The Cheerful Giver
by Pastor Bob Burridge ©1998
a study of Christian stewardship based on 2 Corinthians 9:7
In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus told a story about a man who went on a journey. Before he left he entrusted his possessions to three of his servants. To one he gave five talents (we estimate a talent to be worth about $1,000). To another he gave two talents. and to the third, he gave only one talent. He gave to each one the amount he expected him to be able to manage effectively.
The one with five talents invested it and earned five more talents! The one with two talents invested it and earned two more talents. But the one with just one talent, hid it by burying it in the ground until the master returned.
When the master came home he was pleased with the ones who made investments. He said to the first two, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master."
But he was angry with the one who, out of laziness and cowardice, did nothing with the money he was left to manage. His master took the one talent and gave it to the one who had managed his entrustment best. Then he cast out the unfaithful servant.
Have you ever seriously listed the things God has entrusted to you? all your material possessions? your savings? your time? every talent, opportunity and privilege God has entrusted to you?
My family had a unique experience several years ago when a tornado destroyed our home, injured my wife and left us to deal with insurance claims to replace what we lost. The adjustor met with us the day after the disaster and explained that he was going to ask us to do a very hard thing. He handed me a stack of forms. To help us get a quick settlement, he needed us to list everything in the house at the time of the tornado, everything! Not just the furniture, but all our clothing in the closets, everything in our dresser drawers, boxes stored in the garage, all our personal belongings, all our furniture, collections of books, records, tapes, kitchen utensils, tools, keepsakes, wall hangings, kinck-knacks, bedding, rugs, appliances, everything!
Keep in mind that we couldn't walk through the house and list things. Nothing was there any more! Could you right now do a mental inventory of everything the Lord has entrusted to you? Its probably a lot more than you realize. We had no idea all that God had entrusted to us.
What have you done with your own belongings and resources for the benefit of Christ's Kingdom? Would He say to you today, considering how you have used all you now have, "Well done, good and faithful servant"? Could you show Him how you have been a good manager of what He gave you? Or would you be forced to shamefully dig up and hand over your dirt covered, uninvested talent, kept unused with regard to the glory of God in his kingdom? Would some of what you now have include things purchased by withholding from Christ the tithe he requires you to have given to his church for the on-going work of his Kingdom on earth?
The main thing required of a servant is that he be trustworthy (1 Corinthians 4:2). Everything we have is an entrustment from the Lord who created us. All our resources are to be used in an orderly way, as we serve God's kingdom. Jesus commanded that we operate together, managing our entrustments as a family of God. He called and gave us ordained elders to lead and take up the responsibility of ruling the things entrusted to the church.
This brings us face-to-face with the inescapable financial demands that come with maintaining a church ministry. We need to pay for a place where we gather for worship, where we learn what God has spoken, where we train our children, and where we coordinate the work God calls us to do as a united body. We need to support leaders trained to keep our work within the boundaries of God's law. We need to buy the basic supplies and tools to carry out that ministry.
But even a small church would have absolutely no financial stress if each family consistently applied the biblical principles of Christian stewardship. Are we "good and faithful servants" of all the Lord entrusts to us?
This study covers material summarized in two chapters of Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. This section presents a Philosophy of Christian Stewardship.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8 "Now I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;"
There was a serious economic problem in Jerusalem
In Jerusalem the Christians were being ostracized socially, economically and religiously. Those who recognized Jesus as Messiah were rejected by unbelieving members of their own families, excommunicated from the synagogues, nationally disinherited, and their businesses boycotted. Social welfare was denied to them by the synagogues. When famines came the Christians were hit the hardest because there was no community help available to them. Extreme poverty became a way of life for the believers in Jerusalem.
Christians in other communities were moved to help their struggling fellow-believers. The Corinthian congregation had begun systematic collections for relief of the Jerusalem saints (2 Corinthians 9:2). The Macedonians were moved, by the example of Corinth, to join in the collections for Jerusalem. Paul sent Titus and two others ahead to help the Corinthians with their relief project. Their giving had fallen off due to problems in the Corinthian church. They needed help to complete the collection they had begun.
