Sunday, July 26, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "The Heart of Giving"

“The Heart of Giving”
In God We Trust - What the Bible Says About Money
July 26, 2009
2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15

Pop Quiz. Question #1. Money is what? [Profoundly Spiritual.]

That is not just a sentence that we have repeated again and again, it is a deep spiritual truth! Money is not just neutral, physical, or financial. It is spiritual. It is tied to our hearts.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

What did your heart do with money this week?

What did you buy, rent, sell, loan, give, borrow? And what did it say about your heart?

Your heart is active when it comes to money.

Question #2. Who owns all of the money in the world? [God does!]

“The Earth is the Lords’s and all that is in it.” Not just all of the “unallocated” natural resources in the world–but all of the money that we consider our own!

Everything in our accounts, wallets, and purses.

God owns.

Question #3. What does that make us? [Stewards! Money Managers! God’s financial agents.]

And that means that we must give an account for what we do with God’s money.

Question #4. How many masters can you serve? [Only One.]

Only God or Money. God or Mammon.

We must choose. Once and for all and every day.

Question #5. What are the four main ways that we are tempted to serve money?

1. Worry About Money.
2. Steal Money.
3. Hoard Money.
4. Crave Money.

Question #6. What is the opposite (the antithesis) of worrying about money?

[Trusting God.]

#7. What is the antihesis of stealing money?

[Working and Giving]

#8. What is the antithesis of hoarding money?

[Being generous!]

#9. What is the opposite, the antidote to craving money?

[Contentment in Christ.]

Yes! That’s what we’ve learned so far. And to the degree that we’ve learned those 9 lessons, we’ll experience financial peace and blessing!

Now, this week, I want to go deeper into “The Heart of Giving.”

We’ve seen over the last two months that God has much more to say about money than that we should just give it away. Money is good for more than just giving.

But giving is one of the greatest things that we can do with God’s money. It may be, in fact, the greatest thing that we can do with God’s money. I think it is!

Giving is an incredibly beautiful thing.

Taking something that is in your care, something that is valuable to you and to others and then releasing the control and ownership and care of that thing, that possession, that value, that treasure, from your hands into the hands of someone else–at your own expense, letting go, giving!

That’s beautiful!

Giving is an incredibly beautiful thing.

And we all know that. Even when we don’t want to do it, we all recognize how beautiful, how spiritual [!], how amazing a gift is.

Giving is an incredibly beautiful thing.

And that’s how Paul commends it to the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9.

Let me give you the background before we read it together.

The Christians in Judea were suffering. They were very poor and there had been financial setback after financial setback–the economy was terrible! So, several times in the New Testament, there were collections of funds taken among the new churches scattered throughout the Roman Empire, especially in Greece, to relieve the suffering of the Christians in Judea.

In the New Testament, there are two main things that Christians are called to give for: Gospel work and workers and the meeting of tangible needs, especially of the poor.

Gospel work and workers and the meeting of material needs, especially of the poor. This was a collection for the second of those: meeting people’s material needs.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul had urged them to get this collection together. And perhaps they did and this is a second collection, but I think that the collection process got stalled–for whatever reasons.

Now, Paul is asking that the church at Corinth finish the collection process and get the money to where it is needed most–Israel.

That’s the background. Paul is asking for money. Not for himself (though he’s not afraid, as a gospel-worker, to live off of the gospel and the giving of Christ-followers), but this time, he’s collecting for the needy in Judea. Let’s see how he asks and what he says about the heart of giving.

He starts by talking about the beauty of some other churches’ giving.

1 Corinthians chapter 8, verse 1.

“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability[!]. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.”

Giving is a beautiful thing.

Paul was amazed at the beauty of the grace that had been given to the church at Macedonia, the gift that the Macedonia Christians had received. What was the grace? The ability to give.

And to give beyond what they were able!

The Macedonian Christians were experiencing trials. Probably persecutions. Maybe some of them had lost their jobs, not over the economy, but over their Christianity!

But did that stop them from giving? Uh uh. It helped them!

Paul says, “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy [in God!] and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity [Now, that’s a crazy equation! Joy + Poverty = Generosity!]. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability[!]. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.”

That’s totally turned around! The “fundraisees” were asking the fund-raiser for permission to give! Permission Granted!

