Tag Archives: Andrew Murray

A Harvest of Righteousness, the Expectation

…the expectation, substance, goal,
and means of practical godliness

Part 1: the Expectation

2 Corinthians 9:1-15


  • The Purpose of this Section
  • Encouraging the Saints to Give Generously

You will recall that Paul is urging and encouraging and spurring the Corinthian church on to finish the collection that they had promised the needy Jerusalem saints. So this section functions with that goal in mind, but it is critical to understand that Paul is not interested in commanding them or seeing merely external conformity to a rule. Rather, his desire is that the Corinthians give willingly and generously from their hearts as evidence of their genuine love for God and His people (8:9).

Instruction on Christian Growth and Encouragement

So as we continue studying through this section we need to be listening to how Paul is thinking about the dynamic of Christian fruitfulness. The way Paul goes about encouraging the Corinthians is extremely important and instructive as we think about fruitfulness and obedience in our own lives and in the lives of others. This section is a wealth of instruction about how Christians grow in godliness and how Christians should encourage one another to grow in godliness.

Generosity as an Example of the Larger Aim of Godliness in all Areas of Life

Now, even as Paul is focused here in this section on encouraging generosity in the lives of the Corinthian believers this section equally applies to instruct us in all areas of life. The way Paul thinks about encouraging generosity is the way we should think about encouraging godliness in all areas of life. So, the broader subject that we can learn about from this section is how we grow in godliness, not just in generosity. Paul’s goal is to see an increase in the harvest of their righteousness (9:10), not a large amount of money in the offering plate. That language of the harvest of their righteousness is found in verse 10 and really serves as the controlling picture.

The Outline of Our Study

So, as we work through chapter 9 our goals will be

  • to learn about the biblical expectation of this harvest of righteousness in our lives now. Should we really expect to live righteous lives in this age?
  • to learn about the substance of the righteousness that will be harvested as described by Paul. In other words what godliness is and what it is not.
  • to learn about the great goal of this harvest of righteousness. Why do we even care to increase the harvest of our own and other’s righteousness?
  • to learn about the means by which this harvest of righteousness is increased. How do we think about what it takes to grow in godliness?

Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:1-15

Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and [because of] the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

  • The Biblical Expectation
    • Addressing A Misapprehension about the Christian Life
      • Romans 7: Multiple Identities?

First, as we begin to try to get our heads around the proper expectation of this harvest of righteousness, I think it is important that we step back and address a misapprehension (a wrong belief!) that seem to plague us. So many Christians today, myself included, are prone to embrace what some have called the ‘loser complex’. Let me explain.I have noticed a tendency in my own heart and in the life of other believers to live with an embattled identity. An identity that I believe is warped and unbiblical. Very often, in my experience, we start in Romans 7 and begin to build our identity there – we are drawn there like a magnet – and we see in Romans 7 (along with many Bible teachers) an embattled identity. Or we might say a schizophrenic identity, or more accurately a multiple personality disorder – multiple identities. We (mis)read Romans 7:14-15, 18 where Paul says,

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

Should we read this as our present experience in Christ?

  • Romans 7: Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ Our Lord, One New Identity!

Now, without going into a lot of detail, I think a careful reading of Roman’s 7:7-25 in its context reveals that Paul is giving an explanation for why the Mosaic Law could never produce righteousness in anyone because of the flesh (the remaining sinful inclinations that are ours in Adam). And so, what Paul is describing in Romans 7:7-25 is not the normal believer’s experience in Christ, but the believer’s experience trying to do what is good under the Mosaic Law. The whole point is that we have died to our marriage to the Law and have been married to another so that we may bear fruit for God (7:4)! When we read Romans 7 and draw the conclusion that the normal Christian life is one of not being able to do the good we want, we have missed Paul’s whole point. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me for the body of death? [answer:] Thanks be to God though Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).

The answer to the question is: not through the law, but through the Lord Jesus Christ, we bear fruit for God!

The off shoot of misreading Romans 7 is that many Christians live with this loser complex: “I am so sinful. I am so sinful. I am so sinful. I will never in this life do the good I want to do – I am not able.” And we live with two conflicting identities: yes we have the status of a saint (holy one, we’ve been declared righteous) and but we also embrace the mantle of a rotten unable sinner. And the outcome of this multiple personality disorder is that we know we are called to fruitfulness and righteousness but we are dead set and certain it will never happen this side of glory.

