The Lord's Day Morning
February 5, 2012
Giving That Hurts
2 Corinthians 8:9
The Reverend Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas
I want us to think this morning about giving and giving to missions and tonight, even though there's something else that's a distraction today, but tonight at church, at six o’clock, we're going to think about going and the commission of Jesus to go into missions. But this morning I want us to think through the whole issue of giving to missions. You have, you have an enormous challenge before you in terms of your mission budget. A challenge that you've met time and time and time again in the past, but a challenge that we need to meet again this year and exceed, and exceed. And I want us to think through some principles about giving, and especially giving to missions, as Paul talks about it in 2 Corinthians chapter 8. Turn with me to this passage. I want to focus on a few thoughts from 2 Corinthians 8. I want to read the whole chapter, but before I do that, let's look to the Lord in prayer.
Lord, we come to You again this morning, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in communion with one another, with Yourself in Triune fellowship. We thank You for the grace of the Gospel that reached down and drew us into union and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. We thank You for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, who upholds us, encourages us, strengthens us, intercedes for us, reminds us of the beauty and loveliness of Jesus. And now as we turn to the Scriptures, we thank You that holy men of old wrote this as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. Once again we pray as we read the Scriptures that we might do so under the direction and guidance and illumination of the Holy Spirit that we might read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest, and all of this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
This is God's holy and inerrant Word:
“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints — and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 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.
I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 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. And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 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. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, ‘Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.’
But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord. With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the Gospel. And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord Himself and to show our good will. We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord's sight but also in the sight of man. And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you. As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.”
So far, the infallible and inerrant Word of God.
Now Paul had a difficult relationship with the Corinthian church. It was on again, off again, on again, off again kind of relationship. As you read this particular epistle, things have been off and are now on again. They have been critical of the apostle. He has promised that he will come back to them in person but he hasn't actually fulfilled that promise. There are those in Corinth who are suspicious of his motives. They’re saying that perhaps he's only in this ministry for his own personal gain.
Now we need to understand that in the background here there is an offering that has been in the works for the best part of a year or two. This offering is being gathered among churches in Asia Minor in places like Corinth and Achaia in the south and Macedonia in the northern territories, largely Gentile churches, and this collection is being gathered to relieve an issue of poverty and need in the Jerusalem church. The Jerusalem church is First Presbyterian Church Jackson, Mississippi. It's “Mother Church;” it's where everything started from. From Jerusalem the Gospel expanded to Judea, to Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world. From Jerusalem it went to Antioch and to Galatia and eventually to places like Corinth. These brothers and sisters in Corinth, in all likelihood, will never see the brothers and sisters in the church in Jerusalem. They’re divided ethnically, they’re divided culturally, but they have this one supreme thing in common — they are brothers and sisters by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. As you can imagine, and this is a sermon for another occasion, as you can imagine there is some tension between the Jerusalem church — largely converted Jews — and churches like Corinth — largely Gentile churches — because the Gentiles are coming to faith but they’re not being circumcised, they’re not obeying the kosher food laws, and so on. And there's a little bit of suspicion between Jerusalem and these churches. And Paul thinks it would be a wonderful thing, perhaps to kill several birds with one stone, that if the Gentile churches send an offering, a generous offering, to the church in Jerusalem, this will do wonders to restoring unity and a sense of vision and togetherness for the Gospel. That's the background here. This is Corinth being asked to give of their means to support a work that they've never seen and are likely never to see and among people that they are likely never to meet.
We are being asked to give of our means to support the advancement of the kingdom of God in places like Maine, where it is snowing, or places like Dundee, Scotland, where it is also snowing! Places like Bangkok in Thailand that, for most of us, we are probably apart from Dr. Cannada are unlikely ever to go to and meet. So the principle that Paul is employing here is very apt for raising funds for missions. And I want us to look at three motives, three aspects of how Paul addresses this particular issue of giving in the Corinthian church.
