The Gift of Giving (II Corinthians 9:6-15)
Topic: II Corinthians Passage: 2 Corinthians 9:6–9:15
The Gift of Giving
II Corinthians 9:6-15
December 24th, 2006
I. Are You a Giver?
Listen for a minute to the following description:
“Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind- stone, ________! …a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.”
That is the description that Charles Dickens gave, in 1843, of none other than Ebenezer Scrooge.
Scrooge. It’s a name that itself has become a word we often use to describe someone who is tight-fisted, someone who is a very reluctant giver.
Are you a giver? Oh, I’m sure this time of year most of us could answer that question with a “yes”. But, if I were to ask that question six months from now, what would you say? Are you a giver? I suspect most of us would say, “Well, I’m no scrooge.” But do you find, that sometimes, you are still a reluctant giver?
This morning, the Apostle Paul is going to talk to us about giving. In fact, God himself, through Paul, is going that speak to us about being a giver.
II. The Giver and the Cheerful Giver (9:6-11)
Turn with me to II Corinthians 9:6-15. Now, in order to set this up properly, we need to know a little bit about the context of Paul’s comments here.
Paul was, as we know from Romans 15, taking up a collection for those disciples in Jerusalem and Judea who were financially impoverished. Throughout II Corinthians 8 and 9, he refers to this as “the relief of the saints” or “the ministry for the saints”. A year earlier the church in Corinth had expressed a desire to be involved in this contribution to the poor, and so here, Paul is reminding them of their previous commitment and informing them that some of the brothers are coming to them in order to collect their gift.
But, as we close in on 9:6, we see that Paul is encouraging them to have this gift ready for the brothers when they come. You see, he doesn’t want it to look like he’s sending men to them in order to pressure, or give the appearance of pressuring them for a contribution.
So listen as Paul begins to address what appears to be some reluctance on their part:
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 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. 9 As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
10 He 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. 11 You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
Did you notice how Paul is working with them here? For whatever reason, maybe because he had heard something from his co-laborer Titus who had just come from Corinth, Paul is wanting to assuage any fears and confront any reluctance this church now has about giving to God’ work.
But in doing this, he also doesn’t want to pressure them to give out of a sense of duty or coercion or guilt.
Paul tells them in verse 7 that God loves a “cheerful giver”. Are you a reluctant giver, or a cheerful giver?
As the context indicates, a “cheerful giver” is not one who gives reluctantly and then later on is kind of pleased that they did something nice. “I guess you can take this from me, well, on second thought, well…” A cheerful giver is not one who gives simply because they feel compelled to give out of duty or guilt or fear.
So what is a cheerful giver? Based on this passage, a cheerful giver is one who gives out of the overflow of joy that comes from personally knowing God as the greatest Giver.
Notice that surrounding verse 7, we find in verses 6 and 8, reminders of this undeniable reality that God is the Ultimate Giver.
We’ve spent the last three weeks looking at the gifts that God gives as the ultimate giver: He gives all of us life (which includes everything we have in what we call, “my life”). He gave His Son, Jesus, over to death in order to reconcile us to Himself. And for whoever comes to Him in faith, He gives new life, eternal life.
As we’ve seen, there is no one who can outgive God; even if you think you found some great gifts this Christmas, there are no gifts that can compare to His gifts.
But as we see here, the cheerful giver doesn’t simply believe that God is the ultimate Giver in some abstract way. No, the cheerful giver knows that God is the ultimate giver because he or she has recognized that God has given and will give to them.
Using this image of the farmer casting seed in his field, Paul reminds them in verse 7 that when they give generously, they will receive a generous blessing from God.
Now wait a minute. Is Paul trying to motivate them by appealing to their greed? Is he telling them, “If you give a lot of money, God will give you a lot of money?” Some Bible teachers today, including many of those you find on television, will try to use this verse this way.
But the context here doesn’t support that idea. Look again at 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.
No, the first thing we see God giving here is “all grace” in order that we might have “all sufficiency” or, literally, “all contentment”. You see, the cheerful giver recognizes that God will always provide for us perfectly when we give sacrificially. You see the focus here is not on how much God provides, but on the fact that God always provides exactly what we need.
If you’re like me, then when you have an opportunity to give financially, your mind often races to all of the “what ifs”. “What if I don’t have enough for this or that?” “What if I have an unexpected expense?” “What if, what if…”
But Paul is trying to show them that a cheerful giver can give because they know that Jesus Christ is Lord over the “what ifs”. Believing that God is the Ultimate Giver, living in light of that truth, allows us to be content in at least some of the things in our life. NO! “In all things”, verse 8. But that’s just some of the time, right? “NO! “At all times”, verse 8.
As Paul puts it in verse 11: You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
Furthermore, Paul draws from the OT in verse 9, from Psalm 112, in order to confirm this fact that the blessed man, the righteous man, is one who gives freely to the poor.
But again, to counter those who might take verses like this and emphasize simply what we can get from God, notice the reason God gives to those who give; look at verses 8 and 10.
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. AND 10 He 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.
God gives to those who give in order that they can give even more! He does not give us more seed for our greed, but more seed for those in need.
You see a cheerful giver is one who gives out of the overflow of joy that comes from personally knowing God as the greatest Giver.
And one of the things that God gives to us is this gift of giving. Do you consider being able to give as a gift from God? You should. It is a priceless gift. Why? Because giving provides us with an opportunity to mirror the goodness of the ultimate Giver. Because giving makes us more like the Giver.
