The Jews have a story to answer the question, “How did God decide where to put His temple?” Two brothers were partners in a grinding mill in Jerusalem. At the end of each day, they took the grain they had milled and divided it equally into separate sacks.
One night the bachelor brother thought, “This is not right. I am alone and don’t need much, but my brother has a wife and children. He deserves a larger share.” So, sneaking back to the mill each night, he took part of his share and put it in his brother’s sack.
The married brother had also been doing some thinking, “This is not right. When I am old, I will have children to support me, but my brother will be all alone. He serves the larger share.” So, sneaking back to the mill each night, he took part of his share and poured it into his brother’s sack.
Each morning they were blessed to find their sacks refilled and thought a miracle occurred.
One night, however, the brothers happened to leave their homes at the same time and met at the mill. Instantly, they knew what the other had been doing, the explanation for their miracle. They fell into each other’s arms, weeping. God looked down upon this scene of sacrificial love and said, “Here is where love meets. Here I will build my temple.”
This story is not found in the Bible but it is a perfectly good explanation, nonetheless. I like the idea of God honoring sacrificial love by building His house on the spot where it had been enacted.
Today we’re going to talk about money. And about time. And energy. And everything else God has given you to manage for Him. We’ll learn something WONDERFUL: God has given you enough for you to be generous. God graciously gave to you so you could be generous with Him and His people!
God gives us a spirit of generosity.
In terms of the context of this passage, this church in Corinth had a lot of problems, but when they were made aware of the famine in Judea, they responded by giving generously (8:1-9:5). This passage explains the spiritual principles at work in the gift the Corinthian church collected.
As Jesus was fond of doing, Paul used farming as an illustration of generosity. Verse six is loosely based on a Jewish proverb that showed how much a man sows limits how much he receives.
The word translated GENEROUSLY literally means “with or in blessings.” It is a quality of the giver. Generosity is not measured by comparing one’s gift with others, the real measure is the size of the gift in comparison to the resources available to give. This is the numerical way to measure generosity. There are other ways to measure it.
Verse ten points out that God supplies both the beginning and the end of the agricultural process; both SEED for the SOWER and BREAD as FOOD. In so doing, He has earned our trust. Because we can trust God, we don’t have to be miserly: we’re free to be generous. The more we give away, the more we will personally experience God’s provision for us.
The word translated as GENEROUS in verse eleven means “single-minded liberality.” This is a person who knows no other way to live, except with generosity to all.
There is another way to measure generosity, but is personal, not numerical. A generous giver can be identified by his attitude toward the gift. Generosity is never giving RELUCTANTLY (“grief/regretfully”) or UNDER COMPULSION means “out of necessity.” A generous gift is voluntarily given. Giving for any reason other than godly loving disqualifies a person from being considered generous.
A generous giver does so of his own volition. More than that, he give CHEERFULLY. What kind of giver does God LOVE? A CHEERFUL GIVER. CHEERFUL can also be translated “gracious.” We know that grace is something undeserved. A gracious giver is one who happily uses things to please people, not the other way around.
This teaching parallels what Paul wrote t/t Church in Rome; THE ONE WHO SHOWS MERCY SHOULD DO IT WITH CHEERFULNESS. (see Romans 12:8) There is no such thing as a “grumpy giver.” GET this – being generous is FUN!!
Verses eight and eleven explain that we don’t do all this on our own, but that God supplies us with what we need to be generous with others; the means, the motive, and opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. This is true spiritually. God showed grace to us – His salvation is gracious, considering how undeserving we are. His Holy Spirit changes our attitudes, including our attitude toward material things. We value them less than we value God and His people.
This is also true materially. Deuteronomy 8:18 = BUT REMEMBER THE LORD YOUR GOD, FOR IT IS HE WHO GIVES YOU THE ABILITY TO PRODUCE WEALTH, AND SO CONFIRMS HIS COVENANT, WHICH HE SWORE TO YOUR FOREFATHERS, AS IT IS TODAY. Since our giving is to be in proportion to our possessions, the more God gives us, the more generous we can afford to be. When we feel pinched economically, our human nature says to hoard, to look out for #1. Our former sinful nature wants us to be selfish.
