“The Cheerfully Giving Family”
2 Corinthians 9:6-12
June 30, 2013
Take a posture of giving it all away!
I. Principles of Family Finance
II. The Blessings of Generosity (2 Corinthians 9:6-12)
I have long believed, and said to many that the most fun thing you can do with money is to give it away. And if that’s true for us as individuals, it would follow logically that it would also be true for our families, the group that represents ‘usness’ in our lives. Today I want to explore that idea in 2nd Corinthians, and I want to challenge us to have as an ideal, a goal, the attitude of giving it all away. Our family approach to finances should be to see how much of what God provides we can give away. Families that embrace this as their underlying attitude toward money will not only be a blessing, but will be blessed.
Do you agree? Good; let’s all go home and give it away then. Oh wait, some of you are thinking “You’re not going to get off that easy. You know I’ve got to care for my family. Giving it all away would be totally irresponsible. You can’t prove I’m supposed to do that.” Well, you’re right, I can’t. Although once upon a time there was a young man with great riches who wanted to have eternal life, and what did Jesus say to him? ‘Give it all away, give it to the poor, and come and follow me.’ So there is some precedent for such a demand.
But I’m not actually saying ‘give it all away.’ I’m saying that families are blessed when they have an underlying family attitude, a stance, a posture of trying to give it all away. Many of you have heard Blue Bell Ice Cream’s slogan, ‘We eat all we can and sell the rest.’ I believe families should have a similar slogan ‘We spend what we have to and give away the rest.’
I believe this attitude can be shown from Scripture. So this morning I want to begin by sketching the Bible’s perspective on finances and then turn to verses in 2nd Corinthians, that are part of the Apostle Paul’s most extended discussion of finances. We’ll learn that in seeking to give it all away we unleash grace, we have the huge privilege of being used to supply need, and God is glorified.
So let’s begin with some quick principles of family finance, really principles of all finance. First and foremost, we own nothing. Everything belongs to God. We tend to say ‘our money, our house, our car’ but in strictest term, those things are never true. It’s God’s money, God’s car, God’s house, God’s dirt that the house is built on, God’s planet that supports the dirt, God’s universe that supports the planet. We don’t own anything. We can prove this from Genesis 1:1 and hundreds of other places in Scripture. In the beginning God created: he’s got the copyright; everything in the universe is his by right of creation. Psalm 24:1 states this simply: ‘the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.’
David reflects on this when he collects the offering to build the temple: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.” He says “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. . . 16O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own.”
Everything belongs to God. But if we are not owners, what are we? The Bible uses the word steward, someone who manages another person’s possessions. In Genesis Joseph is Potiphar’s steward or overseer: “So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had.” This idea of oversight or stewardship of another’s possessions is the best way to think about our own finances and material possessions. Jesus told several parables stewards, faithful servants who proved trustworthy with what their master entrusted to them. Paul says of his ministry that “it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”
What then, does a faithful steward do? One of the things is work hard. Proverbs has a character called ‘the sluggard:’ Proverbs 21: “The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. 26All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.” Proverbs 26:15 “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth.”
Paul himself says “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” And in a verse that I called a few weeks ago one of the key verses in the New Testament for families, Paul says “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Being a sluggard and being a steward are mutually exclusive, and that is crucial in our families. Scripture teaches us to expect to work hard to provide for a family, and to administer God’s resources.
Because a steward recognizes that his hard work is not for himself, but for his master. Paul says to slaves, or employees: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Jesus teaches us not to store up treasures on earth, “where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,” but to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Finally, a steward is generous. Proverbs teaches that “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” Proverbs also tells us very to “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce.” Jesus said “Take care, and be on your guard against all kinds of greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Paul teaches that those with earthly wealth are “to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share”
So it all belongs to God, we are only stewards, and finally, greed is foolish because you can’t take it with you. After Jesus told his followers not to store treasure on earth for the moths and the rust and the thieves, he told the parable of the rich man who got a great crop and built great barns and said to himself “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” 20But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’” Paul reminds Timothy that “we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of it.”
