Sunday, August 21, 2016
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Summer Bible Series
2 Corinthians 9 

Introduction and offering:

ILL: Karen Pratt, our receptionist, got a call at the office. Someone asked to speak to “the head hog at the trough”. Karen said, “Excuse me?” And he repeated, “I want to speak to the head hog at the trough.” Karen said, “If you mean our pastor, sir, you’ll have to be more respectful than that—we don’t call him the head hog!” The man said, “Well, I just wanted to make an appointment with him–I’ve got a check for $100,000 that I’d like to give the church.” Karen said, “Hang on just a sec–I think the big pig just walked in!”

Today, we’re talking about generosity again, and I know that subject makes some people nervous so I thought I’d ease the tension with a little joke.

In our Summer Bible Series, we are working our way through the New Testament book of 2 Corinthians, one chapter per week. In chapters 8-9, Paul writes to the Corinthians about the offering that he was collecting for the impoverished church in Jerusalem. For ten years, Paul traveled the Roman Empire planting churches in major urban centers, and he asked these Gentile churches to contribute to help their poor Jewish Christian brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. Most of the churches not only gave an offering, but also sent a representative to help deliver it. Last Sunday, we covered chapter 8; today, in chapter 9, Paul has lots more to say about the importance of generosity. Offering here. 

  1. The preparation for generosity

2 Corinthians 9

1 There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. 2 For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. 3 But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.

In chapter 8 Paul used the example of the Macedonians’ radical generosity to inspire the Corinthians. In chapter 9 he tells the Corinthians that he used their eagerness to help as an example to motivate the Macedonians! We know from chapter 8 that it worked!   The Macedonians were incredibly generous, and we talked about that last week: theirs was unexpected generosity, sacrificial generosity, self-initiated generosity, and whole-person generosity. All of this, Paul says, was inspired by the Corinthians’ example.

Paul bragged to the Macedonians about the Corinthians’ readiness to give, and it motivated them, but now he is sending the brothers (Titus plus two unnamed men) to make sure that his boasting wasn’t in vain. If any Macedonians accompanied Paul to Corinth, and they weren’t prepared and generous as he had boasted they were, everyone (Paul and the Corinthians) would be embarrassed. So he’s giving them a heads up: we’re coming, get your offering ready! Be prepared!

Generosity requires some preparation, some planning. Spontaneous generosity is great—it’s important to be able to respond to a need on the spot. Ministry is meeting needs in Jesus’ name right where you are. You are God’s ministers, open for business every day right where you live. When you see a need, meet it. Spontaneous generosity is important.

But it is even more important to have a plan to give. What do you want to give to God this year?   Is it a dollar amount? A percentage of your income? Has God spoken to you about this? Have you asked Him what He wants you to do?

ILL: On August 30, Laina and I will have been married 41 years. For our entire married life, we have tithed (given the first 10% of our income to God at our church) and given an offering to our church, and we have supported missionaries and other ministries as we felt led by God. We have also been deliberate about giving God a raise—gradually increasing our giving percentage over the years. We don’t just drop a few bucks in the offering haphazardly as we feel like it; we have a plan to be generous and we follow it.

Without a plan, giving tends to be haphazard and inconsistent, not generous. Most people give far less than they think they do simply because they don’t have a plan. Generosity requires more than spontaneity; it requires determination, a plan of action, forethought. What’s your plan to be generous?

So Paul writes them to get ready, be prepared. Think about what you want to give and be ready when I get there.

One other thing: in verse two, Paul says, “Your enthusiasm stirred most of them to action.” There is a truth here: passion or enthusiasm moves people to action.

ILL: If someone says, “Oh man, you’ve got to see this movie! It was amazing!” you will probably see the movie. If they say, “It was ok,” you probably won’t. This is true not just of movies, but restaurants, books, people and churches.

Passion or enthusiasm moves people to action. Your enthusiasm for Jesus and for our church will be caught by others. Christianity is more caught than taught. People will catch your enthusiasm for Jesus. I remember hearing Howard Hendricks say, “If you want people to bleed you better hemorrhage!” So I’m up here hemorrhaging, hoping you’ll bleed, hoping you’ll catch the fire! Today, you’ll hear some of my enthusiasm for Jesus-centered generosity; I hope it moves you to action!

First, Paul writes to get them prepared. Generosity requires some preparation.

  1. The principles of generosity

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;

their righteousness endures forever.”

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.

Paul says some amazing things about generosity here. I want to point out six laws or principles of generosity that should motivate you to be wildly generous.

  1. The principle of the harvest.

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

You reap what you sow. The more generous the sowing, the more abundant the harvest. Every farmer in the room understands this. If you skimp on the seed, you’ll have a skimpy harvest.

ILL: A few years ago we had some winter kill in our lawn, so I reseeded those spots in the spring. But I didn’t want to waste the seed, so I sprinkled it lightly in each bare spot, covered it with peat moss and sand, and waited for my lawn to fill in. It never did. A few scraggly blades of grass popped up here and there in the bare spots, and the lawn still looked ugly. I asked someone what I did wrong, and they said it was obvious: I didn’t use enough seed.

