ENDURE | Courage in Weakness PART XIV| Courageous Generosity | 2 Corinthians 8
Topic: New Testament Passage: 2 Corinthians 8
Christopher Rich – May 2, 2021
ENDURE | Courage in Weakness
PART XIV| Courageous Generosity | 2 Corinthians 8
Introduction | How does being changed change how we give?
Good Morning! Welcome to Mercy Fellowship where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we are continuing our series ENDURE: Courage in Weakness.
How do you respond in times of need, want, desire, and desperation? We need. We desire. We take. Because we are self-focused people, we can be driven to be more concerned with ourselves than others. This includes how we see and interact with the material world. We functionally believe the very existence of the world, society, those around you exist for you to be made much of. So hourly and daily we talk in our heads about how any situation is making us feel, how to act in ways that will lead to our own self benefit. We’ve got to watch out for #1 and that’s always us. This happens both in times of great need and times of great abundance. This is us having an orientation towards our selves at the expense of how our actions affect other people. When we are needy or greedy, we close our hands on what we have out of fear we will not have enough. When we have much, we think most about how we will because we assume all that we have, have been given, or possess is our alone rather than from God. Our desires are usually very immediate, temporary, and selfish so we too often desire immediate comfort over long term correction. Part of our challenge is we believe and act as if we will find the most enjoyment and fullness from consuming over contributing. To have our hands opened to give, share, and be generous in ways which cost us requires courage. Generosity, in all its forms is an act of faith and courage relying not on what we possess but who we behold and how we understand the blessings we have received and the responsibility we have been given. This courage is birthed from being reorientated to see what we have been given and how we give.
PART I | Generous in Poverty | 2 Cor 8
2 Cor 8 |We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.
Generous in Poverty (8:1-7) – Paul has been commending the Corinthians for growth in health in their culture through Godly grief leading to repentance and restoration of relationship. We are all complex people so if and when we grow and change as disciples of Jesus living in our new identity as saints (no longer slaves to sin), citizens (no longer exiles), family (no longer orphans), and heir to the kingdom (no longer debtors) it changes our heart, worship, soul, mind, and how we engage with and steward all that we have. Paul is now coaching the Corinthians (a very affluent city) not by shaming or comparing but by lifting up as an example churches who are excelling in the area of generosity. What the example shows is the counter intuitive nature of how God’s economy is compared to the world. Our equation is more money, equals more (security, stuff, options, etc) therefore less fear, want, and/or more happiness and satisfaction. Even religiously we believe the favor of the Lord is usually demonstrated by material blessing and His disfavor expressed by poverty. We then apply this to generosity, charity, giving, and assume those who have been blessed the most or have the most are going to automatically be the most generous, while those with the least will be the least generous. The churches in Macedonia broke this mold. How? They are recipients of the Grace of God. Known loved and saved by Jesus. What are their circumstances? Severe test of Affliction (not good). What is their attitude? Abundant Joy? What is their provision? Must be great, no… enduring extreme material poverty. What are their actions? Overflowing generosity. Despite their poverty they were abundantly rich in joyful grace; they gave according to and in this case beyond their means for a purpose. It was driven by their desire. It says they were begging for “Charis” (favor/grace) not to receive more blessing but the favor of participating to be a conduit of grace, blessing, and relief of others who are in need grace AND to support the mission of the gospel. They gave to support the mission and to give relief to members. There was a collection being taken by all the Greek/gentle churches to give support to the impoverished (primarily Jewish) churches in Judea and around Jerusalem. It was so unexpected it was even a surprise to Paul and his team, not just because they were generous but because of their attitude based on their circumstances. They were so encouraged they shared it with the Corinthians to see if they wanted to jump in the generosity train too to help the poorer churches. Macedonia giving well and Corinth not giving is like Honduras, out giving the US to support African churches. The result of grace received is a heart of exceeding generosity.