Here’s the heart of Christian giving: Giving from the heart!


That’s what God wants from us. And what He does in us.

God wants from us and creates in us generous hearts.

God wants us to give generously.

Notice where it comes from. From a relationship with God. V.5

“And they did not do as we expected [poor Christians, going through trials, we expect them to hold onto their cash!], but they gave themselves first to the Lord [That’s important] and then to us in keeping with God's will.”

Notice the consecration involved here. The relationship.

Before giving their money, they gave their hearts to the Lord.

Our generosity comes from our relationship with the Lord.

That’s where these guys got their (v.2) “overflowing joy” to be able to give.

It’s something God does in us. He gives us joy to give.

A generous heart.

That’s what God wants. See verse 6.

“So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning [with this collection], to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us–see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

“[E]xcel in this grace of giving.”

God wants us to have generous hearts.

He wants us to excel in the grace of giving.

Are you generous? Am I? Do we have generous hearts?

This church does.

I said it the first Sunday of this series, this is a generous church. You take good care of me. About 50% of our budget here cares for me and our support staff. You give outside of these four walls. 25% of our budget goes outside of here to gospel work around the world. And that doesn’t include special giving like the Shoe project from Family Bible Week or the money given to Haiti earlier this year or next month’s Missionary Christmas fund.

You are very generous as a whole church. I am very pleased to be your pastor.

But are we all generous?

I have not come to generosity very easily. My wife is very generous, but I am much more selfish. Heather has helped me tremendously to learn to be generous with money.

Early on in our marriage, our monthly expenses almost always exceeded our monthly income. I was working part time as a youth pastor, she was working part-time as a church custodian, and I was going to school full time.

It didn’t make any financial sense for us to give! (At least to me.)

But my wife was generous. And she encouraged me to give the firstfruits of our income to the Lord every week.

And, surprisingly, somehow, often miraculously, God took care of all of our needs (and so many blessings beyond!).

I’ve learned some about generosity over the years, but I have a long way to go to (v.7) “excel in this grace of giving.”

How about you? Do you, personally, excel at giving?

We all agree that giving is a beautiful thing! How are you doing at being beautiful?

The heart of giving is a generous heart.


Because it is #2 A THANKFUL HEART. Look at v.8.

“I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love [notice that giving is love! I wish I could camp on that, but we’ll just note it and move on, “I want to test the sincerity of your love...”] by comparing it with the earnestness of others [like the Macedonian Christians–and like Jesus v.9.] For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

We love because He first loved us. We give because He first gave to us.

Paul says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [He is the most beautiful person of all!], that though he was [unimaginably] rich, yet for your sakes he became poor [becoming one of us!], so that you through his poverty might become rich [and have every rich spiritual blessing there is!].”

It is from the gospel of Jesus Christ that Christian generosity arises!

We are generous because He was generous first!

Are you thankful for your salvation?

Here’s one way to know–are you generous with your money?

A thankful heart.

Now, you could give money for the wrong reasons. Lots of it for the wrong reasons. But if you are NOT generous, you need to check your heart to see if you are truly a real Christian.

Because Christ gave us everything for you, so you can give some of what you have to Him. A thankful heart.

If you are not yet a Christian, consider the beauty of this gospel–this good news for just a second. The Christian story is that God’s own Son was rich in every glorious way but for your sake became poor–living as one of us–and more than that–dying on the Cross to pay for our sins–absolute poverty so that those who put their trust in Him, those who turn from their sins and trust Him as their Lord and Savior–become spiritually rich forever!

If giving is beautiful, well, there is no greater gift!

Christianity is based on grace. What verse 9 calls, “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s all a gift.

And gifts are for receiving. Our side is simply to receive His gift by faith.

I invite you to do it right now, right here!

And then that unlocks something in our hearts (thankfulness) that unlocks something else in our hearts (generosity) that makes us giving people.

Thankful hearts. It starts here.

Now, in verse 10, Paul begins to lay out how he wants them to proceed with this gift. V.10

“And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.”

Now, this is important to note.

Paul wants them to complete the process of this collection. He wants them to be generous. That includes their willingness (see that there in verse 12, we’re going to come back to that in a minute) and their generosity is measured not by how much they give in raw amount (how many dollars exactly) but by how much they gave relative to how much they had–proportionality.