So a few financial principles from Scripture include that God owns everything, that we are obliged to be diligent, generous, faithful stewards of his gifts, and that there is no reason to accumulate, because riches have no value in eternity. All that leads to 2nd Corinthians 8 and 9, to the idea of giving it all away.
At least twice during Paul’s years of ministry believers in Jerusalem faced hardship: poverty and famine and probably economic persecution. And Paul responded to that with compassion and was involved in a special offering raised outside Judea for the Jewish Christians. One of these offerings occurs fairly early in his ministry and is recorded in Acts 11. But later there was another collection, and Paul mentions it to the church at Corinth near the end of his first letter. 1 Corinthians 16:1 “Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. 3And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem.”
But Paul didn’t make it back to Corinth right away, and so one purpose of 2nd Corinthians is to remind them to have the gift ready. Quite a few of the verses in chapters 8 and 9 are meant to encourage and motivate the Corinthians to give. This is especially true of 2nd Corinthians 9:6-12, which teaches that generosity is a blessing to everyone involved: the giver, the receiver and God. And it is that principle which allows us to joyfully take the stance of giving away all that we have, or at least all that we don’t need to eat. Let me read these seven verses and then we’ll trace the principle through them.
2 Corinthians 9:6-12 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.
Paul begins with a common Biblical image called ‘the law of the harvest:’ whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.’ But Paul doesn’t expound the negative case, but the positive: sow bountifully, reap bountifully. ‘Bountifully’ is literally ‘upon blessing;’ Paul is saying that the Corinthians will sow as they receive blessing from God and reap a blessing from God. This verse alone is an argument that our families ought to have an attitude of giving it all away, because if we give away what God has blessed us with materially, he will bless us more,
Though not necessarily materially; let me say now that this is not about manipulating God to make us rich. Prosperity preachers say ‘give me your tithes and offerings and God will make you rich.’ But in most of the Scriptures that expound the law of the harvest, and certainly here, the main focus is on non-monetary rewards like grace and righteousness and thanksgiving to God. Material rewards, if any, are given only so you will have more to give away, and thus propagate more grace, more righteousness and more thanksgiving.
Bountiful giving yields bountiful blessing, but only if you give willingly. Verse 7: Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Bountiful giving is a personal choice, or in the case of the family, an ‘usness’ choice. But often giving is motivated by guilt or manipulation: ‘if you don’t give you are a bad person; if you don’t give a certain amount you’ll miss all kinds of blessing; if you do give it will multiply ten or a hundredfold so give give give.”
This is not biblical. It’s true, as we’ve already said, that there are promises to prosper those who give: but much of that prosperity is not material or riches, but richness in grace and blessing others and thanksgiving to God that overflows.
God wants us to be cheerful givers. The word in Greek is hilarios: Our giving is to be hilariously fun. I ran across an organization that has a conference ministry teaching stewardship. They also have these excellent “I Like Giving” videos that give real life examples. Some of these families have much to give, some have little, but they all experience the joy of deciding together to give. This first one also shows that giving sometimes requires persistence.
So my husband is reading the Sunday paper and he comes across an article that talks about this refugee family that had gotten their bikes stolen. And their bikes were their transportation. The kids got up and it was craziness and Brad set everyone down and he talked about what a refugee family was and then he asked the question, “well… what can we do about this?” My nine-year old pipes in and says, “I think we need to go and get them bikes.” And Brad said, “You’re right, that’s what we should do, we should go get them bikes!”
But we get in the car. We’re all excited. We head to the store to pick out the bikes, which was fun. We pile the bikes in the car. As we drive down the road we realize that we really don’t know where we are going. The picture in the paper had a hose reel on front and so we looked for that hose reel. And sure enough one of the kids said, “There it is, there is the hose reel!” And there is no one home, so we decide to wait. And half an hour goes by...two hours…three hours. And by that time I am ready to leave. It’s…We’ve waited long enough.
