Generosity Part I
by PastorErick | 5/23/17, 9:38 AM
I gotta be honest: money, giving, generosity is hard for me to talk about. Why? Probably because I don’t to make anyone feel uncomfortable, and the fact is, talk about money very easily makes us feel uncomfortable. But the fact is, it shouldn’t. After all, the Bible spends a great deal of space talking about the subject. Jesus spoke about money about a quarter of his ministry; the Apostle Paul addresses the issue throughout his writings as he seeks to collect money for the poorer, struggling Christians. So, let’s talk about it.
2 Corinthians 8:1-12
 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.  And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it.  So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.  For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.
Historical background of text.
- Paul is taking up an offering for the impoverished church in Jerusalem from multiple churches.
- He has just picked up a collection, or offering from the Church in Macedonia. Macedonia, like the Church in Jerusalem was poor. Yet to Paul’s surprise, they gave a tremendous love offering for the Church in Jerusalem.
- Now Paul is writing to the rather wealthy Church in Corinth; about a year previous to this letter, the Church had told Paul they intended on taking a large offering from their people for the sake of the Church in Jerusalem. Now Paul is coming to them, and it appears there are rumors that they’re not ready. So in order to address this, Paul spends a great deal of time discussing what generosity looks like. That’s the topic for today. What are the characteristics and the motivation for generosity?
What are the characteristics of Christian Generosity?
It’s an evidence of the grace of God working in your life (8:1)
“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,”
All of our lives as Christians begins and ends with the grace of God. So too with being generous, it is a get to, not a have to. It is not done from obligation or guilt, but it is our pleasure to be able to give, because we have been given so much.
Therefore, like the Macedonians, we see giving as an opportunity: Listen to vs. 4 and 5: They begged us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.
Christian generosity flows out of worship to God for His abundant amazing grace to you.
Christian generosity is not based on circumstances, but according to a person’s means (2&3)
vs. 2-3: 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. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord.”
Notice it is in their affliction, in their poverty, that a wealth of generosity overflows. It is not after God has delivered them from their rock bottom poverty, but during.
There are some (most of us?) reading this that are facing incredible financial challenges. The rent is too (d- - -) high; food costs an arm and a leg, and your credit cards are maxed out. The last thing you can think of is giving, but my friends that is where faith is formed, tested, and strengthened.
To illustrate this, Jesus tells this story in Mark 12:
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.  43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
You see, the faith taken for the widow to give what she had was more of a sacrifice and therefore worthy of mention by Jesus. Now, don’t hear this as a teaching merely directed to the poor giving out of their poverty. The principle that’s being taught is that all of us are called to be generous in a sacrificial way.
Part of growth in the Christian life (7 & 8)
Paul writes to the Corinthians:  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. Martin Luther said jokingly that in the Christian’s life there are probably three conversions: 1. The heart. 2. The mind 3. The wallet.
Generosity shows our love to be genuine: - 1 John 3:16-18 says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
Part of the way my children see my love is genuine is by spending on them. I’m not talking about the big gifts at Christmas time or on their Birthdays (although that counts too), but I’m just talking about the day to day needs I spend on for them. Imagine if I said I loved my children, but didn’t spend a dime on shelter, food, clothing, etc. Would you have reason to doubt my love is sincere? Of course you would….
Thus Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:21)
This caused C.S. Lewis to conclude:
I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.
Alright, let’s wrap this up for this week. What’s the motivation for your generosity?
 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.
There it is! The fact is, it’s really easy to just command people to be generous and you know what, for a little bit out of a sense of obligation or guilt you may even feel compelled to be “generous”, but that is NOT what God is interested in. God is interested in a heart that overflows with generosity. The only way that is produced is by recognizing who much Jesus has done for you. Jesus Christ the eternal son of God gave up everything to save you. He left the splendor of heaven to be born in a manger, live in poverty, be persecuted, mocked, shamed and crucified to save you. Why? So that you by His poverty might become rich.
That’s what GODLY generosity looks like and is motivated by: His generosity to us!
Next week, we’ll take a look at how God uses our generosity to be a blessing to others in ways we can hardly imagine….
Grace and Peace,
- 31 - Reasons for Faith in the Bible Part I: Jesus Said So
- 24 - Reasons For Faith In Jesus’ Resurrection Part V: The Uniqueness of the Resurrection
- 17 - Reasons For Faith In Jesus’ Resurrection Part IV: The External Evidence
- 10 - Reasons For Faith In Jesus’ Resurrection Part III: The Birth, Rapid Expansion and Martyrdom Of The Early Church
- 03 - Reasons for (Christian) Faith Part II: The Counterproductive Gospel