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Second Corinthians

Cheerful Giver

2 Corinthians 9

It is common for a church to ask for money; it is fairly common to remind the believer (when asking) that "God loveth a cheerful giver" (the old King James is so much more quotable); It is somewhat rare to remind the believer of being a cheerful giver without asking for money; it is downright unusual to explain the how and why of cheerful giving - and the results that it brings.


Paul's "Dutch Uncle" Talk


In our first section, we find Paul, the Apostle, in full authority, reminding his children of what they are to do:


{9:1} There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints. {2} For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. {3} But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. {4} For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we‑‑not to say anything about you‑‑would be ashamed of having been so confident. {5} So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.

‑‑ 2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV)


Relying on his children. Paul is telling them that he has bragged on them - and now they better deliver. Sounds a little harsh - but they made the commitment, not Paul. Just like my dad to me (and me to my sons), dad tells son to follow through. Follow through on what? The commitment you made so enthusiastically. The first essential of giving is that it come from a commitment in the heart. Here's how Moses was commanded on the matter:


{2} "Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give. ‑‑ Exodus 25:2 (NIV italics added)


Follow Through. Paul knows these children all too well. They are emotional people who will commit, but not follow through. It sounds cold to our cynical ears, but what he does next is in fact practical help. He sends someone to encourage and help them. In short, he does whatever is necessary to help them follow through.

We often fail in this. People make a commitment - and then we allow them to fail in the follow through. If we consider ourselves our brother's keeper, we should not do this. It sounds like "pressure sales" to us - to Paul, it was helping his children keep their promises to God. We do this (as in Promise Keepers) in many areas, but our money seems more sacred than God.


Preparation prevents grudging giving. The oft-repeated phrase, "God loveth a cheerful giver," is found in the next section. So how do we prevent grouch giving? By preparation! Think of it this way:


Suppose Steve talks this class into giving a thousand dollars to PCC (slick tongued salesman that he is!) Further suppose that we promise to do so by the end of the year. That gives us six months - and we wind up doing it at Christmas. If Christmas rolls around, and money is tight, how do we feel about that thousand dollars? What kind of look is on our faces? (And how low is attendance that week?)

But suppose that we put aside fifty dollars a week - no great trick for a class of this size. In twenty weeks (a month and half to spare) we have the money ready. We have change to spare! Now what kind of look is on our faces? This is why Paul told the Corinthian church in his first letter to put things aside on the first day of the week:


{16:1} Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. {2} On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. ‑‑ 1 Corinthians 16:12 (NIV)


Indeed, in the Old Testament, the Jews were explicitly warned against being unprepared, in the matter of release:


{7} If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. {8} Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. {9} Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: "The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near," so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. {10} Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. {11} There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. ‑‑ Deuteronomy 15:711 (NIV italics added)




The Principles of Giving


Paul next goes on to lay out the principles of giving:


{6} Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. {7} Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. {8} And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. {9} As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." {10} Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. {11} You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. ‑‑ 2 Corinthians 9:611 (NIV)


Measure for measure - the principle of sowing. It is important to understand that this is not "health and wealth" gospel. It is rather a question of the container size (remember Elisha and the oil?). The principle is not one of bargaining with God. Rather, it is a question of understanding God's character and how He reacts to the giver. Our Lord put it this way:


{38} Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." ‑‑ Luke 6:38 (NIV)


You see the point? God will use your measuring cup when ladling out His blessings to you. He deals with you in your own terms. The Old Testament put it forcefully:


{17} He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done. ‑‑ Proverbs 19:17 (NIV)


The old King James puts the phrase "he will reward him" as "will he pay him again" - and one scholar of memory added, "and what a marvelous rate of interest!"


Motive in giving. It is important to see that motive is more important than gift. Indeed, the Lord needs nothing from us, and we need everything from Him. C.S. Lewis explained it as being like having a small child come up to his father and ask for ten dollars to buy him a Father's Day present. It's a loving gesture, and the father really does appreciate it, but your accountant would not consider the father to be ten dollars to the good.


This, by the way, explains God's complete indifference to the size of the gift. What difference does it make how much you give? He owns everything anyway. Everything - except the heart you withhold from Him.


So we find that God wants a cheerful giver. What does this mean? What motive are we talking about? I'm cheerful enough when drunk; is this a reason to get sauced? Consider the Scripture again:


{3} If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. ‑‑ 1 Corinthians 13:3 (NIV)


The cheerful giver is the one motivated by love.


Rich in every way. If you are enamored of "health and wealth gospel," you will think that God owes you wealth if you give. God owes you nothing; you borrow the very idea of existence from Him. But if you will trust Him, you will be rich in every way. Remember?


{27} "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. {28} If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! {29} And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. {30} For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. {31} But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. {32} "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. {33} Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. {34} For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ‑‑ Luke 12:2734 (NIV)


The issue is not one of wealth, but of trust. If your heart is with him, so will your money be. Your money He does not need; He loves you and desires your heart fully. It is the only thing, ultimately, that you can really withhold from Him.


The Power of Praise


Paul now turns to the results of giving:


{12} This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. {13} Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. {14} And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. {15} Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! ‑‑ 2 Corinthians 9:1215 (NIV)


God is glorified. For Paul, whose heart is in the Gospel, the great blessing of such an act is not the physical relief it brings. Rather, it is first that God is glorified. Men will praise God because of what you have done. The principle is an Old Testament one: you honor God with your wealth:


{9} Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; {10} then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. ‑‑ Proverbs 3:910 (NIV)


There is an interesting example of this in the New Testament:


{10:1} At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. {2} He and all his family were devout and Godfearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. {3} One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, "Cornelius!" {4} Cornelius stared at him in fear. "What is it, Lord?" he asked. The angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. ‑‑ Acts 10:14 (NIV italics added)


You see the point?


People will pray for you. "Prayer helps - in any denomination." One of the most potent forces on earth is a devout little old lady on her knees. And if that lady is praying, thanking God that you are so generous? Think what must have happened to these ladies:


{8:1} After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, {2} and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; {3} Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. ‑‑ Luke 8:13 (NIV)


How would like to have Jesus Himself thank God for you, in His prayers? Do you suppose it happens when you aid His brothers and sisters?


The Question of Obedience. One final thought must be brought out. You must put your money where your mouth is. If you say you are a Christian, where is your money? If you expect people to praise God because of you, they must see your actions. This is "the obedience which accompanies your confession" or, as the King James puts it, "your professed subjection." It is indeed commanded:


{17} Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. {18} Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. {19} In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. ‑‑ 1 Timothy 6:1719 (NIV)


In America the wealthy, it is hard to avoid this one. But if you need any further motivation (and I hope you don't), consider these words of our Lord, concerning his coming again:


{31} "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. {32} All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. {33} He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. {34} "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. {35} For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, {36} I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' {37} "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? {38} When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? {39} When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' {40} "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' {41} "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. {42} For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, {43} I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' {44} "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' {45} "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' {46} "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." ‑‑ Matthew 25:3146 (NIV)


Thus speaks the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Creator. To sum it up, He asks you to

- prepare for giving

- give cheerfully

- receive bountifully


It is an act of love, and an act of obedience. And in the last day, He will separate the obedient from the damned.

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