Lesson Five – God Loves a Cheerful Giver

God Loves a Cheerful Giver

 Lesson Text:  II Cor. 8:1 – 9:15.

Introduction

I.  Examples of the church members giving for a cause.  Koinonia has its root in the Greek word koinos which means common.

A.  The very first church shared their physical amenities in common (Acts 2:44; 4:32).  From these scriptures we understand the church in Jerusalem had all things common.  Those who had material goods shared with those who had a need (Acts 4:32- 5:1).

  1. The program was organized and controlled by the leaders in the church.  The leadership consisted of the apostles for a period of time (Acts 4:35)
  2. The church leaders appointed a group of members to expedite the program (Acts 6:1-6).

B.  The principle of sharing both the physical and spiritual things was still practiced after the multitude of Christians were scattered from Jerusalem.  They formed bodies of Christ in different locations with their own shepherds (Acts 8:1-3; 14:23).  Jesus, the king, gave leadership guidance to the elders by the apostles (Acts 20:7, 28-30; Phil. 1:1).

C.  Preachers were never in charge of the churches.  The mentality that produced the myth of the preacher we must deal with today had its base in the division problem Paul sought to correct in the first four chapters of I Corinthians.  We will need to understand the power of the apostleship to properly view the historical context of the church’s giving program presented to us in the New Testament.  Timothy, Titus, Silas and others did preach; however, any authority they had over the churches was authorized by Paul, the apostle (I Cor. 4:17; II Cor. 2:13; 7:6, 7; 8:22-24).

D.  Physical sharing was practiced only in emergency situations (Rom. 15:27).

  1. Agabus prophesied of a severe famine in the Roman Empire (Acts 11:29-30).
  2. Paul and his team told the churches about the special need of the saints in Jerusalem.  He, by the authority of an apostle, encouraged various churches to support this need (I Cor. 16:1-3; II Cor. 8:1).
  3. Since it was an ongoing program, the giving was collected on the first day of the week when the churches met to commune by eating of the Lord’s Supper (I Cor. 16:2-4; Acts 20:7).

II.  Support for teachers and preachers.

A.  The churches supported Peter, James and their families (I Cor. 9:5).

B.  The principle for supporting a teacher or preacher is; “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.” (KJV)  Deut. 25:4;  I Cor. 9:7-12; I Tim. 5:17.  See Part IV, Lesson Three.

C.  The Corinthian church supported someone (I Cor. 9:12).

D.  The Philippian church partially supported Paul (Phil. 2:25; 4:14-19).  The Greek word sunkoinoneo has been translated “share with” in Phil. 4:14.  (Sun means with).

E.  Specific for the support of a teacher.  “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share (koinoneo) all good things with his instructor.”  Gal. 6:6.

III.  The “widows indeed” benevolent program set forth in I Tim. 5:3-16 was for the practice of each church, if the need existed within the membership.

IV.  There are no other divinely ordained programs for the church in which Christians give money or other valuables.  Emergency giving has not been set forth in the scriptures for the church; however, it is not excluded for each individual.  See the parable about the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).  Christians take care of their own family benevolence (I Tim. 5:4).

The aim of this lesson is to understand the spiritual growth principle for the individual giver as we help others; to identify those who qualify as the receiver and to perceive how God relates to both.

Lesson 

Please note the sequence of events in the Introduction of the benevolent programs of the church in the first century:

First.   There was an evident need of the members of the church (Acts 2:45).

Second.   Giving was spontaneous (Acts 5:4).

Third.   Leaders of the church took charge of what was given (Acts 4:36, 37).

Fourth.   The church leaders delegated authority to a group of Christians to manage the distribution of the bounty in a transparent and just manner (Acts 6:1-4).

The purpose of this lesson is not to develop a legal strategy for the giving program of an individual church of God in Christ (I Cor. 1:2; I Thess. 2:14).  However, the divine principles on which Jesus Christ built His church must be understood by a study of the church as it developed in Acts (Matt. 16:16-19).  The letters help us understand the details of the principles (II Cor. 9:10-15).  In His wisdom, this is the way God has decided to instruct us today.

For instance, Jesus informed us in the Gospels He would build His church – not churches, just His.  Luke told us when and how it happened, along with some of its practices in Acts.  The theology, ethics and practices of the church Jesus built for God has been described in the letters.  God does not instruct in another way (Gal. 1:8-10).  The wisdom of man has continued to divide people around men into denominational groups with various sign boards ever since Chloe’s household informed Paul of the Corinthian division (I Cor. 1:10, 25; 4:6-8).