AN EXAMPLE OF GIVING
And the first thing — he gives them an example of giving; an example of giving. If you have your Bible, just have it open before you, glance down every now and then. We believe the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God and as you can see in verse 1, at the end of verse 1 if you’re using the ESV translation in the pew for example, you’ll see the word, Macedonia. Now all you need to understand — you can look up the geography later — but all you need to understand is that Macedonia's not Corinth. Macedonia is north. Macedonia is Maine. Macedonia is “Yankee land,” and that's exactly what Paul is doing. He's saying to the Corinthians, “I want to tell you a report that I personally have received from Titus about the giving in Macedonia. And the giving is Macedonia was absolutely incredible! You would not believe how these Macedonian Christians have given for the cause of the advancement of the Gospel in Jerusalem among brothers and sisters that they've never seen and are never likely to see!”
Now you understand what Paul is actually trying to do. He's trying to say to the Corinthians, “Are you going to let those Yankees out-do you? I mean, really? You know, when the general assembly reports of mission giving are published and graphs and pie charts, do you really want to see Macedonian Christians up here and Corinthian Christians down here? No, of course not!” Now call this what you will. Call this the motivation of envy; call this Paul understanding how politics and ethnicity and culture actually works; call this sheer brilliant savvy on the part of the apostle Paul, but it works! It really does work.
Now I boast about this congregation up and down. My new mission statement in the Carolinas — First Presbyterian Church Jackson is “Mother Church.” You know, whether it's true or not, I tell people the PCA began in Jackson, Mississippi! It began in First Presbyterian Church! This is “Mother Church!” And do you really want some five hundred member church in some other city out-doing you in missions? No, of course not. That's exactly what Paul is doing.
Look briefly at some of the things he says about the Macedonian churches. He says in verse 4, “They begged us, begging us earnestly for the favor or taking part in the relief of the saints.” Paul apparently, or Titus apparently, didn't have to go there and cajole them and threaten them. They were begging the apostle Paul for the opportunity. “We want, please, please! We want to give to this cause! We have so tasted of the grace of God that we want this opportunity to serve others!” They gave generously. Notice also in verse 3, “They gave according to their means.” That is, they gave proportionately. The widow gave her mite. Those who had a great deal gave a great deal. And notice too in verse 3, “They gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means.” Now Paul, don't get all bent out of shape, Paul isn't laying down here a law. He's not saying this is the law of the Medes and Persians — you must always give beyond your means. No, this is not a settled principle. He's just saying this is how it was in the churches in Macedonia. They gave beyond their means. They gave in faith. They gave trusting in the Lord. They gave generously and proportionally and even sacrificially until, until it hurts.
GRACE BASED GIVING
You know, I heard last week, and it's a wonderful idea, that you’re all to give ten dollars. Was it ten dollars a week? Really? Do you really want — ten dollars a week? What is ten dollars? We spend more than that in Starbucks in a week. You know, can I do what Paul is doing here? What about generously and sacrificially and to the point, yes, to the point that it actually hurts a little? Now why would you do that? Why would you do that? And Paul introduces the motive for giving and it's very, very important that we understand the motive of Christian giving because he tells us in verse 9, and it's a Christmas card text. “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.” He introduces the Gospel. He introduces the incarnation of Jesus in order to provide us with a motive for giving. This is a Gospel-based, grace-based motive for giving. “Let me,” Paul says, “Let me tell you about giving and what giving actually looks like: He was rich!” He's talking about the Lord Jesus. He was rich; He was in His Father's presence enjoying a communion and a fellowship and a rapport with His Father that goes beyond our understanding and ability to relate! He was rich! He had all power and all authority and He forsook it all. He denied Himself all of that. He veiled all of that and He became incarnate.