Generosity involves sacrifice.

It’s not, “Look, I gave $100,000 dollars! But I have 2 billion!” So what?

Or the other way, “I can’t give $1000. I only have $500 dollars to my name!”

No, it’s not according to what one does not have but according to what one does has.

Remember, the story of the widow who gave her two bits?

Jesus saw this woman at the temple who gave all that she had. It was (by earthly standards) not very much at all. Lots of other people were giving lots more money.

But she gave more in God’s eyes because of the sacrifice it was for her.

Generosity is measured, to some degree, by sacrifice.

Are you sacrificing in your giving?

This is the hardest one for me. I don’t mind giving, but I don’t want to give up something else that I want to have.

I’m finding that I need to reign in my spending so that I have more to give.

My son, Peter, wants a new capgun. A shotgun capgun. And it costs $16. He only has $8 to his name.

Do you know why? Because he gave $11 for the family goat project that I told you about last week.

If he had held onto his money a little longer, he would have had $16. As it is, he is saving up for it. I think that’s awesome! And I’m looking forward to him getting the whole $16 and laying it across the counter and taking home his capgun.

He gave sacrificially for the goat that we want to buy for some needy family.

And I’m trying to learn that as well.

Here is one of the major enemies of generous giving–the credit card.

Now, these are great tools. I’m sure that some people can use them just fine in the right way. To the pure all things are pure. If you don’t have a problem with these, more power to you!

But they are a temptation for many of us to spend beyond our means–and then what?
Then we can’t give as much as we could have!

Heather and I are working on a new budget this month that will eliminate our need for this thing. We pay it off every month! We don’t carry a balance.

But I believe that the temptations that come with it–especially the temptation to buy it right now whether I have the money for it or not, those temptations–are holding us back from the generosity that we could be living.

Pray for us. And consider it for yourself.

Generosity includes sacrifice. The Macedonians gave “beyond their ability.”

Now, Paul wants them to know that the point isn’t to make the Corinthians poor. V.13

“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.’”

He’s talking about the Manna in the Wilderness.

Paul isn’t saying that the goal is that everyone has the same exact amount. He’s talking about everyone having their needs met and everyone being generous and caring for one another.

Why? Because God is supplying. That’s what manna points to. God’s supply.

Our family has begun to pray for a new Manna Van. It’ll be a Mini-Van, probably, but we’re calling it our Manna Van because we’re praying for God to supply it out of His loving providence for us.

Not more than we need and not less. Manna.

Isaac knows that we’re praying for a van, and he asked his mom if God was going to drop it right out of heaven into our driveway for us! He had heard this story about bread from heaven coming the same way! His Mom said that God could do it that way, but He’ll probably use some other means to get it here.

Regardless, when we receive it, we will know that it was God who gave it. It will be Manna. Our Manna Van.

Now, in verses 16 through 24, Paul shows what great lengths they are going to go to to make sure that the collection is handled carefully with full accountability.

We’re not going to take the time to read it all. But basically, they have 3 honorable guys that everyone can affirm set to take the money to Judea. They are serious about their accountability with this money.

Our church has the same seriousness in financial integrity. Come this afternoon to our church family meeting and see how we keep track and report on every dollar given and how it is used. We take this seriously.

Then, in chapter 9, Paul begins by explaining why he sent ahead this delegation with this letter to get things moving with the offering. Again, we won’t read it, but the point of verse 1 through 5 is that he had promised others that they would be ready to give, so he’s getting them ready to give. So that v.5 “it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.”

And that brings us to our third point. The heart of giving is a generous heart and a thankful heart. Here it is also a cheerful heart.


That means that it comes out of a happiness to give, not grudgingly. V.6

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

A Cheerful Heart.

Now, notice where the amount comes from that Christians are to give.


What a man has decided in his heart.

There is nothing here about 10%.

There is nothing here about a tithe.

The Old Testament had a tithing system. It was actually much more than 10% as there were actually 3 tithes that were required of their grain and produce. Two every year and one every three years, so that it was actually more than 23% was tithed each year under the Old Testament system. And some of that money went to the poor, some of it went to care for the Levites, and some of it was actually to be saved to be enjoyed in a feast time.

