May 30, 2004

Grace To Give

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: The Joy of Giving Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:1–5


Grace To Give

2 Corinthians 8:1-5
Sunday, May 30, 2004
Pastor Randy Smith


For the next few weeks I'd like to consider a topic that has yet to be addressed from this pulpit. And that is unfortunate!

Based on statistics I read this week, people spend 50% of their waking time thinking about this topic in some way or another. This topic plays a predominate role in 90% of all divorce cases. Furthermore, this topic has shattered lives by destroying friendships, dashing expectations and delivering one to fleshly indulgences.

Our Lord is well aware of the seriousness of this issue. Therefore He has left us with clear instruction in the Scriptures. As a matter of fact, 15% of all that Jesus Christ said relates specifically to this topic alone, more than all His teachings on heaven and hell combined. A pastor once said this topic is referred to in the Bible second only to the subject of God.

The topic that I am speaking about is money.

Due to the sensitive nature of this subject, please permit me a few qualifying comments.

First of all, my intention is not to fleece the sheep. A recent study conducted among adults in the Chicago suburbs revealed that 60% were turned off to religion by churches they deemed "money hungry." Yes, many churches have abused the subject. However, my goal this morning is only to bring you our Lord's clear instruction on a subject that dominates our lives, but often is shrouded with confusion and may I say, disobedience. As always, it is my desire to present to you the "whole purpose of God" (Ac. 20:27) so you may be better equipped to honor God in this practical area of your lives.

Second, the timing of this mini-series is significant. As a church, all of our needs have been met. All of our bills are paid. Money is available for the early phases of a building project in addition to the provision for a second staff pastor. As a matter of fact, over the past 12 months we have exceeded the highest giving totals in the history of our church. The elders have no plans to dovetail this series into a fund-raising drive. Though I never desire to know what any of you give, I personally believe this flock is committed to giving over and above to the Lord's work here at the Grace Tabernacle.

And third, the intent of this series is not to provide required guidelines or mandatory percentages or move you through the motives of shame, guilt or manipulation to place more in the collection plate. Such an attitude does not honor the Lord. "For (the Scriptures declare that) God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7). Giving was never intended to be a burden. Rather, my intent is to show you the joy of giving. It was our Lord Jesus Christ Himself who said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Ac. 20:35). It is my prayer that you will be greatly blessed through the instruction and application of God's Word.

This morning I'd like to preach out of Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians. In this epistle, we find ourselves with Paul on his third missionary journey. In addition to ministering the gospel and discipling the converts, Paul was taking a collection from the Gentile churches (Rom. 15:25-27; 1 Cor. 16:1-4) to aid the poor church in Jerusalem (Ac. 11:27-30; 12:25; Gal. 2:10). The Apostle hoped that such a relief offering would not only provide material assistance to the saints in Jerusalem, but also strengthen the bond of fellowship between the Gentile and the Jewish churches (Eph. 2:14-16). The Corinthians had already begun this collection, but now in an effort to complete it (2 Cor. 8:6, 10), Paul addresses the collection once again in chapters 8 and 9. He begins his discussion by pointing to the example of the Macedonian churches in verses 1-5. These would be the congregations in Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea. They provided a generous model of giving, which Paul hoped the Corinthians would emulate.


Let's begin in point one with the "Introduction of Grace." Verse 1, "Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia" (cf. 2 Cor. 11:8-10; Phil. 4:10-18).

Before Paul extols the churches in Macedonia by way of example for their extraordinary giving, he immediately attributes their actions to the grace of God. From the get-go Paul wants to make it clear that the commendable giving demonstrated by the Macedonians was a product of God's grace. He also closes this section in 9:14 by referring to "the surpassing grace of God in you." John Calvin once said, "All men do not consider it a gain to give nor do they ascribe it to God's grace." Paul knew that God was the impetus behind the Macedonians' givings and he wanted to be certain that God received all the glory (2 Cor. 9:13).

You see, as humans, we are by nature very stingy with our money. Such an attitude can be rooted in our overwhelming tendency of selfishness. Unless moved by the grace of God, our personal kingdom will always take precedence over God's kingdom and our givings will always be the minimal amount to fulfill a religious obligation. We must be moved by the hand of the Almighty if we are to follow the example of the Macedonians because as C.S. Lewis once stated, "(The Christian standard) is so difficult and so contrary to our (natural) instincts."

