2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 31
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|We’ve been talking about the “Grace of Giving” and this is part 2 as we study through 2 Corinthians. When you study verse by verse you just can’t skip things. And Paul brings this up.|
The Principles of Spontaneous Giving (2 Cor 8:6-12)
Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 8:6-12. We’ve been talking about the “Grace of Giving” and this is part 2 as we study through 2 Corinthians. When you study verse by verse you just can’t skip things. And Paul brings this up. It’s an uncomfortable subject to some, it’s a sensitive subject to many, but yet Paul brings it up and so we deal with it. He wrote it; God wrote it through him.
So 2 Corinthians 8:6-12 is what we’re going to look at today and our title is “The Principles of Spontaneous Giving.” I tell you what; it’s so encouraging and downright thrilling to watch a believer choose to live under grace. How many times have I said this: that grace is the transforming and enabling power of God in an individual’s life that is a believer. It is Christ living in and through us; living His life in and through us.
It hasn’t been that long ago when Michael Jordan absolutely raised the level of how basketball ought to be played. How many of you remember Michael Jordan? How many people say, “I want to be like Mike?” And everybody tried to be like Mike and they went out and bought Nike tennis shoes and they even bought the cereal on it; they want to be like Mike. And some even went out and bought some Haines underwear, but they were trying to be like Mike. But for whatever reason they just couldn’t do it. You know why? Nobody can play basketball like Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan plays like Michael Jordan. If I wanted to play basketball like Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan would have to get inside of me and play through me because I just can’t play like Michael Jordan.
And it’s the same way with the Christian life. Have you ever tried to live like Jesus? Give like Jesus? Love like Jesus? Witness like Jesus? Help yourself; none of us can do it. That’s why Jesus came to live in us, because only He can do through us what He demands of us. Christ living in us will not only motivate us but enable us to witness, to pray, to live a holy life, to love unloving people, to repent when we’re wrong, when sin is in our life. But in our context, Christ living in us will manifest Himself through the giving generosity of His people. That’s Christ in the life of a believer.
This is exactly what Paul is illustrating to us and to the Corinthian church by using the example of the impoverished churches of Macedonia. These three churches, the church of Philippi, the church of Thessalonica, and the church of Berea, had undergone severe persecution for their faith. Some scholars say that they were fired from their jobs which caused their poverty; they weren’t allowed to buy food when they went to buy food for their families, all because of their Christian testimony. They were destitute for all practical purposes.
But this miserable circumstance in their life had absolutely no effect whatsoever on their giving. And that’s what Paul is bringing up. That’s what grace giving really is. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-2, “Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.”
That word “poverty” that we saw last week is the word ptocheia it means a situation where one is totally unable to help himself. But this just drove them to Jesus. You see, that’s the way a believer responds to difficult times. It just drives him to Jesus. This is where his desperation now enacts faith in his life and he’s now able to trust God and so Christ in them, being allowed to live through them simply caused them to give to the needs of others. And they gave and they gave and they gave some more and they even begged to be able to give more to the needs of others.
Verse 3 says, “For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord, begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints.” Now this grace giving that was seen in the Macedonian believers I want you to understand, will never, ever be evidenced in a self-centered, selfish, stingy believer’s life. You’ll never see that because that’s Christ in them. We take so many times to praise men, no, no, no. It’s Christ in men and when men are allowing Him to be the Lord of their life, in living that way then He produces that kind of giving in their life.
Verse 5 Paul gives us the secret of this grace giving. What in the world caused this, what are the steps that you go through to have this happen? They were living under the absolute lordship of Christ. It says they first gave themselves to the Lord. Verse 5 says, “and this, not as we had expected,” the apostle Paul was stunned by the giving of these impoverished believers, “but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.” You see, a believer must learn to live under the Lordship of Christ. He must learn to give himself without any question before giving will ever be a part of his life. His money, his resources, his time, everything else, it happens, it’s a consequence. He’s first of all got to learn to surrender to the Lordship of Christ.
Now for us to do that we have to understand what Lordship means. And the Macedonians got it; they understood that Lordship meant ownership. That’s what they understood. Jesus owns all of it; giving was simply a matter to the Macedonians of Christ in them directing them how he wanted His money to be given. That’s all it was; and they did what He said to do. What a contrast to that stingy, self-centered and wealthy Corinthian church. It wasn’t as if they didn’t understand. They understood ownership. They understood Lordship because Paul had taught them. He told them in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.”
