Sunday, August 14, 2011

2 Corinthians 8-9: The Joy of Generosity

Ruins at Corinth
Opening thought
In the early 20th century, two young men were working their way through Stanford University. Their funds got desperately low, and the idea came to one of them to engage Ignacy Paderewski for a piano recital and devote the profits to their board and tuition. The great pianist’s manager asked for a guarantee of two thousand dollars. The students, undaunted, proceeded to stage the concert. They worked hard, only to find that the concert had raised only sixteen hundred dollars. After the concert, the students sought the great artist and told him of their efforts and results. They gave him the entire sixteen hundred dollars, and accompanied it with a promissory note for four hundred dollars, explaining that they would earn the amount at the earliest possible moment and send the money to him.
“No,” replied Paderewski, “that won’t do.” Then tearing the note to shreds, he returned the money and said to them: “Now, take out of this sixteen hundred dollars all of your expenses, and keep for each of you 10 percent of the balance for your work, and let me have the rest.” The years rolled by—years of fortune and destiny. Paderewski had become premier of Poland. The devastating war came, and Paderewski was striving with might and main to feed the starving thousands of his beloved Poland. There was only one man in the world who could help Paderewski and his people. Thousands of tons of food began to come into Poland for distribution by the Polish premier. After the starving people were fed, Paderewski journeyed to Paris to thank Herbert Hoover for the relief sent him.
“That’s all right, Mr. Paderewski,” was Mr. Hoover’s reply. “Besides, you don’t remember it, but you helped me once when I was a student at college and I was in a hole.”[1]
Today we are going to look at what the Bible says about generosity.
Contextual Notes:
The collection for the Jerusalem believers was not a new project. It had been agreed upon by the larger church leadership including Peter at the Jerusalem Conference (Gal. 2:10) and the collection had already begun (2 Cor. 8:6). Paul was organizing this collection from his Gentile churches for the poor in the Jerusalem church. His motivation was to remember the poor in famine relief (Acts 11:27-30; Gal. 2:1-10). He had already talked to the Corinthian church about it (1 Cor. 16:1-4). Paul also saw a spiritual significance in the offering. It was a way for Gentile Christians to express their gratitude to the Jews for the spiritual blessings they had received through them (Rom 15:27; 11:11; John 4:22). He also probably hoped it would draw the Jewish and Gentile believers closer (Eph 2:14; Rom 15:30f).
The Corinthian church responded well (Rom. 15:26f). At 2 Cor. 8-9, Paul gives instructions concerning the collection being taken up for Jerusalem Christians. In doing so he lays out a philosophy of New Testament giving which lies alongside the Old Testament principle of the tithe.
Key Truth: Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 8-9 to teach believers that generosity is one’s privilege, one’s prerogative, and one’s opportunity for provision.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the joy of generosity.
Pray and Read:  2 Corinthians 8-9
Sermon Points:
1.   Generosity is one’s privilege. Do it. (2 Cor. 8:1-7)
2.   Generosity is one’s prerogative. Be it. (2 Cor. 8:8-15)
3.   Generosity is one’s provision. Live it. (2 Cor. 9:6-11)
a.   The example of the Macedonian church (we know of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea – Phil 4:15; 1 Thess 1:5; 5:16; 2 Cor. 7:4). They begged Paul to let them give. Paul urges believers to respond to the needs of others and give generously, but not because they have to give (8:1-8).
b.   APPLICATION: Give yourself first to the Lord (2 Cor. 8:5). God wants us, not our money. When we have surrendered ourselves to the Lord, our giving will fall into line.
c.   The OT tithe was a tax paid to God, the owner of the Promised Land, and was paid in crops produced by the land. It was used to support the nation’s priests and worship system and to help provide for the poor. The NT has a higher standard. It assumes that you understand that everything you have belongs to God in the first place. It assumes a stewardship based on God’s ownership of all we have and are.
d.   APPLICATION: And if you want to be anything like Jesus Christ, you have to know something about generosity. Generosity is a reflection of the Lord you serve. How much of your week is dedicated to the Lord? Each week has 168 hours. A voluntary tithe of your week would yield nearly 17 hours devoted to the Lord for worship, Bible, prayer, volunteering, and giving of your talent in praise to the Lord.  Yep – almost 17 hours a week. And here you thought you were doing well showing up around church twice a month on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, many times instead of giving, we spend on ourselves. That great Southern Baptist pastor Adrian Rogers once said, “It’s about time we stopped buying things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”
