2 Corinthians 8:1-7
Many approach the subject of stewardship with long, drawn?out apologies. I have never apologized for my leadership responsibility at this point. In fact, we do people an injustice if we do not lead in teaching biblical principles of stewardship.
Greed is one of the biggest obstacles to personal and corporate revival. When the back of greed is broken, the human spirit soars into regions of spiritual awakening. Ask a little lad with a little lunch. Ask a lovely lady with an alabaster box. Ask our Lord Jesus Himself.
In the 2 Corinthians 8, the apostle Paul talks about our stewardship. His emphasis is not on our giving by guilt—because we have to. Nor is his emphasis on giving with a grudge—because we ought to. But his emphasis is upon giving with grace —because we want to.
He even begins with grace in the first verse of 2 Corinthians 8. The Corinthian church was not giving to the Lord’s work. When we are not spiritual we are generally not generous. Paul encourages them by using the Macedonians as an example. The Macedonians had suffered greatly for the faith, and yet they gave so sacrificially for the Lord’s work. They excelled in what Paul called “the graceof giving” (2 Corinthians 8:7).
As Paul wrote these words, the Jerusalem church was being scattered throughout the world. There was a depressed economy. However, the Greeks in Corinth were doing well financially. But they were not giving to the Lord’s work as they should. Thus, the apostle writes and uses the Philippians, the Bereans, and the Thessalonicans as examples to them. Little did those Macedonians know that when they gave what they did, they would influence us 2,000 years later.
Now, there are some modern money myths from Corinth that need to be dispelled today. The Corinthians were living with these myths and seeking to justify their lack of giving to the Lord’s work because of them. In so many ways the church of the Western world today is living with these same money myths.
Myth No. 1: Only people with money should give.
“…their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:2).
Some people say only people with money should give. Let Bob or Bill do it. He has the money. We often exclaim, “If I had their money, I would give; I would tithe.” This notion that only people with money should give is just a myth, though.
Paul said that these people gave out of “a great trial and out of deep poverty.” They gave out of what? Stock reserves? Certificates of deposit? Savings? No, out of “deep poverty” and “great trial.” The Greek word translated “trial” in 2 Corinthians 8:2 is the same word that means “purging.” The word picture is of a precious metal that is heated until the liquid impurities rise to the top and are scraped off. Pure metal is left, and when it is cool it’s stronger than ever. Here were people who were being tested. The heat was being turned up on them. Yet out of this great trial, they gave to the Lord’s work.
The apostle also says that they gave out of “deep poverty.” The word means “rock bottom destitution.” They had lost their jobs. But circumstances did not keep them from giving. The people in Macedonia did not buy into the myth that those in Corinth did, that only people with money should give.
Our Lord Jesus destroyed myth No. 1 when He encountered the widow with her last coins. We all know the story well. A lot of people would counsel her to keep it. They would tell her that only people with money should give. And they would have robbed her of a great blessing and us of a great example. Our Lord placed that widow with a few pennies in the Bible to show us that our money talks. He still sits opposite the treasury to see not what we give but how we give it. She gave out of her want and not out of her resources.
How many times have we heard, “Only people with money should give”? I have had people tell me, “If I had a million dollars … or if I won the lottery … I would give to the Lord’s work.” If God can’t trust you to give out of poverty, how will He ever trust you to give out of riches?
It is a myth that says that only people with money should give. The greatest givers are most often those with little. This is because it is not what we give but how we give that matters most to Christ. Look at the Macedonians. What an example they are to us today. They gave out of “great trial and deep poverty.”
Myth No. 2: It is unpleasant to give.
“…that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:2).
Some say it’s unpleasant to give. Many think we would be happier if we kept our money for ourselves. Some people believe we should “give until it hurts” That is a myth. There is great joy in giving. It is said of the Macedonians that they gave with “the abundance of their joy.”
The Lord Jesus destroyed myth No. 2. He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Think about that at Christmastime. When you and your family are all around the tree opening gifts, what do you do? Do you watch the one who is opening the gift? I don’t. I watch the expression on the giver’s face, which is filled with delight upon seeing the recipient enjoying the gift. It is written all across the giver’s face! This is why parents like Christmas so much. Because it is fun to give! The only reason some of us have not found the “abundance of joy” in giving is because we simply have not practiced it.
It is a myth to say that it is unpleasant to give. Those who know what it is to have an open hand with God have joy. We remember back in Bethany this very expression of blessing. Jesus said to the woman in Bethany that she had done “a beautiful thing to Him.” She walked home on a cloud with joy in her heart that night. Have you given anything lately that caused the Lord Jesus to say, “You have done a beautiful thing to me”? Look at the Macedonians. They gave out of an “abundance of joy.” It is a myth to say that only people with money should give, and it is an equal myth to say that it is unpleasant to give.
Myth No. 3: Giving results in a lack of resources.
“…their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:2).
Some fear that if we give, we will not have enough for ourselves. It is a myth to say that giving results in a lack of resources. Some of us never add the supernatural into the economic equations of life. This is myth No. 3. Jesus Himself said, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). Listen to the message of the Macedonians: “In a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:2). Some of the richest people I know are poor, and some of the poorest people I know are rich! Some have what money can buy, and some have what money cannot buy.