But you see the Corinthians didn’t get it. They still wanted to please their flesh; but the Macedonians got it and they first gave themselves to the Lord. The word “give” there in the phrase, “they first gave themselves” is the word didomi, which means to give without any questions asked, without any argument whatsoever. It is aorist indicative active: they gave of their own will, of their own choice. Nobody coerced them to do what they did. And when you and I learn to surrender to Christ this way, then and only then do we begin to experience His giving nature in us. Giving will become a reflex, never a sensitive subject, never a frustrating matter, never a burden to anybody that is walking in the fullness that God offers to us.
Well, in our study today it’s time for the wealthy Corinthian believers to put up or shut up. That’s the way it is. And Paul is about to tell them something here that they really needed to hear. Like the man that went fishing from time to time and he always came home with a huge catch. But the only problem was he never took a fishing rod. And this became very suspicious to the game warden and he couldn’t understand how he could catch that many fish without a fishing rod. He had a little box; he figured it could be his tackle box.
So the game warden said to him, “Listen, can I go with you next time?” “Sure, sure.” They went out together, the game warden had his fishing rod, and our buddy didn’t have his. They got out to a certain place, his little hunting hole, and dropped the anchor and he opened up his box that the game warden thought was a tackle box and it was a box filled with dynamite. He took one stick, lit it, through it over in the water and hundreds of fish came to the surface and he just went over and picked up as many as he could, put them in the boat. The game warden was just aghast. He looked at him and said, “You can’t do that. That’s against the law.” The man didn’t even flinch. He just took another stick of dynamite and lit it and handed it to him and said, “You going to talk or you going to fish?”
In other words, put up or shut up. Are you going to fish or are you going to cut bait? Let’s go, move! That’s exactly what Paul is telling the Corinthian church. Are you going to fish or are you going to cut bait. Put up or shut up. Now he’s about to send Titus to pick up the offering they were supposed to have been taking up every single week since Paul first told them about it. Titus is coming now to collect the offering.
He says in verse 6, “consequently we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning,” in other words, he told you about it when he was there, “so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well.” So when he took that third letter, evidently we have to read between the lines, he encouraged them. “Don’t forget the offering Paul told you about. Don’t you remember the one you desired to give? Don’t you remember the commitments you made to that offering? I’m coming to pick it up.” Paul says he’s sending him back; he’s going to take up that offering.
Paul wanted so much for the giving of the Corinthian church not to be a pain, not to be something they had to do. He wanted it to be spontaneous. He wanted giving in the Corinthian church to be something they got to do rather than something they had to do. And I’ll tell you what, for you and me and the Corinthians to ever, ever be spontaneous in our giving there are some principles we’re going to have to understand. We’re going to have to understand them, no matter; you’ll never enjoy a message on giving until first of all you start learning that living is giving, you’ll never see it.
These things have got to be anchored in our lives. We’ve got to make some decisions in our lives for the giving to be what God wants it to be. Three things I want you to see in our text today, verse 7 down through verse 12.
Giving is equal to all that grace offers
First of all giving is equal to all that grace offers. Now what he’s about to do is to emphasize the high spiritual status of giving. He wants to make sure it’s on the top list of all the things that grace does in a person’s life. The Corinthians had a warped view of spiritual gifts and if you’ve ever studied 1 Corinthians you know that. They loved the emotional gifts. They tended to rank the gifts: these are greater and these are lesser. And the apostle Paul spent in his first epistle that we have to them, he had spent three chapters trying to straighten their minds out on the fact that all of the gifts are necessary. And it’s so important for what he does in those three chapters.
But with this in mind you can understand what Paul is doing in trying to show them giving ranks with every one of the rest of them. Giving is right there with them. There is no gift of God’s grace that outranks the gift of giving. He says in verse 7, “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.” Now, Paul doesn’t mention them all but he mentions a few that he has talked about back in 1 Corinthians. You see, in 1 Corinthians he said “you don’t lack in any gift.” Let me read that to you: 1 Corinthians 1:4-7, they already had this in the letter that Paul had written to them. Verse 4 says, “I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus,” so he’s referring to that enabling, transforming grace and power that is in the Lord Jesus that they have. He says in verse 5, “that in everything you were enriched in Him,” and then he begins to mention some of those things, “in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So what he does over here in 2 Corinthians in verse 7, he doesn’t mention them all, he mentions a couple, adds a few, but then what he’s doing is he wants to show that grace is equal to everything that flows out of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no greater, no lesser, and giving is right there with the rest of them. He mentions faith, which is the ability to believe God and obey His Word. Now faith is the root of all of these gifts. All of these things that grace manifests itself in a person’s life, faith begins it, it’s the spark that ignites it. It says in Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him.” So he starts there and it’s not our faith, it’s God’s faith in us. When you see faith operating, you don’t praise the individual, you praise the God that lives in the individual.