Principles we see from the foregoing are as follows;

  1. The “basket for receiving money” is never passed until after the members were presented with the need or program.
  2. The money or commodities a person has in her or his rightful possession is theirs to give or to keep.  They must make a rational decision free from other people’s influence.
  3. Once the gift is released to the church, it becomes the responsibility of the church leaders to use it according to the program they have set forth to make the collection.
  4. All collections and distributions must be transparent for the church.  Also, for the world if it is a publicly perceived program (Acts 6:3-6; II Cor. 8:16-23).

As critical as the foregoing is for the church’s giving program, it is the less weighty side of Jesus’ giving program.  The foregoing principles are critical because, first of all, they have been set forth as God’s will and wisdom.  To set aside God’s will and wisdom for our own wisdom is near blasphemy.  God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect (Rom. 12:2).  His wisdom “is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”  Jas. 3:17.  Secondly, these principles are critical because, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”  I Tim. 6:10.  Jesus Christ, our Lord, via the Holy Spirit has given the church a highly transparent program for the collecting and the distribution of money.  They are critical because other systems do not promote the trust of the members; therefore, unfortunately, activities that should be carried out by the church in many cases are put in the hands of secular religious boards.  This happens because of the incompetence of those in charge of the churches’ finance program along with a lack of trust in the church leaders’ trustworthiness.

The Apostle Paul would not accept funds from the churches in Achaia, not because he did not have a right to “not work for a living,” or because he did not need the money (I Cor. 4:11, 9:6).  Someone may have been saying, “Paul was collecting funds for his own benefit.”  II Cor. 12:14-18.  A note of interest, Paul wrote I Corinthians from Ephesus where he had taught and preached the kingdom for over two years without support from the local church (Acts 20:32-35).  Whatever the specific reason, he would not accept their money.  Money had somehow cast a shadow over his ministry and he was trying to remove it by working with his own hands to support himself and his fellow-workers (II Cor. 11:7-12).

Now let us scan the text of this lesson for the more weighty matters of the church of God’s giving program.

II Cor. 8:1-5.  Giving is a grace from God even for extremely poor people.  The Macedonians were not pursued by Paul and his colleagues to give to the needy saints in Jerusalem, they themselves were the pursuers.  How could they give beyond their ability?  He explained, “They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”  Vs. 5.  Which is the more weighty matter; “giving oneself” or “doing God’s will?”  Paul appeared to see these as different entities of a Christian’s life.  The giving of oneself and doing God’s will become one after the fact of doing the project; however, giving oneself is a very powerful decision to make.  A Christian would not give our self to anything unless we believed it was God’s will; however, doing it simply because it is God’s will appears to take less commitment than first giving one self.  Let us keep our mind open to this thought as we follow Paul’s line of thinking.

8:6, 7.  Paul hung a caption over the program for helping the poor saints in Jerusalem.  He called it “this grace of giving.”  The Macedonians were in need of food, clothing and shelter but they had accepted their deep poverty.  Once we accept our position in life the pain is less painful.  Paul had admonished the Christians who were slaves at the time they became Christians; “Don’t let it trouble you.”  His advice was to move on to the higher values of life such as being a slave to Jesus Christ’s mission (I Cor. 7:21, 22).  The Macedonian Christians desired God’s grace for their spirit more than food for their bodies.  The Corinthians had made great strides in their spiritual growth as Titus reported in II Cor. 7:6-16.  They were excelling “in faith, speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”  II Cor. 8:7.  They had expressed their love for Paul and his fellow travelers; however, the Corinthians needed to get where the Macedonians were to “excel in this grace.”  They needed to learn to give to Christians whom they did not know and who had not served them.  So, what is the grace of which he speaks?  How is giving our money away a grace?  Let us learn.

8:8, 9.  “I am not commanding you to give.”  This might have raised the eyebrows of the Jewish members. They had been accustomed to starting with ten percent of their gain and adding to this amount the many other offerings the Lord required (Deut. 14:22).  It might also get the attention of Christians who think like, “It is the first day of the week, so I should put something in the basket.”  Some church leaders try to fall back on legalistic tactics when the contribution doesn’t meet the budget.

Paul warned the Galatians, “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”  Gal. 5:4.  Then he said, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”  Gal. 5:6.  This is the law of life of the new covenant.  The phrase “everything is permissible for me” is a description of the law of life (I Cor. 6:12; 10:23; 9:21; Rom. 8:1, 2; Gal. 6:2).  Christians are free to fulfill the requirements of the Law of Moses (Rom. 8:3, 4; Gal. 5:1).  Paul asked the rhetorical question; “Am I not free?”  I Cor. 9:1.  Jesus classified giving as an “act of righteousness” and cautioned about the motive for giving (Matt. 6:1-4).  See my book entitled the Sermon on the Mount, Part IV, Lesson One, “The Grace of Giving.”   See website, http://www.whydidgodcreateyou.com

Does this mean Christians don’t need to give, except what we want to give up of our own free will?  Yes, this is what Paul is writing about.  Giving is indeed a grace for the receivers, but the greater strength of the program is for the giver.  It is as Jesus simply stated, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Acts 20:35.  This requires both faith and love and a lot of both.  Then Paul said, “I am not commanding you to give, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.”  II Cor. 8:8.  He offered the Macedonians and Jesus Christ as persons with which to compare the present strength of our love.