I also want you to notice that the grace of God is not a static component that only speaks of His forgiveness offered in Christ Jesus. It is that, but it's also much more. God's grace is presently active as well, moving our hearts, directing and compelling us to actions that represent our transformed nature in Christ. Grace moves us to respond to God and His cause. And when we act in such a way that is contrary to the world, like sacrificial and generous giving, we demonstrate the power God's grace working in us. We receive the joy and assurance of God's presence. He receives all the glory.


Well, now that grace has been introduced as the means for the Macedonians' givings, we need to ask the text (as we move to the second point) what is the evidence of God's grace in their givings. What were the effects of grace? We'll see that this gift from God enables one to go beyond circumstances (verse 2), beyond abilities (verse 3), beyond expectations (verse 4) and beyond themselves (verse 5).

Going Beyond Circumstances (verse 2)

First, God's grace moved the Macedonians to go beyond their circumstances. Verse 2, "That in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality."

Before we dissect this verse, I would like to draw your attention to the final phrase of verse 2, which reads "Overflowed in the wealth of their liberality" (NIV- "welled up in rich generosity"). I've already made it clear that this church was generous. God's grace made them generous, but the remarkable display of God's grace in their generosity is seen in the midst of their circumstances. Verse 2 says that the wealth of their liberality was produced in the midst of affliction, joy and poverty; three words we do not commonly associate with generous giving! Let's take these one at a time.

The Macedonian church was not a carefree church; rather they were a church afflicted with much suffering. History tells us that their region was ravaged by wars and plundered by the Romans. The church itself experienced great persecution and opposition. 1 Thessalonians 2:14, "For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews." 2 Thessalonians 1:4, "Therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure" (see also Ac. 17:5-8, 13; Phil. 1:29-30). This church easily could have requested an exemption from the offering due to their own hardship, but that was not the case. They gave generously considering the needs of other believers they had never seen more important than their own.

Next in verse 2 we read of their abundant joy. Again, a word not commonly associated with suffering (cf. 1 Thes 1:6) and a word not commonly associated with generous giving. But the Macedonians rejoiced in knowing that a sovereign God was working through their trials (Ac. 5:41; Mt. 5:12; Jas. 1:2). And they rejoiced in the opportunity to support the needy saints in Jerusalem. Commonly we hear about the joy that comes from giving. Here, the joy of the Macedonians produced from their afflictions led to their giving. I'm going so far to say that their suffering produced joy, and their joy produced extravagant giving. And we would all admit that the riches of God's grace could only produce this chain of events.

Finally, their generous giving came from their deep poverty. Folks, let's make no mistake about it - this was a poor church! Yet they were confident in the provision of God (Psm. 37:25). They gave not out of their leftovers, but out of their poverty. No different than the widow praised by our Lord who dropped two small copper coins into the temple treasury. Of her Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on" (Lk. 21:3-4).

Where did the Macedonians and the widow develop this mindset, which gave out of poverty? They simply followed the example of Jesus like every Christian should! In verse 9 we read, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9).

Randy Alcorn in his excellent book, The Treasure Principle (which I will refer to often in the next four weeks), said, "Giving isn't a luxury of the rich. It's a privilege of the poor. I've discovered that impoverished Christians find no greater joy than in giving." Philip Hughes in his commentary said, "The example of the Macedonians is a practical proof that true generosity is not the prerogative of those who enjoy an adequacy of means. The most genuine liberality is frequently displayed by those who have least to give. Christian giving is estimated in terms not of quantity but of sacrifice."

In summarizing verse 2 Hughes said, "In the midst of testing affliction the Macedonian Christians knew an abundance of joy, and their rock-bottom poverty they had used as an opportunity for abounding in the wealth of generosity. In this they had shown themselves to be truly Christlike."

Going Beyond Abilities (verse 3)

So the Macedonians went beyond their circumstances. Now let's see how the grace of God led them beyond their abilities. Verse 3, "For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord."

Through first-hand experience Paul provides a solemn testimony of the Macedonians' givings. First he makes it clear that these believers gave according to their ability. In other words, they gave what they could afford to give. They gave in proportion to what they had.