Next we see the word “utterance.” Some people who carelessly translate Scripture think that this is referring to the unknown tongue that the Corinthians were speaking in; not at all. That’s a terrible hermeneutic. He’s not talking about gibberish. It’s the word logos, and logos—and I want to make sure you understand this—logos is the intelligent, communicable, and understandable word that somebody speaks. It’s never not understandable. Jesus is the living logos. He’s the fleshed out intelligence of God. So what he’s referring to the gift of those in the body that would speak intelligent truth, right doctrine.
The word “knowledge” that he uses there in verse 7 is the word gnosis. It’s from the word ginosko, which is the spiritual ability to understand deep truths and to be able to without in any way compromising it, making it simple enough for the whole body to understand. Next he mentions “earnestness.” It’s amazing he puts this in the list. He says, “But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and in knowledge and in all earnestness.” The word is spoude, and spoude is the diligence to be about the things of God. It’s a divine urgency and it’s the divine capability to make a person dependable so that he’ll follow through with what God has said.
Next he mentions love and he said, “and in the love we inspired in you.” He’s talking about the love that God had put in their hearts for Paul and for his team. And love is the fruit of the Spirit of God. You can fake the other gifts but you can’t fake the love; the love is something that only the Holy Spirit of God can produce. And then he says in the same breath, “see that you abound in this gracious work also.”
He calls it a gracious work but literally “in this grace also,” giving is a grace, it’s a work of grace. It’s Christ in an individual when we allow Jesus to be Jesus in us. He uses a definite article which points specifically to the giving that he’s talking about here. Giving is a part of the grace package and should never be put down here somewhere. Over the years, and I’ve even been guilty of it, money is such a sensitive subject to so many people, they use it for power, they use it to manipulate people, they use it for the greed that’s in their own life, and you just don’t want to bring it up. It’s almost as if we apologize for taking an offering. And the apostle Paul says, “What are you doing? This is up with everything else. If a person witnesses, if a person does miracles, if a person prays, that’s wonderful, but giving is right there. And if you take giving out of the equation then whatever they’re doing is not spiritual at all.’
Giving has to be there. If Jesus is going to be Jesus in us, giving is a part of that. Generosity of one’s heart; that is Christ living in us. And that’s what he’s trying to tell the Corinthians. Look at the Macedonians, he says, and he doesn’t say it but you can almost read between the lines, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? That you would not with all the wealth that you have, that you would not be a giver and not even understand how this fits into the equation of what grace does in a person’s life?” Giving is just as much a spiritual expression in a person’s life as preaching, as witnessing, as anything else. And if it’s not there, there is something desperately wrong in a person’s walk with God.
So again, giving is equal to all that grace offers. And when spontaneous giving is going to take place, we’ve got to understand what it is and where it comes from. A lady last week came to me between the two services and she said, “I so agree with what you’re saying. I was in a church and when they took up the offering, the people started clapping and they started saying, “Hallelujah, Hallelujah.” And I’m thinking, give me the name of that church, I want to find that. That’s like a weird sound at the 21st greedy century that we live in. You mean to tell me people get excited about giving? And the apostle Paul says, “See, you don’t talk about it; therefore people tend to look down on it and it’s equal to everything that grace offers to a person’s life.”
Giving is an example of God’s love in us
So first of all, giving is equal to all that grace offers. Secondly, we have got to learn this: that giving is an example of God’s love in us. You want to get a message across to the world? They’ll see it quicker by your giving than by you handing them a tract. They want to see it in our lives: that’s God’s love working. Verse 8 and 9, “I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. 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.” Boy, these are powerful words he’s speaking here.