In verse eleven, we’re promised more than abundance – that we will be RICH. There are three caveats, however. An abundant provision enables us to have enough extra to give to God &/t needy. We’re to be RICH in all resources God gives, not necessarily in the way we want to be. Not for our pleasure or security, but SO THAT YOU CAN BE GENEROUS ON EVERY OCCASION.
These messages are also true contextually. By “context” I mean your situation; where you are right now. God will place you where He wants you to be in order to be generous. Your job is to be obedient and be generous in that situation.
In addition to all this, God has set an example for us to follow. Paul quotes Psalm 112:9 to show God’s generosity with us. SCATTERED is a word picture of sowing seed with an open hand, not anxious where it will fall to earth, just letting it fly. Generosity is not overly anxious about being deceived. They give to meet needs & are willing to take risks to achieve that goal. The word POOR covers everyone who has to resort to begging in order to live; the most needy person. One of the ways that God’s RIGHTEOUSNESS is made evident by generosity.
Practicing generosity increases godliness.
Verses twelve through fourteen bring out two primary effects of the practice of generosity. First, the needs of people are met. In this case, the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem were starving in a famine & the collection in Corinth would feed them.
Second, having their needs met will motivate them to do two things that mature the churches. They will praise God. Paul uses the word SERVICE twice in this section. It is the same word from which we get our English word “liturgy.” To us, liturgy usually means a formalized style of worship. It is a voluntary response of gratitude to God for all He has done, for as we have learned, it is God who equips us for generosity.
Then they will pray for the givers. Our gratitude should be big enough to include both God and the giver. The SURPASSING GRACE of which Paul writes in v. 14 is both the cause and the effect of a generous life. It is the “glue” that binds believers together, creating the unity we need to take Jesus into all parts of our world.
Verse fifteen teaches that Jesus is our example of generosity in His INDESCRIBABLE GIFT. We are to be generous for Him.
His GIFT is Himself; there is no better gift. Romans 8:32 states, HE WHO DID NOT SPARE HIS OWN SON, BUT GAVE HIM UP FOR US ALL – HOW WILL HE NOT ALSO, ALONG WITH HIM, GRACIOUSLY GIVE US ALL THINGS? You can trust a God who loves that much to take care of everything you need.
His GIFT is Grace; eternal life. This is the good part of the Good News. God has done for us everything that needs to be done to be saved. Ours is only to accept it by faith. Then we live accordingly. This is a fitting end to this section as Paul himself gives thanks to God, just as he predicted the Jerusalem church would.
So when people say “I have anything to give,” I know that either they are wrong or the Bible is. God has shown us this morning that His provision is perfect; He makes RICH for doing every kind of good work. Don’t make excuses; the truth is that God has equipped you with all you need to be a blessing.
Let’s get practical as we conclude. Elsewhere the Bible teaches that 10% is the starting point for our tithe, the biblical word for what we give back to God, what we use to help others.
Determining 10% of your money is easy. Take all your income and immediately take 10% and give it to the church. Since the average Protestant churchgoer gives just 3%, I suppose many of us will be challenged by the figure. However, my experience is that when God receives the first check, you never miss it and He always provides.
NOW – good news if you’re not giving 10% of your income. We need to be creative and smart in making up the difference between our percentage and that 10% figure.
For example. Consider a tithe of your time. There are 168 hours in everyone’s week. A tithe of time would be 16 hours, 48 minutes. How much time do you give each week to the Lord and in volunteer service to help the needy? Figure the percentage and add that to percentage of the money you give.
Another example. Consider a tithe of your property. Take some items from your home and either sell them or give them away to the needy. Give a tithe of the sale or calculate how much that item was worth as a percentage of your income.
A third example. When you receive interest or dividends, use a tithe of that to make a special gift to our church or a ministry that helps others.
A final example. Do you have a will? If not, make one. Name our church and/or a Christian ministry as a beneficiary.
Time and money. You have to spend both of them and how you spend them says a lot about you. Hear this:
- God does not want you to go into debt or neglect your family to make that 10%. Be wise.
- God does not want you to get legalistic. If you don’t give cheerful and out of love, your gift is wasted.
- God suggests 10% as a starting point. If you are enabled to give more, give more.
You will never know God’s provision until you extend beyond your comfort zone.