Are We Willing to Use the Resources God Has Given
Us According to God’s Priorities and Purposes? Part 2
1 Corinthians 4:1–2; 2 Corinthians 8:1–9
Discipleship Lesson #09
September 23, 2018
“Our Father, we are so thankful that You are the living God, the God who speaks, the God who communicates and that You have revealed Yourself to us clearly. You have preserved that revelation in Scripture through the written words of the text.
“That through the truth of the Scripture we might come to know who You are; we come to see who we are as creatures in Your image, though terribly corrupted by sin. We understand Your grace and Your goodness to us.
“Father, we understand that we are saved by grace—by Your provision of salvation at the Cross—that we can add nothing to it, we do not do anything to earn it or deserve it, it is not a part of works. We are saved freely, and we just are offered the opportunity to take and to receive it.
“Father once we are in Your family there is a second invitation: A call to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, the call of discipleship. As we wrap up our study today, we pray that we might be challenged again to the responsibilities, the privileges of following Jesus and being a disciple of His.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Last week we began to look at this final topic in the challenge of being a disciple: “Are We Willing to Use the Resources God Has Given Us According to God’s Priorities and Purposes?”
We began that last time by looking at 1 Corinthians 4:1–2, which talks about, primarily in the strict interpretation, Paul’s responsibility as a servant of the Word.
As an apostle, he has a stewardship of the Word, but that is extended by application to all believers. We have a stewardship of the mysteries of God—that is the previously unrevealed revelation—that is for Church Age believers.
We have a responsibility to handle that correctly as a pastor, as a teacher, as a Sunday school teacher, we have that responsibility. But as individual believers we have the responsibility to handle it in our own lives, to understand it, to apply it, and to have it transform our thinking.
We looked at several topics as we’ve gone through this series.
The first asked the question: Are we are we willing to respond to the challenge of being a disciple?
It’s not a call to salvation. It is a challenge to live the Christian way of life. Salvation is at no charge. It is simply to receive the free gift of salvation by believing that Jesus Christ is the One who died on the Cross for our sins, who paid the penalty for our sins, and that by believing in Him we have eternal life.
But after we’re saved, there is a response to that call; we looked at several questions.
We looked first at: Are we willing to be trained, as the Twelve were willing to be trained by Jesus?
We’re reminded of John 6; everyone else, all the other disciples that had been with Him for a while, were curious and interested, but they really weren’t committed: they all left. Jesus has the Twelve with Him, and He turns to them and says, “Well, why don’t you guys go, too?” Peter said, “Because You alone have the words of eternal life.”
We need to think about that because that should shape our priorities. Everything else that we invest our time and our talent and our treasure in does not resonate for eternity, but our spiritual life does.
The second question was: Are we willing to be obedient, to take up our cross daily—an idiom meaning to submit to the authority of God—are we willing to be obedient and to follow Jesus, to deny ourselves daily in order to serve the Lord?
The next question was: Are we willing to count the cost? The question is phrased in such a way as to expect a positive answer—that we should be willing to count the cost. Because even though we may lose some things related to this life, when compared to eternity, they are really not that valuable.
The question is asked because there are too many who want to put the details of life ahead of their relationship with the Lord. It’s not an “either-or,” it’s a “both-and,” but it’s a question of priorities.
The fourth question was: Are we willing to abide in the Word, to live in the Word, to let the Word of God saturate our thinking? That means more than simply showing up at Bible class once or twice or three times a week.
It means at the very least reading some of Scripture every day, thinking about it, reflecting upon it, pursuing it, listening to the teaching of God’s Word every day along with that in order to have our minds shaped and saturated by the Word of God. It takes time, it takes energy, and it takes a purposeful mindset in order to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus prayed to the Father in His high priestly prayer in John 17, “Father sanctify them in truth; thy word is truth.”
The only way that we’re going to be sanctified is through the Word of God as we abide in it. It needs to be the priority of our life.