Paul says the most unusual thing here and he helps us find a balance in preaching this message of grace and it’s certainly helping me. He says, “I am not speaking this as a command.” What’s so odd about that? If you studied 1 Corinthians then you understand that when Paul first brought this offering up for the poor people in Jerusalem and wanted them to give, you have to remember that it was a command, not an option. First Corinthians 16:1-2, let me show you when he first brought it up. “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 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.”
Paul says, “When I get there, I want the offering to already be there. We don’t want to make a big deal out of it. You’ve been doing it on a consistent basis.” Now in that passage, Paul not only instructs them to give, he even instructs them on how they’re to go about giving. He says, “on the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save.” Now that’s a great way. If you’re here today and you don’t know how to give or where to start, that’s a great place to start. Every week put aside and begin to understand it’s a plan, the purposeful thing that you’re doing in your life. It’s a great plan.
He says, “on the first day,” on every Sunday which is our first day of the week, which is the resurrection Sunday, that’s when the church meets, they were to put aside money for this offering. Now when he says “put aside,” that’s an interesting verb, present tense, active voice, imperative mood. Present tense means continually, week by week. This is not a one time thing. This is why he said “When I come I don’t want a big splash out of one offering. I want it to be done consistently. Every week you set it aside. Active voice means do this of your own choice. Don’t make me feel like I’ve got to hit you over the head with a baseball bat. Imperative mood means this isn’t an option. This is not a great thought: this is a command.
But here in 2 Corinthians he says, and this is the same church, he says, “I am not speaking this as a command.” What is the uniqueness of that? To me it’s special. You see, in 2 Corinthians the believers in Corinth had finally responded to what Paul had written to them and they had repented of their sin. There is now evidently in Paul a brand new, renewed confidence that has been restored in them. And I began to think about the fact, have you ever realized that when a person is walking and living under grace, he really does catch it? It’s not something that is taught as much as it’s caught and he begins to realize that if he just abandons himself to God, then he can live in all the fullness that God says is his. But the more there is of me, the less I experience of Him. And when a person lives that way he will evangelize, he will pray, you never have to coerce him to give. That’s the echo of his life: that’s Christ living in him.
But if a believer is not living that way, you have to bring it up over and over and over again as a command, not as an option. You see the sad fact was in Corinth and today in the 21st century, most believers do not live under the Lordship of Christ. They love to come to church, they love the fellowship, the love the fun, they love the games, they love to be entertained, they love to sing, they love the feelings, but they’re not living under the Lordship of Christ. That’s why when you mention giving something inside of them just sort of shrinks up. It’s amazing the feelings in a person that is not walking with God has when you mention money to him. People like this, they want the grace, they want the good feelings, they want to feel like they’re right, but they don’t want to go through the process of being right. They don’t want the responsibility. Don’t give me the responsibility. Don’t you preach to me the commands, don’t you tell me what I need to do. I want to feel good when I come to church. I want to live under the license of what they think grace is.
Well, the church of Corinth, when Paul first wrote them and had to command them to give, he called them spiritual babies in chapter 3. He said, “You won’t come out of the nursery, you just won’t grow up.” And so to a church like that he had to command them to give. But now there’s been a change. Now there’s been like an awakening and a revival has taken place in the people and his confidence has been completely renewed and so he doesn’t command them this time when he brings it up. He simply wants them to allow Christ in them to prove Himself in them through their giving. He wanted Christ’s heart to be seen in them. And that heart that he wants to be seen in them is echoed here in verse 9.
He says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that thought He was rich, yet for y our sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” He says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…” The word “know” is the word ginoskoyou experientially know this. You Corinthians, you wouldn’t be a Christian if you hadn’t experienced the grace of God. What He did for you has caused you to be what you are today. You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the word “grace” is obviously the word charis, but it’s the word that means to us, that none of us deserved any of it.
Can you imagine God who is sinless, perfect, holy, was willing to come down and stoop down for people such as you and me? That He would actually do that? We didn’t deserve a thing, we deserved hell and that’s all that we deserved, and yet by His grace He did for us what He did on the cross. And then he tells us what He did, “That though He was rich.” That refers to His divine recognition as the Son of God. This gets so rich. It shows that in no way did who He was, or what He had, in no way did that stop Him from doing what He did for the sake of all mankind. “Though He was rich” describes the estate He held before He came to earth.