The Lord Jesus destroyed myth No. 3 one day in Galilee when He took a little lad and a little lunch and taught us all a lesson. The boy left home with all of the potential of the world that day and didn’t even know it. His giving started a chain reaction. He gave to Christ. Christ gave to the disciples. The disciples gave to the crowd. The crowd gave back to the disciples. And all because the boy gave “beyond his ability” (2 Corinthians 8:3). He “abounded in riches.”
It is a myth to say that giving results in a lack of resources. Many who are reading this can attest to that very fact today. The fact is often that our lack of giving is what results in our lack of resources. God will never allow us to be the loser when we are faithful to His Word and obedient to His will. There are many modem money myths from Corinth that need to be expelled.
Myth No. 4: Just do what you can.
“…and beyond their ability, they were freely willing” (2 Corinthians 8:3).
No, you can do more than you ever imagined you were able to do. Listen to the message of the Macedonians. “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing” (2 Corinthians 8:3).
Some people give today in a strange way. They sit down. Add up all their bills. Pay them all. Set aside money for incidentals. Put aside money for their monthly recreation activities. Then at the end of the month if anything is left over, they give it to the Lord Jesus and His church. They are the ones who say, “Here is what I am able to do” Thus, this type of individual never tithes and never benefits from God’s plan of economy. He buys into myth No. 4 from Corinth that you should just do what you can do.
Long years ago, my wife, Susie, and I learned the truth of this myth. We have learned through the years that we could not only do what we were able to do but along with the Macedonians “beyond our own ability.”
It is a myth to say that you should just do what you can do. When you say that, you leave God out of the equation of life. I don’t necessarily know exactly how it works, but those of us who practice it know it’s true. It is a miraculous thing to be able to “give from God’s hand.” David said, “Everything comes from You and we only give You what comes from Your hand!” (1 Chronicles 29:14-16). A lot of people today are like the Corinthians who justify their lack of giving with modem money myths. But they are only that—myths. It is a myth to say only people with money should give. It is a myth to say it is unpleasant to give. It is a myth to say giving results in lack of resources. It is a myth to say, “Just do what you can do.”
Myth No. 5: You have to give; giving must be coerced.
“…they were freely willing…” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4).
Some say you can’t get people to give without putting pressure upon them. Some use gimmicks. Others use guilt. Some try to make us feel like we have to give, while others try to make us feel like we ought to give. But that is a myth. Stewardship is voluntary. Stewardship is a privilege. Listen to the message from Macedonia: “I bear witness that according to their ability. yes. and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4). These Macedonians saw it as a privilege to give. They were “freely willing” to give. Wow! They begged for someone to take their offerings. They got more excited about the offering than they did any other part of their worship. The grace of giving will open our hearts, but it will also open our hands.
It is a myth to say that we have to give. Those committed to Christ see giving as a grace and a privilege.
Myth No. 6: We give to other causes to help them.
“…but they first gave themselves to the Lord…” (2 Corinthians 8:5).
Some people give today by saying, “Here is a need: let’s give to this need and help this cause or help this particular person.” But that in itself is a myth! Look at the Macedonians. Look at their priorities. They saw it not so much as giving to others as a gift to God Himself. Paul says. “They first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5). This is what makes Christian giving different from any other kind of giving. Some people give “A Day’s Pay the United Way.” Others give to the Salvation Army. As followers of Jesus Christ we give ourselves first to Him. Our giving is always to the Lord. The Lord Jesus said, “Inasmuch as you do it unto one of these the least of mine. you do it unto me:” When David was raising the money to build the temple he said, “I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you” (1 Chronicles 29:17).
Myth No. 6 says that we give to other causes to help them. No, in Christian stewardship we give ourselves first to the Lord and then our resources. If our priority is giving ourselves over to the Lord, then we will have no problem with giving our resources. This is why many churches have such a high level of stewardship participation. They have a high level of personal discipleship and devotion.
How should we then give? Some are miffed today by modern money myths from Corinth. Where do we get our motivation in stewardship? Paul relates it in the context of these verses when he says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Our Lord laid aside His glory and became poor. He did not begin in Bethlehem. He became poor. He laid aside His glory and stooped down to earth. He veiled His deity in a cloak of humanity. Why? Because the Son of God became the Son of Man in order that “for your sakes He became poor that you through His poverty might become rich.” What ultimately matters is not what money can buy but what money cannot buy. Christ is who makes us rich!
Paul said, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?” Do you? He did not leave heaven gritting His teeth nor clenching His fists. He did not leave shouting to the Father, “OK, OK.” No, it wasn’t obligation that caused Him to give. It was grace! They did not drag Him up the Via Dolorosa screaming and kicking. No, they led Him like a sheep to the slaughter. Yes, we know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor that we through His poverty might become rich. And, that is our motivation for Christian stewardship. No wonder Paul concludes his discourse on giving in 2 Corinthians by saying, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).