God's Gift to You

Original Date: 
Sunday, January 7, 2018

2 Corinthians 8:1-9 The Grace of Giving: God’s Grace to You

A Series on Giving
If you would like to open your Bibles, or scroll through your devices, to our Scripture passage, you can go ahead and do that now. It’s 2 Corinthians 8. And, if you like, you can put a book mark on this passage, because we are going to be in it for a little while.

Today we are beginning a series on 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 that will take us through the middle of February. It is a series on giving.

But before we begin, I thought I would address the question: Why do a series on giving at all? Nobody likes to feel like they are coming to church and the church is just trying to get their money, so why should we take 6 consecutive weeks to talk about giving?

Well, before you decide that you are just going to make yourself scarce the next several Sundays, hear me out. I’ve got four reasons it is important to do this series.

First, Money is a Biblical Issue.

Quite simply, God has quite a bit to say about money. It’s in the Bible a lot. And therefore, it is important for us to talk about it.

One of the core convictions of our church is that we teach what is in the Bible. If you have attended here very many Sundays, then you know that our sermons are drawn directly from the Bible. Usually, we look at one passage of scripture on a Sunday morning and we do our best to understand what it is saying and how it applies to our lives. I often say that if I’m just standing up here giving my opinions, then you don’t have much reason to listen to me. But if I can show you that what I am saying comes from the Bible, then it’s not really me you are listening to anymore but God’s Word.

And so, if God’s Word talks about money, then it makes sense that our sermons would occasionally be about money.

And God’s Word does talk about money, quite a bit! Thousands of Bible verses talk directly or indirectly about money or possessions and how God’s people should use them. It is estimated that 15% of everything Jesus is recorded as saying had to do with money. That’s more than He had to say about any other topic, including heaven, hell, prayer or faith. As we are going to see, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 are all about the practice of giving.

If we want to be a Biblical church that bases our preaching on what the Bible says, we need to talk about money.

Second, Money is powerful.

The reason the Bible talks so much about money is because God recognizes the powerful connection between our true spiritual condition and our attitude and actions with regard to money. You can truly get a picture of what is going on in a person’s heart by looking at his or her financial records.

And money is powerful in two directions. It can be powerful as a source of temptation. 1 Timothy 6:8-9 says:

9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

“The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Many griefs can result from the wrong attitude toward money.

But money can also be powerful as a source of good. When money is handled well and God’s people are generous with it, great things can be accomplished. Hospitals, colleges, churches, and more have been built when Christians were generous with their money. Whole villages and regions have come to know Jesus because missionaries were supported by gifts of money.
If we want to be a church that avoids the ruin and destruction that comes from the love of money; as well as a church that uses money for the good of God’s kingdom; then it is important that we talk about money.

Third, Money Discussions are Wise.

That is to say, it is practical and good for us to talk about money.

It occurs to me that many of you may have never heard a sermon series on giving. I looked back through my records, and found that I have done two other series on money here in Spencer: one in January of 2010 and the other in January of 2014. We are on a 4 year pattern, kind of like the Winter Olympics.

But there are many of you who have begun attending our church in the last 4 years, and many of you were not all that involved in a church prior to that, so it is possible that you have never heard a series on giving or thought all that much about it. So maybe you try to put something in the offering plate whenever it comes past, and you try to give to local fund raisers or maybe you even have a favorite national charity or mission that you support; but you’ve never really taken the time to think about why giving is something God wants us to do or how much God wants us to give or even have much of a plan for your giving.

I think it is good for us to take some time to look at what the Bible has to say—not to create guilt or shame or to try to squeeze more money out of any of you—but just so that we can be wise about the way we handle our money.

And, by the way, some of you might be tempted to think: “Well, I really don’t make all that much money right now. This series is really for people who can afford to give some of their money away. I’m not there yet, so I’ll worry about a giving plan when I get things more settled.”