My husband said, “Let’s make one more pass through the neighborhood. Then the excitement starts. They’re home. The little boy was telling his dad, “These bikes are for us!” And the only thing the dad could say was, “I like bike! I like bike!” And he had the biggest smile on his face and he said “I like bike!” I think that was kind of a turning point for me, like, even though it wasn’t convenient, even though it was a long day, even though I thought that the need had already been met, experiencing that joy when we drove away and how my kids were saying that was so cool, that was so cool, did you see their faces. That was what was so meaningful to me.
Verses 8 to 12 tell us two more critical things. First, and foremost, in keeping with his grace, God supplies, whether a little or a lot, so that you can give. Second, this overflowing grace leads to a harvest of good works and of thanksgiving. These two thoughts are tightly entwined in these verses, but we’re going to think about them separately for the sake of clarity.
First, God freely gives to us so that we might give to others. Verse 8: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” God makes his grace abound. It overflows with excess; more than we can ask or imagine.
In a negative sense, the word is used by Jesus when he says “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” In a positive sense, it is the abundance he created feeding the 5000. It is used of abounding in hope in Romans 15:13. And here it is abundance of grace, not so much in the sense of the grace that saves, but abundance of the grace that sustains. God pours grace into our families daily, and through this abundance we can cheerfully give.
God gives this abounding grace so that so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. Paul is entirely convinced that whatever it is God calls you to do, whatever it is God calls you to give, his abundant grace will abundantly supply. And just as his grace abounds to you, you will abound in good works, which in the context of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 must include but is not limited to the work of giving.
Verse 9: As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” This is a quote from Psalm 112:9, which is a Psalm about ‘the righteous man.’ Paul is using the quote to describe the good work of giving that God’s grace enables us to do; to distribute freely; to give to the poor. These righteous acts on our part grow out of his grace to us. Verse 10: “He who supplies bread for the sower and seed for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” He supplies you with seed and bread so that you can supply the needs of others. Remember, Paul is encouraging generosity; Paul is saying ‘God has given you the money to live; but he also gives you money to give.’
When Gail was studying this she pointed out that the word supply in ‘supply and multiply your need’ comes from the same root as our word choreograph, and literally means ‘to lead in a dance.’ So God leads us in the dance of our family generosity and multiplies what we have to give away. She found online a video called dance your shoes off. It’s a flash dance done by 2nd Baptist Houston at Discovery Green on Easter Sunday. It celebrates the resurrection, but it also has everything to do with giving it all away. Watch how it ends:
(20 seconds of video)
They each bought new shoes for the event, and they left the shoes to be collected for the Star of Hope and other missions. That’s the dance of generosity that God wants to lead us in by grace.
Verse 11: “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” Paul can’t let this alone. He says again that God supplies your family, whether much or little not to serve your own interests, but so you can be generous in every way to others.
So how does this work in practice? It’s different for every family, but let me give a couple of hints. Basically, as I said earlier, eat what you have to and give away the rest. First, remember that families have an obligation to work hard to provide for each other. Second, I believe families need to agree on a level of fiscal restraint. Agree not to spend money so you can give it away. This may mean agreeing to simpler meals, older cars, a smaller house, even reduced retirement so you can be generous with church and missionaries, with needs in the body and around the world. Third, whether you have abundant income or meager, make your giving the first item on your family budget. Next, it’s really good to give yourselves a little margin for impulse giving, seeing a need and meeting it. And finally, be watching for windfall income and consider giving some or all of it away. There is great joy in this.
OK, let’s look quickly at these last few verses again, because there is one other truth here. Sowing bountifully – having the attitude of giving it all away – should lead to a harvest. What is the harvest? Verse 8, he makes all grace abound to you so that you may abound in every good work. The opportunity, as a family, to give, is a fruit of God’s grace. The good are the harvest, and are directly a result of the grace of God in your lives; not only his gift of funds that you can give others, but his gift of willingness and boldness to take the risk of loving.