Brothers and sisters, according to Romans 8:3-4: “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

[Now hear me] Do we still have the flesh (the inclination to sin)? Yes, that principal is still present and will be until glory, BUT that is not who we are, we have been joined to Christ, joined in union with Him, and His Spirit dwells in us and we walk according to His Spirit. We do not have a dual identity. The old man of sin has died. We are called to consider our old self, dead – crucified with Christ. And we consider ourself alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:11). We have one new identity in Christ: Child of God, heir of God, fellows heir with Christ awaiting glorification, the redemption of our bodies. Yes, we drag along the flesh, but we are not of the flesh. We are of the Spirit and so we are able to bear fruit for God.

  • Paul’s Expectations of Fruitfulness
    • Practical Righteousness is Possible

As I was studying and working through this passage, I was struck by how Paul does not speak about practical godliness the way we so often do. We often feel compelled to balance our expectations of potential godliness with the reality of the remaining ‘flesh’ (sinful inclinations). It’s like we want to say, “yes, yes, we are called to holiness and Christlikeness, yes, yes. But of course we will not actually be holy and righteous and Christlike – let’s not get over confident in what is possible here in this age.

But Paul does not even hint at such a balance, resulting in such low expectations.Listen to 2 Corinthians 9:8-11, after Paul says that those who sow bountifully from the heart will also reap bountifully he says,

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

How could Paul have said it with any more strength? God is able to make ALL grace abound to you, so that having ALL sufficiency in ALL things at ALL times, you may ABOUND in EVERY good work. He could not have been more optimistic in his expectation of practical godliness in the lives of believers!

He then quotes Psalm 112:9 and we might be tempted upon a quick reading to think he is describing God, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” But even a moment’s look at Psalm 112 shows us that the Psalmist was talking about the man who fears the Lord:

Psalm 112
1. Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who greatly delights in his commandments!
2. His offspring will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
3. Wealth and riches are in his house,
and his righteousness endures forever.
4. Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;
he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
5. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;
who conducts his affairs with justice.
6. For the righteous will never be moved;
he will be remembered forever.
7. He is not afraid of bad news;
his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
8. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
9. He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever;
his horn is exalted in honor.
10. The wicked man sees it and is angry;
he gnashes his teeth and melts away;
the desire of the wicked will perish!

But, some are quick to say, “Ah, yes, here we have a description of godliness that Christ alone perfectly fulfills. Christ is the perfect man, the man who fears the Lord, the triumphant second Adam.” To which I agree. Christ and Christ alone was found worthy and to him belongs all the honor and glory and praise.

Let us shout it out:

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—EVERY ONE—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on HIM the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord oh my soul (Psalm 146)!

But Paul does not apply Psalm 112 to Christ in 2 Corinthians 9:9. He applies it to regular Christians like you and me – those in Christ by faith – joined to him and lead by His Spirit. Paul’s point here in using this citation is to confirm that real practical righteousness is possible for the Christian! The fact is Paul is arguing for exactly what we are inclined to think is impossible, that you and I can abound in being gracious and merciful and righteous and justice and steadfast and generous in this life.

This is not to say that Christ’s righteousness is removed from the equation, as we saw last week, our fruitfulness, our righteousness is through Him – we have been joined to Another. He is the foundation of all of our positional righteousness and but He is also the source and fountainhead of our practical righteousness. Which is why Paul can say, as he continues his argument in verse 10,

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

God is now able, because of Christ, to multiply righteousness in your life today which will produce a harvest of thanksgiving to God.

Again, there is no hint of qualifying this with a dose of so-called realism. Because of Christ, because of what Christ has accomplished, because of our union with Him, the treasure trove of God’s grace has been swung wide open for those in Christ. God is now able to be perfectly righteous while supplying and multiplying our seed for sowing and able to increase (cause to grow larger and larger) the harvest of our practical righteousness – God’s glory. We will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way! And all to the praise of God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Paul believes that abounding practical righteousness is possible in this age.

  • Augustine’s Description: Able Not to Sin

So, Let’s get our bearings about where we find ourselves in God’s great work to redeem a people for His own possession. Where are we in this drama? I believe it was bishop Augustine of Hippo (354-430) who described what he saw in Scripture as the four categories of human ability that correspond to the four conditions of Man’s nature. The first condition of Mankind that we find described in the Scriptures is in Genesis and it is the original condition given at creation. We see that God created all things very good. He created Adam and Eve innocent and righteous and without sin before God in the Garden. But what we also find is that in this original condition Man was able to sin and we see that born out in the fact that they actually did sin by eating the forbidden fruit.

