Bible Passage: II Corinthians 8-9
The human need this passage meets is: to develop generous giving that is based upon a person’s relationship to God.
Learning Goals: By the end of this session, each learner should be able to. . .
(know) Understand the source of true generous giving.
(feel) Gratitude to God for allowing you to give Him praise through your generous giving.
(do) Make a plan to show generous giving.
In The Day They Shook the Plum Tree Arthur H. Lewis tells the strange, but true story of Hetty Green. She died in 1916, the richest and most detested female in America. She had $100 million dollars in the bank, but ate crackers and cold oatmeal because she was too cheap to buy good food. The last 20 years of her life she lived with a painful hernia because she would not spend the $150 for an operation. Her own son’s leg had to be amputated because she was too cheap to take him to a doctor. One one occasion, she searched half the night for a lost 2 cent postage stamp. Once she tried to forge the signature of her deceased aunt in a vain attempt to accumulate a million dollars more. She cheated her employees and even withheld payment from her attorneys until they took her to court.
She had two children: Ned and Sylvia.
Ned spent $3 million dollars a year on: yachts, coins, stamps, diamond studded chastity belts, female teenage “wards”, pornography, orchid culture, and Texas politics.
Sylvia kept $31 million dollars in a bank that paid no interest. She employed a hard-working Italian laborer as her gardener for 34 years. In all that time she spoke to him twice: Once to tell him that he would be docked an hour’s pay (40 cents) for being late to work. The other time to tell him to keep his daughter off the premises because she didn’t like children.
They’re all dead now — Hetty, Ned and Sylvia. Almost without exception, these millions were distributed where they were least needed and where they accomplished a minimum of good.
Generally speaking many Christians (when it comes to their attitude toward money) are more like Hetty Green and her children than like Christ. I’m simply talking about being self-centered instead of Christ-centered; being stingy instead of generous.
The truth is that many Christians keep some places within their hearts off limits to Christ’s control. Receiving the grace of God often provides a wonderful sense of relief, peace, joy and hope. Letting Jesus change us and transform us to be like Him requires a kind of surrender that often feels like death.
Want to know the privilege and purpose of being God’s child? What’s Missing Inside You? is a Bible study with numerous real-life stories.
As a result it seems easier to become a Christian than it does to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. And no where is this more true than in the area of being a person known for generous giving.
To help us, Paul describes the source of generous giving in II Corinthians 8.
Read II Corinthians 8:1-7
In Acts 11 the Bible tells of a severe famine that devastated Jerusalem and the surrounding area. The first offering taken to help the Jewish brothers in Judea came from the church in Antioch. The offering was sent to the elders by Barnabas and Paul. The book of Acts and Paul’s own letters tell of his efforts to maintain a flow of funds to the people in Judea. With this concern in mind, Paul teaches the “New Covenant Theology of Giving” everywhere he went.
In II Corinthians 8 Paul explains that the only way poverty stricken people could be changed into selfless, sacrificing, generous giving people was the work of the grace of God in their lives. Simply put, the grace of God was greater than…
v. 2 – the severe trials they were experiencing
v. 2 – their extreme poverty
v. 3 – their own ability to give
Paul gives us the insight as to how exactly the transformation occurred.
v. 5 – they gave themselves first to the Lord, then to us in keeping with God’s will
There are two significant truths we need to see from verse 5:
1. Christians do more than confess sins, they offer God themselves.
a person who is a Christian is taught to offer God himself
we become a Christian by repentance and faith.
2. The Macedonians’ focused on the Lord, not a need.
they gave themselves first to the Lord, then to the need at hand.
We are motivated to give because of God’s grace, not our guilt. That is why most people dislike discussions on stewardship — it makes them feel guilty.
This is the #1 problem in sermons, studies and programs on giving. A framework of grace is not seen, known or felt. The result is that average believers gives their money to relieve their guilt and to get God to like like them.
is being accepted by God just as you are.
is God’s incredible and unearnable love toward the unworthy and undeserving
can never be earned or repaid. It is a free gift from God to us.
When you give God your money…
it cannot be to repay God for what He has done for you, because you can’t pay God back for giving you His Son.
it cannot be to atone for your guilt, because that was done by Christ’s blood.
it cannot be to get God to love and accept you, because He has already done that through Christ.
The “New Covenant” reason to give is to honor the Lord and demonstrate generosity. It is not done out of guilt, because from God’s perspective, there’s no debt owed. Christians’ generous giving comes out of gratitude.
God’s Spirit is transforming us from being a “bucket” to becoming a “funnel”. God is changing us into people who will be a channel that flows into the lives of others.
Here are five common traps related to money:
1. Tithing Trap
Tithing becomes a spiritual trap for us when we believe that God will not be pleased with us until we give 10%.
