The Lord’s Day Morning
November 4, 2012
Because You Want To”
2 Corinthians 9:5-7
The Reverend Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to 2 Corinthians
chapters 8 and 9. The stewardship
committee has chosen 2 Corinthians 9 verse 7 as our theme verse this year:
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or
under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
But I want us to concentrate on 2 Corinthians 9 verses 5, 6, and 7 this
morning, and before we do that, I want you to see the big picture of 2
Corinthians 8 and 9. Paul, in these
two chapters, is laying out a theology of giving.
In these two chapters, Paul explains what the standard of our giving
ought to be, he explains what the dynamic of our giving ought to be, what
enables us to give the way we ought to give, he explains what the motivation of
our giving ought to be, and he explains what the goals of our giving ought to
be. In fact, one Bible commentary
says that this passage is “Paul’s commentary on generous giving.”
And I love that description because I think that’s exactly what Paul is
doing here. He pauses in the middle
of 2 Corinthians to talk to the Corinthians about what it means to give
generously as a Christian.
Now Paul’s teaching on Christian giving comes in three particular areas.
If you read Paul’s letters, he encourages Christians to give generously
to the work of ministry, he encourages Christians to give to the work of
missions, and he encourages Christians to give to the relief of the poor,
especially poor Christians. In
Paul’s teaching, he makes it clear that Christians have a responsibility to
support the ministry of the church.
And he himself will encourage Christians to give to those who are ministering to
them even when he refuses to take anything from congregations that he is
serving. He will very often say
things like this: “I didn’t take
anything from you; I worked my own self.”
He was a tentmaker. He would provide for his own income.
But then he’ll turn around and say, “But those who are ministering to
you, your ministers, your pastors, your teachers, you support them.
You give in order that they might be
alleviated from worldly cares and to devote themselves to ministering to you.”
And so he’ll say this repeatedly in his letters.
Secondly, he will encourage Christians to give generously for the support of
evangelism and missions. Paul’s
principle is, “The people that we are going to should not pay for our mission.
The people who are sending us to the people that we are going to should
pay for our mission.” And so over
and over, he asks congregations to be involved in supporting those who are
engaged in evangelism and missions.
And think how that makes sense. When
you go to a new people to share the Gospel and you say, “I’m not here for your
money; I’m not asking you for anything.
I’m already taken care of.
The people who sent me here have already taken care of me.
I don’t want any of your material resources,” you’re sending a huge
message that you’re not there to get something out of them but to give something
to them. Now of course, when people
from the cultures that Paul evangelizes and goes and does missionary work with,
when they become Christians then he asks them to turn around and give to the
ministry and to missions to other people.
But it’s important to Paul that as he goes out with the Gospel that he’s
not doing it in order to get something financially out of the people that he’s
going to. That sets him apart from
shysters who are out there to make a quick buck in the name of religion.
And so it’s very important for him that the churches support missions so
that we’re not going out to the people that we’re evangelizing with our hands
out and saying, “Will you please support us?”
Thirdly, Paul encourages giving to the poor, and especially to Christians that
are in particular poverty and distress and need.
And that’s what’s going on in this passage.
Now the principles that Paul sets forth here are applicable to all three
of those kinds of giving — giving to ministry, giving to missions, and giving to
the poor — but the specific context here is giving for a collection that is
going to be taken to Jerusalem and distributed amongst Christians that are in
poverty and need. Now just think
about what’s going on here. It’s
quite marvelous. Paul, as a
converted Jew, as a full-blooded ethnic Hebrew and a former Pharisee, has come
to faith in Christ and though wherever he goes in Asia Minor he always goes to
the synagogue first and he preaches three Saturdays and he gathers a small group
and he says, “I’d like to take you through the Scripture and teach you about the
Christ,” though he deliberately begins with proclaiming the Gospel to the Jew
first, he says in Romans 1, he always ends up having a larger congregation of
Gentiles than he does of Jews. So
now he’s going to go to the dominate Gentile Christian congregation and he’s
going to ask them to give an offering for the relief of poor Jewish Christians
back in Jerusalem.
Do you catch how brilliant this is?
You’ve got something going on here ethnically and religiously.
Ethnically the world is looking on and they’re saying, “What is up with
these Gentiles sending money to Jewish people in Palestine?
That’s strange. Generally the
Jews don’t think very highly of Gentiles.
What’s going on with all these Gentiles all over Asia Minor sending an
offering for the relief of Jewish people back in Jerusalem that are facing
poverty and need?” Secondly,
remember that back in Jerusalem there were a lot of Christians, even Christian
leaders, that were not very excited about Paul’s mission to the Gentiles.