PART II |Generous in Prosperity | 2 Corinthians 8:8-15
2 Cor 8:8-15 | 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”
Generous in Prosperity– We don’t give out of a command but out of compulsion. Jesus Gave Generously, So we can Give (v9) - The thought process of Christ, which is then spelled out very clearly. One man, one God is truly more significant than everyone else and that is Jesus. What did he do? He didn’t consume He emptied himself. He came as a giver. Serving, by humbling himself from what He deserved for the purposes of saving others. He went from the throne room of heaven to first century Judea (poor part of a poor planet). He experienced wilderness and exile from the perfection of Heaven. There He didn’t mope about biding his time bemoaning His circumstances. He remained and was resolved to be obedient to God the Father in everything. The apex of His obedience was the greatest act of self-sacrifice, of giving. His whole body broken, His blood shed, in our place (for the interest of others) for our sin. Jesus was driven by desire to give. This took him to the discipline of the cross motivated by the great reward of purchasing His people from slavery from sin and selfishness, to be son and daughters, heir to the kingdom who would no longer live self-focus lives but experiencing joy in having lives that are others focused motivated by the new identity in Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit to follow the example of Jesus. He took our poverty of sin on the cross, paid the debt of sin, and gave a direct wealth transfer of His righteousness to us. Jesus has all the riches of Heaven and emptied Himself to the point of poverty for a purpose. He did this so we who are spiritually poor might be rich in Him. When we have been blessed abundantly it is for our joy and for us to be a blessing for others. Desires drives discipline but discipline can foster desire. Jesus loves us with a costly grace. It cost Him death on the cross so we could have greater life with Him. A life with both desire and discipline. How these interacted is important. Verse 10 says they began to give and then desired to do it! This seems counter intuitive as well because we want to be guided by heart/emotions. But we don’t consider how our hearts and desired can be directed. Jesus says “where you treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Math 6:21) Two things are true. 1. Our hearts direct our treasure. We invested in what we desire, we spend and give to what we care about.
- Our Treasure directs our hearts. This one is a bit harder for us at times. When you invest time, talent, treasure in something you care more about it than when you don’t. For example when the stock market goes up and down but you don’t have anything in it you care next to nothing. But when you’re investing for a purpose you start to care a lot more. God has invested in us through new life so we can direct our desires to His Kingdom purposes. We cannot and should not live in the ditches of over spiritualizing what God has done for us at the neglect of His material provision any more than we should be sole focused in material matters without considering spiritual realities. Paul, and Jesus for that matter, are more than comfortable in tying what is true about the Gospel to what we do about money. He has given us as spiritually poor sinner great grace AND we can give tangible to further the mission of the Gospel and provide mercy to the materially poor. The Corinthians had pledged to give when they were made aware of the need and began to do it, but then their enthusiasm waned as other things became more important so they’re being called back to follow through with their initial pledge. Corinthian Christians had been told of the need, given an example of how others have responded for them to imitate, and then left to let the Holy Spirit work on how they could respond. The only coaching given is to remind them of what they’ve already resolved to do. When we invest back into God’s kingdom we never have to worry about a market crash.
Equipped to Give – Things get more specific. You cannot give what you do not first possess or have received. The text is clear what he’s not saying “you have to give what you don’t have, or cannot give” Even going further to say “we’re not asking to shift the burden from them to you.” But for their burden (what someone cannot carry alone) by yours voluntarily being given (from your abundance) the amount is not as important as the heart. What apparently had changed wasn’t their bank account but their hearts affections. They had pledged to give, they want to give, they’re equipped to give now they need to be disciplined and follow through not what they’ve been shamed to give but what they desire to give.
“If you offer a small gift from your slender resources, your intention, is just as valuable in God’s eyes as if a rich man had made a large gift out of his abundance.” – John Calvin
Affluence can be fluid - For now the Corinthians are the affluent while the Judeans are in need but that can all shift quickly. There is a time for all of us to be a blessing and where we are the ones in need of blessing. Both are receiving grace, one in being given provision, the other in being participants in providing for others.
