Once a year, every year, we have a “Planned Giving Sunday” at our church and we teach about giving and challenge our church to make a monthly financial pledge so that we can budget for the next year. The giving is not policed or tracked; we leave it to the individual’s conscience before the Lord.
Our church, as I’m sure yours, is a non-profit organisation and our aim is not to make money but disciples of Jesus. Our aim is to see people transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light and transformed to be more and more like Jesus. As a church we will work hard to that end by praying and by teaching the gospel. Yet we need money to do this. We need to pay the rent, pay salaries, pay insurance, pay the bills, support missionaries, sponsor mission trips and help those who struggle financially.
In 2 Corinthians 8 Paulencourage the Corinthian Christians and us to grow in God’s grace by giving more to gospel ministry and by being generous to Christians in need. It is so informing that the Apostle views financial generosity as a demonstration, display and expression of the grace of God!
Paul reminds the Corinthians of the grace-filled generosity of the Macedonian churches as he collected money for the struggling church in Jerusalem. So, how do you know if you are generous?
1. You give even though you don’t have much
Verses 2-3 say, “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.”
The Macedonian churches were struggling because of persecution and poverty, and yet they were generous. They gave according to their ability and even contrary to their ability!
2. You view giving as a privilege
Verses 3-4 say,, “Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.
Paul was not going to ask them to give as they were desperately poor themselves. However, when they heard of Paul’s fund raising project they begged Paul to allow them the grand privilege of giving to gospel ministry.
3. You’ve given yourself to God first
Verse 5 says, “And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”
The Macedonians first surrendered themselves to Jesus and then, out of their devotion to Jesus, gave generously.
4. You give more than you gave last year
In verse 7 Paul has this to say to the Corinthian Christians, “But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us–see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”
Giving is connected to our sanctification (our becoming more like Jesus). Paul expects Christians to grow and excel in financial generosity as much as they do in other areas of their Christian life.
5. You give because Jesus was generous to you
In verses 8-9 Paul gives the supreme motivation for given, “I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
Christians don’t give because they feel guilty to give or are manipulated to give. Christians are generous because Jesus was generous to them. God the Son, who is rich beyond our imagination, assumed poverty so that we could become eternally rich and share in his wealth. Because Jesus humbled himself and became a man who was willing to die, we can be forgiven and cleaned and restored. No-one was richer than Jesus and no-ne became poorer than Jesus.
6. You give to meet the needs of your church and other Christians
Verse 13 says, “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.”
Paul is not promoting communism, but community. He desires, as should we, that everyone’s needs are met. Jesus has promised to supply the needs of his children and they way he normally does that it through the generosity of his people (see v15!).