If that’s you, let me say that the best time to talk about your giving plan, and to begin giving, is when you don’t have much. The best time to figure out your attitude toward money is when you are just starting out; because if you wait until you have what you feel is “enough”, you might just find there is never “enough.” Jesus said this, in Luke 16:

10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?

If we want to be a church that is wise and thoughtful and faithful with our giving, then we need to talk about money.

And, fourth, giving is a gift.

Being good at giving is good for us. Jesus promises that when we follow His plan for our money it will bring us joy. (Matt. 7:20) John Piper says that “giving people are the happiest people on earth.” (March 2, 2003) The Bible says the same thing:

Proverbs 14:21: Blessed is he who is kind to the needy.
    Proverbs 22:9: A generous man will himself be blessed, 
            for he shares his food with the poor
    Acts 20:35: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'

And then this, from the passage that will be our source for the next six weeks, 2 Corinthians 8:7:

7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

“This grace of giving.” That’s the title of the series, and we’ll be talking about it more as we go along, but basically what that is saying is that giving is a gift. It is a privilege to give. It is a blessing from God to be able to give generously.

This sermon series is not meant to be a guilt trip on any of you that you are not giving enough. Nor is it meant to browbeat you into giving more. Rather, it is an opportunity to discover the blessing of using our money to participate in the work of God’s kingdom. It is an invitation to experience the grace of giving.

So, why a series on giving? Because money is a Biblical Issue, because money is powerful, because money discussions are wise, and because giving is a gift.

The Offering for Jerusalem
Now, let’s turn to our text. Today we’ll read the first 9 verses of 2 Corinthians 8:

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 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 through his poverty might become rich.

Let me give you a little background on this passage. Paul is writing this letter in the middle of what we call his third missionary journey. And one of his main objectives on this journey is to collect an offering for the poor Christians in Jerusalem.

We don't know all the details, but apparently the Christians in Jerusalem had let Paul know that there was a great need (Gal. 2:10), and Paul made it a sort of mission project for the churches he had helped to start in Asia and Greece. These churches were not particularly wealthy either, but apparently, they were better off than the church in Jerusalem and Paul felt an offering would be a good way to show solidarity and support in all parts of the church.

Let’s look at a map. Corinth is on the left, in Greece. On the far right of the map is Jerusalem, where Paul is headed. Paul has travelled to the churches in Asia, and now he’s in the area of Macedonia (northern Greece; Philippi, Thessalonica) and he is on his way down to Corinth. He already told them about the offering a year ago, now he is writing a letter in advance to remind the church of their eagerness to give (8:10-11) and to urge them to have the offering ready (9:5).

In other words, 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 are all about urging the Corinthians to give to the work of the Church and explaining to them why they should. These chapters are all about giving. And as we see the specific things Paul had to say to the Church in Corinth, we are going to learn some things about Christian giving which still hold true today.

A Question of Motivation
The first question that needs to be answered is: why give? What motivation could there possibly be for a group of relatively poor Corinthians to give their money to an even poorer group of people in Jerusalem? What motivation is there for us to give our hard-earned money to the ministry of the church?

Most of Paul's thoughts in these two chapters speak to the question of why. We're going to look at our motivation for giving a little bit next week and then some more on Feb. 11. But if we were to ask Paul, "What's the best motivation for us to give?" If we were to say, "Paul, give us your best shot." This is what he would say: "grace".

In a word, our greatest motivation for giving is "grace." In a phrase, we are motivated to give by the grace of God in giving us Jesus Christ. In a verse, Paul's answer is verse 9:

9 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 through his poverty might become rich.

It is God's grace which sets the stage for everything in the Christian's life, from how you parent to how you go about your job to how you spend your leisure time to what you do with your money. God's gift to you. And this verse is probably one of the simplest and most concise explanations of that grace found in all of Scripture.

And so, we are going to concentrate our attention this morning on this verse. 2 Corinthians 8:9. Our greatest motivation to give is that Jesus has already given so much.

The explanation of this grace is given in three parts.