a.   In giving we follow Jesus, who gave everything or us. So it is appropriate to give what we can (8:9-12). Give as you are able. Giving is not intended to impoverish the giver. It is not the size but the willingness, measured against how much we have, that pleases God (2 Cor. 8:10-12).
b.   APPLICATION: This principle of generosity being such a part of life means that the OT tithe (giving 10% of your income) is only a starting point. We view tithing as some highly spiritual exercise. The Scripture views tithing as indicating a minimal level of spirituality. Generosity goes far beyond that. This is why generosity is your prerogative, and your generosity says a lot about your heart.
c.   2 Cor 8:13 – equality: does not mean the equalization of property. Scripture avoids the injustice and evils of communism. Scripture recognizes the right of property and making giving optional for the need. On the other hand, Paul says they should not disregard the need of their brethren who are poor.
d.   APPLICATION: Giving is sharing. It is meeting desperate needs so that our brothers and sisters can live and function as believers. And it is reciprocal; for we will receive when we are in need (8:13-15).
e.   Remember Christ’s example. He gave everything to make our lives rich. The riches we have are true riches, not material wealth (2 Cor. 8:9).
f.    APPLICATION: Generosity is your prerogative. Nobody is holding you down and telling you to cough up money. We call that a tax. Generosity is something you choose to do from your heart because you want to do it.
a.   After a few organizational and procedural remarks (8:16-9:5), Paul returns to basic principles of generosity. Generous giving means a rich return, for no one can outgive God (9:6-9; Prov. 22:8; 11:24F; 19:17; Luke 6:38).
b.   Giving is like sowing. It is an investment in our eternal future. The bigger the investment, the greater the return (2 Cor. 9:6).Giving must be methodical and cheerful (2 Cor. 9:7). God will make sure you have enough for your own needs and enough to give away (2 Cor. 9:8) as the psalmist says (2 Cor. 9:9; Psalm 112:9).
c.   Illustration: Adrian Rogers once said, “It’s what you sow that multiplies, not what you keep in the barn.”
d.   In 1 Cor. 16:1-4 we see the implications for giving. It should be regular (1 Cor. 16:2), It should be proportionate (1 Cor. 16:2; “according to your means” 2 Cor. 8:11). It should be generous (2 Cor. 9:6). It should be done joyfully (2 Cor. 9:7-8). In all things our model is Jesus (2 Cor. 8:9).
e.   We need not fear to give. God can and will supply what we need (9:10-12). If you sow goodness, the Lord will keep on increasing the amount you have to sow (2 Cor. 9:10; Isaiah 55:10; Hosea 10:12). Your enrichment will result in greater generosity and thanksgiving to God from those who receive that gift (2 Cor. 9:11).
f.    APPLICATION: Giving is an expression of trust. God is able to meet our needs and to provide much more, so we can give joyfully and without fear (2 Cor. 9:8-11).
g.   Giving stimulates prayer. The recipient praises God and prays for the giver (2 Cor. 9:12). And giving brings God glory through prayers of thanks that will also bring the giver’s name before the Lord (9:13-15). Giving not only gives help to the saints but brings glory to God. You in your giving will prove our obedience to Christ (2 Cor. 9:13). The fellowship is found in the giver and receiver joined by prayers for one another (2 Cor. 9:14). But where does giving come from? Thanks be to God who gave us His Son (2 Cor. 9:15)!
h.   ILLUSTRATION: If you pay attention to the bulletin or listened to the scuttlebutt around here, you have noticed that the recession has finally hit this church. Giving has been off for most of this year, and there have been times we have run close, but the Lord has always provided for us and we have always paid our bills on time in full. On top of that, this summer, we have had air conditioning units need either major service or replacement six different times. What do you think the Lord is trying to tell us? He is trying to tell us that we need to focus on his work and not whether we make our budget each week, that we need to trust Him and not worry about money.
i.    APPLICATION: The unique thing about the Kingdom is that giving is the way to receive. It works that way in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Like the old black preacher said, “You can’t outgive God.” Do you trust the Lord enough to give of yourself when it really does not make sense or when it is sacrificial? Or are you one of these folks who give sparingly and with a little resentment? The extent of your giving of self, of time, of talent, and of monies tells a lot about your heart. If we could see a copy of your bank account spending, what would it tell us about your giving?
The greatest generosity is that found in 2 Cor. 9:15. The greatest generosity is the gift of Jesus Christ given us for salvation. Won’t you receive that free gift that He offers you right now?

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