So that’s one fruit of this bounty. Another potential fruit is found in verse 10: he will multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. There are two ways to read that. It could be ‘the harvest that results from your righteousness’ in which case the harvest itself is not specified. Or it could be ‘the harvest which is your righteousness’ in which case we find that giving as a response to the grace of God leads us toward righteousness, helps us as families to grow in obedience, holiness and Christlikeness.
But the main fruit of family giving is thanks giving. Verse 11 “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” God receives thanks, praise and glory when we are generous. It’s as simple as that. This has all worked when God receives praise as a result of the generosity he works through you. And not just thanksgiving by the recipients of your generosity, but by onlookers like Paul who are rooting for the people to be generous, and by the body in general.
One of my great joys in ministry has been seeing the generosity of God’s people. Last week someone gave a large check to benevolence because they had received some out of the ordinary income. I had the privilege of distributing it where I knew there were great needs, and the privilege of being the only one who could give God thanks, by name for the ones who were generous.
Here’s an ‘I Like Giving’ video, showing the overflow of thanks in giving: “I had an accident and my hip was broken in so many pieces. I have two rods in my hip.” “She’s an angel among us. If you watch her in the bread company, everyone comes in to see Catherine.” “I know we sell the bread, but I feel like there are some people who specifically come with prayer requests. And I go pray for them.” “One day when we were sharing, she said, she was in need of a different car, that her car was needing expensive repairs.” “I’d been saving money, but I knew it wasn’t enough, I knew it would few years to save for it.”
“So a couple of months later, I went in and said, “Catherine, how is your car fund coming?” And she said, “I gave it all away.” I looked at her and she said, “There was a widow in need and I gave her the $5000 dollars.” “I mean I cannot give what I don’t have, so I just gave what I had.”
“I was shocked, so I came home and tell Pete, that we needed to help Catherine with her car fund.” He looked at me and he said “No, I think that we need to buy Catherine a car. And I said, “Okay. Great!” Pete called Scott and said, “Do you know Catherine at Great Harvest?” And he said, “Yes, he did.” Pete said, “Well, we would like to buy her a car.” He asked Pete, “Do you want a new or used car?” And it just hit him right in the face. Why would he ask me that? Of course, I would want a used car. That’s good enough. He just paused for a moment and said I want a new car.” “So she came to the bakery and she asked me, “If you were to buy a car, what kind would you like?” I said Debbie, “I’m not really planning to buy a car.” But she said, “Oh, just tell me.” “And she said, “I would like a SUV, cruise control and she said I would like a light color.” And we called Scott and he said, “I think I’ve got the perfect car.”
“So we have the bread company owner and his family, Scott and his family, and our family. And Catherine sees us all coming in and she is just all excited to see everyone.” “I didn’t have the vaguest idea. When I went out…sob…” “And so we walked her over to the car and we said, “Catherine, this is your new car.” “So….sigh….I said for me? This is for me?” I said, “I knew God had many cars, but I didn’t know he had a new one for me.”
“We all stood there in tears as we saw the joy on Catherine’s face. And we got to be a part of it. And the joy of that was unbelievable.” “We told Catherine that we would like this to be confidential. But, I kept running into people who would say I heard what you did for Catherine. It wasn’t even us, it was Catherine. It all started with Catherine giving of what she had to a widow to help her and it just continues on. Generosity begets generosity.” “We don’t give in order to receive. We give because it’s the nature of Jesus Christ. He gave us His Life, so we have the DNA of Jesus Christ, of giving.”
Paul sums up in verse 12: For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. God graciously gives so that you can give it all away So as a family you need to sit down together and work on giving it all way. Eat as much as you have to; spend as much as you have to on food and housing and cars and clothes. But only as much as you have to, prayerfully and thoughtfully decided, together. Then enjoy the joy of giving the rest away, so that others can receive blessing and praise and thanks to God can overflow.