Are we willing to love as Christ loved? That’s the next question. To love one another as Christ as loved us. That’s not easy. I was reminded this week of a little ditty that I hadn’t heard in years:
Oh, to be in heaven above with those we love. What glory is that?
But to be here below with saints we know, oh, that’s a different story.
We have to learn to love one another as Christ loved the church. Are we willing to do that?
Last week we began this last question: Are we willing to use the resources that God has given us according to God’s priorities and purposes? Not to satisfy our selfish desires.
That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the things that God provides for us with the financial resources He provides for us. But we should not do that at the expense of serving the Lord.
Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all of its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.”
Scripture teaches that in this doctrine that is often referred to as stewardship really is the responsible management of God’s resources in our life. That everything belongs to God is the fundamental principle. God owns everything. We are simply delegated the responsibility to manage it on His behalf. Therefore, stewardship reflects our obedience regarding the administration of everything.
Our family, our spouses, our children, our time, our friends, everything in our life is something that God has provided for us—our brains, our intellect, to train our brain to be educated. That was a foundation for education that really has its roots in Christianity more than any other religious system, because we understand that God gave us an intellect to use.
He created everything around us, and part of our mission is to come to understand it. All of this is part of our stewardship—to develop our natural talents and our natural abilities. All of this is given to us by God to manage, to care for, and to use for His glory.
The problem we run into, as Moses pointed out, is that we get to the point where we think, “Ah! Look at what I’ve done! I’m so smart. I’m so capable. I’ve got these talents and abilities. I’ve accomplished a lot.” And we forget that those talents and abilities all came from the Lord.
That’s what He warned in Deuteronomy 8:18, reminding them that it is He who gives you the power to get wealth, the intellect to learn and to accomplish things, and to build things.
So that all that we have—all of our time, all of our talents, all of our treasures—are provided by God for our responsible use. We do not own them. They are simply on loan to us. And that’s part of our test: Are we going to learn to manage them responsibly?
The concept of ownership emphasizes our personal rights, whereas the focus of stewardship is on our personal responsibilities.
As Paul developed his thinking in 1 Corinthians 4:1 he says what’s “… required of a steward is that one be found faithful.” Faithfully using what God has given us, whatever that may be, whatever that responsibility may be.
It’s not about getting an A+ in whatever the area is or a C– because some people can’t do better than a C–. And that’s great for them; for that they are pushing the envelope. Others might need to push it a little more because they can actually hit that A+.
But just because you can’t do what the person next to you did, doesn’t mean you’re any less responsible with that which God has given you. We are to manage that stewardship that we can be found faithful. That’s what is sought for, that idea of faithfulness, dependability, being trustworthy with what God has given us.
We saw that we manage the gifts that God gives us, 1 Peter 4:10, because we are stewards of the grace of God.
It is interesting, the word for grace is CHARIS, which is also the word that is often translated “gift,” so it should be translated “grace gift.” All of these are undeserved gifts that God has given us.
We saw that in Ephesians 5 the emphasis is on redeeming the time.
A couple of years ago I read Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s biography. About the time that he was in seminary, maybe at the beginning of his ministry, but as he was maturing and realizing the significance of this passage that we are to redeem the time, he sat down, determined what his age was, and he looked at Psalm 90:10, which I have on the screen, “The days of our lives—we’re not going to stop there, it is not a soap opera—The days of our lives are 70 years;—threescore and 10—And if by reason of strength they are 80 years …”
That’s pretty much the average that we can expect: 70 and by God’s grace, 80.
What Arnold did was he sat down and he said—he subtracted his age from 70—“if I’ve got, let’s say 45 years left to go, how many days is that?” He figured out how many that would be.
We had these little calendar books, Five Star or something that every Dallas Seminary guy had, and you would keep everything in there. It was life. He marked at the top of each page when he got up in the morning, “This is day 102 and I have 18,332 or whatever left until I’m 70.” When he hit 70 he factored how many days there were in the next 10 years and started over.
