2 Corinthians 9:6-15 Commitment to Charity WC McCarter
As you know, I usually do not plan sermons around holidays, except for Easter and Christmas. The same is true of this sermon on Palm Sunday, the first day of the remembrance of the Holy Week (also known as Passion Week). Yet, a sermon on Christian giving is certainly linked with the Passion. In fact, I think that the giving of Christ on the cross is the supreme example for our own practice of generosity. It is the foundation, the motivation, and the pattern for all Christian giving. Eph 2:8 says that our salvation is not our own doing but is a gift of God by grace through faith. Rom 6:23 says that eternal life in Christ Jesus is a free gift of God. Of course, we all know John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And 2 Cor 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” You have to look no farther than Christ to find an example, the supreme example, of sacrificial generosity. As we begin this sermon today, contemplate Christ’s giving of Himself to pay the penalty for your sin and the sin of the whole world.
Disclaimer: I have relied heavily on the work of others for this sermon. I want to be careful to present to you what the Bible says and not my own thoughts. I have mainly relied on Garland in the New American Commentary and McKnight in the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, especially for background information.
The text we are going to look at today comes in a very specific context. As 1 Cor 16:1-4; 2 Cor 8:1-4; and 9:2 show us, the apostle Paul was rallying churches all over the known world, including the Corinthians, to raise funds for the Christians in Jerusalem who were suffering from severe poverty. Let me share with you the purpose and historical context of this Jerusalem collection so that we can then make proper application for our giving today.
The Purpose: (1) To relieve the poverty of Christians in Jerusalem; (2) To fulfill an obligation from the Jerusalem Council to remember the poor; (3) To show solidarity between Jewish and Gentile Christians; and (4) To demonstrate the success of the Gentile mission.
Historical Context: There may have been several reasons why the Jerusalem church had been struck with severe poverty. For example, (1) The relief of more and more widows may have been overwhelming; (2) Pilgrimages of the elderly and Galileans to join the Jerusalem church may have been too costly; (3) Communal life (everyone selling what he had to give to those in need) may have run out or even backfired; (4) Famine may have cause economic hardships; and (5) There was most likely economic persecutions.
While the apostle has been discussing the very specific project that the churches had launched into for the relief of the poor in Jerusalem, he now turns to a theology of Christian giving. The ministry of giving is now shown to be related to the Gospel and the glory of God. In our verses today, general principles are provided for the type of generosity that God expects of His people. And, this is nothing new. Back in the Old Testament, the Lord spoke about these things. For example, in Deut 15:10-11 the Lord commands, “You shall surely give to [your poor brother], and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’” From the First Covenant to the New One inaugurated by Jesus Christ, the Lord has always expected His people to be generous. There is a deep doctrine of generosity in the Bible. We can gain a few of those godly principles for giving today as we look into 2 Corinthians 9.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Connective: The brief article in the NKJV Study Bible calls 2 Corinthians 8-9, “The most detailed passage on giving in the New Testament. . . .” There are several passages that could be included in this study, but if you want one passage to study to know what the New Testament says about Christian giving, this section is possibly the best place to look which is the reason I have chosen it for our study this morning.
Proverb about Giving (6)
Firstly, the apostle begins by sharing a basic proverb about farming. Whether you live in a purely agricultural society or not, you can understand this proverb. The first phrase, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,” views a stingy farmer who is tightfisted when he goes out to the field as he clutches his seeds closely. He only puts a few seeds here and a few there so that he can save some for the following year. On the other hand, the second phrase, “He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully,” pictures a farmer using generous swings of the arm as he throws out his seed. He is not careless. He is confident. The one who sows this way completely trusts God for a future harvest and for the seed to sow the next year. It is a simple principle: the more seed you cast out the greater potential for the harvest that will be returned. A great harvest allows the farmer and his family to eat well, make a good living, share with his neighbors, and have plenty of seed to sow for the following year.
For cross-references see: Prov 11:24-25; Job 4:8; Psalm 126:5; 19:17; 22:8-9; Mal 3:10; Luke 6:38; and Gal 6:7-8.
