By Wil Pounds, Minister, South McGehee Baptist Church, McGehee, Arkansas
Summary: Lessons learnt from the Macedonian Church on the subject of joyous giving.
Alan Redpath in Blessings Out of Buffetings writes: Once you see the matter of giving is centered in this lovely word grace, it lifts the whole act away from mechanics, from pressure and duty, from obligation and mere legalism. It lifts us up into the most lovely atmosphere of an activity which seeks by giving to convey to others all that is lovely, all that is beautiful, all that is good, and all that is glorious.
The churches in Macedonia were going through extremely difficult economic times. They were so deep in poverty that Paul didn’t even ask them to give toward the offering for the poor in Jerusalem. He knew they couldn’t afford it. But then they embarrassed Paul by begging for the opportunity to be a part of the project (2 Cor 8:1-4). They saw a great need and didn’t want to be left out. They were so moved by the Holy Spirit’s promptings they insisted on being a part of the support of the saints in Jerusalem.
Begins with giving yourself (2 Cor 8:5) How did they do it? They first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God (2 Cor 8: 5). That is always where stewardship must begin. They first gave themselves unto the Lord. They had an intimate love relationship with the Lord God. When you fall in love with the Lord Jesus you will give from the heart, because He is first in everything. These Macedonians, Paul says are an example to us of those who give by the principle of grace. Out of their love for the Lord, they gave according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord. There was no show, no competition. No one applied any pressure on them.
You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich (v 9). Jesus chose to give up the manifestation of His eternal glory, and take on all the abject poverty of a slave (Phil 2:6-8). He did it because He loves you. He did it so you could become extremely rich! You are rich in His grace. Rich in His love, rich in a right relationship with God, rich in the Holy Spirit, rich in promises, rich in power.
When you are the recipient of this kind of grace, you cannot help but respond in kind. Don’t miss what happened in the heart of the Macedonian believers. God made them exceedingly rich in His grace, not financially rich. This is not prosperity gospel nonsense. This is not some religious, get-rich scheme! You put Christ first in every area of your life and give financially as He enables you and you will be enriched beyond measure. That is the principle of grace giving.
Ron Blue writes in Master Your Money (pp 19, 20): Very few Christians would argue with the principle that God owns it all, and yet if we follow that principle to its natural conclusion, there are three revolutionary implications. First of all, God has the right to whatever He wants whenever He wants it. It is all His, because an owner has rights, and I, as a steward, have only responsibilities.
If I really believe that God owns it all then when I lose any possession, for whatever reason, my emotions may cry out, but my mind and spirit have not the slightest questions as to the right of God to take whatever He wants whenever He wants it. Really believing this also frees me to give generously of God’s resources to God’s purposes and His people. All that I have belongs to Him.
The second implication of God’s owning it all is that not only is my giving decision a spiritual decision, but every spending decision is a spiritual decision. . . . As a steward, I have a great deal of latitude, but I am still responsible to the Owner. Some day I will give an accounting of how I used His property.
The third implication of the truth that God owns it all is that you can’t fake stewardship. Your checkbook reveals all that you really believe about stewardship . . . your goals, priorities, convictions, relationships, and even the use of your time. A person who has been a Christian for even a short while can fake prayer, Bible study, evangelism, going to church, and so on, but he can’t fake what his checkbook reveals.
The practice of grace giving (2 Cor 8:10-24)
Paul reminded the Corinthians that they made a pledge to give to the Jerusalem missionary offering (2 Cor 8:10-11). A year had now gone by and they had not fulfilled their promise. They had been caught up in bickering and fighting with one another. There were divisions within the body. They were sidetracked with dissensions, immorality, and drunkenness, quarreling over spiritual gifts rather than keeping their eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ. Carnal preoccupations kept them from fulfilling their pledge to God.
Are making pledges wrong? We live everyday on the principle of pledges. I am living my life based upon pledges. I have pledged to pay the utility companies at the end of every month. I drive my cars on the promise that I will pay my car notes. I live in a house by promising to pay my mortgage monthly. How strange that some think it is wrong to make a sincere promise to give to God from what He has provided for us when we have already made pledges to hard-hearted human creditors.
It is all in the attitude (2 Cor 9:6, 7)
Go ahead and do as you sense God leading you. Since He has blessed you bountifully go ahead and give as you purposed in your heart to do. Follow through with your pledge.
Don’t do it grudgingly. The word means out of grief, sorrow, and pain of mind or spirit. Don’t do it as if it were killing you. Don’t give reluctantly as if you are grieving over what you have lost in the process. Oh man I gave that ten dollars and I could have kept it and rented a couple of movies, eaten out or gone on a date. Why in the world did I do that? Don’t give grudgingly or under compulsion. Let it come from a heart that is overflowing with God’s wonderful grace and love. It is all in your attitude. God loves a cheerful giver.
The English transliteration of the word for cheerful (hilaros) is hilarious. God loves a hilarious giver (2 Cor 9:7). He desires our giving come from a heart that is cheerful, joyous, prompt, ready to do anything. Is there a readiness and a joy in your giving? Or is there the attitude of an old gripe, grudgingly holding on to every penny? But neither does God want us to be like a drunken sailor who throws his money away on drinks for everyone. He wants us to be responsible givers who give out of a heart that is overflowing with God’s grace.
God’s promise to the grace givers (2 Cor 9:8-15).
God does not bless us to enrich our own selfishness. He does it that His name will be glorified and that His eternal purpose will be accomplished. God is not in the modern American prosperity gospel movement. Often, in His all-sufficient wisdom He works just the opposite to accomplish His purpose in our lives (2 Cor 9:10, 11). God blesses us abundantly so we can bless others abundantly.
He wants our giving to be a blessing, a means of producing thanksgiving to God (2 Cor 9:12). He takes your gift and uses it that His name will be glorified repeatedly. People see your gift and they offer up thanksgivings to God. Those who are recipients praise God and pray for you. Your gift keeps repeating itself in people’s lives.
A prominent Christian businessman shared His testimony of how he came to Christ. It was during the great Depression. There was a missionary sharing the needs of the mission field. An appeal was made to continue the missionary work even in the midst of abject poverty. They took up an offering that night. This young believer sat there in the audience and knew that he had only one silver dollar to his name. That was all the money he had in this world. He said he could, at the moment feel the tremendous pull of the Holy Spirit leading him to contribute to this great need. All he had was that silver dollar coin. He said to the ladies, I reached in my pocket and I took out that silver dollar, all I had in the world, and I laid it on the plate and gave my all to Jesus Christ, expecting God to meet my need.
He then told how God greatly blessed him through the years. He had now come to a place of prominence, power and possessions. As he was standing there a woman in the audience spoke up and said I dare you to do it again!
That is exactly what God calls us to do. He makes us exceedingly rich so we can become paupers again by making others rich. The Lord owns it all; we are His stewards. May the Lord bless you spiritually as He has blessed you financially.