Well that means that if you are 30, you have 14,610 days left until you are 70. That’s really not a big number is it?
If you’re 40, you have 10,957 days. If you’re 50, you have 7,305 days. If you’re 60, you have 3,652 days until you’re 70. If you live by God’s grace until 80, then you’ll add an additional 3,652.
How are you going to use that time for God? That’s time on loan from God. That’s what “redeeming the time” means. Now you’re going use a lot of that for sleep, you’re going to use a certain amount of that for just doing the necessities of life in your career, in your job. The amount of time that’s left over is really rather small. How are we going to responsibly manage that time?
The key is abiding in the Word as Jesus said, John 8:31, “If you abide in My Word, you are my disciples indeed.”
We’ve talked about the management of our time and our talent, using our spiritual gifts for the body of Christ and serving the Lord, and now our treasure, financial treasure. This is all terribly convicting; maybe we ought to close in prayer, but we will look at what the Scripture says.
One of the very first episodes that we have in Scripture related to giving is in the Old Testament, Genesis 14. We studied it recently on Tuesday night in our worship series. It’s the episode where Abraham has moved into the southern part of Israel, and there is a war that comes, there is an invasion that takes place, an attack from various kingdoms located in the area of Babylon.
There’s always this conflict between Babylon and Jerusalem. Amraphel, the king of Shinar, put together a coalition of kings and their troops and they invaded into the valley of the Jordan River. They went south and destroyed the five cities of the Plains: Sodom, Gomorrah, Zamora, and others.
They captured a lot of people, took them as slaves—there’s no mention of anyone dying—and took their goods. They plundered them; they stole everything. They circled south of the Dead Sea and headed up north, and Abraham pulled together 318 armed men in his camp.
He has at least a thousand people with him to have that many young men of fighting age, trained men. They went and took on this army. They defeated them. They rescued Lot, his wife, and their daughters. They rescued the other captives and recovered all of the booty and the plunder. As they were heading south, they came to the small town Salem.
Later when David took the City of Jebus—that’s Salem—from the Jebusites. If you’ve been to Israel, you’ve seen this and you say, “That’s the City of David?” It’s about 12 acres, 10 acres, something like that. It’s not very large because people didn’t live in cities like we do today.
It was an administrative center, and even then it was a worship center because the king of Salem was a Gentile named Melchizedek, which is probably a title, Melchizedek.
Abraham took a tenth of the plunder, of the spoils, and he gave it as a token of gratitude, as an offering of gratitude, to God the Most High.
What’s interesting is that it is a passage that is often abused by numerous churches and religious groups to teach something called tithing. Tithing is simply an old English word for giving a tenth of something, and it has nothing to do with what they teach. They abuse and misuse the passage.
Abraham is not giving because it’s mandated. It’s not legislated by Moses for another 600 years. It was customary, where it came from we don’t know, but it was customary among various ancient Near Eastern religions to give 10 percent to the gods. It’s a nice round figure. So, Abraham is giving that amount.
He’s not giving it from his wealth. He’s not going into his IRA and taking out 10 percent in order to worship God. He is taking it from the booty that the Amraphel coalition took from Sodom and Gomorrah. He’s making the Sodomites and the Gomorrahites pay the tithe, as it were.
This has nothing to do with any kind of giving that occurs either under the Mosaic Law or in the Church Age, other than it is a recognition that the victory comes from God, and it is given as a tribute to God in thankfulness for His grace.
Melchizedek blesses him, Genesis 14:19, “… Blessed be Abraham of God Most High.” Melchizedek was a priest of God Most High. God Most High means Creator God, and so it is understood by Abraham that Melchizedek and he worship the same God.
They’re not like anybody else around them because everybody else is polytheist. Everyone else is pagan; they are idolaters. But they (Abraham and Melchizedek) worship the singular God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth.
That’s the only time this is mentioned prior to the Mosaic Law. When we get to the Mosaic Law, we discover there’s not just one tithe; there are actually three tithes in the Mosaic Law.