The second condition of Man that we see described in so much of the rest of the Scriptures is the condition that resulted from Adam’s first sin. Mankind fell from original righteousness, became guilty and sinful. So that Genesis 6:5 could say that every intention of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually.

And the ability of Man in this condition is described in very bleak terms throughout the Scriptures. For example 1 Corinthians 2:14,

The natural person [natural man in fallen Adam] does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Those words ‘not able’ are of extreme importance. The condition of man after the fall is one of total inability to embrace the things of God – not able. So Augustine described this condition as being not able not to sin.

This does mean that mankind is as practically sinful as they could possibly be, but that there is a pervasive sinfulness such that the natural man is cut off from the life of God and so, is sinful in every part of his being – his mind and will and affections are all in sin and darkness. And so there is an inability: he is not able not to sin.

But the third condition is the condition of a new creation, with Christ as the first fruits and fountainhead. In this condition, Augustine describes mankind as able not to sin. And doesn’t this sound very much like what Paul has described here in 2 Corinthians? If you are in Christ you are able not to sin! You are able to do righteously! We have been born again with new spiritual life and able not to sin.

The fourth condition Augustine describes as not able to sin. This final condition the Scriptures often describe as glorification, which is yet future. There is coming a time when we will not only be able to do righteously but where we will no longer have the ability to stumble and fall. Listen for example to 1 John 3:2-3,

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Our future hope is not only that we will be able to do righteousness, but that we be confirmed in righteousness and like God because we shall see Him as He is.

So let’s be clear about Paul’s expectation for practical godliness in this life: God is able to make ALL grace abound to you, so that having ALL sufficiency in ALL things at ALL times, you may ABOUND in EVERY good work.

The point this morning is Don’t cop out! You are able not to sin. You are able to abound in righteousness! To say otherwise is to deny the Scriptures and the power of God through Christ as Paul clearly explains in these verses. It is to act in faithlessness and to diminish and disregard what we already have in Christ.

What are your expectations for the harvest of righteousness in your life? Are they biblical expectations?

  • Paul to Titus

We see Paul’s expectations born out in his words to Titus. What is Paul’s expectation for the harvest of righteousness when talking to Titus? Surely Paul will moderate his language when speaking personally to his friend and disciple, Titus 2:11-14

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

There is a consistent exception in the New Testament that believers in Jesus Christ can live lives of godliness in this present age. In fact, it is the evidence that you are in Christ – joined to Another. It is the grace of God that brings salvation and that trains us to live those lives. Don’t make faithless excuses and resign yourself to famine and dry ground, believing that an abundant harvest of God’s glory coming from practical righteousness and godliness in this age is for some other super-saint. No, it is the birthright of every believer in Jesus Christ. God is able to make ALL grace abound to you so that having ALL sufficiency in ALL things at ALL times, you may ABOUND in EVERY good work.

In this study, we considered the biblical expectation for the harvest of righteousness.
In the weeks ahead we will consider the substance of this righteousness, the goal of this righteousness, and finally the means by which this harvest of righteousness will be increased in our lives.


Giving and Stewardship Acceptable to God

2 Corinthians 8:11- 15

This morning we come into a section of 2 Corinthians where Paul, in the context of testing the genuineness of the Corinthian church, is giving them instruction about what giving and generosity that is acceptable to God looks like. This morning our task is to consider what is acceptable to God and then to examine ourselves in light of what we find. If we are the people of God we should bear the marks of it in the area of money, giving, generosity and stewardship.

God has said so much regarding this subject in the Scriptures, but we will limit our study this morning to those issues which are either directly taught here or which (it seems to me) naturally arise as we try to apply this passage to ourselves.

Scripture Reading
2 Corinthians 8:1-15
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. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

Remember that the overarching context is that Paul is eager to see the Corinthians give evidence that they are genuine believers (that God’s grace is truly at work in them). Does their conduct match their confession, especially in this area of generosity towards God’s people? Remember that Paul is not interested in commanding them to follow a list of rules. He is interested in the fruit of the Spirit that issues from a new heart. Do we have that new heart?

This morning we will not be compiling a list of rules, by which we can declare ourselves righteous. We will be asking if the fruit of God’s Spirit is evident in our lives.