Untold Riches
Part 1: Jesus was rich. Paul writes: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich..."

Jesus begins this story rich.

Prior to His ever being born in a stable in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ existed. He was--and still is, for that matter--the second person of the Trinity. As Philippians 2 says, He was "in very nature God." He was, in every way, with and a part of the eternal, holy, sovereign, creating, magnificent Godhead. The Belgic Confession puts it like this: "He is one in essence with the Father; coeternal; the exact image of the person of the Father and the 'reflection of his glory,’ being in all things like him."

Now, think about that, if that was Jesus' original state, wouldn't it be proper to say that He was rich? Oh sure, maybe He wasn't rich like Donald Trump and Bill Gates are rich. He wasn't Swiss Bank Account or Rolls Royce or five vacation homes rich, but He had riches untold. His would be the kind of wealth that couldn't be measured by dollar figures or status symbols, the kind of wealth Bill Gates could never imagine.

Jesus was the Son of God! He had all the privileges and wealth and rights and honor and glory of God Himself.

He was fabulously rich. He was unimaginably rich. He was infinitely rich!
Every angel in heaven jumped at His command.
Every speck of sand on the seashore bowed in allegiance to His will.
The wealth of heaven and earth was in His treasury.
Unfettered worship of every being in heaven was His inalienable right!

This is who Jesus was, this is what Jesus had. If we are going to talk about riches, we need to acknowledge that no one has ever had the kind of wealth possessed by Jesus.

Unimaginable Poverty
That is what Jesus was.

That's a dangerous turn of phrase, because it sort of implies that Jesus isn't rich anymore. I don't mean that, and neither did Paul. But Jesus did, in a sense, give all of that wealth up. He didn't stop being God, but He chose to set aside His majesty for us.

That's the second part of Paul's explanation of grace: Jesus become poor. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor."
How poor did Jesus become?

Well, for one thing, He became human. As Philippians 2 says, though He was in very nature God, He did not cling to His equality with God "but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness" (Phil. 2:6-7).

This is the Christmas story. Jesus was God, but He chose to be conceived in human flesh and born to a young girl in pre-technological Israel. That's a serious downgrade!

Have you ever thought about becoming a cockroach? Probably not. And yet the difference between you and I and cockroaches in degree and kind is infinitely less than the difference between God and a human baby. It would be less of a stretch—less of a step down—for you or I to become a cockroach than for God to become a human child.

He became poor.

What's more, the time and the place and the family He chose to be a part of didn't even begin to parallel his previous situation in heaven.

There was nothing remotely wealthy about the time in which He lived. It wasn't prehistoric; but like I said, it was pre-technological. There were no refrigerators. No phones. No gas-powered cars or jet-fueled airplanes. No electricity, no printing press, no gunpowder. They barely understood how to work with iron, they'd never even imagined something as hard as steel.

What's more, Jesus didn't choose a particularly glamorous place to be born. He didn't come to the centers of civilization like Rome or Athens. Not even the Jewish capital at Jerusalem. Instead, He was born in a dungy cow pen in the tiny village of Bethlehem. Not exactly rich accommodations by anyone's standards.

He was placed in a feeding trough because they didn’t own a bed for him. The King of Glory was laid in the equivalent of a doggie dish!

His family wasn't wealthy either. His step-father had a profession, but when they presented Jesus at the temple they offered the poor man's offering of two doves and two pigeons (Luke 2:24). By the time He was an adult, Jesus lived the life of a homeless man dependent upon the kindness of others (Matt. 8:20, et al).

Jesus truly became poor. Leaving the riches of heaven for the riches of earth would have been sacrifice enough, but Jesus truly lived as the least of men on earth.

He became poor.

But that isn't even the extent of Jesus' poverty; in fact, it probably isn't what Paul has in mind here at all. Because more than just taking on human flesh, Jesus subjected that flesh to death. Philippians 2 goes on to tell us He took on the ultimate humiliation of dying on a cross (Phil. 2:8).