We discover going through the Old Testament, contrary to what most people say or claim or think, that there are two different types of, shall we say, giving. You have one type that is mandatory; it is legislated. We will look at it closely: what we see is that’s really comparable to paying taxes to support the nation. It has nothing to do really with free-will giving. There was also free-will giving.
You have both of these, and often the free-will giving is related to your offerings because, as I pointed out earlier, that if you go to the temple or to the tabernacle, and you’re going to offer a sacrifice, a burnt offering, because of your sin, a peace offering recognizing your fellowship with God, you will also bring with it a contribution.
You determine its amount. It’s totally free will, it’s not mandated; but it is expected that this will accompany that sacrifice. That is a free-will offering. That is a response and an expression of your response to the grace of God.
The first tithe is mentioned in Numbers 18. This is 10 percent of whatever it is that you have, and you are to bring this to the temple. In the ancient world the temples, because the gods guarded them, whether in a pagan system or the true God in Israel, were where money was kept. The origin of banking was in these temples.
In Numbers 18:21 we read, “Behold, I have given the children of Levi—that’s the tribe of Levi—I’ve given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance.”
The term “inheritance” also means possession and that’s how it should be understood, as a possession.
Ten percent of the income of Israel belongs to the Levites, to their tribe, because they have no other possession. They weren’t given any tribal allotment in the land. They served the Lord, and this is the basis for their income. It’s in return for the work that they perform. It’s not just welfare. They worked hard, teaching the Word, taking care of the tabernacle, the temple, teaching the people, and so they receive 10 percent.
In Numbers 18:22, “Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle.”
In other words, you can’t get to God without the Levites. These guys are really important, so your 10 percent has a significant function.
Remember Israel is a theocracy. That means God rules, but the administrators of the kingdom are the priests, the Levites. They’re the bureaucracy that ran the kingdom before there was a monarch.
Numbers 18:24 reads, “For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance. Therefore I have said to them, ‘among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.’ ”
They have no possession. They work, but not in a typical service industry. They work in the “service of the God” industry.
That’s the first tithe. It’s like income tax. You give 10 percent to support the bureaucracy of the government.
The second tithe is described in Deuteronomy 14:22–26. This is a fascinating tithe. I have read it described in ways that just aren’t right, but when we read the text, it is a focus on a celebration. It is a national party. It’s celebrating God’s goodness to Israel.
Deuteronomy 14:22, “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year.”
Basically, all the increase in all of Israel, that’s their gross domestic product, 10 percent of that is going to go to having one great party.
Now if they’re obedient to the Lord, God richly blesses them, they’re going to have a huge GDP. That 10 percent is going to provide for some of the finest wine and the best of the best of all of the crops, in all of the fruit, and everything that is provided.
If they’re under the Law, they’re obedient, so when they bring their offerings to the temple and bring the best of their herds, you’re going to get prime, prime roast beef. When they bring the lambs and the sheep, you’re not going to be getting mutton that’s left over from last year.
It’s going to be a tremendous celebration. Let’s say 10 years go by and Israel is apostate, God’s not blessing them, they’re under divine discipline, and the crops aren’t so good, it hasn’t rained for a couple years, 10 percent is a rather meager amount.
Strong drink was a barley beer, so instead of having a fine micro-brewed ale, you’re going to get stuck with something like Lone Star or some lower-level, mass-produced beer that just barely passes muster.
You’re going say, “Wait a minute! What happened! We had some really good stuff a few years ago. We were drinking the finest of wine and now we have Thunderbird. What in the world happened? So, it’s a visible physical reminder that God’s not blessing us right now. Things are not going well. Maybe we ought to pay attention to what’s going on.
That’s your second tithe; you will come and if you have to travel too far, you’d sell your goods back home and get the money, and then when you got to Jerusalem, you would buy something.
Deuteronomy 14:23, “And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide—that, of course, would be at the temple—the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.”