The Macedonians showed God's principles of stewardship in action. They were not a wealthy congregation (2 Corinthians 8:2). They were deep in poverty. The Greek word used for "deep" is baqoj (bathos). The expression kata baqouj (kata bathous) literally means "according to the depths." It means that their giving was to the extreme. We might say today they were "scraping of the bottom of the barrel."
PRINCIPLE #1 - Contribute according to your ABILITY
2 Corinthians 8:3 "For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord"Our ability to be good stewards is not measured by how much has been entrusted to us, but by how faithfully we manage what we have. The believers were told that God expected them to give "according to what a man has, not according to what he does not have" (8:12) Previously, in 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul had instructed them to each "put aside and save, as he may prosper."
But the Macedonians gave beyond their ability! They didn't neglect their own real financial responsibilities. But they did cut deeply so that they could give in a helpful way. They reduced their own spending to the bare bones. They cut out the extras from their lives for a time. For us that could mean cutting back on special vacation trips, jewelry, new clothes, meals eaten out, or the extra cable channels. It could mean delaying the purchase of better stereo equipment, a new grill, boat or car, fancy power tools, or similar things. What we are able to cut back depends upon our individual economic level.
PRINCIPLE #2 - Give FREELY, without having to be coerced
2 Corinthians 8:3 "For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord"The Macedonian believers didn't ask how much must I give?" Instead, they asked themselves, "what can I give?" No professional fund raiser was needed. They enthusiastically begged Paul to let them participate in the support of the saints (2 Corinthians 8:4). The whole world is searching for "loop holes" and minimums in their obligations. But God's principle of stewardship is clear: He ties our basic giving to a percentage, not an amount. The tithe means 10% of all you earn. This belongs to the Lord for the direct work of the church. If someone took your monthly giving to the church and multiplied it by ten, it should be equal to the total amount you earned that month! This is the minimum set by Scripture for our local giving. What the Bible calls "offerings" are what we give beyond the tithe. Those who truly love God and his Kingdom will give without being coerced.
2 Corinthians 8:8 "I am not speaking this as a command..."
PRINCIPLE #3 - We must give CHEERFULLY, not grudgingly
2 Corinthians 9:5-8 "So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, that the same might be ready as a bountiful gift, and not affected by covetousness. Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;"The word translated "cheerful" in 2 Corinthians 9:7 is larioj (hilarios) from which we get our word "hilarious". That doesn't mean that we give with "uncontrollably emotional laughter." The Greek word means we give with deep joy for our participation in the work of God. When Christians understand that all they have is an entrustment from God they begin to see their financial duty as a way to please their Lord and to gladly show their thankfulness to him.
PRINCIPLE #4 - Give as part of a KINGDOM of believers
2 Corinthians 8:4 "begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints,"The hearts of the Macedonians went out to believers they never met! They understood that believers are connected very specially into a family of God. They wanted to share their blessings, as simple as they were, with the needy congregation of Jerusalem.
PRINCIPLE #5 - We REAP what we SOW
2 Corinthians 9:6 "Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully."The seeds we sow into the ground seem to disappear for the moment until they yield a crop by God's blessing. Likewise what we give to the church isn't lost when it abounds in the kingdom of Christ. The Proverb says, "The generous man will be prosperous (literally he will 'be made fat')" (Proverbs 11:25).
Jesus said, "Seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you." (Matthew 6:33). Paul told the believers in Galatia, "whatever a man sows, this he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7).
When Israel returned to the land in the time of the prophet Haggai, the Temple needed to be rebuilt and the obedient worship of God restored. But the people put all their effort and resources into personal things. They worked hard to make their homes nicer and to improve their fields and businesses. Meanwhile they withheld God's portion and used it for themselves. They left the place of worship unsupported and unfinished. The prophet warned them; "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in you paneled houses while this house lies desolate?" (Haggai 1:4)
The Lord taught them a hard lesson. He brought economic suffering on Israel. The LORD called them to consider their ways. They did, and were again blessed (Haggai 1).
These principles are part of the created matrix of God's universe. If we don't obey them, we will not enjoy the blessing of our Creator. We can no more ignore them without disaster, than we can ignore the physical law of gravity.
But it is the motive of our giving that makes it either good or evil. If we give for selfish reasons; to get more or to be complimented, it's wicked! But when we give to be faithful managers of what God has entrusted to us, it yields the unspeakable joy of inward spiritual satisfaction.
