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Giving to Make a Difference – Part 2

In my last post (you can read it here), I shared three ways to give in order to make a difference in the lives of others. In this post I will simply state the first three main points by way of review and then share the other four ways believers should give.

In order to make a difference in the financial advancement of God’s kingdom…

1 – Give Responsively (in response to God’s grace, vv.1-2)

2 – Give Generously (“overflowed…in generosity,” v.2)

3 – Give Proportionately (“they gave according to their means,” v.3a)

4 – Give Sacrificially (“they gave beyond their means,” v.3b)

So they gave what they had but they gave it in proportions that were sacrificial. Their giving was beyond what could or would be expected of such poor Christians. Evidently they trusted God to supply their needs while they did their best to be used of God to help meet others’ needs (Phil. 4.19).

Sacrifice. I wonder how many of us even know what that word means? By definition, sacrifice is “an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.”

How many of us are willing to give up a valuable piece of property for the more important cause of Christ?

How many of us are willing to forgo that planned new car purchase for the more important advancement of God’s kingdom?

How many of us are willing to take some of that valuable inheritance and give it to the more worthy cause of getting the gospel to the regions beyond?

Bob Russell, retired pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY, tells of Jackie Nelson giving a moving testimony several years ago:

Jackie said, “I am a single mother of three teenagers. My ex-husband does not help. I barely get by. We really want to do our part in this three-year campaign so our new building can be built. But when we discussed it as a family, we realized that we can’t give any more than a tithe. So we decided that our gift would be to pray every day for the success of this program.

“But in the middle of our discussion my oldest son said, ‘Mom, we’ve got cable television. We don’t have to have that.’ So we’ve decided to give up our cable TV for three years so we can do our part.”

The congregation realized, “If she can make that kind of sacrifice to give a little, we who are so blessed can do even more.” Like the five loaves and two fish that Jesus used to feed a multitude, God took Jackie’s small gift and multiplied it many times over.

5 – Give Voluntarily (“of their own accord,” v.3c)

No one forced them to give. They weren’t strong armed into giving. Paul didn’t put them on some emotional guilt trip. He didn’t try to manipulate them. He simply shared the realities behind the need. He told the truth about the condition of their fellow believers. And they responded! Paul didn’t bribe anyone. He didn’t promise, “If you’ll plant a seed…” (I could very easily vent here!).

God has always desired free will giving. Giving that is done because we choose to give and (hopefully) want to give (see Exodus 25.1-2; 35.21-22).

6 – Give Eagerly (“begging us earnestly…,” v.4)

Remember Arnold Horshack on the TV sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter”? He’s the one who got so excited when he thought he knew an answer to one of Mr. Kotter’s questions. With his hand raised, he would say, “Ooh-ooh-ooooh!”

I see the Macedonians responding similarly. “Ooh-ooh-oooo! We want to help! “Ooh-ooh-ooooh! We want to give!” Do you ever feel that way when the offering plate in passed at your church? Or do you grumble under your breath, “There they go passing the plate AGAIN!”

7 – Give Worshipfully (vv.5-7)

Notice especially verse 5 where Paul says that they “they gave themselves first to the Lord.” They gave themselves (again) to the Lord in total consecration. Their surprising generosity is a direct result of their dedicating themselves to their Savior.

Motivation is where the money is…

One of Paul’s goals in stirring up the Corinthians to give is to verify the genuine nature of their love as Christians: “I say this… to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine” (2 Cor. 8:8).

In other words, “talk is cheap!” “Put your money where your mouth is!” But don’t forget, the amount of money you give is not nearly as important as the motivation for giving. This becomes abundantly clear when we read 1 Cor. 13.3, “If I give away all I have…but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Giving to others may or may not be an act of love, depending on whether it is motivated by the overflowing joy that flows from being made “rich” by Christ and His amazing grace!

The Macedonians learned what Jim Elliot, the great missionary martyr in Ecuador would later say, “He is no fool who gives away what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Treasures stored in Heaven need no insurance coverage; they’re untouchable by thieves and exempt from depreciation (Mt 6.19-21).

