3. In God We Trust - For More Than the Value of a Dollar Bill - Milo Wilson (II Corinthians 8 & 9) IN GOD WE TRUST SERIES

#InGodWeTrustSeries 
  • There’s no doubt we are living in unstable and turbulent times, but there has never been a better time choose to have all-out trust in our God. For our culture, the topic of money and giving is one of the most difficult things to address, yet the Bible speaks abundantly on it. We have been created to say with tremendous faith, “I trust in you, Lord...my times are in your hand!”
1. In God We Trust: For More Than the Value of a Dollar Bill [II Corinthians 8 & 9]
  • God wants us to give generously as an offering of worship. “For God loves a cheerful giver.”
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance - What are the central ideas of this text?
    • Giving is an act of grace. (II Corinthians 8:6 & 7)
    • Giving should be voluntary, out of love, and from the supply of God's provision. (II Corinthians 8:8, 14; 9:8, 10 & 11)
    • Giving honors God. (II Corinthians 8:19, 21; 9:13)
    1. Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
      • How does giving reflect grace and extend grace?
      • What comes first, God's provision or our giving?
      • How does giving honor God?
        Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
        • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
          • Why did Paul cite the example of the giving by the Macedonian churches?
          • Describe how the Macedonian churches gave.
          • What did it mean that the Macedonian churches gave themselves first to the Lord before their actual monetary giving?
          • List the characteristics of giving as laid out by Paul for the Corinthians.
          • How is Jesus an example of the way in which we should give?
          • What does Paul mean by writing that there should be fairness in the giving?
          • What would giving demonstrate about the Corinthians?
          • What is God's desire about our giving? What does God like about our giving?
          • What principle is enunciated about the relationship between our giving and God's provision?
          • How is our giving a ministry of service to others? What should we expect from the recipients of our giving?
            • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
              • Should you follow through on a commitment to give? What if you do not?
              • Make a list of the attitudes and thoughts you have about your own giving? How do your attitudes and thoughts line up with the principles in chapters 8 and 9?
              • Do you give cheerfully?
              • Do you give sparingly or bountifully? What is the result from God if you give sparingly? If you give bountifully?
              • What does II Corinthians 9:8 mean? What does it mean to you personally?
              • How can you put II Corinthians 9:8 into practice in your life?
              • What changes, if any, will you make in your giving habits as a result of your study of these passages from II Corinthians?
              • How can you glorify God in your giving?
              • Do you trust God to provide to you so you can give? How will God provide for you?
              • What will be your harvest of righteousness as you give and give more?
              Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
              • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
              So far we have learned that God owns everything from beginning to end, that we are stewards of that which He chooses to entrust to our care, and that we are not to worry about money and possessions because He has promised to provide for His children as we seek Him and His righteousness first. So, money and possessions are all about trusting in God. But what about what to do with that which He has entrusted to our care? Well, glad you asked. The answer is to begin with giving, and the text for this study is found in chapters 8 and 9 of what we know as Second Corinthians.

              The Apostle Paul had a significant relationship with the church at Corinth, having planted the church there and then lived and ministered in the city for at least a year and a half (Acts 18:1-18). He also wrote letters to the church at Corinth, two of which are in the New Testament, and at least one other letter which is referred to in the letters we do have (II Corinthians 2:3; 7:8). The city was a major urban center, culturally diverse, prosperous as a mercantile community, and known for its moral looseness. The residents of the city who became believers came out of that background and therefore had much to learn about what it meant to follow Christ in terms of their lifestyles, attitudes and mindset. As a result, Paul continued to teach and minister to them through his letters after he had moved on from the city, as he was no longer able to be present with them in person though he desired to be (II Corinthians 1:15-17; 2:1-4).

              As Paul ministered in various other places in the Roman empire, planting and visiting churches in different regions and cities, he had a heart to raise funds for the church in Jerusalem. The believers in Jerusalem were relatively poor due to on-going food shortages in the region, their ostracism by non-believing Jews which adversely affected them socially and economically, the burden of double taxation (Jewish and Roman taxes), and their need to support a large number of teachers and the many visitors to the region (See Romans 15:26; Galatians 2:10). It seems that the process of the collection took quite some time, as much as ten years, and early on during that time period, Paul had invited the church at Corinth (in the province of Acaia) to participate in the collection, and they heartily agreed to do just that (I Corinthians 16:1-4; II Corinthians 8:10). In due course, Paul put together a group of individuals to assist with the delivery of the collection to Jerusalem. These individuals were actually representatives from the regions where these outlying churches were located, specifically in Macedonia, Galatia and Asia (See Acts 20:4).

              In his letter we know as Second Corinthians, among other things he has to say to the church in Corinth, Paul wants to remind the church of its part in the foregoing collection which he does in chapters 8 and 9. The church had apparently not followed through with their gift for the Jerusalem church (II Corinthians 8:10 & 11). Why was that? It is not altogether clear, but it may well have had to do with the fact of the class divide in the city between the wealthy and the less fortunate, a divide that had continued in the church when people from both ends of the economic spectrum became believers. The collection was for the poor, and the well-to-do in Corinth in general did not like the poor and the artisan workers who were not well off. Hence, the collection in Corinth had come to a halt despite the initial enthusiasm. Further, itinerant missionaries had come to Corinth over the years and among other problems they created, had questioned Paul's authority and perhaps the legitimacy of the collection itself. In any event, the giving had stopped even though Paul had previously instructed as to the method the church could follow (regular, systematic giving out of one's regular income. cf. I Corinthians 16:1-4) to accumulate funds. It was thus time for Paul to speak to the issue in his letter and teach them (again) that God wants us to give generously out of our trust in Him for our provision and as an example of our not trusting in money and self-provision. The act of giving, therefore, is a result of and an application of God's grace. As one commentator put it, “... generosity stands alongside faith, speech, knowledge, and love as an expression of divine grace in man.” In short, we give because God gave; our giving is therefore at first an offering to Him and really an act of worship and in that way stands quite apart from the intended effect the giving will have.