The account of Annanias and Sapphira gives a clear warning (Acts 5). They lied to the Holy Spirit! They said they sold all their property and gave all to the church. But they really had only given some of it. There was no obligation for them to sell their property and give all the proceeds to the church. But they wanted the praise of giving, without having to actually give much. They gave to get! God struck them dead, right in the presence of the Apostles!
This startling judgment gives us a haunting reminder of how that kind of greed appears to God. Giving for the wrong motive is evil. It is better that you don't give at all! When someone perverts this principle into a means of getting more for himself he reveals a wicked purpose in his hypocritical charity. Sadly many have been told by greedy false ministers that if they give $1,000 they will receive it back ten-fold. That is not the idea of tithing. That is not the principle of reaping what we sow. We sow in obedience to what God says is pleasing to him. The blessings are the things he has covenanted to provide to his obedient children.
But it's even more wicked when a man spends God's portion on his own luxuries, when he lets the place of God's worship struggle for its needs while he selfishly looks to his own comfort. Such a person will get no pleasure from what he has hoarded for himself.
PRINCIPLE #6 - God gives SATISFACTION to faithful managers.
Haggai 1:6 "you eat, but are not satisfied ... you put on clothing but no one is warm enough; he who earns wages, earns wages to put it into a purse with holes."Why do a person's luxuries and leisure not satisfy him any more? Why does he earn so much, yet he is less satisfied with what he has? During Israel's time of selfish spending the Prophet Haggai said; "you eat, but are not satisfied ... you put on clothing but no one is warm enough; he who earns wages, earns wages to put it into a purse with holes" (Haggai 1:6). Then he gave the reason they were so dissatisfied; "because of my house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house" (Haggai 1:9). If we mis manage what God entrusts to our care, we offend God! It's evil! It condemns us. It shows that our profession of Christ comes from a false heart. Faithful, thankful giving for God's glory, is what makes our offerings show that Christ has done His work on our hearts.
PRINCIPLE #7 - Giving is a form of WORSHIP and THANKSGIVING to God
2 Corinthians 9:14-15 "while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"The Macedonian stewardship began with God's work in them (2 Corinthians 8:1). "They first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God" (2 Corinthians 8:5). Without regenerate hearts, there is no proper desire to give. Liberality is the evidence of inward righteousness, not its cause. The late Dr. Philip Hughes put it this way, "True Christian giving flows from the prior giving of God."
Israel joyfully gave in the wilderness. Each gave of his personal jewelry and gold. (Exodus 35:20-29 36:4-7) If they hadn't shown their thankfulness by giving, every time they opened their bag of jewelry, or opened their chest of gold, they would be reminded that they had put themselves first. They would think of how they hoarded their treasured possessions and left the work of the tabernacle to others.
All that you have, is your entrustment as a local body of believers. Your giving must never draw its impetus from human desires for bigger and better worship and education buildings, a bigger budget, larger crowds, more activities, or any other personal or material gain. It must come as a sincere desire to be more obedient to God's principles.
As you pray about your part in God's program remember this: Your desire to give should not come from the needs of any particular ministry, from guilt, or from any other carnal motive. It should proceed out of a joyful desire to obey the spiritual principles God has revealed in the Scriptures.
SEVEN PRINCIPLES of BIBLICAL STEWARDSHIP:
- 1. Contribute according to your ability.
- God does not demand a flat minimum amount to be given. He demands only 10% of what he has entrusted to you. Your home budget should be shaped to fit within the 90% he leaves you to manage as your own.
- 2. Give freely, without having to be coerced.
- Joyfully desire to give, even beyond what is easy.
- 3.Give cheerfully
- Give out of loving thankfulness for God's love, not reluctantly.
- 4. Give as a part of a kingdom of believers.
- Give to glorify the King, and to help care for the other citizens of the kingdom, not just for self gain.
- 5. We will reap that which we sow.
- Trust God to give the increase. Your duty is to faithfully obey.
- 6. God gives satisfaction to faithful managers.
- There is true blessing in the things the Lord entrusts to you.
- 7. Giving is a form of worship and thanksgiving to God.
NOTE: All quotations of Scripture are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.