The Ministry of Generosity Part 1: Learning How We Should Give
2 Corinthians 8:1-7
Starting from this point, we will be talking about generosity. In some churches, this issue is very sensitive, where most pastors especially the resident pastors, when they teach this, members tend to misinterpret the pastor to be materialistic. And therefore, it is not surprising if there will be some people once we try to preach this matter in our church will also be a little skeptic on this issue.
Nonetheless, it is important for us to talk about this matter simply because this is very Biblical and I will be guilty of the sin of omission if I will refuse not to teach this matter. Thus, we should not be neglecting this teaching for this is not only important to the church itself, but also for our spiritual growth.
Furthermore, the Bible dealt with this issue many times. Matthew, Mark and Luke was said to be that out of 6 verses, one verse tackles about money. And out of the 29 parables of Jesus Christ, 16 parables deal with the person with their money or wealth. The whole Bible itself was said to have more than 800 passages that talks synonymous terms such as money, finances, giving, tithing, generosity, etc. This evidence just shows that it is very important that we talked about this and learn from the Bible the teachings about giving, tithing, and generosity.
There have been so many people who tried to dispute on the issue of Tithes and Offerings. Some church made tithing to be mandatory while some tried to abolish the teaching. However, since we want to follow what is the biblical perspective on giving, we will be standing on the middle. This means that we will still be teaching the giving of tithes but we will not require it since it was not required to NT church.
The most important thing however is learning the main idea of generosity. For us to understand what does it take to give back to God what is due for Him and to offer it in the “right manner” which the Bible gave emphasis on in the book of Genesis in the story of Cain and Abel. The story tells us that first and foremost, we need to offer God what is due for Him in the right manner. Doing it in the other way around discredits our giving.
The Situation of Macedonian Churches
The Macedonian churches are in deep trial and affliction. The province of Macedonia is probably suffering from all kinds of pressures including persecutions.
Persecutions in those times are not done in diplomatic ways. It is most of the time violent. The worst thing is, there were times that the government is influenced by Jews to persecute the Christians (Acts 16:20; Acts 17:5). Let us just try to imagine ourselves in their place. Will we still be there for Paul and stay in the faith when there are people who persecutes us?
Notwithstanding persecutions, the Macedonian churches have the abundance of joy for the hope of the message that they have received. And such joy resulted in great generosity.
The Macedonian churches are in deep poverty. The Greek word used was “ptocheia” which literally means “beggary” (v.2). The Bible describes their poverty as to almost like beggars. However, with the abundant joy, this is not a hindrance to them to practice generosity. Paul even testified that such generosity is even “beyond” their ability to give.
Mother Theresa once said; “If you give what you do not need, it isn’t giving”. CS. Lewis said; “I do not believe that one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid that the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.
The Macedonian churches demonstrated the real meaning of giving. Poverty and trials were never an issue to keep them from giving. They see it as an opportunity to help the saints who are also in need.
How the Macedonian Churches Gave
Earlier we have studied that the churches in Macedonia is in deep trial and in deep poverty. But despite of these facts, it did not hinder them to give.
They gave out of the abundance of great joy. Comparing it in our time, we often dispute on how much should we give. This is very true especially in times that we are in financial difficulties. There times that we give out of grudging heart. There are times that we give out of our pity and unwillingness to give. There are times that some people have to look like beggars first before we give.
But the Macedonian churches gave out of the abundance of great joy. They enjoy giving despite the fact that they are in deep trial and poverty.
The Macedonian churches gave more than what they can afford (v.3). The Macedonian Christians were not rich and they are experiencing severe poverty. But the amazing thing is that they are ready to give and extend their help to the brethrens who are similarly in severe trials. They even beg Paul and other apostles to receive the gift which comes from their earnestness for the blessing and fellowship of helping the saints (v.4)
Luke 21:3 tells us of a widow who gave out of her poverty Jesus himself recognizes it and appreciated what she did.
The Macedonian churches gave themselves first to God, then to the saints by the will of the Lord (v.5). A selfless attitude has been attained by the Macedonian churches because they have given themselves first to God. They felt that all things they own were his (God) and they kept nothing back. People who honestly devoted themselves to God find it easier to contribute for the cause of charity.
These people gave themselves in accordance to the will of God. This show that God is at work in the lives of those who gave themselves to God.
Acts 5:1-11 tells us of the story of a couple named Ananias and Sapphira who sold a piece of property to be brought to the apostles feet so that the proceeds of the land will be used for by those who are in need (Acts 4:32-35). But the couple instead of forwarding all proceeds, Ananias kept part of the money for himself with the knowledge of Sapphira. Both of them died at the same day.
The main lesson of the story is, God sees everything we do including giving as well as our intentions, motives, and the manner of giving. This is why it is very important for us to give ourselves first to God for in this way, giving will never be a problem to us.
The Macedonian churches became a good example of those who committed themselves to God. Such commitment is not only evidenced by physical sufferings but also in a genuine financial generosity. Furthermore, generosity is not an issue of “HOW MUCH”, but in “WHAT MANNER”.
People are always concern of the “How much” in many things. But the Lord teaches us today the rightful manner that we should give.