God loves a cheerful giver because He sees in such a giver a reflection of Himself, and thus, He sees a creature living the very life that He intended.
If we have truly understood the extent of God’s gifts to us, if we have grown in our gratefulness for his unrivaled generosity, then as we see here, our response should be to give as God gives.
Are you filled with joy when you think about how much God has given you? I know that tomorrow, many of us will be filled with joy as we open gifts from those we love. How much more should we rejoice in the incomparable gifts given by God?
And as we see here, that joy, that joyful contentment, should inspire us to give as God gives.
III. Giving for an Eternal Good (9:12-15)
But I want you to see something else here. Another way in which Paul is trying to encourage these brothers and sisters in Corinth is evident from verses 12-15.
For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
Do you see what Paul is emphasizing here? He tells them in verse 12, “ Your gift to your impoverished brothers and sisters in Jerusalem is not simply going to meet their needs…” He’s saying here, “Don’t simply look at this from an earthly perspective!”
“No, your gift is going to inspire thanksgiving to God! And more than that, they will “glorify God” (v. 13) because of your generosity.” But that’s not all, there’s more! Your gift will drive them to thanks and worship and prayer (v. 14) because they will be understand that all of this has come because of your “confession of the gospel of Christ”.
Impoverished Jews will be blessed by the generosity of Gentiles, and all of it, because of Jesus Christ.
What Paul is doing here is getting their focus off of themselves and putting it on the eternal good that they can be a part of through this gift. In light of this, maybe we should modify our definition of a “cheerful giver” and say that:
A cheerful giver is one who gives out of the overflow of joy that comes from personally knowing God as the greatest Giver and from seeing others experience this same truth.
Paul wants the Corinthians to see that, yes, they will be helping brothers and sisters who desperately need it, but also, they will be inciting praises to God. They will be inspiring thanks. They will be gaining prayers. They will be strengthening unity in the church, the body of Jesus Christ.
One of the things that Paul always does for his readers is help them to see the eternal impact of their earthly decisions. That’s precisely what he’s doing here.
This collection for the poor is not just a fundraiser. It is a worship-raiser. It is a prayer-raiser. It isn’t just an expression of compassion. It’s an expression of unity and love among God’s people.
What I hope you see here is that as we talk about giving in this passage, we’re not just talking about any giving. I don’t think the principles involved here are applicable to anyone and everyone who gives, whether that be the wealthy philanthropist who give millions to the United Way or the young man who cleans out his closet and drops it at Goodwill.
Those things are great. But what we’re talking about here is the kind of giving that helps put thanks, praises, and prayers in the mouths of men and women, boys and girls. What we’re talking about here are those gifts that are given for the eternal good of others. This is giving that comes “from our confession of the gospel of Christ”.
Are you cheerfully giving to God’s work? A cheerful giver is one who gives in faith, believing that their earthly gift is having a heavenly impact.
Hopefully, we will be able to hear back from our brothers in India about how God is using those gifts that God has enabled us to give. But doesn’t it excite you, doesn’t it fill you with “cheer” as you think about how God might use those gifts?
If God gives to us for His glory, are we giving in order that others might glorify Him? Consider how you give. Consider to what end you give. Consider what kind of giving brings the most glory to God and does the greatest good for others.
Remember what Paul is trying to do here. He is trying to convince his readers to remain true to their commitment to give for the relief of the poor in Jerusalem. And to do that, as we’ve seen here, he is trying to show them why they should be cheerful givers.
Not only will God continue to provide for their every need, but he will give to them so that they can give for the eternal good of others. Or to put it another way, when they give, they will know both the perfect provision of God and the joy of seeing others spiritually encouraged.
Listen, if you are a follower of Christ, this morning, God wants you to be a cheerful giver. He wants you to know the goodness of His abounding grace.
And it all begins when we recognize the fact that God is the ultimate Giver, and that through Christ, we can know His perfect provision in every way.
It’s no wonder then that Paul ends this passage the way that he does. Look at verse 15: Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
Very clearly, Paul is confirming that everything begins with what God has already given, with the fact that He is the Giver. But what is this inexpressible gift for which he praises God? Well, look at the context.
What Paul is reacting to here, what he is responding to appears to be the incredible truth he’s just described, that is, that the grace of God through Jesus Christ makes it possible for Jew and Gentile to be united in mutual love and worship.
God’s inexpressible gift is the richness of new life that comes through Jesus.
Tonight and tomorrow, millions, probably billions of gifts will be given, all over the world. People will be givers. And as we give, in most cases, we will also be receiving. Yes, we will be receiving joy as we see how our gifts bless those we love. But we will probably be receiving gifts from them as well.
My prayer is that all of this will simply serve to remind us of the greatest Giver and His incomparable gifts. As you unwrap that new book, or that frame, or that gift card, or some new article of clothing, as you delight in what you’ve been given, remember the gifts that God has given you. He makes all of it possible. Through His Son He gives us a gift that cannot even be described with words. There’s no way to express its greatness.
Hopefully you will also have a chance to see the joy on someone else’s face as they open a gift. If you do, remember the joy that comes from giving to others.
And remember how much greater their joy will be when our giving goes toward an eternal good.
God has given us the gift of being able to give so that others can know and be encouraged in his inexpressible gift through Christ. Let’s not neglect this gift. Let’s give as the Giver has given to us.