So I went back to the store, bought a big bag of seed, and this time, I didn’t sprinkle, I spread. I dumped. I covered the bare spots in seed. And a few weeks later, I had a lush thick lawn for my sons to mow!

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. You can’t afford to not be generous! It would be crazy for a farmer to not plant his field and then ask God to bless his crop! Christians do this all the time! What keeps us from giving? Fear. But the thing to fear is not giving too much, but sowing too little!

ILL: When my friends Tom and Ronda Ferguson were newly married, they were traveling youth evangelists, and they lived off of the meager offerings they received from their speaking engagements. When Ronda got pregnant with their first child, Tom wondered how they would pay the hospital bill, since they had no insurance and no savings, and just enough income to scrape by day to day. Tom had an idea. What if they saved their tithe and used that to pay the hospital? He pitched the idea to Ronda, who wisely suggested they pray about it. So Tom asked the Lord if He would mind if Tom kept the tithe and used it to pay the hospital bill.

The Lord said, “No, don’t keep the tithe. In fact, give more. Give 20%, not 10%!”

Tom couldn’t believe it! How could he afford to give more, to give twice as much? And how would he ever pay that hospital bill? But Tom decided to obey God, and doubled his giving. Over the next few months, he received unusually large offerings everywhere he spoke, and they were able to pay the hospital bill with cash.

He almost stopped sowing altogether—this would be like a farmer not planting his field and asking God to bless his crop: disastrous! Instead, he doubled his sowing and reaped a generous harvest.

It’s the law of the harvest. You reap what you sow. The more you sow, the more you reap. This is true in every area of life: not just money, but time, love, mercy, grace. Jesus said:

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

We preachers love to quote this at offering time—and it’s as true then as any other time. But look at the verses around it and you’ll see that Jesus is talking about love, mercy, forgiveness and judgment. Do you want to be loved? Give love away. Do you want to be forgiven? You must forgive. Do you want mercy? Show mercy. What you give will come back to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over. It’s the law of the harvest. Give and it will be given to you. Sow generously! 

  1. The principle of self-determination.

7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Give what you have decided in your heart to give. You decide. The Greek word is used only here in the New Testament and it means, “to decide beforehand, to choose for oneself.” You decide beforehand. This is the principle of self-determination. It implies two things.

First, giving should never be compelled, forced or dictated. It’s up to you what you give. Paul says clearly that God doesn’t want you to give reluctantly or under compulsion. It’s your choice.

ILL: I think of the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. They sold some property and brought part of the proceeds to give to the church. But they lied and said they were giving it all. God showed Peter what they were doing and he called them out: they were lying to God. Peter said,

Acts 5:4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

Both of them dropped dead! Don’t think that their sin was in giving only part of the money. Peter makes it clear that it was their property, their money, and they could do whatever they decided. If they wanted to give part, that was fine. No one was compelling them to give the full amount. What they gave was entirely their choice. The sin was that they lied. They wanted to look better than they really were.

The point is that it’s your choice: give what you have decided in your heart.

Second, the principle of self-determination implies planning and forethought: you decide beforehand. I’ll ask again: what’s your plan for generosity? Are you planning on sowing more or less? It’s your choice, but not planning is a choice too. It’s the principle of self-determination.

  1. The principle of joy.

7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

God loves a cheerful giver. The Greek word is hilaros; it means “cheerful, glad, happy.”   We get the word “hilarious” from it. God loves a happy giver. Do you want to see happy? Watch this:

Video of Paxton.

That’s my grandson, and that’s happy! Giving will make you happy; it will bring you joy. Giving is one of the happiest things you can do. Think of Christmas—how many of you receive more joy giving than receiving? I’m much more excited on Christmas morning, when all true Christians open their gifts, to watch my family open what I’ve given them than I am to open my own gifts. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35.

ILL: Andy Stanley, in his book, Fields of Gold, tells the story of Donald Rauer. Donald was not big on giving. He was a hard-working, hard-charging middle manager who loved to tell people, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” A phone call changed his life. He was told that his uncle Mike had passed away and left him trustee of his foundation. Uncle Mike had created a foundation and endowed it with a million dollars. He wanted Donald to give it all away to worthy causes, and he had 12 years to do it. At first Donald refused, but eventually accepted the assignment.

He thoroughly researched different charities and reluctantly began distributing the money. Then reports began trickling in: starving children were being fed, sick people were receiving medical care, farmers were improving their yields and feeding their villages. Eventually Donald was captivated. He began to visit the sites so he could see first hand the difference the money was making.

Donald ended up taking an early semi-retirement to spend his summers as a volunteer relief worker. After 8 years, he had given away his uncle’s fortune. Then he did the unthinkable: he redirected a large portion of his own estate, most of his salary and pension to the foundation so he could keep on giving.   He retired from the plant at 71, but kept working in the foundation another 15 years. By the time he died, his life was completely devoted to helping those in need.