Given the subject matter this morning, I think it is important that we gain perspective from our Lord and Savior Jesus in Matthew 19:24,
… I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

I wonder if we recognize the danger that money and possessions pose to our entering the kingdom. There is great danger in being rich. And compared to the rest of the world every one of us is rich.

This morning we need to consider the use of wealth, giving, and stewardship that glorifies God and it is a weighty and important subject. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person (you and me) to enter the kingdom of God. Something miraculous has to happen! Something radical! Or we will not go to heaven.

Have we seriously considered the threat that wealth poses to our hearts?

Guests on the earth
In Psalm 39 David gives us a number of great pictures that help us gain perspective on our situation on the earth. In Psalm 39:4 and 5 David says, “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” and then in verse 12, “Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears! For I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers.

Do we understand that we will last here only a very short time? We are fleeting. Do we understand that all our days are a nothing before the Almighty and all of human history is a breath? Do we consider ourselves guests on the earth? We are here in God’s world as guests. We own nothing and will soon be gone. Do we have the right perspective about who we are before our God and are we living in His world, making use of His things, soberly?

Health, Wealth, Prosperity Rejected
Unfortunately, there are well known teachers who claim the name of Christ who are teaching that Christians, because they are children of God, ought to be experiencing the benefits of comfort and health and wealth in this age and if we are not experiencing those things we must not be walking by faith or living in obedience to God.

They want to claim that if we just follow Jesus and obey His word things will go well for us in this world because the kingdom has come and we are citizens and sons of the King and so if we will just obey we will be blessed with comfort and health and wealth. In their view, riches and healing and health are a sign of God’s favor.

But as we saw in verses 1 and 2 of chapter 8 when God’s grace (favor) comes down it does not necessarily mean poverty will be revealed. In fact, if you have been with us in 2 Corinthians you will know that Paul has said again and again that yes, we have treasure secured, eternal in the heavens, but now we have it in jars of clay. In this age we can expect persecution, affliction, being struck down. We can expect to carry the death of Jesus around with us in our mortal bodies. We can expect our outer-self to be wasting away. We can expect groaning, burdens, dishonor, slander, punishment, sorrow, having nothing… yet in Christ, we do possess all things (2 Cor 4-6).

Those who teach that God wants you to be healthy and wealthy and prosperous in this world are ignorant of what God has said or they are deceptive. And often those who teach such things connect the receiving of God’s material blessing with the obedience of trusting God. ‘You want God to bless you with financial security and abundance?’ they ask, ‘than you must trust him with what He has already given you.’ Which usually means giving money to that preacher or church or organization. And so the motive in that false teaching becomes, ‘if you want a material blessing, giving us your money.

But in the Scriptures normal Christianity is sorrowful, yet always rejoicing – poor, yet making many rich. Light and momentary affliction preparing eternal weight of glory.

Brothers and sisters, we are here for a moment and we have a mission to attend to and it is not a mission to amass earthly wealth for ourselves, it is a mission to make many rich eternally through faith in Jesus Christ. It is a mission to take the treasure of the gospel to difficult and hostile people who live in difficult and hostile places. Your mission in this world is not to live a comfortable and self-serving life, it is to multiply disciples of Jesus Christ, seeing them grow to become fully devoted to Him, His people, and His mission until He returns. Who will be faithful to complete this mission? Certainly not those whose first concern is comfortable living and accumulating riches and comfort.

Do we bear the marks of God’s people? Do we bear the marks of people who have run in faith to Jesus Christ crucified, risen, and coming again for forgiveness of sins and life everlasting? Do we bear the marks of those who have set their hope in Jesus Christ alone for resurrection and joy? Are we looking forward in faith or, are we grasping for the riches that perish?

1 Timothy 6:6-10
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Riches are dangerous.

Are Riches the Problem?
So, is it sinful to be rich? No. Riches are not the problem – it is the love of money that is at the root of every kind of evil. There were some very wealthy people in the bible who loved the Lord. But it is dangerous to be rich, like us. It is not sinful to be rich, but it is sinful to crave riches and to set our hope on riches and to want to secure our riches and to grow our earthly riches more and more.

Those with riches tend to trust in their riches and not in the Lord of lords, the Creator and Sustainer of everyone and everything. But the mark of God’s people is that they give themselves first to the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:5). Have we given ourselves to the Lord?

Brothers and sisters, let’s approach our text in 2 Corinthians soberly, with a right perspective, realizing the danger of trusting in riches and not the Lord. With sobriety, lets learn from 2 Corinthians 8 about the kind of giving that is acceptable to God.