Deuteronomy 14:26, “And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires …”
You’re going to have one heck of a good time. You’ve been working hard all year on your farms, and now you’re going to come to Jerusalem for a couple of weeks, and you’re going to celebrate. There’s going to be burnt offerings all the time, it’s going to smell almost like you’re worshiping next door to Aunt Pookie’s Barbecue sometimes.
You’re going to smell that meat cooking. That’s that sweet savor offering, and it’s going to be great.
Deuteronomy 14:26, “You shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.”
You’ll hear the big choirs, the big orchestras. We cannot imagine what a holiday and celebration this would be. But it’s all a barometer, a metric, to reflect the spirituality of the nation.
The third tithe was only every third year. This is the welfare plan. See even God provides a safety net for those who can’t provide for themselves, but it’s not to be relied upon because the real safety net was the family.
You can go back in our history, the history in the United States, the history in Western Europe, and churches provided for the elderly, churches provided for the sick. They were provided for so much better than today because they were local on the spot, and they knew what was going on.
They knew that if one family was having trouble and it was because the father had been injured at work, they would take care of him. But if they knew that he was just a lazy, good-for-nothing drunk, that might be a different story. They understood, and because they were local, they couldn’t be taken advantage of.
This tithe was taken every third year. It’s stored within the gates, that will be stored at the temple, and it would be designed to take care of Deuteronomy 14:29,
“And the Levite—who was impoverished— “… has no inheritance or possession, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow who are within your gates, that they may come and eat and be satisfied.”
They’re not giving cash; they’re giving food. They’re taken care of but they’re not going to starve to death. That was God’s plan.
You have three tithes, but you also have free will offerings.
The free-will offerings, Exodus 25:2, getting ready to build the tabernacle, the furniture for the tabernacle. God tells Moses to “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering. From everyone who gives willingly with his heart, you shall take My offering.”
This is not a mandatory tithe. It’s a free-will offering.
It goes on to talk about as the spirit moved them, literally, Exodus 35:21–22, “Then everyone whose spirit—that was their immaterial spirit—was willing—was moved—and they brought the offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service. They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart, and brought earrings and nose rings, rings and necklaces, all jewelry of gold, that is, every man who made an offering of gold to the Lord.”
This was used to build all of the furniture, the Ark of the Covenant, everything related to the tabernacle. It is a free-will offering.
So, the tithes were designed to support the bureaucracy of the nation, the priests and Levites, to have a spiritual barometer for the nation in terms of their annual celebration and their feast days. Then last of all it has to do with taking care of the poor, once every third year. Then we have the free-will offering.
Deuteronomy 12:6 lists these. Look at this:
“There you shall take your burnt offerings—this is a central sanctuary—your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes—those are mandatory—the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings …”
A vow was free will. It’s not mandated that you make a vow. It is mandated that you fulfill the vow, but not that you make a vow, and then
“… your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.”
This is a background for understanding what happens in Malachi. In Malachi the nation, the Jews, have come back from Babylon. They have returned from the exile. They are intermarrying with the pagans, so this creates a huge problem. They are withholding their tithes, mandatory giving for the support of the nation; they just do not want to pay their taxes. Everybody’s in trouble for not paying their taxes, and this is the background. It has nothing whatsoever to do with anything that goes on in the church or Christianity.
God confronts them, Malachi 3:7, “Yet from the days of your fathers you got it from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ ”
Well, a manifestation of the fact that you have turned back to God is that you’re going to obey the Mosaic Law because you are a citizen of the nation that is in covenant with God and that’s the law of the land.
The rhetorical question is asked, Malachi 3:8, “ ‘Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me!’ ”
God is bringing a lawsuit against the nation, and He is saying you’ve defrauded Me. I have a right to 10 percent for the priests and Levites, to another 10 percent annually, to a third percent every third year. That’s Mine, but you have stolen it from Me, you’ve defrauded Me. They say, “In what way have we robbed You?” He says, “In tithes and offerings.”
