Giving That Hurts

Sermon by Derek Thomas on February 5, 2012

2 Corinthians 8:9

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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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