Monday, May 27, 2013

Gospel-Centered Generosity

Part 4 of the series The Gospel-Centered Life

You can listen to this sermon here.



We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. 

I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 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 by his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:1-9). 


“How Much?" Is the Wrong Question 

People often ask, “How much of my money do I have to give?” The New Testament never gives us the answer to that question. Why? Because “How much is enough?” is the wrong question. God doesn’t want our giving to be merely a duty; he wants it to be a delight.


The Macedonians: An Example of Giving 

The apostle Paul was collecting money to help needy Christians in Jerusalem. In 2 Corinthians 8-9, he encourages the Corinthians to contribute to this collection.

In verses 1-5, the Macedonians are used by Paul as an example of giving. “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.”

The Macedonians gave because they had an “abundance of joy” (v. 2). Christian joy comes from an appreciation of God’s grace. Paul actually calls their giving “the grace of God” (v.1). They gave because they had experienced God’s grace. “For Paul, the basis for giving to others is not what they have done or will do for us, but what God has already done for us in Christ. The foundation of giving is God’s grace” (Scott J. Haffmann, 2 Corinthians, p. 342).

The gospel rebukes our stinginess and inspires us to be generous givers.

In verse 3, the example of the Macedonians’ gives us three guidelines for giving. First, giving should be proportionate. The Macedonians gave “according to their means.” Second, giving should be sacrificial. The Macedonians gave “beyond their means” (cf. Mark 12:41-44). Third, giving should be voluntary. The Macedonians gave “of their own accord.” “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (1 Cor. 9:7).


Christ: The Example of Giving

The ultimate example of giving is Jesus Christ. “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (v. 9).

1. Christ became “poor” by giving up the glory of heaven in order to die on a cross. 

2. We became “rich” by receiving the gift of righteousness through faith in Christ. 

Paul ends this section on giving by thanking God for his grace: “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15). God’s “inexpressible gift” is Christ. Even if you give away all you money, you will never be give enough to equal what Jesus gave up for you.