I’m not going to ask for a show of hands here, but I think most of us who’ve ever been to different churches have seen on their bulletin what they have in place of worship of giving. They have tithes and offerings. That’s absurd!
They’ve never explained it. Tithes are mandatory; offerings are free will, and they treat them as if the are synonyms. They are not synonyms, and they are only significant if you’re under the Mosaic Law, and Christ was the end of the Law.
In Malachi 3:9–10 God says, “You are cursed with a curse—you come under divine discipline—for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.” And so the command, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse.”
I have heard so many giving messages that quote this that we need to bring our tithes into the storehouse. Only if you’re Jewish and there’s a storehouse. The storehouse was the temple and it was destroyed in AD 70.
This verse has nothing to do with that, but it does enforce the idea of the importance that the citizens support the government and the functions of the government within the national entity of that covenant nation and all of this is related to applying the Mosaic Law to that nation that was under the Mosaic Law.
When we get into the New Testament, Jesus was asked about paying a tax, and He took the coin, very sophisticated argument, and He says, “Whose image is on this?” They say, “Caesar.” And He says, “Well, give Caesar what is Caesar’s.”
In other words, pay your taxes as part of a citizen of the nation. That is comparable to the Old Testament tithes; that’s the mandated giving, as it were. Then we have free-will giving.
Turn in your Bible to 2 Corinthians 8. 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 are passages that talk about giving. Paul was not afraid to talk about money and the responsibilities of congregations to take care of their financial responsibilities in terms of serving one another.
I read somebody who was talking about this: “See how much they gave!” Yea, but they didn’t have to buy land and buy buildings, and they didn’t have all this of this overhead that we do today. Churches that have been well established over the years pay all of that off, and then they don’t have that overhead, so they have more resources to use for taking care of folks in the church.
What was going on here, as part of the background, is that there was a famine in Israel. So, the believers in Israel were suffering financially, deeply, and Paul was going to take up collections, free-will offering, from the churches that he had established and had been teaching and writing to.
The other thing that’s going on here is he’s writing to the Corinthians who apparently were pretty generous in their giving, but he is writing to them to encourage them with the example of the churches in Macedonia.
2 Corinthians 8:1, “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.”
I want you to think about that. That is a verse that is filled with contrasts.
First of all, what he means by “this great trial of affliction” is their giving. This was a test. The word there for “trials,” is the word related to the verb DOKIMAZO, which has to do with being tested to show what you’ve got that which is good. It’s to reveal that which is positive.
It’s used at the Judgment Seat of Christ when all of our works are burned up and what’s left is the gold, silver, and precious stones. What it’s designed to do is to show what is there that is positive, not to expose the sin and what is wrong. That’s what this test is: it’s an evaluation—an evaluation that involves THLIPSIS, which is the word for testing, for suffering, for adversity.
It’s tough on them. Giving isn’t going to be easy for them. It is a demonstration of their grace under pressure, under the stress of this financial situation, this financial test.
Then it says, out of the “abundance of their joy …” That’s their mental attitude: God owns everything; it’s all His. I’m just happy. God’s providing everything and I trust Him. So, they have an abundance of joy because of the richness of their spiritual life.
That’s contrasted to the reality of their bank account, which is deep poverty. But that’s not getting them down, because their focus of their hope is on the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills. So, they abounded in the “riches of their liberality.” They were generous in their giving.
The churches he’s talking about here are the ones I’ve circled in red on the slide. We remember on his second missionary journey, he came across to Macedonia. The first church established was in Philippi. They treated him well; they threw him in jail.
Then he left there, and went to Thessalonica, and the Jews revolted against him after a couple of months, and they ran him out. The Thessalonian believers were going through a lot of difficulty and suffering and persecution there.
Then he went to Berea where they were praised because they heard Paul teach the Scriptures, but they didn’t just take him at his word, they searched the Scriptures daily to make sure he was accurately explaining the Scripture.