They thought that if a person wanted to follow Jesus they needed to
become Jews, and Paul said, “No they don’t.
The Gospel is for the Jew and the Greek and the Greek does not have to
become a Jew for the Gospel to be for him or her.”
And so there were a lot of people back in Jerusalem that weren’t real
enthusiastic about what Paul was doing in reaching out to these Gentiles.
Now Paul is telling these Gentiles, about whom many of those Jewish
Christians back in Jerusalem were not terribly enthusiastic about his
evangelistic mission to, “I’d like you to gather money so that it can be taken
back to Jerusalem and it will probably end up blessing some people that weren’t
super excited about me bringing the Gospel to you.”
But do you see what’s up with Paul?
This is a massive opportunity to promote Christian unity.
You know, what better way to show that the walls of division and
separation have been brought down than for Gentile Christians to be sending a
collection back to Jerusalem to support Jewish Christians who are in poverty and
distress? So it’s an amazing thing
that’s going on in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9.
And in that context Paul teaches about Christian generosity.
And just look at the outline of the passage.
Just take a look at, beginning in the first verses of chapter 8, and
let’s walk through what happens here.
If you look at the first four verses of chapter 8, Paul talks about taking up a
collection for the relief of the saints.
They’re going to take up money that’s going to be given to poor
Christians in Jerusalem. And then if
you look at verses 5 to 15, he exhorts the Corinthians to give generously to
this collection and he is not above a little healthy competition here.
He says to the Corinthians, “You know, the Macedonians who don’t have
your per capita income, have given more to this than you have.
And I would hate for those Macedonians to beat you, Corinthian
Christians.” Paul is not above
trying to urge the Corinthians to be more generous in light of what the
Macedonians have already given. You
know, I love the fact that we live in what is regularly rated the most generous
state in the nation. We’re not at
the top when it comes to per capita income, but over and over again, Mississippi
is rated the most generous state in the nation in terms of per capita charitable
giving. And Paul’s doing a little
bit of this. You know, it would be
like a pastor in New York whose congregation has a very high per capita income,
saying, “You know, those Christians in Mississippi, they’re outgiving you.
And I’d really hate for you New Yorkers to be out-given by the
Mississippians.” That’s a little bit
of what Paul’s doing here in the middle of 2 Corinthians chapter 8.
He’s doting the Corinthians on to be more generous because people who
have less than them have given more than them.
It’s very interesting
And then follow down through the rest of chapter 8.
In verses 16 to 24, he explains who the delegation is who’s coming to
collect the money, who’s going to take it back.
He doesn’t want people to think that it’s going to be, “I’ll take all
that money and I’ll take care of it.
I’ll make sure it gets there.” No,
there’s a delegation that’s going to be responsible for getting it back to
Jerusalem. Titus, who gets a letter
written to him later in the New Testament, is one of the people in that
delegation and they’re going to be the ones responsible for getting it back to
Jerusalem and distributing it.
And then in chapter 9, go ahead and take a look at chapter 9, he then begins to
explain the principles of Christian generosity.
And as he does so, he tells the Corinthians that their generosity to
believers in Jerusalem is going to manifest the grace of God in their lives and
it is going to bring glory to God in the world.
Now again, think how this happens.
Their generosity to Christians, even some Christians that we’re super
excited about the Gospel being brought to them, is going to show what?
The grace of God at work in their lives.
God showed grace to us when we didn’t love Him very much.
When we didn’t love Him at all He gave His Son.
“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly,” Paul would say
in Romans chapter 5. And so by
giving to these needy Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, some of whom haven’t been
really excited about Paul’s Gentile mission, what are these Gentile Christians
God’s shown them grace by saving them through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Now they get to show grace in their giving.
And what will that result it? It
will result in God getting glory in the world.
Again, just think of their neighbors.
“You’re taking up money to give to Jewish people in Palestine but you’re
not very well off yourselves, you’re facing persecution here, and Jewish people
don’t like us. And don’t they call
us dogs? Don’t they call us dogs?”
“Yeah, but we’re now brothers and sisters in Christ.
We believe in Jesus Christ who is the Messiah and these Jewish people
that we’re sending this collection to also believe in Jesus as the Messiah, and
though we are ethnically Jewish and Gentile and so different as water and oil,
we’re now brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.”
And can’t you see their unbelieving friends kind of scratching their
heads and saying, “What’s going on here?”
God’s going to get glory in the world through this collection.
So that’s the background of the passage that we’re going to read today.
And before we read that passage, let’s look to God in prayer and ask for
His help and blessing.