But in the New Testament, that system is over and gone.

There are NO New Testament commands to give 10% of your income.

That comes as a shock to many people.

There are NO New Testament commands to give 10% of your income.

Now, if 10% is where the Lord has you, that’s great! Don’t stop.

If your parents taught you to take off the first 10% of your income check and give that to the Lord, that’s great. Don’t stop.

But don’t do it like it’s some law that you need to keep. V.7 says, “not...under compulsion.” Nobody is twisting your arm. You are not under the Old Testament law.

But wait. Don’t leave yet!

You are under something much greater! You are under the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!

We are under a better covenant now! The New Covenant!

And, what do you think that maybe would do to your giving?

I think it rachets it up! We’re not give “under compulsion.” But also not (v.8), “reluctantly.” Cheerfully! Generously! Thankfully! For the greatest gift ever!

I think that New Testament Christians ought to consider 10% to be the floor, not the ceiling of Christian giving.

If there is a binding relevance to the tithing law of the Old Testament, is as an example of a great place to start!


A heart that is happy to give!

Verse 7 says that every one should decide in their own heart what to give. I think we need to do that regularly, systematically. 1 Corinthians 16 lays out a pattern of setting aside a portion in proportion to how God has blessed each week to give.

And then, after you decide what you think the Lord wants you to give, give it away cheerfully!

Be glad to give it away!

“God loves a cheerful giver.”

Because it means that we’re becoming like Him!

It’s been so much fun to see our little family enjoy themselves at putting our own money into the little goat-fun can on the counter at home.

I came into a little extra money this week, and I got to put in a ten dollar bill. And it was thrilling. I was so glad.

And I realized, “I’m cheerful!” I’m happy about this. I’m a cheerful giver.

Now, I don’t tell you that to impress you. If I did, then Jesus says that that would be my reward and there wouldn’t be any more reward coming.

But I tell you that to encourage you. It is possible to give and enjoy it.

And that’s where He wants to get us.

Worry, Stealing, Hoarding, and Craving all get in the way. We have to do battle with them so that we can get past them and GIVE, but it’s great to do it.

I know that many of you have experienced the joy of giving. You’ve taught me about it. I don’t know it like many of you know it.

But we all need it.

God loves a cheerful giver.

And you know what, He gives back to them!

That’s number four and last: #4. AN EXPECTANT HEART.

The heart of giving is a heart that expects God to act in response to our generosity.

Did you notice the promise in verse 6?

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” That’s both a promise and a warning, isn’t it?

Well, get a load out of verse 8!

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’”

I love all the ALLS in verse 8! What a promise!

God promises to be sufficient and to reward cheerful giving. We can expect it!

We will have what we need–spiritually and even materially to abound in every good work. V.10 says it again.

“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”

This is the paradox of Christian generosity. You can’t outgive God.

This is not the health and wealth and prosperity gospel. The perversion you see on the television.

This is Philippians 4:19, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in Glory” and grow you spiritually and make you even more generous and bless you in the most important ways!

Jesus said, “Give and it will be given to you...”

Not because we earn it by giving, but because that’s God’s way of operating.

R.G. LeTourneau used to say that “I just shoveled money at God, and He shoveled it back. And God’s got a bigger shovel!”

And not just money, of course, but every good thing. Our cheerful, generous, thankful giving somehow opens the door for God’s richest blessings to pour out on us.

It’s that relationship between faith and blessing. Obedience and blessing.

You never earn it. But the two go hand in hand. You can expect it.

And it blesses others, too. V.12

“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. [Everyone is blessed!] Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.”

They’ll pray for you as because you gave to them. Not because you paid for prayers, but because they’ll be so thankful to God for you.

Isn’t giving beautiful?

That’s because of the most beautiful gift of all. V.15

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”


Ended up on your blog while researching giving sermons. Thanks for sharing this. As an Anglophile, read the Lord Peter Wimsey post as well; Dorothy Sayers is an incredible writer, and has "the little extra" that Christie, Marsh, Perry and others don't. Blessings!

Al Schirmacher
Lead Pastor
Princeton Free Church

Thanks, Al!

Glad to hear we have some things in common.

Tell me more about Marsh and Perry? Christie I know, but those other two aren't familiar to me.