The Macedonians gave what was expected among Christians seeking to honor God by meeting the needs before them; but second, Paul is quick to add in verse 3 that they also gave "beyond their ability." In other words, their hearts were so enlarged they gave beyond what many might consider responsible stewardship. Since we can only give what we have, we might define "giving beyond our ability" as: Tapping into that emergency slush fund, reducing the luxuries on the grocery bill, going without the new car, postponing the home remodeling or cutting into retirement savings.

I believe my examples are radical for the self-indulgent materialistic society in which we live, but they are insufficient to capture the sacrifice of these Macedonians. Let's remember these churches were in poverty! Going beyond their ability probably wasn't a replacing of steak for hot dogs, but rather forsaking their bread for nothing. This church sacrificed beyond reasonable expectations for a congregation of Christians across the world whom they had never met!

Our thinking has become so worldly that sacrificial giving similar to the Macedonians is often shunned by the church. Today, the same giving praised by God in the Scriptures is often deemed foolish by His followers. Randy Alcorn said, "I know a single man who came to Christ in his twenties, read the Scriptures, and got so excited that he decided to sell his house and give the money to God. But when he shared this plan with older believers in his Bible-study group, something tragic happened: They talked him out of it." Alcorn goes on, "If you ever feel inclined to talk a young believer (including your own child) out of giving, restrain yourself. Don't quench the Spirit of God, and don't rob someone of the present joy and future rewards of giving. Instead, watch and learn. Then lay God's assets on the table, and ask Him what He wants you to give away."

Did you catch the closing lines of that quote? It did not say giving the money away was a loss. It said giving the money away was a gain - a "present joy" and "future gain"! Ultimately, the sacrifice does not come when we give our money away, but rather the sacrifice comes when we hold onto it, believing it will bring us greater happiness with worldly treasures. Walking by faith trusts Jesus when He says, "'It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Ac. 20:35) and "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Mt. 6:19-21).

Answer this question: Did the Macedonian church make a foolish mistake in their extravagant giving? We'll be reminded for an eternity in heaven when we gaze upon the rewards our Lord presents to these dear saints. Missionary Jim Elliot once said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." If you believe that Elliot was a superspiritual missionary who loved sacrifice, you missed the point. Gain was exactly what Elliot desired. He just wanted wise gains. Gains he couldn't lose - treasures reserved forever in heaven!

Further evidence that the Macedonians understood the blessedness of giving is found in the closing words of verse 3. "(For) they gave of their own accord." Giving beyond their ability was not motivated by coercion, manipulation or intimidation. Such an offering would not have been acceptable in the sight of God. In 9:7 Paul says, "Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." The Macedonian gift was freely of "their own accord" as their hearts were moved mightily by the grace of God.

Going Beyond Expectations (verse 4)

As a matter of fact, Paul did not need to beg them to give, rather verse 4 says, "(They were) begging ("imploring," "pleading") us with much urging for the favor (literally "grace") of participation in the support of the saints."

How contrary is this with most church fund-raising schemes? - The car wash, Vegas night, the dinner cruise, the raffle - these methods seek to beg those who can already give, to give more. But here, we see fellow Christians who had nothing, begging to give. Why? I bring you back to verse 1, "The grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia."

I was reminded this week about the construction of the Tabernacle. Exodus 35:29 says, "The Israelites, all the men and women, whose heart moved them to bring materialfor all the work, which the LORD had commanded through Moses to be done, brought a freewill offering to the LORD." When funds were needed for the completing of the Tabernacle, the people were called on to help. It was not a required giving, but the text says a freewill offering among those whose hearts were moved by the Lord. What was the result?

Picking up the account in Exodus 36:2. "Then Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every skillful person in whom the LORD had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him, to come to the work to perform it. They received from Moses all the contributions which the sons of Israel had brought to perform the work in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning. And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing, and they said to Moses, 'The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the LORD commanded us to perform.' So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, 'Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.' Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more. For the material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it" (Ex. 36:2-7).

Like these Israelites, the Macedonians, according to verse 4 "(were) begging…with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints." Even Paul was surprised by their generosity. In the beginning of verse 5 he said, "(Their actions were) not as we had expected."