These are the churches that he’s talking about in Macedonia, and he’s going to praise them. Over the last year he has instructed these churches, including the Corinthians, that they are to take up a collection every Sunday, every Lord’s Day, and set it aside. This was for targeted giving, because there’s the situation: I’m going to come back and I don’t want to take up one collection when I come back. It’s going to be better if you give every Sunday over the year, and then when I get there, we will have a better gift for me to take to Jerusalem.
1 Corinthians 16:1–2, “Now concerning the collection of the saints, as I’ve given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”
Rather than the church keeping track of this, what it appears is that each person is setting something aside, maybe in a separate savings account, and then when the need arises, has those resources that can be used for that situation.
He talked about this in Romans 15:26–27, “For it pleased those from Macedonia—that was that northern area on the map. “… and Achaia—that’s the southern area where Athens and Sparta are down on the Peloponnesian Peninsula. That’s all part of Achaia,
“… to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who were in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors …”
That is those in Jerusalem are in debt to those who graciously took care of them. It’s not a debt they’ve got to pay back, but it’s because they were provided for so generously.
There is a principle: these Gentiles had partaken of the spiritual blessings from the Jews. Now the Jews were taken care of through the material blessing from the Gentile believers in Greece.
He mentions this in Acts 24:17, that “… after many years he came and he brought alms and offerings to his nation.”
It is for this test, this evaluation in the midst of difficulty.
He points out, 2 Corinthians 8:3, “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing.”
What does he mean “beyond their ability?” Well, most of us think when a need comes up, “Well, I can’t really afford to help.” We don’t think we have the ability, but in fact, when we do, God blesses us as we give.
“They are freely willing”—of their own accord; it’s not mandatory. It’s not a tithe. It’s to come from their own spiritual life and their own spiritual response.
2 Corinthians 8:4, “Imploring us with much urgency …”
These churches are begging Paul to take their money. It’s not Paul begging them to give money. They are the ones taking the initiative to give the gift.
“The gift” is the word CHARIS, which means grace. It can mean gift, but to get the thrust, it’s a grace gift, no strings attached. It’s a partnership, “We’re involved so that as we give this to Paul, that whatever this is used for, we get benefits from that.”
In this sense we contribute to West Houston Bible Church. Some of that money is given to Jim Myers’ ministry or to some other ministries. Let’s take Jim; he trains people. Those students go out and they plant churches. That’s your ministry. That shows up as gold, silver, and precious stones at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
For generations we participate in the production of these believers that we support. It’s that partnership of ministering to the saints. 2 Corinthians 8:5,
“And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.”
Now that middle line is what is involved in being a disciple. First, they gave themselves to the Lord. That’s not talking about getting saved. That’s talking about a believer who recognizes fiscal responsibility, managing the treasure that God has given them.
They said, “Lord, everything that’s mine is yours”—everything in my 401(k), everything in my IRA, everything in my bank account, everything that is Yours. I want to take out what I need to live, and if you want the rest for something, okay, that’s fine. You’ll take care of me because that’s Your job. That’s Your responsibly.
“First they gave themselves to the Lord—recognizing the Lord owns everything—and then to us by the will of God.”
Just because you give everything to the Lord doesn’t mean He is going to ask for it, by the way. A lot of people think that’s what’s going to happen. But God is a lot more gracious than that.
2 Corinthians 8:6, “So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace—same word CHARIS—this grace gift in you as well.”
2 Corinthians 8:7, “But as you abounded in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also.” In this gift, same word CHARIS again—abound in this gift.
It’s all about generosity, because think about how generous God is with us.
2 Corinthians 8:8, “I speak not by commandment”—see he’s not legislating a mandate here. There’s a responsibility, but we’re to give as God has prospered us according to our will.
2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be made rich.”
He always goes back to the Cross.
