The Ministry of Generosity Part2: Some Truths About Generosity
2 Corinthians 8:8-15
This chapter will tell us the truths about generosity. We have learned from the previous chapter that the Macedonian churches have exemplified good reputation when it comes to generosity. Thus, Paul now is encouraging the Corinthian churches to follow that example. The following points will tell us the truths about generosity and why our own churches should follow the same example.
Before going to the main points, here’s a little laugh.
Two men were trapped on an island. One man paced back and forth worried and scared while the other man sat back and was sunning himself. The first one said to the second man, “aren’t you afraid we are about to die.” “No,” said the second man. “I make 1 Million pesos a week and tithe faithfully to my church every week. My Pastor will find me.”
Generosity is a test of love (v.8-9)
We are very familiar with the saying “We can give without loving, but we cannot love without giving.” Paul is not commanding the Christians in Corinth to be generous, but he clearly says that he test the sincerity of their love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. Therefore, we can say that generosity was not given as a command but a test of our sincere love for others.
While some people argues of the “how much of generosity”, Paul made it clear that it is not a command but a test of love. The Greek word is “gnesios” which means sincerely, or genuinely which also tells us that when we see a brother who is need and we just keep on saying we love them without any form of generosity, such love is questionable up to the sincerity and genuineness of such claim.
The love that was used here is the “agape” love, or the godly love. We all know that this is the highest or the best form of love. Going back to our passage, this would mean that Paul is actually saying that generosity is actually a testing of the godly love. It’s not just “fileo” nor “eros” love but an exercise of agape.
A pastor stood before the congregation and said, “I have bad news, I have good news, and I have more bad news.” The congregation got quiet. “The bad news is: the church needs a new roof!” the pastor said. The congregation groaned. “The good news is: we have enough money for the money for the new roof. “A sigh of relief was heard rippling through the gathered group. “The bad news is: it’s still in your pockets.”
Jim Elliot said: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”
Verse 9 tells us the example of Jesus Christ that which is very clear to all of us. Though he was rich with his entire splendor with the Father, he became poor for our sake. The greatest generosity one can ever demonstrate. A selfless attitude for the sake of someone he loves.
Generosity is willingness to give accompanied by actions (v.10-12)
There were times that we say we are willing to give. But the fact is, generosity is not generosity until is practiced. Paul gave his advice to the Corinthian church to finish what has been started about a year ago. The collection of the previous year may have not been very successful because of the previous conflicts that the apostles had with some false teachers. And because of this, Paul is encouraging them to finish that act of generosity.
Paul gave two main emphases on verse 11 about generosity. First, generosity is desired. Willingness to give must be present first and foremost. For if there is willingness, the gift itself is acceptable and is in according to what he has. The word willingness here is almost equivalent to the word “eagerness”. When we say “eagerness” it means to be “more than willing”.
The second one is “according to what he has”. Now this is very important because at first glance, it seems like it’s in contradiction with the previous chapter where the Macedonian churches gave “more than” what they have. The point here is that, the Corinthian churches will be able to give generously, in a manner where that is acceptable and not grudgingly.
Sometimes, we when we start to talk about “giving more”, we start to become skeptic and then we misinterpret that we have been forced to give. In contrast to the main lesson of this point, one has to learn to give out of gratefulness and joy and not with the grudging heart. We have to know that when we give something out of a grudging heart, that gift is nothing and God does not honor it.
Once there was a man who made a covenant with his pastor to tithe ten percent of their income every year. They were both young and neither of them had much money. But things changed. The layman tithed one thousand dollars the year he earned ten thousand, ten thousand dollars the year he earned a hundred thousand dollars and hundred thousand dollars the year he earned a million. But the year he earned six million dollars he just could not bring himself to write out that check for six-hundred thousand dollars to the Church. He telephoned the minister, long since having moved to another church, and asked to see him. Walking into the pastor’s office the man begged to be let out of the covenant, saying, “This tithing business has to stop. It was fine when my tithe was one thousand dollars, but I just cannot afford six-hundred thousand dollars. You’ve got to do something, Reverend!” The pastor knelt on the floor and prayed silently for a long time. Eventually the man said, “What are you doing?” Are you praying that God will let me out of the covenant to tithe?” “No,” said the minister. “I am praying for God to reduce your income back to the level where one thousand dollars will be your tithe!”
God prefers the gifts that were given because it has been the desire of the one giving out of the abundance of great joy and faith. Therefore, if we see giving to be a burdensome, or something that is an additional expense, then we are in the wrong track and it is far from pleasing God. But if we are giving out of the abundance of great joy and the faith that depends on Jesus when it comes to finances, then it is indeed a great offering to God.
Generosity is intended for financial equality (v.13-15)
The gift giving that Paul has been asking here is not intended for the use within the context of the church operations but for the ministerial help to the needy brethrens. It is the fund that they will be using to help brethrens who are in need. This is not to make those poor to be rich but to have an equality among the brethrens just as what they have been doing in the book of acts were there is “no one in need” among the Christian group.
In verse 13, Paul made it clear that the gift giving is not intended for the ease of those who are in deep poverty and to be burden by those who gave. Again, giving is not intended to make anyone poor, rather to help each one so that no one will be “in need”.
But more often, it is very easy for us to comment, “They should work harder, because we work harder too.” Our passage however is not about laziness, but it’s about the demonstration of godly love to the needy. To those who have been suffering from severe trial.
There are some people who view “tithes and offering” to be a payment of the message they are hearing. I even heard some saying that the amount they give to the offering plates depends to whether or not they were blessed with preaching. Some see the church to be an amusement park where the money he gives depends on how satisfied he is to what he heard. If this is the kind of view that we are trying to hold on, then I believe we are on a wrong track for giving offering and tithing is far more than that.
There was a guy who came to church with his family. As they were driving home afterwards he was complaining about everything. He said, “The music was too loud. The sermon was too long. The announcements were unclear. The building was hot. The people were unfriendly.” He went on and on, complaining about virtually everything. Finally, his very observant son said, “Dad, you’ve got to admit it wasn’t a bad show for just Php10.”
Giving our offering and practicing generosity is far more than amusement. If we see generosity as what we have discussed, then I assure you that you are in a wrong track. Generosity is worshipping God and helping other people who are in need and certainly not for amusement.
There were 3 main truths about generosity that we have seen in the passage:
- Generosity is a test of love.
- Generosity is willingness to give accompanied by actions.
- Generosity is intended for financial equality.