If we are willing to forsake controlling God and permit Him to start controlling us, we would be amazed at how He can change our attitude toward money. The poverty-stricken churches in Macedonia had every right to demand a relief offering for themselves, but rather they begged for financial participation in God's work.

This week I heard about a Christian couple (the article is recorded in Moody Monthly entitled, "Our Final $20") who also very poor, begged to participate in a spiritual need.

Chuck and Sue placed all their finances in a partnership to start a business. The venture didn't go well and soon all their money was gone. They weren't sure how they could pay their bills, much more determine where their next meal would come from. Nevertheless, they faithfully trusted the Lord to provide.

That week at choir practice, the director brought a special need to the attention of the musicians. He mentioned a collection he was taking to present to a needy family in the church. Chuck and Sue, well aware of their own needs, felt their hearts moved wanting to assist this desperate family. Chuck opened his wallet and noticed a twenty dollar bill and three ones. It was all they had to their name. But they prayed about it and slipped the $20 bill into the hands of the director as they exited the practice. They were grateful to help.

Later that week, the choir director called Chuck into his office. He encouraged Chuck about the incredible impact he and his wife had made in the life of the church. They had influenced people by their faith in ways they had never imagined. The director went on to say that when Chuck handed him the $20 he went home and cried because it showed there was no way Chuck and Sue knew the choir was taking the offering for them. The director reached in his desk and presented Chuck with a check for $1,500.

Going Beyond Themselves (verse 5)

The grace of God working in the Macedonian church was seen in going beyond their circumstances, going beyond their abilities, going beyond their expectations and finally going beyond themselves.

The one point that I have stressed this entire sermon was that this extraordinary, spiritually-minded, God-honoring giving was a result of grace. You may be asking, how can we receive this powerful display of grace in our lives? Answer - By doing exactly what the Macedonians did. The middle of verse 5 says, "They first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God."

It was by the "will of God" that they first gave themselves to God and His leaders, cheerful submission to authority. And it was by the "will of God" that the result was the bountiful offering to meet the needs of others, cheerful submission to obedience. God's grace enables us to follow God's will in obedience to God's leaders all for God's glory.

We will be blown away as to the feats we'll accomplish if we really place God as the number one priority of allegiance in our lives. Then and only then will His grace work through us to accomplish the extraordinary intentions of His will.

Beloved, the goal of this sermon is once again to see you glorify God and receive your greatest joy. When we forsake the idol of money and pursue God as our greatest value fully in submission to His will, He floods us with grace to accomplish that which is humanly impossible. We glorify Him by demonstrating the power of His might in making decisions contrary to our selfish desires and the opinions of this world. And we receive the present joy incurred with obedience and the future joy of greater treasures in the eternal kingdom yet to come. When we follow this pattern of obedience motivated by His grace, then and only then, does our giving become an acceptable act of worship.

I'll allow Randy Alcorn to have the final words. "Our giving is a reflexive response to the grace of God in our lives. It doesn't come out of our altruism or philanthropy - it comes out of the transforming work of Christ in us. This grace is the action; our giving is the reaction. We give because He first gave to us. The greatest passage on giving in all Scripture ends not with "Congratulations for your generosity," but "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift" (2 Cor. 9:15)! As thunder follows lightning, giving follows grace. When grace touches you, you can't help but respond with generous giving. And as the Macedonians knew, giving was simply the overflow of joy."

Closing Prayer:

Holy Father, may we seek You as our greatest treasure. Help us to find our contentment and meaning and satisfaction in You. For fellowship with You and blessings from You fulfill our hearts in ways that money can never meet. Break us from our love for money. Give us a bigger picture of You. Pour out the same grace into our lives and help us also emulate the example of the Macedonians. Thank you, Father, for the work You have already accomplished amongst this flock. May we give greater evidence of Your powerful grace to a lost world which results in Your glory and our joy. In Jesus' name, Amen.


other sermons in this series

Jun 20


Giving That Requires More Than A Gift

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:7 Series: The Joy of Giving

Jun 13


A Love That Can Steal Your Joy

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:10 Series: The Joy of Giving

Jun 6


Investing For Eternity (2)

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Matthew 6:19–23 Series: The Joy of Giving