Introduction.

It might seem to some today that to challenge the Churches heart to give would lack sensitivity.

This is the people who tied and delivered 1800 gold cards.

Who worked to provide food, entertainment and support for ‘The Gift presentation’This is the people who sacrificially give of their time and their money and their lives.

 

It might seem to some today that to challenge the Churches heart to give would lack sensitivity as this is the people who have helped towards providing now over £500 towards the Children’s home in Chimwemwe; that supports Norman & Fi in Cambodia; that has today given so much towards helping Michael in India.

 

But it is in the face of that generous heart that the Holy Spirit has stirred in me a passionate cry to you today.

 

Do NOT bring me your tithe for it is not your tithing I seek.  It is your ‘Grace to give’.  Grace that impacts the kingdom- where? In our hearts.

 

2 Corinthians Ch 8

2Co 8:1And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. (Something freely given that has changed them that is theirs to use)

2Co 8:2Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.

2Co 8:3For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,

2Co 8:4they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.

2Co 8:5And 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.

2Co 8:6So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part.

2Co 8:7But 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.

2Co 8:8I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.

2Co 8:9For 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.

2Co 8:10And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.

2Co 8:11Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.

2Co 8:12For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.

2Co 8:13Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.

2Co 8:14At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality,

2Co 8:15as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”

2Co 8:16I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you.

2Co 8:17For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative.

2Co 8:18And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel.

2Co 8:19What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help.

2Co 8:20We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift.

2Co 8:21For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.

2Co 8:22In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you.

2Co 8:23As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ.

2Co 8:24Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.

2Co 9:1There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints.

2Co 9:2For 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.

2Co 9:3But 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.

2Co 9:4For 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.

2Co 9:5So 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

2Co 9:6Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

2Co 9:7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

2Co 9:8And 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.

2Co 9:9As it is written:

“He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor;

his righteousness endures forever.”

2Co 9:10Now 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.

2Co 9:11You 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.

2Co 9:12This 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.

2Co 9:13Because 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.

2Co 9:14And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.

2Co 9:15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

 

 Those of you who have been Christians a long time might be familiar with this passage.  It is in fact why we have these- The flower pots – because of Chris Williams first really memorable preach – on sowing and reaping.

 

But for all of us God has a new word to speak a word for today.

 

Look at verse Ch 8 v7. “That you also excel in this grace of giving.”

 

This grace of giving is what God is asking us to examine.

 

Context

We are talking about the Corinthian Church.  He knew them pretty well and it had been a tempestuous relationship. On the one hand it was in Corinth that he had met Priscilla and Aquila – fellow tent makers and they had warmly received him and worked with him.  On the other hand their had been much division and misunderstanding in the church there.

 

Both his first and now his second letters deal with issues of discipline. He was the apostle they the new Church of baby Christians getting it wrong –dramatically and in spectacular difficulty.

 

That he loved these guys is clear from every word.  Otherwise why bother?

He was motivated to see them grow in God becoming the men and women he knew they could be.

He calls them- dear friends, brothers, Titus Paul’s friend volunteers to go there eagerly. He constantly refers to their excellence in different issues.

 

Ch 7 v2

Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one.

2Co 7:3I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you.

2Co 7:4I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.

 

So what do we get from this.  The huge relief that we are talking about people like us.  They were ‘normal’ Christians.

 

Paul has been with them and like us they were on a journey as a people.

Those of the Corinthian Church who were Jewish had lived there whole life up to this point faithfully trying to abide by the law of Moses.

 

Which included giving as a matter of duty.  The tithe was a principle of duty.

 

Paul now takes them and us on a journey to new revelation.

 

2. What an example.- their own.

But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us. Verse 7

 

Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.    Verse 10

 

Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you. Verse 24

 

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. 9 verse 2

 

Paul has seen them give out of what they have and do so well. He refers a couple of times to the completing what they started and I believe there is evidence of an issue here. 

 

I believe that some of the Corinthians had said we cannot afford this

 

See verses 11 and 12

 

2Co 8:11Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.

2Co 8:12For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.

2Co 8:13Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.

 

3. What an example- The Macedonians.

Paul is quick not to demand of them but also give them the example of the   

Macedonians.  He does not demand the same standard of Corinth, but he has done something here that you would miss, without a bit of Geography.

 

So here is Macedonia where the Church at Phillipi was and the Thessalonians lived as well.

 

And here south is Achaia where Corinth and Sparta and Athens are.

 

Paul is either blindly naive or very clever!

 

Lets bring this up to date, shall we.  To the Corinthians this would have sounded like a challenge to their pride and history as well as their faith.

 

It would be like saying to Billericay Baptist Church.

Oh I must tell you about the generosity of Swan Mead Christian Fellowship in Basildon. They are so generous

 

Paul is also very kind to the Corinthians though look again at 9:2

 

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.

 

In other words Paul had done the same thing in Macedonia.  He had said to Swan Mead – Oh Billericay Baptist Church is so generous.

 

4. What an example- Christ.

But Paul was more concerned to take them beyond the motivations of duty

Beyond the motivations of local or national pride to look at someone who had given them the best example of all- Jesus.

 

Jesus he tells the Phillipian Church

 

Phil 2:6Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

Phil 2:7but made himself nothing,

taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

Phil 2:8And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

 

And he says to the Corinthians and to us

 

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.

 

He gave. And what did he give Himself. God so loved that He gave of Himself.

He gave the Holy Spirit too.

 

He gives and gives and gives.

 

It is a grace of giving That never stops.

 

Yes I tithe- and that tithing is a good thing because in the law God developed a set of standards that reflected the imperfection of man –the need for law.

 

Remember when I talked of prayer-  I said we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of unstructured community prayer. And we put prayer times in place

 

Tithing is in the same area.  It provides a structure to our giving that is a baseline.  The Macedonians knew that so did the Corinthians.  But Paul wanted to take them further to say to them.

 

No – Under the Old Covenant you gave to escape the consequences of the law.  You wear your seat belt to avoid a £50 fine

 

Under the New Covenant you live under the blessings of His grace and give because of the blessings of His grace and more.

 

As we give we are changed- as we learn to value another more to love more. Something happens in here when we give. The blessing Paul talks about is not a satisfaction of the law. It is the grace that changes us. 

 

To be moved by the needs of another can change us when we respond from love.

 

But

To be moved by the needs of another can also arise from the guilt of our own plenty

 

And worse

To be moved by the needs of another because you know that this will result in a blessing for us is a corruption of God’s intent

 

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

2Co 9:7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

2Co 9:8And 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.

2Co 9:9As it is written:

“He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor;

his righteousness endures forever.”

2Co 9:10Now 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.

2Co 9:11You 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.

2Co 9:12This 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.

2Co 9:13Because 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.

2Co 9:14And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.

2Co 9:15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift

 

We are changed because we love

We do not love in order to be changed

 

Jesus died –whilst we were still sinners knowing that we would still reject him.

 

Here is love not that we loved Him but that he first loved us.

 

Not once does Paul refer to the need to tithe.  He knows that this is occurring within the Churches.  Not once does he stress the material benefits from tithing. 

 

I urge you to go away and consider how you give and to plead with God to be included.

Tim Blake, 09/01/2005