Stanley writes: “The most astonishing thing about Donald’s life was not the impact he made through his gifts, but the impact the gifts made on him. (He) became seduced by something we were all created to experience: the sheer joy of giving.”[1]

The sheer joy of giving! Giving will make you happy!

 

  1. The principle of blessing.

8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;

their righteousness endures forever.”

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.

God promises to bless the generous! We say this all the time: You can’t outgive God! No matter how generous you are, God is far more generous. “Give and it will be given to you.” “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Notice these phrases in verses 8-11; do you want them to be true of you?

  • God is able to bless you abundantly! 8
  • In all things at all times, you will have all that you need, and you will abound in every good work! 8 That is a lot of alls!
  • God will supply and increase your store of seed, and enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 10
  • You will be enriched in every way so you can be generous on every occasion. 11

Some people want to argue about whether these are financial blessings or spiritual blessings. The answer is yes! You will be enriched in every way. God’s blessing will rest on your whole life—all of it! This is the principle of blessing: God blesses the generous.

So let me ask you: What do you fear most: not having enough or not having God’s blessing in all of your life?

  1. The principle of purpose. 8-11

What is the purpose of God’s blessing? Paul makes it very clear.

Look at verse 8: You will be abundantly blessed “so that you will abound in every good work.” You are blessed so you can do good.

Look at verse 11: “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.” You are enriched you can be generous.

Paul obviously believes that God will generously supply their financial and physical needs. But the reason is not to make us rich so we can spend it all on ourselves. The purpose is so that we can help others. We are blessed to bless others. It’s for flow through! God blesses you so that you will “abound in every good work.” It is so you can be generous on every occasion, and God will be praised and thanked!

ILL: Jerry Cook, in his book, Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness, wrote:

I once traveled to the highlands of New Guinea, where people live in abject poverty. One day, my host took me into the countryside and said, “Pick out the Christians’ gardens.” I looked, and sure enough, the gardens of the believers were producing better than those of the non-believers. “We pray over our gardens,” my host explained. “We want to grow enough food to share with our neighbors who cannot pray God’s blessing on their gardens as we do.” [2]

The principle of purpose: God blesses you to be a blessing to others.

  1. The principle of proportion.

This is found back in chapter 8, but I want to include it since we’re talking about principles of generosity. Notice the underlined phrases:

2 Corinthians 8:11–12 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

1 Corinthians 16:1–2

Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.

Acts 11:29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea.

Notice those underlined phrases: according to your means, in keeping with your income, as each one was able. This is proportional giving: we give what we can. If we have more, we can give more. It’s proportional.

ILL: Gary Chapman, in his book, The Love Languages of God, writes about a married couple he met who started their marriage by tithing—giving God the first 10% of their income. At the end of their first year of marriage, they had money left over, so they decided to add one percent to their giving. The next year they gave 11%, and they had more left over at the end of the year, so they added one percent more. The next year they gave 12%, and they had more left and so added another percent to 13%. And so a pattern was started. Gary asked them, “How long have you been married?”

“49 years,” they said. And they were now giving God 58% of their income! And having a ball doing it! [3]

The more they gave, the more they had; the more they had, the more they gave. The principle of proportion: give as you are able. The more you are blessed, the more you can give.

Those are the principles of generosity.

  1. The results of generosity

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 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.

What did their generosity accomplish? It benefited everyone: the recipients, God, the givers and the church.

It benefited the recipients by supplying the needs of God’s people. When you give, you meet others’ needs. Generosity benefits the recipients.

It benefited God by overflowing in many thanks and praises to Him. Their generosity brought honor and praise to God. Jesus said, “Let your light shine so that others may see your good deeds and give praise to your Father in heaven.” Generosity honors God.

It benefited the givers by proving the sincerity of their faith. Faith without works is dead. The Jewish Christians in Jerusalem most likely had doubts about the faith of these new Gentile converts. Their generosity was a tangible expression of their faith in Jesus and change in heart that would have convinced their Jewish brothers that they were the real deal. Their generosity resulted in the Jerusalem Christians offering heartfelt prayers for them.

It benefited the church by bringing Jew and Gentile together. Generosity brings people together and unites them in remarkable ways. Watch this:

Daisy and Tiffany video

Here’s another example of generosity: Daisy gave a kidney! Daisy’s sacrificial generosity benefited Tiffany, it brought honor to God, and it has united the two of them in friendship forever. Generosity has huge benefits.

  1. The gospel of generosity

15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Paul always comes back to Jesus. He is the ultimate expression of generosity. Generosity is at the core the gospel. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift: Jesus. We who have received that gift can’t help but be generous. We believe the gospel of God’s generosity; we preach the gospel of God’s generosity, and we live the gospel of God’s generosity.

We can never outgive God who gave the indescribable gift!

 

 

[1] Andy Stanley, Fields of Gold, Tyndale, 2004. Pg. 123-127.

[2] Cook, Jerry; Baldwin, Stanley C.. Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness: Being Christian in a Non-Christian World (pp. 132-133). Gospel Light. Kindle Edition.

[3] “The Love Languages of God.” by Gary Chapman, pg. 153-4