Father, this is Your Word, and it’s a rich Word and
it’s a convicting Word, Lord. So
teach us, inspire us, convict us, change us, by Your Word, in Jesus’ name.
This is the Word of God. Hear it in
2 Corinthians chapter 9 verses 5 to 7:
“So I thought it necessary
to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift
you had promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.
The point is this:
whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows
bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or
under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant Word.
May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
CHRISTIAN GENEROSITY MANIFEST THE GRACE OF GOD
Christian generosity manifests the grace of God in our lives to the glory of God
in the world. That’s my theme.
Christian generosity manifests the grace of God in our lives to the glory
of God in the world. And that’s why
Paul talks in this passage about two different ways, two different attitudes in
our giving. Did you notice, looking
at verses 5, 6, and 7, that he gives a three-point contrast between those two
different ways of giving? One way is
the way he doesn’t want us to give.
The other way is the way that he does want us to give. And he gives a
three-point contrast in verses 5, 6, and 7 to those two different ways.
Let’s look at them closely in this passage.
First look at verse 5. Here, he
says, “I don’t want you to give as an exaction.
I don’t want you to give as if somebody showed up at your door and said,
‘Come on. Hand over the money.’”
You know, the tax man showed us and said, “I’ve decided unilaterally that
I need more money from you. Give it
to me now.” You know, and you sort
of grudgingly hand it over. I don’t
want you to give as an exaction.
That’s verse 5. But how?
“As a willing gift.”
Literally, Paul says, “Not as covetous but as a blessing.”
In other words, he wants you to give not so that your attitude is that
you’re wanting to hang on and that you’re really reluctantly giving it over, but
instead you’re giving it like a pastor gives a benediction.
Do pastors love to pronounce benedictions?
Oh yes we do! There’s nothing
that we love more than to bless somebody.
You want to bless somebody.
And Paul’s saying, “Don’t give where you’re just hanging on, reluctantly letting
it go. Give in a willing way.”
So not as an exaction but as a blessing.
Not unwillingly but willingly.
Then, secondly, look at what he says in verse 6.
“He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly.”
So Paul is saying, “Don’t be stingy.”
Not only don’t keep trying to hang on, but don’t be stingy.
You know, you’re at the Salvation Army bucket and you’ve got a handful of
quarters and you’re picking through to find the pennies.
Don’t be parsimonious and stingy.
Dump them all in. Don’t
be sparing. But in contrast, look
again at verse 6. “He who sows
bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
So not parsimoniously, not stingily, not sparingly, but bountifully,
generously, lavishingly. So it’s not
an exaction, not stingy; it’s willing and it’s generous.
And then third, look at verse 7. He
says, “Each one must do as he has made up in his mind, not reluctantly or under
compulsion.” In other words, you’re
not going to be begrudging. You’re
not going to be reluctant in that giving, but in contrast he says, “God loves a
cheerful giver.” So there you have
it. Paul has sketched out two ways
of giving. One way is coveting; it’s
wanting to hang on. It’s sparing;
it’s stingy. And it’s reluctant;
it’s begrudging. And Paul says,
“Don’t give that way.” In contrast,
the other way is willing, generous, and happy.
And Paul is saying to the Corinthians, “That’s how I want you to give!”
And that gives us the three points of our message today.
If we are going to manifest this Christian generosity that shows the
grace of God at work in our lives and gives glory to God in this world, then
that giving will be giving that we want to give.
Paul wants you to want to give.
Now behind this of course is a story from the Old Testament.
Do you remember when Moses was taking up a collection of money and
materials from the children of Israel in the wilderness in order to build the
tabernacle? And do you remember what
he said to them? He said, “Now
here’s the deal. Nobody should give
to this who doesn’t want to. I don’t
want anything that is given from anyone who is only giving it because you feel
like you have to. I want you to give
because you want to.” Apparently,
Moses didn’t want one penny or one thread in the tabernacle that had been given
by somebody who didn’t really want to give it.
He wanted the whole thing to be sewn up and put together out of the
generosity of people who really loved God and wanted to worship Him.
And that’s behind what Paul is saying.
But of course, the real thing that is behind what Paul is saying is God
Himself. God has been willing to us
in the Gospel. “For God so loved the
world that He gave.” He willingly
gave His own Son. So when we are
willing in our giving we are emulating God because He has been willing in the
work of our salvation. So it’s the
Gospel that serves as a model for our giving.
GENEROUS IN OUR GIVING
Secondly, we are to be generous in our giving.
Wholehearted Christian giving is giving that you want to give, first, and
second, it is giving that is generous.
You want to give and you generously give.
