Ten Graces of Giving
January 21, 2016
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
This weekend Dr. Josh Moody will be preaching on “Money, Profit and Generosity” from 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 in the series “Biblical Answers to Life’s Big Questions.” In preparation for this message, God Centered Life Ministries today is posting “Ten Graces of Giving,” an article written by Pastor Moody for his church that might encourage all of us as we consider biblical giving.
Sometimes people think of giving as onerous, burdensome, or unpleasant. Even those who are tasked with the responsibility of asking others for gifts can find it so! But actually, if we learn to think more biblically, giving is a grace. Giving is itself a gift in response to the Gift. Let me explain “10 Graces of Giving” from 2 Corinthians 8 and 9.
1. The Grace of Giving in Poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-2)Paul wants the Corinthians to know about “the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia.” When we hear a phrase like that (“the grace given” to so-and-so), we would naturally think it meant their salvation or some special spiritual experience. Actually, though, what Paul means by the grace that was given to the Macedonian churches is this: “In a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” The grace that God gave the Macedonian churches was overflowing giving… even in the midst of poverty! Consider how countercultural this is, even within Christian circles. We think, “I will give as a tip to God when I am able and when I have provided for all my other needs.” The Bible says the grace of giving is to give generously even when we are in poverty. By the way, poverty in ancient Macedonia was not just being unable to go out to eat more than once a month, being unable to take vacation this year, or even having to cut up a credit card. These people were poor, dirt poor, shantytown poor, globally two-thirds world poor. Why is this a grace? Read on.
2. The Grace of Giving as Worship (2 Corinthians 8:5)Giving is a grace because it shows who (or what) we worship. Jesus himself taught us that you cannot love both God and money (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13). You can have both God and money, but you can only do so if you are giving. Giving is a grace because it tells us (and other people) who we are worshiping. Are we worshiping the almighty dollar or the Almighty God? Paul puts it like this, “And this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” Paul was surprised by their commitment to God, which evidenced worship of God, as they gave generously to Paul and the work of Christ. Worship is not just what we do on Sunday. Worship is what we do during the week. Worship is not just the songs we sing. Worship is what we do with our bank account. If you are feeling disengaged from public worship, it may be that the way to break through that barrier is to give more—because that is worship.
3. The Grace of Giving as Excellence (2 Corinthians 8:7)People ask, “How much should I give?” That is like asking a banker, “How much money should I make?” The answer is as much as you can (within the limits of biblically moral behavior)! You should aim to excel at giving. If you can only give 10 dollars a week right now, you could aim to give 20 dollars. If you can give a million dollars, you could aim to give even more. If you give 10 percent of your money away right now, you could aim to give 20 percent. If you give 50 percent of your money away right now, you could aim to give 60 percent. Paul puts it like this, “But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.” Those who are able to trust God for difficult circumstances in their lives, to have “faith” in God through significant challenges at work or in business, aim to excel in giving also. Authors and speakers, aim to excel not just at “speech,” but also in giving. Intellectuals, aim to excel not just at how many books you have read and how much “knowledge” you have, but also in giving.
4. The Grace of Giving as Competition (2 Corinthians 8:8)Paul is not above a bit of healthy competition among Christians to see who can give more. We could aim each year to see by how large a percentage we can beat our budget from the year before—5 percent higher, 10 percent higher, more?—and then we should be able to say to each other, and others as well, let’s do even better next year. We made it to the finals of the competition of giving this year; let’s win the competition next year. Our time in the 100 meters was 11 seconds this year; let’s get under 11 seconds next year. For Paul, giving is a right sort of competition, even among Christians, and even between churches! He puts it like this, “I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.” In other words, I’m not telling you what to do… but, by the way, the Macedonians beat you hands down this year. What are you going to do about that, huh? Going to let them get to the top of the league, or are you going to beat them? As a church, we want to get to a stage when other people (not us) will say about us, “Wow, if only we could give like them!” We want to set the standard of giving for Christians in America—and then beat it!
5. The Grace of Giving as Riches (2 Corinthians 8:9)Sometimes people say, “Why should I give to God? Doesn’t he have enough already? Those churches, they are only after your money—God has all he needs, he doesn’t need anything from us!” But that is to misunderstand the point. Giving is good for us. Certainly, when we give to someone else, they benefit, but the greater benefit is for us. It puts us in the channel of God’s grace and mercy, and it reflects the gospel pattern whereby we become rich because of what Christ has done for us. Paul puts it like this, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” In other words, you cannot outgive God. God does not want us to give excellently, generously, because he needs something from us; it is because we need something from him. When we give we do so because of what God has done for us in Christ, and also when we give, we are following the pattern of the gospel and walking in line with that pattern. Why do we give? Because God has given Jesus to us. We did not earn it. We did not buy it. We did not deserve it. He gave everything for us; therefore, he can demand anything from us. And what he gives us is what makes us (truly) rich. Such riches are not primarily material, though when we follow God’s pattern for the world, we are often blessed in that way, too. But the riches we receive are spiritual contentment, peace, joy, confidence of eternal destiny, love—in short, everything that is far more important than a bank balance. Which would you rather have: a few more dollars in your pocket, or a full heart of joy and peace and contentment and assurance?
