified in verses 2 & 3: “That in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty abounded in a wealth of their liberality. I testify that they gave according to their ability and beyond their ability of their own accord.” Out of their most severe circumstances and poverty, their joy overflowed and welled up in rich, generous gifts. Paul testified that they gave as much as they were able to give, and even more than what was their ability to give. The Christians in Macedonia did not give from an abundance. They did not give what they could afford. They gave beyond what was their ability to give. A more generous offering they could not give.
The widows offering is another example of giving generously. She did not give from an abundance either. She gave from the depths of her extreme poverty. She had little to give, but she gave it all. No one can give more than that.
Our Lord has richly given to so many of us. We have an abundance from which we can give richly to him for the benefit of others. Yet we are members of congregations, whose members like us have an abundant supply of wealth the Lord has given to them, with operating deficits. Why should this be? Perhaps we all have forgotten that Christian giving is a fruit of our faith, a gracious work that we do, a willing act on our part, which consists of generous offerings.
Our Lord has made no law about how much is a generous offering, for love needs no law to tell it how much to give. Love desires to give all that it can. Our Lord has given us a guide, however, to show us what is a generous offering--the Old Testament tithe of ten percent. And he has given us the examples of the widows offering, which was all that she had, and the gifts of the Macedonian Christians, which were beyond their ability to give, to guide us in our giving.
How much we will give we must decide in our own hearts, as 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us: “Let each one give just as he has decided beforehand in his heart.”. So it is up to you. You know the financial needs of your congregation so necessary to carrying on the ministry of the Word for the benefit of many. You know how much the Lord has blessed you with. You know God has proven his love for you by giving his own Son Jesus to save you from hell for eternal life in heaven. You now have the opportunity to prove your love for him and your fellow Christians by abounding in Christian giving. How much you give willingly by faith as a gracious work of love for your Lord and others will be the proof of your love. And the sweeter the sound of God’s love is in your ears, the more you will want to give. Amen.