Meeting Needs vs ‘Pious’ Self-Imposed Poverty

If you look at verse 13 and 15 they say,
“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need [the suffering Jerusalem saints], so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, ‘Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.’”

I would like to draw out of Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians a couple of principles here.

Poverty is Not the Goal

First, notice that even as there is danger in being wealthy (because we will be tempted to trusting in wealth and not God), there is no inherent godliness connected to poverty. Paul wants those in poverty to be relieved. He wants those in need to have that need supplied. His idea of a good outcome in the church is not that all the members of Christ people burn their houses down, live on the streets and starve to death nor live on the backs of others when they are able to meet their own needs.

Here is a couple of passages that help us understand the right use of wealth:
1 Thess 4:11-12
“…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your own hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”

We should be working with our hands to have enough to support ourselves and not be dependent on others. The same idea is expressed in 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12,

2 Thess 3:11-12
“For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now, such persons, we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”

But consider Ephesians 4:28 as Paul adds an additional element,

Ephesians 4:28
“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”

So, let’s put this together. It is not good to be in want nor is it good to be dependent on others when it is in our power to support ourselves. There are times when we have no choice, but let’s not confuse legitimate need with idleness and foolishness. If fact, we are told that it is good to work hard and even to accumulate a surplus so that we have something to give to others who are in need.

So, even as we must guard our hearts against trusting in the emptiness of possessions (rather than in God who richly supplies all things!) we must not think that wealth is the problem to be discarded – it is to be used to support ourselves and to meet the needs of others.

Meeting Needs for Christ’s Sake is the Goal

Notice also, that the giving described here in 2 Corinthians is not giving driven by some theoretical and abstract principle; it is giving to meet the real needs of others. When the Lord blesses you with more than you need (and we saw in 1 Timothy 6 that we are to be content with food and clothes and not to crave more than that) it is so that you can meet the needs of others.

It is clear from what we have seen in the past few weeks from chapter 8 that we as Christ’s people are to be a people overflowing with hearts of generosity, not following a list of rules out of some duty driven obligation. So often stewardship is reduced to abstract principles like, Christians give 10% of their annual income. But that is not what Paul is describing here at all.

What Paul is describing is a people who, in verse 5, “…gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” God’s people are not driven by some wooden unfeeling principle. They are driven by new affections for God, robust faith in God, and new affections for His people and for His mission.

When we give ourselves first to the Lord we are giving everything that we have and everything that we hope to have to the Lord – it is His. We entrust ourselves to Him and His will, the things that He loves become the things that we love.

Have you given yourself to the Lord? Have you given everything to Him? It is His. And you are His.

Those led by God’s Spirit do not say, “I have fulfilled by duty to God and man by tithing my 10%. The 90% is mine.” Those led by God’s Spirit say, “In You, Oh Lord, do I put my trust. All I have is from You and is Yours and so I will use what is Yours to support and strengthen and help Your people and Your aims in this world.”

Is this how we function here?

Considering the Tithe of the OT and making Application to the NT.
I have just touched on fairly controversial subjects (in some circles) that naturally comes to mind when talking about wealth, giving, and stewardship in the church and that is tithing.

Interestingly, even as 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is all about evidence of the work of the Spirit in us expressed as generosity it does not mention tithing (the practice of giving ten percent of our income to the Lord). It could be argued that the reason is because Paul is calling the church to collect a special fund for a particular need, and not addressing the regular giving habits of the church, but the fact is that the New Testament does not explicitly teach that New Covenant believers are required to tithe. There is no set percentage given in the New Testament.

Now some argue that the New Covenant does not need to state a set percentage because the Old Covenant clearly set the standard at 10%. But that is also debatable. If you study the Old Covenant theocracy you’ll find at least three tithes that appear to be different from one another and you will see regulations about not reaping your fields right up to the edge nor gathering the gleanings that have dropped at harvest time and to leave it for the poor and sojourner. And a pretty convincing argument can be made that an Israelite under the Old Covenant was required to give more than 23 percent of their income to the Lord not counting the produce left in the fields for the poor.

And this 23 percent was used to support the Levites who ministered in the tabernacle and temple, it was used for a required yearly sacrificial feast to the Lord, and it was used to meet the needs of the fatherless, widow, and alien in the Israel.