6. The Grace of Giving as Completion (2 Corinthians 8:11)Paul does not want them to be haphazard, incomplete, or random in their giving. Giving is not merely something we do when we happen to feel like it, or in response to a sentimental YouTube clip, but is an expression of a committed set of values that are orientated around the gospel. Giving, therefore, is to follow a regular pattern. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul tells the Corinthians to set aside a sum regularly on the first day of the week, our Sunday. Now he tells them to complete that to which they had committed: “So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.” Some of us—and I speak now as I must as your pastor, committed to serving you before Jesus and responsible for you to that end—need to learn to be regular in our giving. We need to give generously, abundantly, and completely, not just sentimentally, occasionally, or randomly, but every week. Electronic means of making that commitment have helped many people, and College Church now has the facility to receive gifts through its webpage. Look at your budget, make a commitment, plan a year ahead to set aside what you will give every week, and make sure it goes out of your bank account (automatically, if necessary, which may be helpful for some). Others of us have given regularly, but have grown tired as the year passes on and the budget end gets closer. We need to complete what we have committed to doing. At College Church a budget is passed each year at our annual meeting. That is a commitment on the part of the church to make that budget and to give that money. We are to complete our commitments.
7. The Grace of Giving as Equality (2 Corinthians 8:14)Some people have more than others, and the reason why God has given them more is so that their plenty can make up the need for others. Our giving is not in proportion to a set amount, but is to be increasingly excellent and in accordance not with what we have, but with what we have left. Some can only give very little. Other people have much more in the way of resources, and it is part of the economy of God that those with more give more. Paul puts it like this, “Your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.”
8. The Grace of Giving as What is Right (2 Corinthians 8:21)Paul takes great pains to explain to the Corinthians how he is administering the finances. He wants to make sure that the finances are administered appropriately, and he wants the Corinthians to know that the finances are administered appropriately. This is why at College Church we have multiple checks and balances, audits, leadership groups, diaconal involvement, boards, committees, eldership oversight, and ultimately congregational approval of the budget. Giving flourishes in a context where it is done in a way that is right and seen to be right. Paul puts it like this, “For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.”
9. The Grace of Giving as Abundance (2 Corinthians 9:8, 10)Shockingly for some, Paul makes it clear that giving leads to our own abundance. He puts it like this, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work…. He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” The point Paul is making is not that if you give a certain amount of money then you will receive even more money in return. However, there is no doubt that in God’s economy giving is like sowing seeds. There is an abundance that happens as a result. Most of that return is spiritual, the “harvest of righteousness,” but that does not make it inconsiderable. There may be some of us whose spiritual development is stuck because we have never learned to give, or our giving has become moribund at lower levels of generosity. If we want a “harvest of righteousness,” if we want to see our culture, our friends, our neighbors, influenced for Christ, the key to it may well be a renewed generosity of giving. Such resources (when administered correctly, as they are at College Church) lead to growing in righteousness because they fund ministries that otherwise would not be able to take place. If we wish to see abundant righteousness as a harvest, we will need to sow abundant seeds of giving. This is how it works in God’s plan.
10. The Grace of Giving as Evangelism (2 Corinthians 9:13)The result of such an explosion of generosity is praise to God! Paul writes, “By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others.” The reason why people praise God when we give, when they were not praising God before, is because our giving funds gospel ministry, which means people come to faith in Christ, which means they now praise God. The ultimate motivation for giving is praise to God that comes about through well-resourced ministries that proclaim the gospel, because we ourselves have received that same gospel and therefore long for still others to praise God too. In short, giving is not a burden; it is grace. What you can do:
- Determine to excel in giving. Whatever you are giving now, ask how you can give yet more.
- Determine to be regular in giving. Give each week, throughout the year, in a way that leads to a full and healthy completion of the budget, and that expresses our gospel commitments to proclaim Christ.
Final thought:Each of us, in normal circumstances, giving at least the 10 percent that was charged to God’s people in the Old Testament, plus the other “tithes” that some say combined to a 20 percent and more total (Malachi 3:10), as those who now follow Christ in the New Testament, our giving can be yet more generous, abundant, joyful, and full.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).]]>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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