Saturday, October 5, 2013

P1 - It's a joy to g.i.v.e

2 Corinthians 8:1-5 "Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. 3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord,4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, 5 and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God."1

Let me begin today's post with this question: have you ever thought of giving to the Lord's work as being a joyful affair? When we typically think about the subject of giving, tithing or stewardship in the Bible, most people tend to conclude that we're only talking about money. Undoubtedly many of the verses in the Bible that speak about stewardship often include discussion about finances, however that is truly on the tip of stewardship's iceberg.  Submerged are matters of the heart that we often don't think about. Stewardship's attitudes and lifestyle is worked out in the heart of the Christian.  

When we turn our attention to 2 Corinthians 8, we see Paul using the Macedonian Christians as examples of those who were excited to give to the Lord's work.  In today's post we want to consider the characteristics of Biblical stewardship as spelled out here in 2 Corinthians 8, and why it is a joy to g.i.v.e. To walk through 2 Corinthians 8, we will use the acrostic g.i.v.e.  Note the following exciting traits of Biblical stewardship:

Grace reveals the joy of giving.  2 Corinthians 8:1-6
Christian leader Paul W. Powell writes these insightful comments concerning God's grace as the basis of stewardship:
"The Bible teaches there are different kinds of grace. There is saving grace (Eph. 2:8-9); there is strengthening grace (Heb. 4:16) and there is sharing grace.  This sharing grace is the motivating force for Christian stewardship. Some people give out of guilt. Some give grudgingly-as a grim duty. Others give out of greed, for what they can gain in return. But we should give out of grace." Powell then later adds: When grace touches our hearts: hard times will not be a hindrance in giving. Low expectations will not be an excuse for not giving. Money will not be a substitute for self-giving."2

Paul states in 2 Corinthians 8:1 "Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia." The term "grace of God" could be translated "grace from God". When we speak of "grace" as used here in 2 Corinthians 8, it speaks of, in the words of W.E Vine: "that which bestows or occassions pleasure, delight, or causes favourable regard."3 Grace also speaks "of exceptional efforts produced by divine grace, above and beyond those usually experienced by Christians."4 Quite literally, God's grace makes the idea of giving a beautiful, attractive and exciting adventure! 

Grace persuades and demonstrates God's favor and power to do what is otherwise impossible or perhaps undesirable. Grace is God doing for me what I otherwise could never do for myself. We know that giving and stewardship is based in God's grace by what we read in 2 Corinthians 8:6 - "So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well."

Lets illustrate how such grace can work in the realm of giving.  Lets say I was trying to get you to run to the grocery store to pick up a loaf of bread for me.  What would you say? Would it seem exciting to you? You may weigh it in your mind, or you may say: "well, not right now" or "I'm too busy, can you ask someone else".  But now what if I told you: "Would you please pick up a loaf of bread in a brand new Corvette out in the driveway (lets pretend I own one).  Its sunny outside, and if you wouldn't mind, could you try out the brand new 1000 watt sound system on the open stretch of highway that is not too far from here?" How would your attitude toward getting the loaf of bread change? I'm sure the prospect of getting bread has become attractive (and exciting).  You have an incredible offer and a vehicle that will get you from where you're at to where you need to be.  All you have to do is take the shiny set of keys from my hand.  

You know, God has given us such a vehicle (stewardship) that can transform our view of ordinary things into extraordinary opportunities to do his bidding.  Paul was using the Macedonian Christians as examples to these Corinthians, telling them in a sense that they had taken God at His word, and the ride as been enjoyable ever since. People who truly give as God intends never have regrets.  Why? They know they have their Father's favor, and they view such an activity as a beautiful, attractive offer that they would never want to refuse. So it's a joy to give because grace is the basis of stewardship.  However lets consider a second reason why it is a joy to give...

Imitation of Jesus explains the joy of giving.  2 Corinthians 8:7-9
2 Corinthians 8:9 tells us - "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich."  Why does Paul mention what Christ underwent for sinner's sake in driving home his encouragements for people to participate in the joy of giving? John MacArthur in a sermon said this about 2 Corinthians 8:9 - "And beloved, you can never forget that it was by His self-imposed and willing poverty that Jesus made us rich. This self-emptying, this self-sacrificing love by which we are so blessed and for which we are so thankful is exactly, Paul says, the reason why we need to give to others. As He stooped to be poor to make others rich, so must we. What a standard....what a standard. MacArthur later adds: The Lord has created a community of people who share their life and their resources, who are willing to become poor to make someone richer."5

The accomplished work of Jesus Christ in all that He did is used by Paul to demonstrate the joy of giving.  How do we know that Jesus approached the giving of Himself as a work of joy? Consider Hebrews 12:2 "
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." 

There are many things that we're told to do in scripture that don't make sense - lest of course we consider the cross.  Forgiving our enemies for instance doesn't sit well with us sometimes, because in our world, vengence is the preferable option.  Yet when we consider Colossians 3:13 "forgive as the Lord forgave you", suddenly forgiveness is the only sensible thing to do, being that as Christians we have been forgiven by God through faith in Jesus Christ.  When it comes to stewardship, and the idea of it "being better to give than receive", such a thought makes no sense to the world.  However when we think of what Jesus did in giving of Himself in the incarnation, humiliation at the hands of his critics and utter impoverishment the led to His crucifixion, why not give?  

More tomorrow...........

1. Back in 1 Corinthians 16:1-5 the Apostle instructed the Corinthians church on what they needed to do to prepare for this love offering for the church in Jerusalem.  In 2 Corinthians 8-9 he was coming to collect what was given to complete the relief effort.  

2. Paul W. Powell. Taking the Stew out of Stewardship. The Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. 1996. Page 29

3. W.E Vine. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Fleming and Revell. 17th Printing. 1966. Page 170

4. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament. University of Chicago Press. 1979. Page 878

5. John MacArthur. Sermon: The Poverty that made us rich.

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