But that Covenant has passed away. That geopolitical nation and the circumstances in which those tithes could be paid has passed away. So are we obligated and required to pay 10 percent or 23 percent to the church?

For more detail about the Old Covenant tithe, this are some of Sam Storms considerations,

‘Some believe Israelites paid nearly 22 percent of their income to the Lord every year! Let me summarize this argument.

According to Leviticus 27:30-33, 10 percent of all grain, cattle, fruit, etc., was to be set aside as a tithe to the Lord. This tithe, in turn, was to be given to the Levites for the work they did while serving at the tent of meeting. The Levites constituted the tribe of Israel from which the priests were taken. We read in Numbers 18:20-32 that they received this tithe because they were not given an inheritance in the land.

Thus, it would appear that the first 10 percent of the Israelites’ income was to be given to the Levites, who in turn tithed from that 10 percent (1percent), giving it to the high priest (Numbers 18:26-29). Clearly, the Levites, or those who ministered in the tabernacle and temple, were supposed to live off the tithes of the other eleven tribes.

In 1 Corinthians 9:13-14, Paul reminds the church that in the Old Testament economy the Levites who worked in the temple lived off the tithes brought there: ‘Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve the altar share in the sacrificial offerings?’ He then says in 9:14, ‘In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.’

Paul’s argument is that those who spend their lives ministering the Word of God should be supported by other Christians. To make his point, he draws attention to the way it was done in the Old Testament. At a minimum, Paul is saying that other believers are to financially support those in so-called ‘full-time-ministry.’ Whether or not he is saying that they should do it by giving precisely 10 percent is less certain.

On the basis of Deuteronomy 14:22-27, some argue that a second tithe (or 10 percent of the remaining 90 percent, hence 9 percent) was to be taken once a year to Jerusalem, there to be consumed by a man and his family in a sacred feast or meal. If a person lived too far was to transport his tithe to Jerusalem, he was permitted to exchange his goods for silver. When he arrived in Jerusalem, he was to covert his cash back into cattle, sheep, wine, etc., (Deut. 14:24-26). If this is the correct interpretation, we now have Israelites paying 19 percent of their income in tithes. But there is more to come.

According to Deuteronomy 14:28-29, an additional tithe of 10 percent was to be paid every third year. This tithe was to be given to the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless, and the widows. In other words, every third year the Israelite was to take an additional 10 percent of the remaining 81 percent. If my math is correct, this means that every year the Israelite was required to pay approximately 21.7 percent of his income in tithes to the Lord.

[It is actually 23.3 percent if we don’t assume the additional tithes are based on the remaining amount but on the principal income amount. In addition to all this, we need to add that the Israelites were not to reap right up to the edges of their field, neither to gather the gleanings after the harvest. They were to leave it for the poor and sojourner (Leviticus 19:9-10).]
Others have objected to this interpretation, arguing that these passages in the Old Testament all refer to the same tithe… Regardless if which view one takes, the important point to note is that the Israelite was required to pay his tithe. It was tantamount to a national income tax. That is why Malachi 3:6 speaks of those who do not pay their tithes as ‘robbing’ God. In Israel, under the Mosaic covenant, there was no such thing as separation of church and state. One’s tithe was a religious tax designed to sustain the theocratic state of God’s chosen people.”

Desire to Do It

As we have seen in 2 Corinthians, in no uncertain terms, we are not under the Old Covenant Law (though it certainly has much to teach us about what God loves!). We are not driven forward or pressed in or constrained by external force of law to give 10 percent or 23 percent of our income to the church. Instead, we are led by God’s Spirit to give ourselves fully to the Lord and then to be radically generous to meet the needs of God’s people and to support the mission of Christ in the world.

As is clear in verse 1-12 of chapter 8 Paul wants to see the Corinthians have an earnest desire and a genuine love for their brothers and sisters. He is not interested in duty driven obedience. Without desire and love for God and others, giving any amount does not please God, it is not acceptable.

2 Corinthians 9:7
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

The New Covenant standard is not 10% is faith, hope, and love. The standard for the New Covenant people of God are hearts satisfied with in Christ and overflowing with generosity, not a duty-driven tithe.

Let me pressing this a moment more. Are you and I obliged to give 10% of our income to this local church? Is that what God requires? I have heard of churches that require the members to supply the leadership of the church with their tax returns so that they can ensure that the income of the church is at least 10% of the membership’s income.

