By Duke Stone, Pastor, The Hickory Valley Church, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Summary: Godly givers experience the blessing of seeing God work through their gifts to help other people on the deepest level. We become co-workers in ministries that we financially support. Through our money, we can touch lives in ways that we could not otherwise.

Under grace or under law?

The Macedonians as an example of loving generosity (2 Cor. 8:1-4, 9)! What do you think motivated this kind of giving? It was the grace of God. Christian giving begins under grace, not under law.

Under law, I give to be accepted by God. This motive is distinctive from religions that make giving a means to earn God’s acceptance. (In Islam, for example, alms is one of 5 pillars--they give to be accepted by God.) Under grace, I give because I have been accepted by a loving God. Under law, my giving is a duty which I resent. This is the natural consequence of a works-righteousness mentality. Under grace my giving is a privilege which I enjoy. Under law, I give to keep God and others of f my back. Under grace, I give as much I can to express my gratitude to God for His love.

Many Christians misinterpret or misapply 2 Corinthians 9:7 to mean that it is wrong for us to call on or remind each other to make giving commitments. But this isn’t Paul’s point. He called on them to give in 1 Corinthians 16 and he reminds them to give in this very passage! Nor is it that we shouldn’t give if we feel grudging or like we have to. Our human nature can generate such feelings. His point is that God wants us to give with the right attitude. We should give voluntarily and cheerfully because we are the recipients of God’s lavish grace.

Stewards or workers

It is easy to think of ourselves as owners and our money as exclusively our own property to be used to advance our own interests. While on a sociological level this may be true, it is completely false on a theological level. God says he is the Owner of all that we have (Ps 24:1). We are his stewards, entrusted with the privilege and responsibility to manage his resources to advance his purposes (1 Cor 6:19,20). And we will one day give an account to him for how we did in this (Matt 25).

Owners ask, How much of my money will I give to God? Stewards ask, How much of God’s money will I keep for myself? It is appropriate for the steward to have enough to live on and provide for his family--but never to live luxuriously while the owner’s affairs are neglected. Yet statistics reveal that as most Christians’ income goes up, their percentage of giving goes down.

Owners ask, Will I enjoy this? Can I afford it? Stewards ask, How will this affect my ability to advance God’s purposes? Certainly, being able to afford something is necessary but is not sufficient reason to buy something. For example, there are the needs of others to consider, for example (2 Cor 8:13-15).

Owners say My finances and giving are my private business. Stewards say I will seek God’s way so I can be faithful with His resources. Instead of viewing our finances and giving as our private business, we, as stewards, must look to God’s Word for guidance.

Says Louis Cassels, If God wants you to do something, he'll make it possible for you to do it, but the grace he provides comes only with the task and cannot be stockpiled beforehand. We are dependent on him from hour to hour, and the greater our awareness of this fact, the less likely we are to faint or fail in a crisis.

Sowing and reaping (2 Cor 9:6-11)

If we live selfishly and self-protectively, we will lose our lives, but if we’re willing to give ourselves away in love for others and out of trust in Christ, we will discover that God enriches our lives more than we give (John 12:24,25; Mark 8:34,35).

Through financial blessings God enables some to give even more to his work (2 Cor 9:10). Paul tells us that God is looking for people who can become bigger conduits. There is excitement in seeing God come through materially when we remain faithful in financial giving to the point where it brings us into unexpected need (Phil 4:18,19). There is also the security of a proven track record of God’s faithfulness (Mark 10).

There is joy in seeing God work through your giving to help others come to Christ, and get a chance at a new way of life. How much should I give? How much do you want to be blessed?

Commitment and consistency

We should make giving commitments and fulfill them by giving consistently (1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 9:5). After prayerful consideration, we should be willing to go on record regarding what we will give to God’s work in a given area, and then we should diligently lay aside the portion of our paychecks needed to meet that commitment. Many think this is legalistic and Spirit-quenching--that we ought to not plan in this area, but should instead just follow the Spirit’s leading. However, in Paul’s mind, there is clearly no contradiction between giving under grace and this principle.

This principle is important for a number of reasons: Many of the Church’s needs are consistent. The rent and utility bills, for example, come with remarkable regularity! Our missionaries have regular needs. Needs require financial preparation in order to meet them. The best way to do this is to lay it aside little by little before the time comes. The church leaders need to plan its ministry, and since ministry costs money, we can do a better job of this if we have an idea of what the giving will be.

Covetousness will erode the contribution of inconsistent givers. For certain, we have all experienced this at one time or another. When we wait to give from what is left over, most often there isn’t anything left to give. Somehow, when we wait to give, we manage to spend our resources on ourselves (be it intentional or not). On the other hand, when we set aside our tithes and offerings before we meet our own needs, we will reap the benefits of living and giving under God’s grace (without feeling the pinch of limited resources).

Christian giving brings abundant blessings (2 Cor 9:6-15)

At one time J Wilbur Chapman experienced a great sorrow that nearly shook his faith. In addition, his finances were almost depleted just when it was necessary for him to take a long trip to the western United States. One of the elders of his church who was a wealthy banker came to his home to offer a word of comfort and encouragement. As he left, he slipped a piece of paper into the pastor's hand. Chapman looked at it and was surprised to find that it was a check made out to him and signed by this rich friend. But the figures to indicate the amount of the gift were missing.

Did you really mean to give me a signed blank check? he asked.

Yes, said the man. I didn't know how much you'd need, and I wanted to be sure you would have enough.

Later Chapman commented, While I never had to use that check, it gave me a secure feeling to know that thousands of dollars were literally at my disposal.

God abundantly blesses Christians who give voluntarily and sacrificially (Mk 8:34,35). If we live selfishly and self-protectively, we will lose our lives. But if we’re willing to give ourselves away in love for others, trusting the Lord to meet our needs, we will discover that God enriches our lives more than we could ever give to his work. Notice the blessings Paul says such Christian sowers will reap.

God is looking for people who can become bigger conduits. Godly givers also experience the blessing of seeing God work through their gifts to help other people on the deepest level. We become co-workers in ministries that we financially support. Through our money, we can touch lives in ways that we could not otherwise. What step of faith does God want you to take in this area? Begin consistent giving? Get advice on finances? Make a faith-promise gift? Increase your giving commitment? Reflect on your identity as a recipient of God’s grace or as a steward?

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January–March, 2000

Grace