2 Corinthians 9:5 gives us an additional insight. Paul writes in his second epistle to the Corinthians, which wasn’t that long after the first one. He still hasn’t picked up all the collection yet,
“Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised …”
There’s nothing wrong with them planning ahead of time. In fact, that’s a key principle in giving. It’s not to be something we just do spur of the moment because we’re motivated by guilt or some manipulation, but we intentionally think of what we give, what we plan, what it’s for, and we do it on a regular consistent basis.
It’s prepared ahead of time; something based on a previous commitment. This isn’t talking about the ongoing daily supply of the church, but for that special gift that was going to go to Jerusalem.
“… that in it may be ready as a matter of generosity—Notice that’s the second time he uses that term generosity. Generosity is a characteristic of grace—and not as a grudging obligation.”
God loves a cheerful giver. The Greek word there is HILAROS. It doesn’t mean funny. I always paraphrase that as a generous grace-oriented giver because that’s the context of that verse. It may be a responsibility, but it’s not onerous.
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2 Corinthians 9:6, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart …” Preplanned: you think ahead of time. What are my abilities? What do I want to do? “… not grudgingly or of necessity—it’s not under law, it’s free will—for God loves a cheerful—that is a generous, grace oriented—giver.”
Here’s the principle, 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that you, always having all sufficiency …” God’s grace is sufficient for us. He will provide us with that which we need, including that which we are to use for others.
“As it is written: ‘He has dispersed abroad, He’s given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.’ Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness …”
What’s that a reminder of? God owns it all. He is the One who has provided you with everything in your bank account. He’s the God who has provided you with everything that you have: your car, your home, your job, your intellect, your health, and your ability to work. All that is God’s, and we’re to use it for Him. That’s what He’s reminding them of, and every one of us. We are to serve the Lord.
“… while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.”
It’s all about responding back to God. What happens?
Where’s the church in Philippi? It’s up in Macedonia. So, he writes a thank you note to them. That’s what Philippians is all about: it’s a thank you note because they sent him some money when he was in prison in Rome.
Philippians 4:15, “Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel—when he first came there, and he was abused and beaten and put in jail. He said—when I departed from Macedonia—and it wasn’t on good terms. He says—no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only”—nobody else helped. You were the only ones who took care of me.
Philippians 4:16, “For even in Thessalonica—when he was there and had trouble—you sent aid once and again—in other words, again and again—for my necessities.”
He concludes in Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
That’s the bank account. It has unlimited resources. That’s what we rely on as we manage the resources that God has given us to His honor and glory, trusting Him that He is the one who is going to pay the bills. He is the One who put us in the house so we can have bills. He takes care of everything.
That is part of our responsibility as being a disciple. Something that every one of us, myself included, has to face every morning when we get up: am I going to live today for the Lord? Am I going to pursue being a disciple today? We might have to answer that question several times during the day, but that’s the challenge.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity that we have to come together, to look at Your Word, to be challenged. In some cases we are rebuked by Your Word, we are corrected, and it sets us on the path of righteousness, teaches us who we are in Christ, what our responsibilities are, and challenges us to follow Him.
“Father, we thank You for all that You’ve given us. Everyone here is richly blessed with the jobs we have, and even those who may not have a job right now are richly blessed. God may be testing you, but you’re blessed. God is the one who holds you in His hands, and He’s the One who will supply all your needs to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
“We have our salvation, which is free. For those who may not be clear on salvation, that living as a disciple is not how we get to Heaven. It’s how those who are going to Heaven should live.
“Salvation is a free gift, no obligations, no strings attached. God doesn’t say, ‘I’ll save you now if you become a disciple later.’ He just says, ‘This is a free gift. Accept it, trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. That’s it. No strings attached.’
“For those who are saved, you can go on living as if you haven’t been adopted into God’s royal family. But as a member of His family, He will still chasten you. He chastens me; He chastens each of us at times. The challenge for us is to live like we’re members of His family. That means to follow Jesus, to be a disciple, to be a learner, to abide in His Word, and to be obedient to You.
“Father, we pray that You would challenge us with this that we have learned. In Christ’s name, amen.”