But the sad truth is, as I’ve read statistics that said only about 3-5% of even protestant church goers actually tithe (so in a church of 40 that is 1.2 – 2 people, church of 400 that is 12 -20) and most protestant churchgoers give less than 2% of their income. I would not be surprised if this were so (but I’ve also been told that 90% of all statistics are made up. I just made that up). I don’t know what you give, nobody in this church knows what percentage you give and we are not going to check.

But the standard is far higher than 10% or even 23 percent. It is a heart fixed upon the Lord and His righteousness – it is life that has been entrusted to the Lord. It is a heart fully devoted to Christ and fully devoted to His people so that we work hard as the Lord prospers us so as 1. not to be a burden and so that 2. we can give for the needs of others and for the furthering of the gospel. Not to pad our retirement or make our lives more comfortable and secure (with food and clothes we will be content).

Have you been freed to a life like that? Are we marked by this a kind of generosity?

Now I want to make sure we note here that this does not mean merely giving to the local church, but it should certainly include it. Yes, I believe that as the Old Covenant taught us, God’s people ought to support the local assembly ministry of the gospel (see 1 Cor. 9:13-14 Paul speaks to that a bit). And so your life of radical generosity should include robustly supporting the local church, but that is not where our generosity ends. After you have given to support the local church you are not off the hook and free to life like an unbeliever! All that you have is the Lord’s and if you have entrusted yourself to the Lord all that you have will be used for His glory and His mission.

And maybe for you, it truly is only 1% that you can spare, probably not, but maybe. Or maybe it is 10%, or maybe it’s 23% or 30% or 95%. The Lord has so abundantly blessed us as westerners with resources. Are we using His things for His glory and His mission?

Are we investing in making many rich for eternity, or are we investing in making ourselves rich here?

Good Start Matched with Completion

And notice in verses 10-12, Paul says,

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.

The issue in Paul’s mind is not, ‘are the Corinthians living on the brink of poverty because that is what pleases God?’ No. This issue is not, ‘are they giving their dutiful 10 percent?’ We see clearly Paul is not asking them to give out of their need (as Jesus tells us the widow did in Mark 12:42, or as the Macedonians did). Paul is concerned that the Corinthians are meeting the needs of others and supporting God’s people out of what they have from hearts that are genuinely living upon Jesus.

And here we see he is concerned that they may have just given lip serves to wanting to give, but that truly they don’t intend to follow through. He is concerned that their hearts line up with their words.

How about us?

Do we have a surplus? If we do we have something to give for the furthering of the gospel and the support of God’s people. Do we say, “yes, I am a follower of Christ and I want to use God’s things to support his people who are suffering and I want to use His things to support His mission” but then do we follow through with those words in the way we actual use God’s things? Is our desire matched by our completing the good work out of what we have?

Convicting. Let us not be hearers only. But doers.

A Call to Radical Discipleship

Jesus called us to be his disciples, to follow him on the calvary road – to lose our lives in this world that other might live and God might be glorified. He did not call us to build our own empires or live in comfort and luxury. He called us to be content with food and clothes and to entrust ourselves to Him who raises the dead.

As David said, we are but guests here in a world. We are not our own – and even as we have been adopted, Peter tells us we are aliens and sojourners here and the author of Hebrews told us that here we have no lasting city. Our citizenship and our hope and our treasure is secured in Christ. By faith in Him we have been granted rewards unimaginable, and pleasures forevermore, to behold His glory.

Do our lives look like the lives of those who have been captivated by a vision of the great and awesome God who loved us and gave Himself for us – so that we have given ourselves to Him and now by His will do we generously and joyfully and fearlessly give out of what we have been given? Are we bending our lives and livelihoods toward kingdom purposes or toward self-serving comforts?

Let’s finish well. Let our conduct line up with our confession. Our lives here are but a breath, let us live them here trusting Him, who, though He was rich, yet for our sake, He became poor, so that we by His poverty might become rich.


God took on human flesh and dwelt among us,
Fulfilling all righteousness,
He died upon the cross and perfectly paid the penalty for sin,
God raised Him from the dead, testifying to the perfection of His work,
And all who trust in Him, in Him who beat the power of sin and death and who is Lord of lords – will be raised in like manner and enter into eternal life and riches in the presence of His glory forever.

We live now between the ages. In the hour of grace. And we are here to proclaim this gospel and make many rich forever.

That is why we are here and all that we have been entrusted with in this life should be used for that end.

Do we bear the marks of Christ’s people?