In John 17:5 in His high priestly prayer He says, “And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I ever had with Thee before the world was.” Christ left His throne of glory; He stooped down, He humbled Himself for the sake of others. Philippians 2:6 says, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” The word “grasped” means to attain and then to hold on to, to be unwilling to let go of. He was willing to let go of it. All that He had He was willing to release for the sake of others.
Man, I’ll tell you what, when you put that unselfish attitude of the Lord Jesus and Paul says in Philippians 2:5 that you have this same attitude in you that Christ had in Himself, and you put that in the context of giving, it screams at us in the greedy world of the 21st century that we live in. Have you ever heard this kind of remark, it’s an ignorant remark? It’s somebody who thinks they know what a Christian is but has no clue. Have you ever heard this statement: I’m not giving them a dime of my money because they just don’t deserve it? Interesting, isn’t it? Do you think we deserve what Jesus did for us when He stooped down and went to the cross for you and me? I tell you what, that song when it says, “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?” And every day I come to Him and as I come to Him I understand the wickedness and the filth of my flesh and it overwhelms me. It overwhelms me that He was willing to do that for somebody as undeserving as me and yet he says here, “Now listen, I want that same heart to be in you, in your giving. You give it whether they deserve it or not. You give it because Jesus has given to you. You give it because He’s directing your life.” That’s what Paul is trying to say to them.
“Christ, though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor.” You see, He still lives in us and He hasn’t changed. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. He was clothed with the garment of frail human flesh, with no reputation among men, and because of His grace, His willingness to stoop down and lower Himself for the sake of others, many, including the Corinthians and including us today, were made spiritually rich in Him. Now He continues to live in us to continue to enable us to do what we could not and would not have done without Him.
The Corinthian church was a wealthy church. On top of that they were a stingy church. So Paul says, “I’m not commanding you this time. I’ve seen Him working in your life and I want you to prove it to other people. I want you to prove it by your unselfishness and your generosity in the spontaneous giving. That’s what I want you to do.”
We’ve got to get some things down in our minds. It’s not fun to even talk about. But I’ll tell you what, on the flip side, that’s where the joy is. Giving is equal to all that grace offers. You can witness, you can preach, you can whatever you do until you fall over in the floor, but giving flows out of the love of God. If that love is not there, the giving is not there. And it’s that giving that shows Christ is living in us. Giving is an example of God’s love given to us.
Giving is our effectual response to His provision in our life
But the third thing and the final thing I want you to see is a principle of spontaneous giving, we’ve got to get it down. We’ve got to stop being afraid of talking about the offering. We’ve got to stop being afraid of talking to people about honoring their commitments because this is exactly what Paul is doing right here. Why should we be ashamed of it in the 21st century? Thirdly, giving is our effectual response to His provision in our life.
I tell you what, how many days of my life I’m ungrateful. My wife and I have spent most of this past week just thanking God for what He’s given us. Do you realize how much we take for granted? We don’t even realize God has given it to us until we lose it and then we start missing it and we forget that God gifts these things to us and our giving ought to reflect a grateful heart. He says in verse 10, “And I give my opinion in this matter, 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.” You started this thing. It was in you. But then 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 verse 10, when Paul says, “I give my opinion” many people read that and think that it’s not inspired because it’s Paul’s opinion. I’m sorry. I laugh; it just tickles me. It’s under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. What he is simply saying is this is not a command, the Spirit is not leading me to command you, I’m just going to give you my opinion on this matter. That’s all it is, a sanctified opinion. It’s under the leadership of God’s Spirit. This is divine wisdom that God gave to Paul not to command them in verse 8. Instead he gives a sanctified opinion. Why? Because he wants their giving to be spontaneous and now he feels like he’s finally got an audience that can hear that. He doesn’t have to command them anymore. They’ve repented; they’re seeking to live right. They’re longing after Paul as we studied earlier.
Giving is the effectual and grateful response to God’s provisions in our lives and he sees these people at a point they can begin to understand that. It should not have to be commanded but it needs to be spontaneous out of that grateful heart. “And I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage.” The “this” there is not his opinion. The “this” is their giving, their following through with their giving. “It’s to your advantage,” he says, “it’s to your benefit, this spontaneous giving is to your advantage.” A better translation is “it’s fitting to you.” It makes no sense, he’s telling them, to desire to do something and then not to follow through with it. It’s fitting, it’s to your benefit, it’s to your advantage.