Tithing is for spiritual infants and spiritual children – not the mature. God commanded the Jews to give 10% because they had been in Egypt as slaves for 400 years. They had to rebuild their whole religious identity. They were spiritual children who had no discipline, no religious habits, and no sense of sacrifice.
When I was 8 years old, my parents gave me 50 cents a week for my allowance. They told me that I had to put a nickle in the offering plate every week. Why? Because I was a child and had no sense of what giving meant! The focus was on a specific, measurable amount.
There are wonderful benefits to tithing
Tithing teaches us the discipline of giving. It is a starting point. Tithing is often a difficult concept to accept. 10%? Are you kidding?
Tithing teaches us how to lay a foundation for learning generous giving.
Tithing is only a foundational concept. The goal is generous giving, not tithing! That is especially true for the rich.
I Timothy 6:17 — Command those who are rich to be generous and willing to share
Can you imagine God asking Hetty Green to give $10 million and to do her best to struggle along with the other $90 million?
Tithing teaches us the importance of trusting God, not money
Matthew 4:4 – Jesus said, Man doesn’t live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Tithing teaches us the reality that God owns everything.
The notion of tithing leads some people to conclude that 10% of their money belongs to God and 90% belongs to them. The reality is that God owns everything, we merely manage his property. We brought nothing into this world and we will take nothing out of it.
In Isaiah’s day their offerings had become so ritual that God said they were meaningless. In Matthew 23 Jesus condemned the Pharisees for being so preoccupied with the legal tithe that they completely neglected the more important matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness. Paul said, “If I give all I have to the poor, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:3)
The notion that if you regularly give your money, bad things won’t happen to you. In Job 29, the Bible says that Job was a father to the needy, rescued the poor, and took care of widows. He knew the principle of generous giving. Yet we all know what happened to him. Generous giving is not an insurance policy against difficulties and disappointments.
3. Money for Time Trap
This is the concept that generous giving relieves you from having to give your time. It’s often the way that people deal with their guilt for not being involved. Many a parent has bought his child an extravagant gift (out of guilt) to make-up for his absence.
4. Super Christian Trap
This trap is based on the belief that real generous giving, real sacrifice is for ministers, missionaries, and other super-Christians, not for normal people.
Luke 14:33 – Any of you that does not give up everything He has cannot be my disciple.
5. More Income Trap
This trap assumes that if I made more money, I would be more generous.
Years ago I remember telling God how much I would give Him, if he let me win the Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes. I sensed God saying, “Why don’t you show me how much you are willing to give out of the money I already let you have?”
The Macedonians had virtually nothing and yet found a way to be generous. In Luke 21 Jesus commend a poor widow who gave two copper coins at the temple. Our income doesn’t matter as much as we think.
In II Corinthians 9 Paul describes the marks of generous people.
Read II Corinthians 9:1-14
1. Generous people always have a plan for giving v. 2-7
they had been planning this gift for over a year
they had promised to give it
each person should give what they had planned in his heart to give
Generosity is planned. It is usually not given at the last minute.
We have all seen financial budget books. Perhaps you use one for your household budget. The purpose is to help people see where their money is going and plan where they want it to go. The budget page I saw had four major sections — fixed expenses, living expenses, business expenses, and savings. Then it had a category for everything else — Miscellaneous. On this list, giving to God’s work would be listed under miscellaneous. Do we put giving to spiritual things under “miscellaneous?” Giving people do not consider their generosity as “miscellaneous.”
2. Generous people always understand the principle of giving v. 6-11
Paul describes the principle behind New Covenant giving – the law of the harvest.
He who sows sparingly reaps sparingly.
He who sows generously reaps generously.
This is what permits the Christian to be a cheerful giver. He knows that as he shovels out, God will shovel in and God’s shovel is bigger than his.
“Reaping generously” doesn’t necessarily mean that God rewards us with money. There are many blessings other than cash.
3. Generous people always know the purpose of giving v. 11, 12, 13, 15
These verses teach that our generosity achieves two basic purposes:
God’s name — that God’s name will be thanked and praised
God’s people — that God’s people will have their needs met
(Hold up a blank check.) This is a check. In the lower left corner of a check we usually write what the check is for. If we give a check to God’s work, what would we write on this line?
Do we give because God is short of cash? No, it’s for the name of God.
It’s for the kingdom of God.
It’s for the glory of God.
NOT the building payment
The Wise Men also worshiped with their generous giving.
NOT to impress someone.
NOT to meet the church budget
NOT for a tax deduction
NOT to relieve guilt
We give that God’s name on earth may be exalted and expanded.
We give that God’s people may be helped, encouraged and served by our generous giving.