Now as I said before, I love the fact that we live in the most generous
state in the nation, but my friends, we can do better.
We really can. I was very
convicted – I didn’t put this part of the worship guide together, but for two
weeks now I have actually known what quote was going to be used.
If you’d take out your morning worship guide and look at the top of that
worship guide and look at the last quote on the “Thoughts on Stewardship.”
It’s a C.S. Lewis quote and it goes like this:
“The only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.
Our charities should pinch and hamper us.”
Now here’s the sentence. It’s
the next sentence that’s convicting to me.
Here is it: “If we live at
the same level of affluence as the other people who have our level of income, we
are probably giving away too little.”
Ouch. I think C.S. Lewis is
right. If we’re not giving enough to
the Lord that it doesn’t make a difference at our level, the level at which we
live, we’re probably giving away too little.
Now along with that, I want to make another comment.
And it’s simply this – this is just a statistical reality that I want you
to be aware of. As Christians’
incomes have risen in America, Christians have given proportionately less to the
support of ministry, missions, and benevolences.
And there’s something wrong with that.
That’s got to be wrong.
Right? That’s got to be wrong.
The greatest generation, our forbearers — some of them are still here;
they’re sitting in the room — from the era of the Depression and from the era of
the Second World War, gave about three times more of their income
proportionately than we give.
There’s got to be something wrong with that.
We make more than they did; we give proportionately less than they did.
There’s got to be something wrong with that.
And so that C.S. Lewis quote really convicts me and that reality that
I’ve just shared with you really convicts me.
And I want to say, that as generous as we are, we need to be more
generous. It’s not that we are in a
competition with unbelievers, it’s not that we’re in a competition with other
people in our levels of affluence, but it is that if our following Christ
doesn’t make any difference in the standard of living that we experience, that
our support of the Gospel, our support of the spread of missions doesn’t make a
bit of difference in the level to which we live in terms of affluence, then the
Gospel just hasn’t made that much difference in the stewardship of our live and
our material resources. We’re not as
generous as we ought to be. And
Paul’s saying to the Corinthians, “I want you to be generous.”
And remember, back in chapter 8, he said, “You know the Macedonians don’t
have as much as you do and they’ve given more than you.”
Well I don’t want anybody to ever be able to say that about us.
We need to be generous in our giving.
JOYFUL IN OUR GIVING
Third, our giving ought to be happy.
It ought to be joyful. And notice
what Paul says. “God loves a
cheerful giver.” How does that
happen? How do you give in such a
way that you are willing, you’re generous, and you’re joyful?
Well, it has to do with the heart and the stewardship committee talks to
us almost every year in some form or fashion and they’re right to do it.
But let me ask you this question:
How does your heart get right in order to want to give willingly and
generously and joyfully? It’s about
who you think God is. If you think
God is stingy, you’ll be stingy. If
you think God is generous, you’ll be generous.
The key to a joyful heart, a generous giver, a willing giver, is who you
think God is.
John Piper preached a sermon on this passage, I don’t know, twenty-five years
ago, and in that sermon he said this.
“What makes the difference between the sparing giver and the bountiful
giver?” And his answer is their
relationship to God and who they think God is.
Listen to what he says. “What
makes the difference, then, between the sparing giver and the bountiful giver is
their relation to God. For one, He
is an incessantly demanding, draining, Taker.
For the other, He is an inexhaustible Giver.
The one feels that, ‘If God is draining me, then what joy can I have if I
don’t drain the world?’ His basic
disposition is still one of taking, keeping, and sparing because he thinks God
is always taking, God is always keeping, God is always demanding.
He’s the great Taker. But for
the other person who is described in this passage, the flow goes all in the
other direction. God is the great Giver, the great Fountain, the great Father,
flowing in with ever replenishing blessing and grace and hope.
And so what that person feels when he looks at the needs of the world is
a free, internal impulse to give, to share, and that impulse is called love or
And that’s exactly what Paul is talking about in this passage.
That’s why he says that Christian generosity is a manifesting of the
grace of God in our lives and it gives glory to Him in the world.
We have an opportunity to do that in the support of the ministry of this
church, the work of missions, and benevolences.
Isn’t it interesting that the three-fold outline of our budget is in fact
reflective of the three things that Paul asks Christians to give to?
We have an opportunity to do that.
We can manifest it tangibly in the way that we plan to give and the way
that we give. May God bless you all
as you do so. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word.
Thank You for its conviction and its encouragement.
Thank You for the way even our giving is related to the Gospel.
Grant that we would show the grace of the Gospel in our lives in our
generous giving. We ask this in
Jesus’ name, amen.
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