Three Principles of Giving
2 Corinthians 8:10-15 ESV
12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 13 For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand— 14 just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.
15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace.
God overflows in grace and glory. Everyday he gives generously to satisfy the needs of what he has created. As Paul said on his first missionary journey to a group of idol worshipers, the living God shows his kindness by giving us rain from heaven, crops in their seasons, provides us with plenty of food, and fills our hearts with joy (Ac 14:15-17). The best-known verse of the Bible tells us, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). The true God is the God who gives, and we his children are to be like him in giving to others.
We are considering together the second part of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. In it he is encouraging them to renew their giving for the good of others. To spur them on, Paul first set before them the example of the Macedonian churches. Next he presented three ideas that ought to help the Corinthians become a body of believers characterized by overflowing giving. Paul taught that overflowing giving occurs through a way of life that is complete (8:7) that such giving occurs through a way of life that is tested (8:8), and that overflowing giving comes from lives that are Christ-structured (8:9).
After setting forth these important ideas about the basics of new covenant giving, the apostle Paul continues with three principles to guide their practice of giving. This is necessary because the Christian life is practical. Having a bundle of doctrines, philosophical insights, and models to guide one’s life is nice, but we have to be able to demonstrate a transformed way of life.
I. Christ-formed giving is concerned with follow-through (8:10-11b).
A. They had been leaders in this project to help the poor believers in Judea. This offering to serve others had been in the works for about five years. By the way, if you think believers in our time are slow to complete anything, well, things haven’t changed much over nearly two thousand years! (This is not to excuse anybody; it is just an observation!) To be fair, travel and communication took much longer in ancient times.
1. The Corinthian believers were the first to give for the project. They had the honor of making the first contributions to start the project. I’m not sure who was the first to give for our boiler project last year, but God knows and you have the honor. Notice that the Spirit speaking through Paul notices even these small matters.
2. Their assembly also was the first to desire to give. They needed the least information and persuasion by the apostle and his associates. Notice again that the Spirit knows what is happening in people’s hearts when they hear about a ministry project. Soon we will do a new evangelistic outreach, and the Spirit of God will know whose heart is first willing to share in this ministry.
3. For this reason, Paul speaks to them with respect, because he wants to build upon their desires and giving in a voluntary manner. As said previously, he doesn’t give a command but his “judgment” or “advice”, since he wants them to be cheerful givers (9:7). Our methods need to be consistent with our goals. I think there will be this same kind of consistency in our upcoming outreach. We want to “fish for people” in a personal manner, since we desire them to become friends of Jesus and of us.
B. Now Paul gently seeks to make these former leaders into finishers. It is needless to speculate about what happened to them that they didn’t finish their collection already. If we needed to know that, it would be written in God’s word. As it is, we can observe that this is a common happening among people. It is always easier to start a project than to complete it.
Illustration: Some repair projects I have known very well at other churches in my youth and during my years in the ministry
1. Now they needed to complete the collection of their offering. Those with cheerful desires to give ought also to be cheerful writers of the checks and people who cheerfully put those checks into the offering box. Last year some of you wrote down what you thought you could give. That was well done! It was even better when you gave your gift! I assure you that the Lord noticed when all the gifts came in during a couple weeks!
2. The idea is that our willingness must be matched by our completion.
Apply: I have heard many of you say that you want to see others come to the Lord. That is a very good gospel desire! Soon it will be time for you to fulfill that desire. It is an outreach that won’t be done in a day. It will take many days, and during that process you will need to remember this principle: As I give of myself to seek to reach others, I must complete this task. With all of us working together, it will take about three months.
II. Christ-formed giving is according to God’s providence (8:11c-12).
A. The key idea here is “according to your means”. This is obviously essential, since Paul restates it by saying, “according to what one has”.
1. In this letter Paul has spoken much about the truth that we are no longer under the law but in Christ and his new and better covenant. We are not under the direction of the letter but in the Holy Spirit. This covenantal change transforms our entire approach to giving.
2. The principle under the law or old covenant was the tithe—10% of one’s income. Plus the law mandated that they must do certain things for the poor, like not going over their vineyards a second time or cutting their grain at the corners of their fields. In our series in Ruth some time ago we saw how this part of God’s law helped provide for Ruth and Naomi. But giving was directly regulated by the Lord—10%!
3. Nowhere in the NTS does Jesus or anyone else command new covenant believers to give a tithe. Instead, the Lord expects us to give according to what we have. This makes giving much more interesting—and cheerful, if you give according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. I say interesting, because it requires more than a calculator. It demands that we engage our mind, emotions, and will. It makes us think about what we have, what we need, how much of a surplus we have, and how much of that surplus we ought to give to the Lord for his work and the benefit of others.
B. The Lord does not overburden his people. He leads us into situations to live for his glory, and he gives grace and help to us in those situations. Yes, we might think that we are overwhelmed, but in those situations we must trust God and consider God’s resources for us.
1. The Lord does not expect us to give what we don’t have. Yes, you might have a very loving and generous spirit and want to give thousands and thousands to help others! That is very commendable, and the Lord knows what you would like to do, if you had the financial means.
2. But the Lord only wants us to give according to what we have. In his providence he has provided you with what he thinks is wise and best for you to have. For some of this, this means that we carefully count our dollars and frugally save in order to give. For others it means giving hundreds or thousands, which can be very challenging to them, since they need to think about what are the best and wisest ways to give.
Apply: God wants us all to give as his adult sons and daughters ought to give. To his minor children under the law, he set a flat rate of ten percent. But he wants us to think, to pray, and to rely on the Spirit of God to guide us in this matter.
III. Christ-formed giving seeks rightness or equity among gospel partners (8:13-15).
Comment: The subject of money affects nearly everyone very deeply. In part this is because we expend part of our lives to earn it in many ways. So then, when we give, we are giving part of our lives. Since this is true, we do not want to feel manipulated or taken advantage of. Paul knows that, and so he clarifies what he is saying.
A. We need to keep the whole body of Christ in view. It is too easy to think only of local needs. At times this comes from a provincial attitude, but the source may be just a failure to think about the bigger picture. As has been said, we need to be “glocal” Christians. We need to think both globally and locally.
1. Paul is not thinking of a simple shifting of financial surplus from the Corinthians to the Judean Christians. He does not wish to impoverish one to enrich another. That would solve nothing. He does not want any part of Christ’s body to be living in ease off of the sacrificial giving of others.
2. What he wants is a mutual desire to help each other when there is a time of true need. Now the Corinthian can help the Judeans. At another time the Judeans might be able to help the Corinthians. This builds upon what Paul had written to them in the first letter about the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:21-26).
B. The Holy Spirit wants us to comprehend the new covenant manner of achieving equity or fairness in God’s people.
1. During the early days of the old covenant people, God miraculously enforced this equity in the daily distribution of the manna. Regardless of what was gathered, everyone had enough for each day. The people could not take advantage of each other by one hurrying to gather a lot, while their neighbors suffered with little. This God-enforced fairness was consistent with their status as minor children.
2. During the new covenant, God doesn’t enforce equity. The Lord expects his adult sons and daughters to develop equity among themselves. We must carefully examine situations to see how we can create this equity among us. Yes, the love of Christ is concerned about all things in our way of life!
Apply: Therefore, let us first of all examine carefully what the Lord has given to us. Am I in a position of surplus? If so, who in God’s people is in need? What ought I and others to do to develop equity in the body? How ought we to think in a glocal manner? Where and how must the love of Christ change us for this equity to develop?
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.