57. II Corinthians 8: “Lessons in Giving”
Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 12/17/2015
(edited November 2020)
Verse 1: “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;”
Paul said to the Corinthian Christians: “Hey, have you heard about the great gift that God gave to the church at Philippi?” I think Paul was trying to make them a little envious over there in Corinth. Actually, the gift the Lord bestowed on the Philippians was a strong desire for them to give to others.
The desire and the ability to share with others, especially others in need, is a GIFT from the Lord. Giving is not easy. Not for me, anyway. It can be difficult to know what to give, when to give, and who to give to. Not to mention having and maintaining the will to give. But with God’s help, the only limit to our giving and sharing is us.
Verses 2-5: “How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.”
When God said “give,” the Philippians did not let anything stop them. Not afflictions and weakness, not even poverty. Hey, it’s the thought that counts anyway in giving! My problem is that it has often been easy for me to give to others in good times, but I shut it down when things aren’t going so well. The Philippians were trusting that the Lord would empower their efforts to give to others and at the same time meet their own needs. In this way, your giving can be a measure of your faith in the Lord. Paul wants to make sure the Corinthians follow the good example being set by the Philippians.
Verse 6: “Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.”
Titus had been assigned to collect a special offering at Corinth for persecuted Jewish believers in Jerusalem, just as Paul was doing in all the gentile churches. Paul was determined to keep it all organized. And he wanted to make sure that a sense of urgency and importance for this mission wouldn’t be lost at Corinth. Giving was a big part of Paul’s ministry. Is it part of yours?
Verse 7: “Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.”
Giving (not just in money, but love, time and a lot of other things people need from us) is God’s will for all of us. It’s part of worship. It should be a regular part of our spiritual workout along with private devotion, church attendance, Bible study, prayer, and other good things.
Verse 8: “ I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.”
It’s all about love, really. Paul is challenging these Corinthians. And he’s challenging us, too. Paul insists that we who believe in Christ should always be ready to give. And here’s why:
Verse 9: “ For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”
Look at Jesus, Paul says. From the manger to the Cross, and all along the way, He gave of Himself and blessed those in need. Just think of that Samaritan woman at the well, the healing of all those infirm folks. What about Jairus and his little daughter? Jesus gave so much to so many. And it always cost Him something, too. Actually, in the end, it cost Him EVERYTHING! Is it any wonder He wants us who called by His name to be generous? The truth is, He wants to give to others today through us! And if we let Him do it, He will.
Verses 10-11: “And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.”
Paul wants the Corinthian church to follow through to the end and accomplish their purpose! We need that attitude in the Church today. The Enemy and will try to dimmish our giving. Our natural selfishness will try to take it over. But, in Christ, all things are still possible.
By the way, sometimes God blesses the giver more even than the receiver of a gift. Some of the greatest joys I’ve found in this life have been a direct result of obeying God and sharing with others! I need to remember this so much! Sometimes I make giving much harder than it needs to be. Paul seems to agree that giving needs to be fair and not overbearing:
Verses 12-15: “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.”
Do you agree with Paul? Isn’t it good to apply some common sense to the Lord’s Work once in a while? And it’s Godly, too, right from His Word!
Verses 16-23: “But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you. And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches; And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind: Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us: Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you. Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.”
Titus was trustworthy. That matters when it comes to giving. Christ wasn’t always up there in Heaven where He is today. He knows all about the problems that can arise around giving to God and others in this world. Jesus saw, in the flesh, how the Scribes and Pharisees cheated in their giving (look at Mark 7:1-13, for instance). He can see if we do that too! It matters to Him if we use religion to take rather than give. It REALLY bothers Him. If you doubt that, listen to this passage, also found in the Book of Mark:
“And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. And when even was come, he went out of the city.”
I recently made a complete fool out of myself while trying to check the oil level in my car. When I pulled out the dipstick it didn’t have motor oil on it and I got all confused. I called my mechanic in quite a panic. After a short pause he calmy said, “That stick is for measuring the transmission fluid. The oil stick is next to it.” Then he had a good laugh! And rightfully so. I messed up. But Jesus is not confused about how to check our level of faith and love. And one way He does that is to look at our giving.
Christmas is upon us and it should be a time for us to shine in the area of giving. Not just in the packages we deliver to folks, but real giving from our hearts as well. And like those Corinthians, we need to be reminded once to follow through when the Lord calls on us to give to others.
Verse 24: “Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.”
Merry Christmas. Let’s pray.