              Paul goes about his reminder not by hitting the issue head on, but instead by calling their attention to a wonderful model of giving, namely the Macedonian churches which gave joyfully, willingly and despite their own poverty (II Corinthians 8:1 & 2). The churches in Macedonia were in a state of constant persecution for their faith, which among other ways, took the form of economic difficulties. Notwithstanding their situation, these Macedonian believers saw their giving as a privilege (II Corinthians 8:4) and as sharing in the needs of others as a part of their service to the Lord (II Corinthians 8:4). They didn't wait to be asked, but volunteered to give, and then gave beyond expectations and even ability (II Corinthians 8:3 & 4). On the basis of this example, Paul urged the Corinthians to complete what they had started and “excel in this act of grace” just as they excelled in other things spiritual (II Corinthians 8:6 & 7).

              Further, giving is not to be out of coercion (II Corinthians 8:8), but rather from sincerity of heart and love, and in keeping with Christ's gift of Himself for us to save us (II Corinthians 8:8 & 9). Who are we to withhold some of what God has entrusted to us in terms of possessions and resources when Jesus gave everything, having laid aside His “wealth” as it were to make an offering of Himself in fulfillment of God's will. Moreover, the Corinthians had already made a voluntary commitment, and Paul is not asking for new pledges, but that the church fulfill its own promise (II Corinthians 8:11) and thus in effect prove their willingness and eagerness to give, and to give out of their means (which they should feel challenged to do in light of the example of the Macedonian churches having given beyond their means!). The principle, then, is that we are to give willingly out of the means given to us, and to follow through with commitments to do such (II Corinthians 8:11 & 12).

              Paul goes another step further and tells the Corinthians that there is a responsibility to share burdens through giving. The burden in this instance is the church at Jerusalem which was in dire need, especially in light of the relative financial blessings the Corinthians enjoyed. Paul terms this a “matter of fairness.” (II Corinthians 8:13; another translation says, “that there might be equality.”) This notion seems to harken back to the beginning period of the church in Jerusalem where there was a common pot which provided to all in terms of their needs (Acts 2:44 & 45; 4:34 & 35), but also to the manna God supplied to the Jewish people as they wandered in the desert (Exodus 16:16-36). The notion includes mutuality: when I have plenty, I will help you in your need; when you have plenty, you will help in my need. It all belongs to God in any case, so our call is to share a part of what we have been given as our part in God's promise to provide for His children. Nevertheless, such sharing is not intended to create need on the part of the giver (II Corinthians 8:13). So, Paul says to the church in Corinth, when the brothers come, including Titus whom they know, the church is to honor them in participating in the offering, even as these men and the gift itself honor Christ. (II Corinthians 8:16-24) And oh, by the way, by so doing, the Corinthian church will prove out the boasting Paul has made about them to the men! (II Corinthians 8:24)

              The matter could have been left there, it would seem; but Paul goes on to elucidate the matter of the boasting of the Corinthian church as an “incentive” to the church to follow through on its commitment to give (II Corinthians 9:1-5). Paul does not want the Corinthians to be embarrassed when the representatives from the Macedonian churches arrive and potentially find the Corinthians unprepared (II Corinthians 9:3 & 4). Again, the underlying principle is that the giving should be voluntary and not forced or seen as “an exaction.” (II Corinthians 9:5) And even more, giving should be cheerfully done based on what what one has determined in his or her heart to give (II Corinthians 9:7). And beyond that, one's giving, whether “sparingly” or “bountifully” has a direct relationship to one's spiritual blessing from God (II Corinthians 9:6). In other words, the more you give, the more God will bless spiritually. This is not a promise to make one rich; rather, it is a promise that God will provide bountifully as one givemore and more of what God provides for giving! He is able to make “grace abound” and provide sufficiently all the time so that we can give aboundingly. (II Corinthians 9:8 & 9). God will provide, and multiply our giving by His increased provision for giving, which results in a “harvest of righteousness” (II Corinthians 9:10), being “enriched in every way to be generous in every way'” (II Corinthians 9:11), and producing “thanksgiving to God.” (II Corinthians 9:11) The gift of the Corinthians to the Jerusalem church is a ministry of service to God and it will overflow in thanksgiving and glory given to God as others see the “generosity” of contribution, and a response of prayer for and thanks to the Corinthians (and the other churches) from the Jerusalem believers (II Corinthians 9:14). What a wonderful result which leads to an exclamation of thanks to God for His gift of Jesus Christ which makes all of our giving possible in the first place.

              What wonderful truths in these verses! Giving is possible because of God's great gift to us of salvation in Jesus Christ! We are saved into a body of believers and are part one of another, and in partnership, so to speak with each other in the joy of giving to provide for needs. Such giving comes from God's material provision to us and is an expression of grace born out of God's grace. Thus, as we trust in God for our provision, we are called to and can give out of our provision as an act of love, in honor to Jesus, as a picture of unity within the body, and with the outcome of thanks to God in all of it. So, be a giver ... a cheerful giver, and so increase your harvest of righteousness. Allow God to multiply your effectiveness in giving by giving more, and then watching God provide for you to enable you to give even more again. And then keep the cycle going, all to God's glory. Indeed, in all of this, “thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (II Corinthians 9:15)