 

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Giving to Make a Difference

When you go to a doctor for your annual check-up, he or she will often begin to poke, prod, and press various places, all the while asking, “Does this hurt? How about this?” If you cry out in pain, one of two things has happened. Either the doctor has pushed too hard, without the right sensitivity. Or, more likely, there’s something wrong, and the doctor will say, “We’d better do some more tests. It’s not supposed to hurt there.”

Similarly, when we hear preaching on money and giving, we may cry out in discomfort because either the pastor “pushed” inappropriately, or because there’s an issue in our lives that needs to be addressed. If the Great Physician started doing some “poking and prodding” into your finances and how you manage your money, would it be a painful experience for you?

In 2 Corinthians 8-9 Paul focuses on the money that was being raised to help poor Christians in Jerusalem. While we can’t say for certain, they were probably poverty stricken because of famine, persecution, and the harsh taxation policies of the Roman government. Paul is now challenging the Corinthians to “pull their weight” and excel in this act of grace giving as well.

Paul uses the Macedonian Christians (at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea) as his model for giving. These believers were giving to make a difference! They set an example for the Corinthians, and they set an example for us today. In this post I will focus on 2 Cor. 8.1-7 and share three of the seven ways to give in order to make a difference.

In order to make a difference in the financial advancement of God’s kingdom…

1 – Give Responsively (in response to God’s grace, vv.1-2)

These Macedonian believers did not give simply because they were nice people, or because they felt sorry for the Jerusalem believers. They didn’t give just to silence a guilty conscience. No, they gave because God gave (John 3.16)! They gave because of their experience of God’s amazing grace.

What a difference grace makes! By it we are saved. By it we are sustained. By it and because of it we serve, witness, sing, pray, and GIVE!

“But…!” There are no “buts” allowed. People who know Christ and have experienced His salvific grace, are to be people who give. Period.

Two non-factors that basically eliminate the “Buts!”

(1) Difficult circumstances (“in a great trial of affliction,” 2a)

These believers were tried and tested by affliction in ways that probably none of us ever will. The “fire of their furnace” burned hot. Their suffering was severe.

Like the crushing of grapes in a wine press or the pressure exerted in a heavy-duty vice, they were going through the hardest times of their lives. But, even in the midst of the “great trial of affliction” there was also “the abundance of their joy.” They counted it an honor and a joy to be so identified with Jesus that they were treated not unlike He was…with hatred and contempt.

Their joy ran so deep it was not being negated by their perilous circumstances. They took spiritual antibodies that kept them immune from the “poor me syndrome,” and they still gave!

(2) Limited resources (“and their deep poverty,” 2b)

There’s a huge difference between their true poverty and our potential debt-related poverty. Their poverty appears to be due to no fault of their own. Yours may be because of covetousness, greed, and financially-foolish decisions. It’s a shame when believers get themselves in such financial binds that their ability to give is greatly hindered.

Limited resources may affect the amount Christians give, but it should never affect the act of giving (see Luke 21.1-4).

2 – Give Generously (“overflowed…in generosity,” v.2)

In 1999 eastern NC experienced “the flood of the century” as a result of Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd (the saying was “Dennis was a menace but Floyd destroyed!”). Stretches of the Tar River, which runs through several counties, crested at 24 feet above flood stage! Water was everywhere! That’s the exact imagery Paul has in mind when he says that the Macedonians’ giving overflowed! Their “overflow” was a good thing, however, not a destructive one.

No matter how much money you actually own, you can be a generous giver. Generosity is not directly tied to the amount of the gift. A person can give a huge amount of money and be stingy at the exact same time.

By the way, my daughter Jena has been a waitress for nearly five years, working in four different restaurants. Guess which shift she least wants to work? Sunday lunch. You know why? Because so many of the “church crowd” are horrible tippers! Generally speaking, Christians should be the most generous people around because they are the beneficiaries of God’s phenomenal and eternal generosity.

“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” (2 Cor. 8:9).

3 – Give Proportionately (“they gave according to their means,” v.3a)

It doesn’t say they all gave a certain percentage. There’s no percentage mentioned at all. They simply did the best they could with what they had. Even while struggling financially themselves, they still gave as they were able (see this same principle in 1 Cor. 16.1-2).

There are four other ways to give to make a difference that are learned from this passage. My next post will deal with numbers 4-7.

 

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