Christian Giving (7)
Just as a farmer can throw out as little or as much seed as he would like, each Christian should decide is his or her own heart how much to give. This is also taught in Acts 11:29 and 1 Cor 16:2. This principle is about inward resolve. You should determine for yourself and your family how much you will give off of the top of your income. You may base that figure on a percentage or a dollar amount (many people base their regular giving on the 10% principle from the Old Testament, but you may want to set your figure at 12% or 15% or more). The standard figure is whatever you decide, but that number should be given regularly. You should discipline yourself to take it off the top, set it aside, and give it on the first day of the week.
Once that regular amount has been decided, the Christian should give it cheerfully. These gifts are neither given reluctantly, as if painful; nor are they given under compulsion, as if there is no alternative. The main point here is that God knows our hearts. The amount does not matter as much as the attitude. God knows whether you trust Him or not. He knows if you are being stingy or generous. Let me say one more thing about being a cheerful giver. To be a cheerful giver is to imitate God who is the most cheerful giver of all. God “loves” the cheerful giver in the sense that He “approves” of generosity.
The Graciousness of God (8-10)
As often as the regular amount is given, it is replenished by divine grace. That is taught here in Scripture, I believe it with my whole heart, and I could call up numerous examples of folks in this room who have given regularly to God for decades, and the Lord has always made sure that they had enough to keep living and keep giving. This is a promise of Scripture that we should claim. So, we are not self-sufficient, but dependent on an all-sufficient God.
God is ready to provide everything necessary for generous giving. Notice how the term “all” becomes a keyword in this paragraph. All grace; all ways (times); all sufficiency (necessities); all things; and all good work. Let me put it this way: God is All-Resourceful. God promises to give us all that we need, not just for ourselves but enough to give to others as well. Yet, He does not promise to give us all the money we want; just enough for ourselves and to share. Let me challenge you to think along the lines of Rom 8:32: if God gave us the best gift that could be given in the delivering up of Christ Jesus for our sins and eternal life, why would He not give us all things? It is an argument from the greater to the lesser.
So, generosity pays handsome dividends. God’s bounty is full, and His liberality is that much greater. Verse ten builds on verse six so that if you give generously and joyfully, God will always make sure that you have what you need for life and giving.
Thanksgiving as a Result (11-15)
God blesses the giver so that he or she can go on giving. The greater the giving, the greater the blessing, but not in a material sense.
The seeds of generosity bring forth a great harvest of thanksgiving to God. Several benefits of giving are identified here: (1) Giving helps those in need ; (2) Giving makes one spiritually rich [9:8-10]; (3) Giving causes thanksgiving to God [9:11-13]; (4) Giving causes the recipients to pray for the givers [9:14]; and (5) Giving advances Christian unity [9:13-14].
Conclusion and Christian Application:
If we are to pull together principles from not only this text but also from 1 Cor 16:2, we may say that giving should be (1) Regular [1 Cor 16:2]; (2) Proportionate [1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 8:11]; (3) Generous [2 Cor 9:6]; and (4) Joyful [2 Cor 9:7-8].
(1) This is not a sermon against wealth or wealthy people. If you are well-off, then congratulations. Yet, God expects you to be generous with that wealth.
(2) If there is only one thing that you hear today, it should be this:
We are to be generous people.
(3) This is not a call to legalistic observance but to grace. We have been shown great grace from God, and we ought to show grace to our brethren. Now, there may be an element of sacrifice here. The great example of the generosity of the churches of the Macedonian region was that they gave out of their own poverty. Thus, you may have to reduce your own wants so that you can share with others. The question is, what do you treasure (Matt 6:21)?
(4) Decide how much you will give and stick to it. Also, go above and beyond your set amount whenever needs come up in the church or in your sphere of influence.
(5) You see, when you give to the local congregation, you are not “sowing” into a ministry that has nothing to do with you. Practically speaking, it is right to support the local church for:
A. A Pastor (this is biblical as well)
B. A Staff
C. Various Ministries
D. Mission Work
E. BenevolenceF. Keeping up the Property