Paul encourages them to spontaneously finish what they started. He says in verse 10, “And I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this,” and he goes beyond that, “but also to desire to do it.” “I was there, I saw your enthusiasm, I understand how you desire to do it.” “But now finish doing it also; so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability.”
Have you ever noticed how quickly people will make a promise to give if the atmosphere is right? We’ll have a banquet and we’ll get somebody to come and tell 72 stories about how God blessed them and made them rich because they gave. And then we’ll pass out commitment cards and people will suppose to have prayed, but you know how that goes, and they quickly think, “God, help me quick.” And they have a desire to give and they’ll put an amount down. And that’s why I don’t like pledge cards at all. If we ever do anything like that, it’ll never have anybody’s name on it because that’s between a person and God. But they’ll put down on that paper that they want to give $500, I want to give. And we had to build a building in Chattanooga. We had a big banquet and people came and we told them not to put their name down. We knew exactly what the building would cost; we’d gotten the figures that afternoon for the first time. They wrote down and wrote down and lo and behold, it was to the very penny of what was handed to me about two hours before that banquet that I didn’t even know about.
Man, we rejoiced, the desire is here, we’re going to do what God is putting on our heart to do. Have you ever noticed how quickly that goes away? About five or six months later we were in the midst of it and all of a sudden the money wasn’t coming in. All that desire was back here, but they weren’t following through with what they said they were going to do. Great starters, pretty poor finishers.
Let me ask you a question: what commitments have you made and not fulfilled? In verse 11 Paul does not impose on the Corinthians the level of giving that the Macedonians had given. You see, there are two levels of giving here. You’ll never understand the Macedonian church until you start living under the Lordship of Christ. This is a giving that is beyond explanation. It’s amazing how this giving takes place when a person begins to walk with God. The Corinthians were nowhere close to that. They were at ground zero. They were just repented; they were just turning around so he doesn’t impose on them. “You give beyond your ability.” That’s not what he does at all.
But he says to the Corinthians, “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.” So he doesn’t impose on them this “grace giving,” this supernatural giving that was evidenced by the Macedonians.
Another way of translating the phrase, “for if the readiness is present,” is “if you really do want to give, if that is your desire, then start by giving out of what you have.” That’s a great way to do it. If you look at 1 Corinthians 16, you look at this one every week, just set it aside. Start there, that’s okay. Paul says that’s absolutely fine. That’s still God working in your heart. That’s His enabling work within your life. Start with what you have. Just give what you have to give.
Somebody said that was easy. No, it’s not easy. And I told you this in the first message I preached here that if people in America today that call themselves believers would give just out of what they have, just out of what they could, the church would never suffer anything they needed for missions ministries or anything else that is going on. It’s an act of grace just to give what you have. But as one continues to walk with Christ, I’m just want to encourage you here and I have to be very careful because I don’t want to set a precedent and let you build off of that. Let’s just go with what God says, start with what you have. But as you walk and live under His Lordship, under His ownership, giving is going to abound in your life beyond anything you ever dreamed about. And it’s going to put such a joy in your life that nobody can explain it.
I couldn’t begin to explain it to you. There are definitely two levels of giving that we see in 2 Corinthians 8. One with the Macedonians who gave themselves to the Lord and lived under His Lordship. The other to the Corinthians who were just beginning to get it and they were turning and at least they would give out of what they had.
In order for spontaneous giving to take place in our life, we’re going to have to learn these three truths. Giving is equal to all that grace offers. Don’t ever put anything else beyond giving because that’s the heart of it all. Giving is an example of God’s love in us; it flows right out of it. If the love is there, the giving is there. And giving is our response, our effectual response to His provision in our life. Whatever we have, we recognize He gave to us and He owns it and we want to reflect a grateful heart back to Him by giving to Him.
But I want to still say there is still another level of giving. It’s not about giving; it’s about giving yourself to the Lord. But I’ll tell you, it’s joy. If you would just bear with me and permit me to do this, I just want to share a couple of instances with you. My wife and I were set free in this area years ago. Nobody will ever see what we give because we give over and above and we love doing it and don’t even care about it. If the IRS sees it, that’s great, and if they don’t see it, that’s fine. We’re not doing it for the IRS; we’re not doing it for a tax write-off. But God set us free. I’ve never in my life experienced what I’ve experienced. You’re going to understand this when you get into grace giving. This is just giving. Yes, it’s out of grace, but I’m talking about that abundant grace giving of the Macedonians.
