For the average family, finances are tight. It usually seems as if there is more month than there is money. Although many families would like to be generous in their giving, they find it difficult if not impossible. How, then, does a family balance the command to give to the Lord’s work with the realities of a limited budget?
Unfortunately, many families are motivated for the wrong reasons. First of all, many give out of guilt. That type of giving is promoted out of a sense of legalism. You have heard preachers say, “If you don’t give your tithe, then God will not bless you.” That teaching contradicts what Paul says in II Corinthians 9:7 “Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person that gives cheerfully.”
Secondly, many families give selfishly. They give to the Lord’s work expecting something back from Him. Their giving is not motivated by sincere worship or heartfelt gratitude. They simply believe that giving to God is the best way to get something back from God. Now, I do not believe either of those motivations honor God or truly inspire the believer to give sacrificially, generously and cheerfully. What, then, motivates the Christian to generous giving?
The eighth and ninth chapters of II Corinthians provide the answer for us. Some have argued that these are the greatest chapters on giving in the New Testament. Let me challenge you to take a few minutes and read this wonderful passage. Here are a few thoughts on generous giving that we can draw from Paul’s challenge to the Corinthian believers.
1. Giving should be an act of faith
In the first five verses of II Corinthians eight, Paul mentions the example of the Macedonian believers. Although the Christians in Macedonia (present day Greece) were experiencing poverty and persecution, they still gave generously to those in need. They didn’t allow their situation to suffocate their giving. How did they give when they themselves were experiencing poverty?
- They were extremely joyful – II Corinthians 8:2
The only way a person can joyfully experience poverty and persecution is to have a deep founded trust in God. The Macedonian believers believed that God was in control of their lives. Thus, they were happy with little. They were joyful in spite of tribulation. They understood the words of James, “when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.”
How about you? Have you learned to be happy with little? Do trials weaken or strengthen your faith?
- They were personally committed – II Corinthians 8:5
Paul makes a profound statement about the commitment level of the Macedonians. He says that their “first action was to give themselves to the Lord.” WOW! That is powerful. They gave themselves to God before they gave their offerings to God.
So let me ask you, is what you give to the Lord an act of faith? Often we give according to our abilities. Let’s be like the Macedonians and give more than we can afford (8:3). Let’s make sure that what we give to the Lord is a true demonstration of faith.
2. Giving should be an act of following
After mentioning the example of the Macedonians, Paul gives us an even better model – Jesus Christ.
II Corinthians 8:9 – You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich.
This verse is filled with profound theological truths. It speaks of Jesus’ deity – “though He was rich.” It speaks of His incarnation – “he became poor.” It speaks of His divine purpose – “for your sakes.” It speaks of justification – “so that He could make you rich.”
Yet, Paul’s main purpose is to use Jesus as our supreme example. Jesus abandoned His wealth and His privileged status for others. So, if Jesus gave away His riches, what are we going to do with ours? Followers of Jesus Christ are challenged to use what God has given them for the benefit of others. Will we hoard what we have for ourselves, or will we follow the example of Jesus?
3. Giving should be an act of farming
II Corinthians 9:6 – Remember this – a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.
Paul shares a simple agricultural principle – You can only reap a harvest in relation to the amount of seed that is sown. A farmer cannot expect a large harvest if he only plants a few seeds. That is not rocket science!
Let us remember that the seed that is planted is the Gospel. When we give to the Lord’s work, we are participating in the work of the Gospel, both locally and around the world. Thus, the more we give the more seed that is sown, and the more seed that is sown, the larger the harvest. God wants you to be involved in the harvest, to have a part in the harvesting of souls. But you have to plant a seed first. Are you planting enough seed? Are you expecting a big harvest?
4. Giving results in provision
II Corinthians 9:8 – And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
What a blessed promise! When we follow the example of Jesus and give by faith, God not only promises to supply our needs, but He also promises to give us more so that we can give more. In other words, He gives to us so that we can give to others.
Let me challenge you to examine your giving. Are you giving according to your ability, or are you giving by faith? Are you following the generous, sacrificial example of Jesus? Are you planting enough seeds? Those are personal and penetrating questions. Let me challenge you to ask God to help you be a generous giver!