Money and giving are sensitive subjects but as the Bible and Jesus in particular has a great deal to say about both we cant avoid talking about them. So, I want to try and explain what I think the NT has to say about them. It is in 2 Cor 8-9 that we get the clearest teaching so lets look at what it has to teach us
THE MOTIVE FOR OUR GIVING
This passage starts with the foundation for giving, that our God gives and that His giving to us is always prior to and greater than our giving. “we want you to know about the grace that God has given.” 2 Cor 8:1 Paul is pointing out that the Macedonian Christians giving was their response to God’s grace. The deeper we understand and appreciates God’s grace and all that God has done for us the more motivated we will be to give in response, to give praise to God and give financially to God’s work. Giving flows from our relationship with God; when we deeply appreciate what God has done for us, giving flows easily and generously.
THE PRINCIPLE FOR GIVING
6 Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2 Cor 9
Paul seems to be saying that the attitude and measure with which you give will be the measure by which you receive; that there is a principle at work in our giving. If you give with a generous heart, God will respond generously and bless us. You can’t give and not be blessed, but the blessing will come in different ways.
I’ve noticed there are broadly two types of believers. I’ll call one group the “givers;” they give themselves, their time, their homes and their resources to serve God and help others. There are also “getters,” people who get from the church more than give in every way. I have seen that those who sow generously, “the givers,” seem to experience, to reap, God’s joy and blessing in their lives in a way the “getters” just don’t. We reap what we sow. When we open our hearts wide in giving to God, they are open wide to receiving from God, and vice versa.
THE BLESSING OF GIVING
Paul unpacks this principle by saying that we are blessed when we give.
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Cor 9
God is promising that when we give sacrificially, we will be blessed. We will “enlarge our harvest of righteousness,” we will be “enriched in every way” and will have the joy of seeing people turning to God in thanksgiving because of what we have done. We need to take hold of those words, “Supply …. Increase …. Enlarge” Those words contain God’s promise of blessing to those who give. I wonder how many of us are missing God’s blessing because we don’t give in the way we should?
THE IMPACT OF OUR GIVING
These verses remind us of the tremendous impact that our giving makes. Our giving is for more than just keeping the heating and lighting on; it makes an impact for the Kingdom of God. Here are some of the ways our giving makes an impact:
People’s Deepest Needs Are Met
“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people” 2 Cor 9: 12 God’s primary way of meeting the practical and spiritual needs of people is through the giving of God’s people to the church. When we give, we partner with God. Through your giving here at Westlake people’s needs are being met here in Switzerland and around the world. People are coming to faith in Jesus, growing as followers of Jesus, orphans are finding a home and love, people are being kept alive when they are hungry and taught how to provide for themselves, some of the most vulnerable people in the world are being cared for and treated. All because of your giving. Your giving makes an incredible difference, thank you.
People Turn To God In Thanksgiving
Paul says that the giving of the Macedonian believers has resulted in the “overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” 2 Cor 9: 12 God’s love becomes tangible to people through our giving and they respond in thanksgiving. There are people in the world today thanking God because of your giving.
Our Giving Shows The Authenticity Of Our Discipleship
Giving is one of the ways we show that our discipleship is genuine, more than just words. Paul says “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.” 2 Cor 9:13 In giving we “prove ourselves” to be authentic disciples as giving expresses our “obedience” and that our response to the Gospel is genuine.
Our Giving Deepens Our Fellowship
Giving prompts prayer and promotes fellowship, “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 2 Cor 9:13-14 The giving of the Macedonian Christians had caused the hearts of others to go out to others in prayer and up to God in praise and drawn the whole church together. It always does.
HOW SHOULD WE GIVE?
I am not going to talk about amounts but principles in giving. Paul gives two principles to the Corinthians to guide their giving from the example of the Macedonians believers.
The Macedonian Christians gave “as much as they were able” and “even beyond their ability” 2 Cor 8:3
They gave what was a reasonable amount, “as much as they were able” and on occasions gave sacrificially beyond that “even beyond their ability.” This reminds me of giving in the OT. The people of Israel gave “tithes and offerings” Tithes were a regular and reasonable amount of their income, which was 10% in the OT given to the work of the Lord. Offerings were the sacrificial dimension of giving, given on special occasions. Tithes were the regular proportionate side of giving the Lord’s work, offerings were the occasional side of sacrificial giving. I think that provides a good framework for how we should give.
We should give regularly a proportion of our income to the work of the Lord. Now many people believe that the 10% figure was only binding on the people of Israel, others argue that it has continuing significance for God’s people today. I’ll leave resolving that one in your mind, to you and the Holy Spirit. However, we need to make sure that our New Testament “freedom” from the law of Old Testament isn’t just a pretext for a lower standard of giving. If you are committed to Westlake as your Church you should give regularly to Westlake.
There are times when we may need to give beyond our regular giving with special gifts; this is the offering part. Sometimes in church life there are urgent needs that require us to respond with urgent giving. A crisis in the life of a country or a family might need us to give an “offering.” At other times in the life of a church when aiming for something God has called the church to do, such as build a new facility, finance a new ministry etc there will be times when “offerings,” might have to become more often.
At Westlake, as with every other church, we need both types of giving to continue to make the impact God calls us to do. We need regular giving to finance all our ongoing ministries; in fact we need a higher level of regular giving at the moment to fulfill what we believe we should be doing. We also on occasions need offerings, special gifts. We need such gifts right now to help us make up our deficit so we can keep doing what we are doing. I would ask you if you can help in this way to be open to the Lord prompting you to do so.
Paul ends these two chapters on our giving by refocusing us on God’s giving “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Cor 9:15 I want to end with Bishop Michael Baughen’s comments on those words
“The final sentence of these dynamic chapters points us back to the inspiration for all our giving: to Jesus, to the free gift of salvation offered to all who believe, to the greatest gift ever offered. Our response must be one of exultant thanksgiving – in our life on earth, in the way we live and give and share, and then with the gathered company of God’s people in eternity. Now, and then, we exclaim in word and deed, THANKS BE TO GOD FOR HIS INDESCRIBABLE GIFT”
(I was greatly helped in writing this post by an old book by Ian Coffey called PENNIES FOR HEAVEN well worth a read)