Equity from Exodus – equality, equal proportion. fairness, equity, what is equitable. Part of the purpose of their giving is to help provide for others in “need”. The goal isn’t that everyone is identical, but that everyone is provided for. Going back to when God provided for His people in the wilderness with Manna from Heaven they were called to have an abundantly adequate daily portion, but some tried to gather more but it didn’t yield more. Everyone had ‘enough’ or what was sufficient while all were active in working to provide for themselves and others. This nuance is necessary for us to understand fairness and equality vs being identical.
“I acknowledge indeed that we are not bound to such an equality as would make it wrong for the rich to live more elegantly than the poor; but that there must be such an equality that nobody starves and nobody hordes his abundance at another’s expense.” – John Calvin
PART III |Generous in Provision | 2 Cor 8:16-24
2 Cor 8:16-24 | But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord. 18 With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. 19 And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. 20 We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, 21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord's sight but also in the sight of man. 22 And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. 24 So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.
Generous in Provision – We can have the courage as a church to be generous when we are no longer driven by fear but rather faith in God’s gracious provision. We love and bless because we have been loved and blessed. Blessed with the Best – Churches were generous with one another for the purposes of building up the Kingdom of God and THE CHURCH beyond their own self-interest for Kingdom progress. The Corinthians are getting a squad to bless them and build them up. Titus cares for them like Paul does. There is a guy on the team who is “famous among the churches for preaching”. Also there is an experienced and gifted guy who has been “tested” and is zealous for the growth of the church. So even as they give they’re receiving. So they can continue to be motivated as givers by gratitude to God, for the Glory of God as they “aim at what is honorable. Honor is visible and clear to all, both in the sight of God and Man. How have you and your church been blessed to be a blessing?
We have a culture which tangibly displays joyful generosity, wise stewardship, relational warmth, and creative beauty in our fellowship, to our community, and world.
We are a blessing to our gospel partnerships with other churches, networks, and ministries who effectively EMBRACE the Great Commission EMBODY the Great Commandment.
We are deeply rooted in the enduring hope we have in Christ through all chapters of life, looking beyond ourselves and circumstances, building a gospel legacy in a story where we know Jesus Wins!
Our financial giving sustains current mission, supports other ministries, and saves for future dreams.
REMAIN Steadfast – That we would be deeply rooted in the truth & beauty of the mercy & grace of Jesus Christ regardless of the shifting circumstances and changing climate of our community & world.
REMAIN Equipped – That God would use time talent and treasure he has blessed us with individual to sustain and strength our corporate mission as the church. (v7 Farmers plant they work)
REMAIN Joyful – Unity, humility, gentleness, celebration, and health would mark us collectively and individually as we continue the mission and vision of Mercy Fellowship. (v9 don’t grumble)
All our prayers are to the God we know is compassionate and merciful. What is your next step?
It is to start serving? Mercy Kids 3-5 new volunteers , Hospitality, Media (Video/Sound) , Music (Garrett).
Is it to start giving? Giving for the first time or trusting Jesus more with your finances to begin tithing.
Is it to get connected? D-Group, Fellowship Group, Mercy Youth
Is it to Trust Jesus for the first time and/or pledge allegiance to Jesus in Baptism?
Praise God the Father who has generously given us life and all things. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the desire to be courageous in generosity. Thank Jesus enduring poverty for us so we can experience abundant life with Him as people who have generously received and give as we continue to Trust Jesus!
More in ENDURE: Courage in Weakness | 2 Corinthians
June 20, 2021ENDURE | Courage in Weakness PART XX | Courage to Endure | 2 Corinthians 12:20-13:14
June 6, 2021ENDURE | Courage in Weakness PART XIX | Enduring Weakness | 2 Corinthians 12:1-19
May 30, 2021ENDURE | Courage in Weakness PART XVIII | Leading out of Weakness and Vulnerability