2 Corinthians 9:1-7 ESV
1 Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 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. 3 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. 4 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. 5 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.
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
The idea of giving is one of the great themes of the good news (cf. Jn 3:16). It pulses through the true Christian way of life as we imitate the God who gives and gives and gives in an overflowing fashion. This second letter to the Corinthians talks much about the generous nature of new covenant ministry. Our Father is the God of all comfort; he makes us stand firm in Christ; he has put his Spirit into our hearts. Our Father wants us to live in joy and love; he has given us greater glory than the old covenant could give; he has made us part of his new creation; he has made us his temple in which he lives; he comforts the downcast and enables us to do the unexpected. God is at work in us in a generous way!
In the same way, our Father in heaven wants our giving to reflect his giving. He wants us to give in a generous and cheerful manner. Let us all remember that giving means more than financial contributions, which is the subject here. There are a number of “four letter words” that can be joined with giving, like love, hope, time, work, self, pray, and of course, cash.
In our previous message from this chapter, we learned of two ideas or principles that should affect the way we give: the principle of organization and the principle of the harvest. Today, we come to the third idea—the principle of cheerfulness.
Three guidelines to promote cheerful giving
I. Cheerful giving should be an individual matter that is settled in privacy.
A. Like many parts of the Christian way of life, our individual acts connect with those of the local group we are members of.
1. The collection was the gift from the entire congregation in Corinth. The contribution from each one would be part of the whole. It is like when we take our offering for the needs of others before the Lord’s Table each month. What each person decides to put in becomes part of the fund that we use to help one another.
2. Yet the amount each one gives is decided individually. It is not something that is decided by the Lord, by an apostle or any other minister, or by the congregation. It is a private, individual decision. This is consistent with Paul’s earlier teaching in 1 Cor 16:3.
B. This teaching agrees with other aspects of the Christian way of life
1. God has given us earthly riches for which we are individually responsible to use for his glory. Each of us should review what we can do to use worldly wealth to lay up treasures in heaven. But this is your private duty. We must respect the privacy of others.
2. God has made the church, the body of Christ, a free society, in which its individual members must agree to work together for the glory of God, the benefit of others, and the common good. In financial matters, no tithe is prescribed that we are obligated to present. Each family unit decides what it can contribute to the work of the Lord.
Apply: The gospel ministry in this place continues because believers in Jesus freely and privately decide to give that it may continue. Your giving shows the glory of Jesus in a heart transformed by gospel grace. That is why we haven’t had, don’t have, and won’t have any group visit you “suggesting” how much money you ought to give. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!
II. Cheerful giving requires us to decide what to give.
A. The Lord expects us to think about what we give.
1. The word translated “decided” points to a settled decision. The person thinks through the issues and makes what he/she thinks is best.
2. This means that cheerful giving will not be impulsive giving. Too often people are emotionally raped by pictures of the suffering and by heart-breaking stories. In response, they make pledges to soothe their jangled emotions, and it can appear to be cheerful giving, as they feel relief. But they are not doing it out of joy, but out of a sense of guilt that they still have much while others are suffering. Too often, such pledges are not fulfilled.
B. The Lord wants us to avoid negative actions as we give.
1. He does not want us to give reluctantly. We should not feel inward sorrow when we give. We should not have personal affections for money—like it is our friend and giving it is losing a dear friend. Money is a tool that we can use to honor God and help others. Reluctance and cheerfulness are not partners.
2. He does not want us to give under compulsion. If the Corinthians did not complete their collection promptly, then they might feel compelled to give to avoid embarrassment. Since all our giving should reflect a generous, willing heart, any feelings of compulsion must be avoided. “Everybody else is giving, so I guess I have to give also!” Feelings of being compelled and cheerfulness do not coexist.
Apply: As you give of yourself, your time, and your money, do not give because you want to protect your reputation. Give because you have decided as an adult son or daughter of God that this is a way to be a partner in the work of the gospel. Give because you want others to enjoy the glory of the Lord. Give because you want to demonstrate something of God’s generous giving.
III. Cheerful giving will put God into the process.
A. The idea of God loving a cheerful giver is rooted in the OTS.
1. Under the law covenant, every seventh year was the time for cancelling debts. During the previous years a poor man may have become deeply indebted to someone. But when the seventh year arrived, all debts were cancelled. Since this was true, some might be reluctant to lend to the poor as the seventh year approached. “It is unlikely that I’ll be repaid before the seventh year, so I won’t lend to a poor man.” Instead, the Lord encouraged the people to give generously to the poor, because he would bless them in all they did (Deut 15:1-11).
2. In the OT writings, the same idea is found in Prov 22:9. The wise person will look at others with a generous spirit, because they are confident that they will be blessed by the Lord for sharing their food with the poor.
B. By the Spirit, Paul expands this idea.
1. God loves a cheerful giver; he delights in people who show his character by giving generously to others (cf. Heb 13:16).
2. All this should impress us with how much this new covenant age is to be a time of joy! When a legalistic spirit rules in the hearts of people, they place a high priority on rules, on acting properly, and on making sure “everybody gets what they deserve”. The Spirit in the new covenant transforms people who live according to it to be people of cheerful generosity. Joy is a high priority for the Holy Spirit and those who are filled by him (Gal 5:22; etc.)
Apply: This week we have many people who will serve the Lord in our Vacation Bible School. Some will serve by teaching classes or by helping the teachers of the classes. Some will serve by contributing snacks for the children and food for the picnic. Some will serve by being at the picnic and seeking to make new friends there. Some will serve by cleaning up during VBS and immediately after it at 12:15 on Friday. Let each one give themselves cheerfully!
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.