That's the unimaginable poverty Paul is talking about. Jesus being whipped and stripped and hung up to public scorn as He slowly suffocated to death. Jesus being mocked and taunted and nailed to a cross beam as the lifeblood drained out of Him. Jesus--who was in very nature God--being forsaken by His Father and burdened with the punishment of all the sins of those He had come to redeem.

That's what Jesus did. He became poor. And He did it for us.

Transfer of Wealth
That’s the third thing to note here. Jesus did all this so that we might become rich. The whole verse:

9 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 through his poverty might become rich.

This is what it means to us. The poverty of Jesus leads to our riches.

How poor are we?

You and I are sinners. Rebels to the core. We are by nature, anti-God. His natural enemies. Natural Born Sinners. And because of our sin, we are absolutely bankrupt. We have nothing to offer to God. We have no moral or spiritual richness.

In and of ourselves, we are totally poor.

The Bible says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." (Rom. 3:23) It also says: “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23)
We are not just poor. You and I have gotten ourselves completely and hopelessly in debt.

But...Jesus Christ in His becoming poor, in His wrapping himself in poor human flesh and in His taking on our sinful bankruptcy in His flesh upon the Cross...in His poverty Jesus makes us rich when we trust in Him!

That's the gospel, brothers and sisters and friends.

The Cross of Jesus Christ purchases unimaginable wealth for believers like you and me.
Though we deserve Hell, we gain Heaven!
Though we deserve condemnation, we get pardon and forgiveness.
Though we deserve wrath, we get love!
Though we deserve blame, we get glory!
Though we deserve banishment, we get God's presence!
Though we were poor, in His poverty, we get riches untold!

All because He became poor.

This is the economy of heaven. Jesus gave up His place of glory and subjected Himself to death so that we might know wealth.

Now, of course, we still aren't talking about Donald Trump or Bill Gates riches here. Jesus didn't go through all this so that we would have vacation homes or Rolex watches. Rather, we are talking about even greater riches, riches akin to the riches enjoyed by Jesus. We're talking about sonship to God and eternal homes in heaven. We're talking about forgiveness of sin and new creation. We're talking about meaning and purpose and fellowship with God.

It's a cosmic transfer of wealth. Jesus, who is eternally righteous, became sin for us so that, through Him, we might become the righteousness of God. (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21)
That's grace. That's God's gift to us. He gave up the riches of heaven for the poverty of death, so that we might, in turn, know the riches of salvation.

The Difference It Makes
This is the anchor verse of this passage. This is a verse we will be coming back to again and again in the next several weeks. Because this is the heart of all Christian giving. But for now, let me give two quick applications:

First, get rich quick!

If you are here today and you don't know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ like this, if you don't have richness in Christ, then today can be the day of your salvation.

You need His riches. And He has done all the work. All you do is receive it!

Get Rich Quick. Here is the ultimate instant wealth scheme—only it’s not a scheme. It’s a genuine offer.

Repent of your sin. Turn from it. Agree with God in your heart that you are a sinner, that you have been running from God, that you do need rescuing.

And Trust in Jesus Christ and His CrossWork. Tell God in prayer that you want Jesus to be your Lord and your Rescuer. To provide you with the spiritual wealth His death secured.

Right now. Don't delay. Don't leave here this morning without becoming rich where it counts--towards God.

Second, Give Generously!

If the Son of God would give so much for us, how should we act for those who have need?

Give Generously.

The reasoning of verse 9 is very clear. With a precedent like that set by Jesus, who gave up so much treasure for us, how can any Christian withhold treasure from Him and His people? As those who have been enriched through the grace of salvation, how can we do anything less than to support the cause of Christ's kingdom here on earth?

This is the anchor verse of this section of scripture. This is what is going to keep us from making appeals for money based on guilt or greed or emotional manipulation. This is the heart of all Christian behavior: the grace of Jesus Christ.

We give because we know the riches of a new creation.

We give because God gave to us.