When you get into it, this is not your motivation. If it ever becomes your motivation immediately it becomes a program and it cuts out in your life. But you’re going to find out that when you start learning to give and trusting God, let Him direct you, you can never out give God. How many have already discovered that in your life. You cannot out give God.
When I first began to see this, I got so excited about it I can hardly talk. It’s not mine, so Lord, it’s up to You. It’s not up to me. I’m not going to worry over something that is Your responsibility. God never gives grace to what’s not my responsibility, so my Mama sent me in those months that we were learning this, sent me a $50 bill and I hadn’t seen too many $50 bills. This was back in the late 70’s. I had to look at that thing for awhile if I really believed it was real. And it was almost the moment I got it God said, “That’s not yours. Put it in your pocket.” Has to be the devil; I already had plans for the money. I mean, weeks went by and I still had that $50 and it was burning a hole in my pocket. And God said, “Don’t you dare. I got that for somebody else. Your Mama did what I told her to do to give it to you so you can do what I tell you to do.” It hadn’t stopped its journey yet.
And one morning I was down at the church, a good friend of mine who has gone on to be with the Lord. And he said, “Can your church support me on a mission’s budget?” I said, “We just voted on the budget; it’s already too late.” He said, “Can you help me?” I didn’t have enough money to buy gas but I said, “I’ll tell you what, though, can I give a one time gift?” And he said absolutely. And I opened my billfold and pulled out a $50 bill. He was as excited as I was. And I said, “My Mama sent me that several months ago and God told me not to do anything with it until He was ready, and it’s yours.” Well, he just thanked me and walked out of the office and there is something about that. It’s not yours, why worry about it. Just do what God tells you to do with it.
Well, that afternoon I got a phone call and they said they wanted to take me out to eat and go over and have a good time. We went to the nicest place to eat, they paid for our meal, and they said they wanted to buy my wife something. So the wives that were with us, they took Diana into the mall and bought her a purse. And she came back and looked at me and whispered in my ear, “That purse cost $25.” And I thought to myself, “I wonder where the other $25 is?”
If you ever give to get, He’ll take it away from you. You give to get so you can give again. It’s a cycle you get into and only the people who live under the Lordship of Christ have a clue what I’m talking about right now. We got back and I went over to my car and opened that front door. And when I got in, the visor was down and I never do that and it hit me in the head and it hurt. I backed up and then I looked and pinned to the visor were two ten dollar bills and a $5 bill and a note that said, “We were riding by the church and for whatever reason God prompted us to stop and wanted me to give you this money.” They didn’t sign it or anything. It’s amazing how this works.
Just a few weeks later the BSU director drove over an hour to get to our church with a bunch of students just to come to church that morning. I saw them sitting out there in about three rows. And I introduced them and while they were shaking hands God said, “Take them out to eat today.” This is 15 college kids; you have to understand this. I don’t have maybe $6 in my pocket. If you don’t know, you can’t recognize His voice. So I went up to the director and said, “I’m going to take you all out to eat.” She said, “You don’t have the money to do that.” “Well, God told me to do it so I guess He’s got it figured out.”
There was only one place we could go to eat and that was a truck stop. I took them out, but I was really sweating a little. I knew God had told me to do it, but how? As I was standing shaking hands with the people walking out, one of them walked up and shook my hand and it had bills in it. That’s the greatest handshake in the world. I shook his hand, slipped that money in my pocket and didn’t look until I got in the car. We got over there and it was $75. That meal with the tip and everything was $72.75. God threw in $2.25.
It got us on a journey, it’s been almost 30 years ago, and it’s the greatest journey we have ever been on in our life. But does it start there? Absolutely not. Don’t you even think about it if you’re not giving. You go back to what Paul said to the Corinthians. Give out of what you have and trust Him. There are people today who say the tithe is Old Testament; it’s Law. Are you kidding me? Abraham gave tithes to Melchizadek 400 years before the law even existed. It’s the reflex of a grateful heart. Giving, supernatural giving, starts way above that. But you don’t start up here, you start down here and you give because that’s a reflection of a grateful heart toward what God has done in your life. That’s His grace operating in your life.
Can I ask you one question: how’s your giving this morning? How’s your attitude towards it? Remember, this is not my agenda; I’m just preaching through 2 Corinthians. This is chapter 8, I didn’t write it, so evidently God’s got something to say to us.