You know, I think this is what John means in John 3:16 when he says, “God so loved the world.” He means this kind of world, this fallen world, this corrupt world, this sinful world, this broken world, this world of sin and rebellion. It's not just that God loved an ideal world so that Jesus would say, “Yes, I will go but I will go to Baptist Hospital; I will go to St. D's; I will go to River Oaks.” Imagine! He's born in a stable. Now don't sentimentalize that. You know, the Christmas card with a manger and the pine straw and the little doves cooing in the rafters and there's a cow with a smile on its face and they’re looking at Jesus and there’re little sheep in the corner and they’re just gazing with big eyes. There was no room for Him, for the Son of God, for the Savior of sinners, there was no room for Him in the inn. He's born in an outhouse. He's born where they keep the cattle with the smell of dung all around. That's where He's born. He was rich but He becomes poor. The birds of the air have their nests, the foxes have their holes, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” He has no home. As soon as He is born He becomes a refugee, fleeing to Egypt. He is abandoned, yes, He is abandoned by His Father in heaven as He cries in dereliction upon the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” He takes the curse so that we might receive the blessing. He was rich, but for our sakes He became poor. He identified with us; He took our place. He became our substitute; He became our sin-bearer. He took the wrath that sin deserves upon Himself that we might be made right.
Now that's Paul's motivation here. We are rich! We are rich financially, we are rich in material goods, but we are rich in grace. We are rich in the Gospel. “Now are we the sons of God and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him; we shall see Him as He is.” We are rich, rich beyond measure, rich beyond calculation. We have the greatest treasure the world has ever seen. We have Jesus. We have Jesus as our Savior. We have sins forgiven; we have justification. We have access into the Father's presence. We have indwelling Holy Spirit witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God. We are rich and Paul is saying to the Corinthians, “Now on that basis because you are rich, because you have received mercy, you show a little mercy. As you have received, so give. As you have received a great deal, so give a great deal.”
DEMONSTRATE THE GRACE OF THE GOSPEL THROUGH GIVING
Because, in the third place here, and you see it right in the last verse. Paul says, “You know, let me show you an example. Let me show you an example of giving.” And he mentions these northern Macedonian Yankee churches. And he's saying, “Don't let them out-do you.” And then he shows us the motive for giving, the giving of the Lord Jesus in our place and in our room and in our stead. And then he says, he says, and look at the exhortation. Give proof, give proof; demonstrate your giving. Demonstrate the grace of the Gospel in your giving. Show how much you actually love the Lord Jesus in this practical way — giving. “So give proof before the churches and our boasting of you to these men” — Titus and the great preacher that went with him and some other person who we don't know his name.
You know, imagine; imagine that that would be the test. Imagine that that would be a test this morning. “Do I love the Lord Jesus? Yes, I love the Lord. Lord, You know that I love you.” How much do you love the Lord Jesus? And if my giving is a demonstration of how much I love the Lord Jesus, do you want that written down somewhere, as you whisper it in your own, in your own mind and in your heart? “I love You just this much. Do I love You enough to give you ten dollars a week or twenty dollars or thirty dollars or fifty dollars or whatever it is?” I know don't what you’re going to do. I want to be able to boast about these cards that are about to be handed in and there ought to be more than three hundred cards from a congregation this size. In fact, in fact, every single Christian should demonstrate how they love the Lord Jesus, from little children, boys and girls; you too need to demonstrate how much you love Jesus, how much grace you have received from Jesus by giving to others in order that the kingdom of God might be advanced.
Do you see what this is? This is really not about giving. You know the giving part is secondary. The real thing here is consecration. Did you catch Paul saying about the Macedonian Christians, and he's having a little dig at the Corinthians by the way. “They gave themselves first to the Lord,” he says. It's like a passing comment but it's a little dig in the side because that's the issue. That's the issue. Are you actually giving yourself to the Lord? “He is my everything. He is my everything. He is my all in all. I love You so much. You can have everything.” But I want to tell you something — He already has everything. You know, nothing that we have is ours. we are just stewards of it. Now demonstrate, Paul says, demonstrate your love for the Lord Jesus in your giving.
Father we thank You, thank You for Your Word. It sometimes comes and it meddles with us; it gets into places that we wish it wouldn't, but we want to be open and transparent before You today. We don't want to be involved in a religion of pretense and show. We want it to be genuine and from the heart. We want to give ourselves entirely to You and we want to show You this morning how much, how much we love You because You have loved us with an infinite love. You sent Your Son to die for us and spare us hell that we might call heaven our home. So grant us Your blessing, Holy Spirit. Move among us just now and exalt and give glory to Jesus among us, for His sake. Amen.
Please stand. Now from the infinite resources of God's grace and favor, receive His benediction. Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
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