4 July 2018

2 Corinthians 8
Psalm 72

But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

2 Corinthians 8:7–9

Luke preached on this passage earlier this year in our series on the Church. If you missed that sermon, I’d encourage you to go and download it here for a challenging message on our giving. Today, I will just reflect on a few points from this passage that should shape our theology of giving:

  • Paul does not command the Corinthians (or us) to give, nevertheless, he does expect them (and no doubt us too) to give as an act of their love for their brothers and sisters in need (verse 8). Earlier this term in our morning sermon series, we saw that Paul says we have no obligation to one another except our ongoing debt of love (Romans 13:8). Our giving is the proof of our love (verse 24).
  • Paul’s second motivation for giving is that it is a response to the grace God has shown us in Jesus Christ (verse  9). Jesus sets us the greatest example of what it looks like to give of ourselves – even more than just our money. God has given us this immeasurable gift of grace, so, how can we possible withhold giving of ourselves in response: first to God and then to others in keeping with God’s will (verse 5). We will never get this until we get the immensity of God’s grace to us.
  • No wonder the Macedonians considered it a privilege to give, even pleading with Paul to be able to do so (verse 4)! I imagine there are very few pastors in the Church today who’ve experienced a member of their congregation pleading with them to give more; and no doubt many who’ve had to do the complete opposite: beg their congregation to give in order to continue gospel ministry.
  • Similarly, God desires willing hearts that give eagerly. Only then will our giving be an acceptable act of love and worship (verse 12). What is your attitude towards giving?
  • Though Paul is hoping that they (and us) will give generously, he does not expect this act to become a burden (verse 13). Rather, we should give in proportion to what we have (verse 12). What that will mean for each one of us is something we should thoughtfully and prayerfully consider.
  • Finally, we must hold our leaders – who are entrusted with the money we pass onto them – accountable to do what is right with it (verse 20–21). Sadly, our world is full of evil and selfish people who misuse and steal others’ money – even that which is intended for charitable works! We can give thanks to God for the faithful leaders of our church who have not followed the pattern of this world. We must pray for the leaders of our church that they will not fall into this temptation.

Although Paul in this passage is just speaking about giving financially, and particularly to support fellow Christians in need, these principles can be applied to our giving in all forms. Our giving need not be just financial (and perhaps, for some, that may not be possible at all), we can give of our time and our skills in many other ways as well.

May our giving be the proof of our love.

‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.’ (1 John 3:16–18)