The Macedonians had given their resources out of their poverty stricken lives after they gave themselves to Jesus’ Lordship.  Jesus temporarily gave up His rich life to become poverty stricken like the Macedonians.  It is not much of a challenge for a rich person to give to the poor.  The challenge is to share what we have when we need it for ourselves and those we love.  This is the level of stress that is needed to develop love (agape).  In comparison, it requires a person to lift a weight in order to develop muscles.  After some muscles have been developed, it will require a heavier load to make more muscles.  The development of love as a strength of our character is the grace for the giver.  Giving our old stuff we don’t need, or even want, will not develop love in our self.  Paul said, “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”  I Cor. 13:3.  Deciding to love and then practicing love is the only way a Christian can strengthen our love.  The Apostle John said, “But if anyone obeys His word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.  This is how we know we are in Him.  Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”  I John 2:5, 6.  “Love made complete” happens when we choose to have faith in the principle “it is more blessed to give than to receive” and then become obedient to our faith (Rom. 1:5; 16:26).

Jesus’ mission for developing sons of God required much more than His death on the cross (John 1:12).  Sons of God have love in ourselves like God is love (Luke 6:32-35; I John 4:7, 8).  People who are slaves to their own sins need to be saved from their spiritual death.  Jesus’ made Christians rich by lifting our load of sin while being sacrificed on the cross (II Cor. 5:21).  He is now leading Christians through programs such as giving to develop love so we can be what the grace of our new birth made us to be – sons of God (I John 3:1, 2).  This is who we are.  Sons and daughters of God develop love in our hearts by giving without seeking gain from outside ourselves.  Our gain is the strength of love for our character and personality.

8:10-12.  The Corinthian church members had decided in their minds a year ago to help some saints who needed food.  They had already given something but the need was still present.  Christians were hungry.  “Eager willingness” is not completion.  The desire to love is not love.  We make a rational decision to extend ourselves by giving our time, energy and money to help a hungry saint or to preach the gospel to the lost.  This is a great commitment.  The participation in all programs in the body of Christ is a way Christians grow.  However, our willingness must be put into action to develop the quality of love (agape).  After we help others with the right motive; that is, free of greed, “You will become rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”  II Cor. 9:11.  Paul worked it all out for us in II Cor. 9:12-15.  This is the program God has ordained for the universal church of God.

  • Christians in one location, who have first given themselves, learn of a need of saints in another congregation of God’s people.
  • Each Christian; “Gives what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.   II Cor. 9:7.
  • “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.”  II Cor. 8:12.
  • The program is set forth to the church and carried out in an orderly manner (I Cor. 16:1, 2; II Cor. 9:5).
  • Every part of the program is kept transparent by the leaders (II Cor. 8:19-23).
  • The intent of God’s giving program is fourfold.
  • See the following chart that has been developed from II Corinthians 9:12-15.
  1. The need of the saints is met.
  2. The recipients and other observers praise God and pray for the givers.
  3. The hearts of the receivers are softened toward the givers.
  4. The givers develop love (agape) as a part of our “self.”

Questions for Discussion   

  1. List the three specific programs for the church where the giving of material items are involved.
  2. Why would a legal strategy for giving be out of step with the new covenant?
  3. Why is the sequence of events in the story about Jesus’ giving program for the church in the book of Acts important for Christians to understand?
  4. Why is the strategy for giving in the New Testament critical for the success of the benevolent and preacher/teacher support program?
  5. Describe the weightier aspect of giving for church members.
  6. Why is it important for poor members of the church to participate in giving according to the new covenant principles?
  7. Give your understanding of what is meant by first giving yourself.
  8. What did the Corinthian church need to add to their list of excellences they had already accomplished?
  9. How might Paul’s declaration, “I am not commanding you to give,” cause some members of the church to react?
  10. Where does the final decision for the giving of a Christian’s material assets lie?
  11. Why did Paul “hold up” the Macedonian church and Jesus Christ as a standard for spiritual measurement for the Corinthian church and present day Christians?
  12. Why is it more of a challenge for a poor Christian to give than for one who has wealth?  Which one might gain the most benefit?
  13. What is the first process in the act of giving?  Why is this process not qualified to be categorized as love?
  14. When will a Christian grow to the point of “becoming generous on every occasion?”
  15. What does God, the giver and the receiver, receive in the divine giving program of the church?

Comments are closed.