Grace and Giving

money

Though they might not verbalize it to their pastors, how many congregants have said to themselves, “Not another sermon on money!” It’s not that I have found Christians having a problem with sermons; it’s just the topic of the sermons that occasionally brings the aforementioned consternation. The cry from many in the church, “We need more sermons on love and forgiveness….AND GRACE!” In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, the apostle Paul uses the word grace (Greek – “charis”) ten times. And what is the context of these chapters? Money! “Wait, that can’t be! What in the world is the connection between grace and money?” Glad you asked!

Right off the bat in 8:1, Paul says, “Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia.” Grace, God’s empowering favor to desire and do His will, was seen in the churches of Macedonia. How does Paul know it was there? Because these believers, while battling affliction and deep poverty gave financially to God’s work with liberality and great joy (8:2). And then as Paul closes off this section on giving, while anticipating a great offering from the Corinthians too (in following the example of the Macedonians), he speaks of the “surpassing grace of God in you” (9:14). From beginning to end, from the Macedonians to the Corinthians, where there is joyous and liberal giving to God’s work (not a natural occurrence), there is evidence of God’s grace!

Second, we see the word “grace” used again in 8:4. Paul says, “Begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints.” As mentioned here, NASB uses “favor.” NIV uses “privilege” Both are the English translations for the Greek word “charis,” commonly translated “grace.” Giving to God’s work is often seen as a burden, a reluctant action that will now make us go without something we want to do a whole lot more with that money. It may shock us, but the Bible describes giving as a blessing, a favor, a privilege for many reasons. Just in this section alone we see our giving as a means to receive God’s blessings (9:6), provide evidence to the fact that we are saved (9:13) and display opportunities for God to receive glory (8:16, 19; 9:11, 12, 13, 15).

Third, the Greek word “grace” in found in 8:6 (and 8:7 and 8:19 as well). There we read, “So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well.” The collection itself is called a “gracious work.” When the opportunity to give to the Lord’s work presents itself, do we do so “grudgingly” (9:7) or do we see it as an “act of grace” (NIV)? Is it an unpleasant requirement or is it an overflow of a heart that loves Christ and sees the opportunity as an occasion to express that love “cheerfully” (9:7)? Paul says when the Macedonians heard about the collection, they were “begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints” (8:4). Is giving viewed as a “gracious work.”

Fourth, another profound use of the word grace in this section is found in 8:9. “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 through His poverty might become rich.” Jesus, though spiritually rich with the Father in glory, left the perpetual worship of the angels, took on flesh, was nailed to a cross and received the fullness of our sins upon Himself. He experienced the epitome of spiritual poverty – Forsaken by the Father, the fullness of His wrath, all so that we in Him, when we embrace Him by faith, might be spiritually rich. Complete forgiveness. We have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3). Does it not stand to reason that if we have really been impacted by grace of Jesus Christ that sacrificial giving of our riches is in indispensable component of the Christian life? You might not believe this, but according to 8:9, God believes it!

Fifth, another use of the Greek word for grace is translated “thanks” in 8:16. “But thanks be to God.” We see the same in 9:15, “Thanks be to God.” Literally we could interpret these verses, “Grace be to God.” Do you see the connection here? God’s grace empowered people in the early church who are stingy by nature to abound in sacrificial giving. Since this was clear evidence of God’s amazing presence, the only acceptable response was to praise the Lord. As Paul said in 8:19, the overall goal was not to pat generous people on the back, but rather that this collection’s goal was “for the glory of the Lord Himself.”

And sixth, we see a final occurrence of how the generous gift gave evidence of God’s grace. In 9:8 we read, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” The obvious reason we don’t like to give is because we believe giving will naturally result in us having less. The verse actually teaches the opposite. Thanks to God’s grace, we will actually have more. God withholds from tightfisted givers. God blesses bountiful giving. “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (9:6). So not only does God’s grace empower us to give, but when we give, God’s grace blesses us with “an abundance for every good deed” (9:8). And praise be to God that unlike us, His gracious giving to us has no limits!

Every penny I have belongs to Him. In His grace He has blessed me with more than enough to survive. In His grace He has changed my heart to be generous to others. In His grace He has decreed that He will use what I give back to Him to further His purposes. In His grace He will reward my giving. And in His grace, when I give sacrificially, I will bring Him great glory and encourage other believers to do likewise as I prove to Him, myself and others that my heart really has been transformed by grace and is presently being moved by His grace as well.

“Not another sermon on money!”

…Really?

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